Salish Sea human foot discoveries

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Coordinates: 48°44′N 123°06′W / 48.73°N 123.1°W / 48.73; -123.1

Locations of Salish Sea foot discoveries through January 3, 2019

Since August 20, 2007, at least 20 detached human feet have been found on the coasts of the Salish Sea in British Columbia, Canada, and Washington, US. The first discovery, on August 20, 2007, was on Jedediah Island in British Columbia. Feet have been discovered on the coasts of islands in British Columbia, and in the US cities of Tacoma and Seattle.

A Canadian coroner's office said in December 2017 that they had ruled out foul play, and that the feet came from people killed either in accidents or by suicide, and the feet detached during the normal decomposition process. The feet were usually found in sneakers, which the coroner thought were responsible for both keeping the feet buoyant enough to eventually wash ashore, and gave them enough protection from decomposition to be found relatively intact.[1] Prior to the recent seeming rash of feet washing ashore, there have been earlier instances going back more than a century, such as a leg in a boot that was found on a Vancouver beach in 1887.[2] The most recent discovery was on January 1, 2019, when people on Jetty Island in Everett, Washington called police to report a boot with a human foot inside, which the coroner was able to match to Antonio Neill, missing since Dec. 12, 2016.

Discoveries[edit]

These foot discoveries are not the first ones on British Columbia's coast. One was found in Vancouver in 1887, leading to the place of discovery being called Leg-In-Boot Square.[3] On July 30, 1914, The Vancouver Sun reported that recent arrivals from Kimsquit reported a human leg encased in a high boot was found on a beach near the mouth of the Salmon River (a previous name for the Dean River near Kimsquit, near the headwater of Dean Channel). It was thought the remains were from a man who had drowned on the river the previous summer.[4]

As of May 2018, fifteen feet have been found in the Canadian province of British Columbia,[5] and five in the US state of Washington:[6][7][8] The 20 feet include two matched pairs. One of these pairs belonged to a woman who jumped from a bridge. Two other feet have been identified, one of a missing fisherman and the other of a depressed man who probably committed suicide.[9][10] His identity was withheld on request of his family.

After the fifth foot was discovered the story had begun to receive increased international media attention. With major headlines from newspapers such as the Melbourne Herald Sun, The Guardian, and the Cape Times in South Africa, the story elicited much speculation about the cause of the mystery, originating from "morbid fascination" with this type of subject, as stated by one scientist who identifies remains of victims.[11] On his late night talk show David Letterman questioned two of his audience members who were Canadian about the mystery.[12]

Another apparently human foot, discovered on June 18, 2008, on Tyee Spit near Campbell River on Vancouver Island,[13] was a hoax.[14] The hoax was a "skeletonized animal paw" which was put in a sock and shoe and then stuffed with dried seaweed. Royal Canadian Mounted Police launched an investigation into the hoax and an arrest could be made due to charges of public mischief.[15][needs update]

After the eleventh foot was found on August 31, 2011, several running shoes containing what police suspected was raw meat were found washed up on Oak Beach, British Columbia.[16]

List of discoveries[edit]

# Date Location Details Coordinates
1 August 20, 2007 Jedediah Island, BC A girl visiting from Washington[17] picked up a size 12 Adidas shoe and opened the sock[18] to find a man's right foot. It is thought to have become disarticulated due to submerged decay.[17] This kind of shoe was produced in 2003 and distributed mainly in India.[19] A man's right foot; size 12 white-and-blue-mesh running shoe. The remains were identified as those of a missing man suffering from depression.

