I thought I would offer