49°29′55″N 124°12′15″W / 49.49861°N 124.20417°W / 49.49861; -124.20417

2 August 26, 2007 Gabriola Island, BC A man's right foot, discovered by a couple, also disarticulated due to decay.[17] It was waterlogged and appeared to have been taken ashore by an animal. It probably floated ashore from the south.[18] The shoe, a size 12 white Reebok, was produced in 2004 and sold worldwide but primarily in North America, and the type has since been discontinued.[19]

49°09′00″N 123°43′59″W / 49.15°N 123.733°W / 49.15; -123.733 (August 26, 2007)

3 February 8, 2008 Valdes Island, BC A right foot in a size 11 Nike. The remains were identified as a 21-year-old Surrey man reported missing four years prior, whose death is considered "not suspicious", indicating either misadventure or suicide.[20] This type of shoe was sold in Canada and the United States between February 1, 2003, and June 30, 2003.[19] It has been confirmed that the right foot found February 8 on Valdes Island and left foot found on June 16 on Westham Island belonged to the same man.[19][21]

49°05′00″N 123°40′00″W / 49.083333°N 123.666667°W / 49.083333; -123.666667 (February 8, 2008)

4 May 22, 2008 Kirkland Island, BC A woman's right foot;[22] blue-and-white New Balance sneaker. The fourth foot was discovered on an island in the Fraser Delta between Richmond and Delta, British Columbia. It was also wearing a sock and sneaker.[23] It is thought to have washed down the Fraser River, having nothing to do with the ones found in the Gulf Islands.[24] The shoe was a New Balance sneaker[25] manufactured in 1999.[19] In 2011, the fourth sneaker found in Kirkland Island was identified as being part of a pair of blue and white New Balance sneakers belonging to a woman who jumped from the Pattullo Bridge in New Westminster in April 2004.[26]

49°06′39″N 123°05′44″W / 49.110905°N 123.095627°W / 49.110905; -123.095627 (May 22, 2008)

5 June 16, 2008 Westham Island, BC A man's left foot was found by two hikers on June 16, floating in water in Delta.[22][27] It has been confirmed that the left foot found on June 16 on Westham Island and the right foot found February 8 on Valdes Island belonged to the same man.[19][21]

49°05′00″N 123°09′00″W / 49.083333°N 123.15°W / 49.083333; -123.15 (June 16, 2008)

6 August 1, 2008 Near Pysht, Washington A right foot inside a man's black size 11 shoe was discovered by a camper on a beach. It was covered in seaweed. The site of the discovery was less than 16 kilometers from the international border in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Testing confirmed that the foot was human. Police say the large black-top, size 11 athletic shoe for a right foot contains bones and flesh. This was the first foot of the series to be found outside of British Columbia. The RCMP and Clallam County Sheriff's Department agreed on August 5 that the foot could have been carried south from Canadian waters.[28][29]

48°11′00″N 124°07′00″W / 48.183333°N 124.116667°W / 48.183333; -124.116667 (August 1, 2008)

7 November 11, 2008 Richmond, BC A known woman's left foot, in a shoe that was found floating in the Fraser River in Richmond.[9] The shoe was described as a small New Balance running shoe, possibly a woman's shoe.[25] A forensic DNA profiling analysis indicated that it was a genetic match to the foot discovered on May 22 on Kirkland Island.[30]

49°06′29″N 123°07′55″W / 49.108°N 123.132°W / 49.108; -123.132 (November 11, 2008) (approximate)

8 October 27, 2009 Richmond, BC A right foot in a size 8½ Nike running shoe on a beach in Richmond.[31] The remains were identified as a Vancouver-area man who was reported missing in January 2008.[32]

49°10′00″N 123°08′00″W / 49.166667°N 123.133333°W / 49.166667; -123.133333 (October 27, 2009) (approximate)

9 August 27, 2010 Whidbey Island, Washington A woman's or child's[33] right foot, without a shoe or sock. This foot was determined to have been in the water for two months. Detective Ed Wallace of the Island County Sheriff's Office released a statement saying the foot would be tested for DNA.[34] However, there was no match found in the national DNA database.[35]

48°05′00″N 122°34′00″W / 48.083333°N 122.566667°W / 48.083333; -122.566667 (August 27, 2010)

10 December 5, 2010 Tacoma, Washington Found on the tidal flats. "The right foot was still inside a boy's size 6 'Ozark Trail' hiking boot, and likely belonged to a juvenile or small adult," police spokesman Mark Fulghum said Tuesday in Tacoma, about 40 kilometers south of Seattle and 225 kilometers south of Vancouver.[36]

47°17′10″N 122°26′28″W / 47.286°N 122.441°W / 47.286; -122.441 (December 5, 2010) (approximate)

11 August 30, 2011 False Creek, BC Sex unknown. The foot was found in a man's white and blue size 9 runner, floating next to the Plaza of Nations marina, attached to the lower leg bones.[37] It had disarticulated naturally at the knee due to the water.[38]

49°16′30″N 123°06′36″W / 49.275°N 123.110°W / 49.275; -123.110 (August 30, 2011)

12 November 4, 2011 Sasamat Lake, BC A man's right foot inside a size 12 hiking boot was discovered by a group of campers in a pool of fresh water at Sasamat Lake near Port Moody.[39] In January 2012, this foot was identified by the B.C. Coroner's Service as that of Stefan Zahorujko,[40] a local fisherman who went missing in 1987. Police believe the foot separated naturally from the body and do not suspect foul play.[41]

49°19′23″N 122°53′20″W / 49.323°N 122.889°W / 49.323; -122.889 (November 4, 2011)

13 December 10, 2011 Lake Union, Seattle, Washington Human leg bone and foot in a black plastic bag under the Ship Canal Bridge.[42] As of January 2, 2012, the medical examiner had not found a cause of death or identified the body.[43] 47°39′07″N 122°19′23″W / 47.652°N 122.323°W / 47.652; -122.323 (December 10, 2011)
14 January 26, 2012 Vancouver, BC On January 26, 2012, the remains of "what appears to be human bones inside a boot" were found in the sand along the water line at the dog park near the Maritime Museum at the foot of Arbutus Street, in Vancouver.[44]

49°16′41″N 123°09′04″W / 49.278°N 123.151°W / 49.278; -123.151 (January 26, 2012)

15 May 6, 2014 Seattle, Washington Human foot in white New Balance shoe found along the shoreline of Centennial Park near the Pier 86 grain terminal.[45] The New Balance model 622 athletic shoe was white with blue trim, size men's 10½. This model of shoe was first available for sale in April 2008.[46][45][47] From an initial news photo, it appears to be a left foot.[48] 47°37′34″N 122°22′23″W / 47.626°N 122.373°W / 47.626; -122.373 (May 6, 2014)
16 February 7, 2016 Vancouver Island, BC Hikers on Botanical Beach, near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, found a foot in a sock and running shoe.[49][50]

48°31′48″N 124°26′42″W / 48.530°N 124.445°W / 48.530; -124.445 (Feb 10, 2016)

17 February 12, 2016 Vancouver Island, BC A foot washed up near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island. BC Coroners Service said it matches one found there five days earlier.[51] 48°31′48″N 124°26′42″W / 48.530°N 124.445°W / 48.530; -124.445 (Feb 10, 2016) (approximate)
18 December 8, 2017 Vancouver Island, BC Remains of a leg with a shoe attached washed up on the near the settlement of Jordan River on Vancouver Island.[52][53][54] 48°25′14″N 124°02′41″W / 48.420572°N 124.044690°W / 48.420572; -124.044690 (December 8, 2017)
19 May 6, 2018 Gabriola Island, BC Shortly after noon on Sunday 6 May,[5] a man walking along the shore on Gabriola Island encountered a hiking boot, with a human foot inside, wedged in a logjam.[55]

49°09′00″N 123°43′59″W / 49.15°N 123.733°W / 49.15; -123.733 (August 26, 2007)

20 September, 2018 West Vancouver, BC Foot within a light grey Nike Free RN shoe on the shore near the 30th Street beach access point in West Vancouver. The size 9.5 shoe was manufactured between 1 February and 17 April 2017. It was believed to have been worn by a male and had a blue sock. The victim is believed to have been under the age of 50.[56]
21 January 1, 2019 Jetty Island, Everett, Washington Foot found in a boot, later tied via DNA to Antonio Neill, missing since Dec. 12, 2016.[57][58] 48°00′37″N 122°13′38″W / 48.0104°N 122.2272°W / 48.0104; -122.2272 (January 1, 2019)
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

Proposed explanations[edit]

The series of discoveries has been called "astounding" and "almost beyond explanation", as no other body parts have turned up.[59] The discoveries have caused speculation that the feet may be those of people who died in a boating accident or a plane crash in the ocean.[17] One explanation is that some of the feet are those of four men who died in a plane crash near Quadra Island in 2005 and whose bodies have not been recovered, though one of the feet has been determined to be from a female.[23] Foul play has also been suggested,[60] although none of the first four feet showed tool marks.[14] This does not rule out foul play, however; it is possible that the bodies could have been weighted down and disposed of, and the feet were separated due to natural decay.

Determining the origin of the feet is complicated because ocean currents may carry floating items long distances,[61] and because currents in the Strait of Georgia are unpredictable.[60] A foot may float as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 km).[14] Also, human feet have a tendency to produce adipocere (a soap-like substance formed from body fat), which makes it hard for forensic scientists to find clues.[62] Under optimal conditions, a human body may remain intact in water for as long as three decades, meaning that the feet may have been floating around for years.[63]

Another theory is that the feet belonged to people who died in the Asian tsunami on December 26, 2004. Richmond-based writer Shane Lambert said that many of the shoes found were manufactured and sold in 2004 or earlier, and that there could be other sources for the shoes or multiple sources. However, besides the dates when the shoes were manufactured, Lambert said ocean currents and their ultimate northward tendencies up the Pacific Ocean from part of the region that was hit by the 2004 tsunami.[64]

One foot has been identified as belonging to a man who was depressed and was believed to have committed suicide.[9][10] Another two feet were identified as belonging to a woman who committed suicide by jumping from the Pattullo Bridge (49°12′27″N 122°53′41″W / 49.207575°N 122.894654°W / 49.207575; -122.894654 (Pattullo Bridge)) in New Westminster, B.C., in 2004.[65] This suggests the feet could belong to other people who have jumped from the bridge .

Level of rarity[edit]

Decomposition may separate the foot from the body because the ankle is relatively weak, and the buoyancy caused by air either inside or trapped within a shoe would allow it to float away.[18] According to Simon Fraser University entomologist Gail Anderson, extremities such as the hands, feet, and head often detach as a body decomposes in the water, although they rarely float.[62]

However, finding feet and not the rest of the bodies has been deemed unusual. Finding two feet has been given a "million to one odds" and has thus been described as "an anomaly".[18] The finding of the third foot made it the first time three such discoveries had been made so close to each other.[62] The fourth discovery caused speculation about human interference and, statistically, was called "curious".[63]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Human foot found on Canada shoreline – the 13th such discovery in a decade". The Guardian. December 13, 2017.
  2. ^ Thompson, Mitch (January 14, 2010). "Believe it or not: The Unexpected History of Three Lower Mainland Roads". Kwantlen Chronicle.
  3. ^ Snyders, Tom; O'Rourke, Jennifer (2002). Namely Vancouver: A Hidden History of Vancouver Place Names. Arsenal Pulp Press.
  4. ^ "Human leg is found encased in a boot". The Vancouver Sun. July 30, 1914. p. 9.
  5. ^ a b "Human foot found on Gabriola Island sparks investigation". CTV News. May 7, 2018. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  6. ^ "Tacoma police say human foot washed ashore". The Seattle Times. December 14, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  7. ^ "Severed human foot found washed ashore on Vancouver Island". Daily Hive. February 10, 2016. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  8. ^ "Severed human foot found on Southern Vancouver Island". CBC News. December 8, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c "Another severed foot washes up on B.C. shore". CTV News. November 11, 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  10. ^ a b "Canada coroner matches pair of mysterious feet". Daily News. June 6, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  11. ^ White, Patrick (June 20, 2008). "Fascinated by B.C.'s floating feet". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  12. ^ Richmond, Vanessa (June 26, 2008). "Super, Horrific BC". The Tyee. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  13. ^ "6th foot found on B.C. south coast". CBC News. June 18, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  14. ^ a b c "Latest floating 'foot' turns out to be a hoax". CNN. June 18, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  15. ^ "'Foot' hoax on B.C. south coast despicable: police". CBC News. June 18, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  16. ^ "Latest Floating Feet Are a Hoax, Police Say". ABC News. September 6, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
  17. ^ a b c d "Discovery of unattached human feet baffles B.C. police". CBC News. August 31, 2007. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  18. ^ a b c d Freeman, Sunny (August 31, 2007). "Two large right feet found on Georgia Strait beaches; 'Finding one foot is like a million to one odds, but to find two is crazy' RCMP corporal's 'best guess is that they are from missing persons'". The Vancouver Sun. p. A1.
  19. ^ a b c d e f "2 of 5 feet found on B.C. coast belong to same man: RCMP". CBC News. July 10, 2008. Archived from the original on February 12, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  20. ^ Bailey, Ian (August 24, 2012) [May 25, 2011]. "Human feet washed up in B.C. identified". The Globe and Mail. Vancouver. Archived from the original on February 13, 2016. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  21. ^ a b Fong, Petti (July 10, 2008). "Two mystery feet from same person, B.C. police say". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  22. ^ a b "5th foot found on B.C.'s south coast". CBC News. June 17, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  23. ^ a b "Fourth right foot washes up near Vancouver, RCMP confirm". CBC News. May 24, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  24. ^ Lavoie, Judith (May 26, 2008). "Latest washed-up foot likely a woman's, says finder". The Vancouver Sun. p. A7.
  25. ^ a b "7th Human Foot Washes Ashore on Canadian Coast". Fox News. November 13, 2008. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
  26. ^ "Feet That Washed Ashore in Northwest Identified". ABC News. October 21, 2011. Archived from the original on October 23, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  27. ^ Carrigg, David (June 17, 2008). "Fifth human foot — with shoe — found floating; Two most recent finds in Fraser delta, other three off Gulf Islands". The Province. p. A3.
  28. ^ "Missing foot mystery deepens with latest find". CTV News British Columbia. August 3, 2008. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  29. ^ Dickerson, Peninsula Daily News, Paige (August 6, 2008). "Foot found in U.S. may be from Canada". The Vancouver Sun. p. a6.
  30. ^ Bailey, Ian (December 5, 2008). "DNA tests match feet washed ashore". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on December 6, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2008.
  31. ^ "Human remains in shoe found near Vancouver". CBC.ca. October 28, 2009. Archived from the original on October 31, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  32. ^ "Found foot belonged to man reported missing in 2008". The Vancouver Sun. CanWest MediaWorks Publications. November 7, 2009. Archived from the original on February 13, 2016. Retrieved February 13, 2016 – via Postmedia Network.
  33. ^ KOMO-TV Staff (August 27, 2010). "Human foot washes ashore on Whidbey Island". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  34. ^ CBC News (August 27, 2010). "Human foot found on West Coast beach".
  35. ^ "No DNA match found for human foot found on Whidbey Island". MyNorthwest. March 30, 2011.
  36. ^ "Tenth foot washes up, on beach near Tacoma". The Vancouver Sun. December 16, 2010. Archived from the original on June 29, 2015. Retrieved December 17, 2010. On Dec. 5, a man walking along the shore spotted the foot and called police.
  37. ^ "Vancouver Foot Is Human: Autopsy Report". Huffington Post. August 31, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
  38. ^ "Coroner investigates remains found in False Creek". Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. August 31, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
  39. ^ McLaughlin, Michael (November 10, 2011). "Human Foot found in Sasamat Lake, Canada". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  40. ^ "Foot found in B.C. lake identified after 25 years". CBC News. February 18, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  41. ^ Ward, Doug (November 8, 2011). "Foot in lake not linked to foul play". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on November 14, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  42. ^ Heffter, Emily (December 10, 2011). "Human remains found in Eastlake neighborhood". The Seattle Times.
  43. ^ McNerthney, Casey (January 2, 2012). "List of 2011 homicides in Seattle; City's homicide rate on 1950s pace". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  44. ^ "Possible Human Remains Found Washed Up in Shoe". Vancouver Police Department. January 26, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  45. ^ a b Lynch, James (May 6, 2014). "Human foot in tennis shoe washes ashore in Seattle". Q13 Fox News. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  46. ^ "Foot in shoe that washed ashore in Seattle likely not severed". Q13 Fox News. May 7, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  47. ^ Clarridge, Christine (May 6, 2014). "Human Foot in Sneaker Found on Seattle Waterfront". Seattle Times. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  48. ^ "Human Foot Found on Seattle Waterfront". CTV News. May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  49. ^ Sundstrom, Lauren (February 10, 2016). "Severed human foot found washed ashore on Vancouver Island". Vancity Buzz.
  50. ^ Wilson, Carla (February 9, 2016). "Human foot found in shoe at Botanical Beach". Times Colonist. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  51. ^ "Second foot washed up in B.C. matches first, confirmed to be human: coroner". The Globe and Mail. Canadian Press. February 17, 2016.
  52. ^ "Police Investigate Human Foot Found at Jordan River beach Thursday". Victoria Buzz. December 8, 2017.
  53. ^ Haag, Matthew (December 12, 2017). "Another human foot washes ashore in Canada. That makes 13". boston.com. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  54. ^ "13 Füße in zehn Jahren angeschwemmt". bild.de. December 15, 2017.
  55. ^ Azpiri, Jon (May 9, 2018). "Another human foot washes up on B.C. shores". Global News. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  56. ^ Smith, Charlie (February 11, 2019). "Human foot found inside a Nike shoe on West Vancouver shoreline". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  57. ^ "Human foot in boot washes ashore on Everett island". The Herald. Everett, Washington. January 2, 2019. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  58. ^ Hutton, Caleb (February 5, 2019). "Foot on Jetty Island belonged to missing Everett man". The Herald. Everett, Washington. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  59. ^ Bellett, Gary (May 24, 2008). "A fourth foot deepens the mystery; The severed-feet explanation is 'beyond imagination,' expert says after latest find". The Vancouver Sun. p. B1. Original article wrote five bodies, but it has since been confirmed that two of the feet belong to the same person.
  60. ^ a b Chan, Cheryl (May 23, 2008). "Fourth foot fuels flotsam frenzy; Still no clues after boater's discovery in Richmond". p. A4.
  61. ^ "Mysterious feet may be linked to single accident: B.C. forensic expert". CBC News. June 17, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  62. ^ a b c "Human right foot found on Valdes; This is the third foot to wash up on a Gulf Island within a year;". The Province. February 15, 2008. p. A3.
  63. ^ a b Heiman, Carolyn (May 25, 2005). "Families of victims seek expert's help". The Province. p. A9.
  64. ^ Lambert, Shane (December 16, 2010). "Human Feet in the Pacific Northwest – a Better Theory?". Tree Pony.
  65. ^ "B.C. Feet Mystery Partly Solved, As Coroner Identifies Female Suicide Victim". HuffPost. October 19, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2018.

References[edit]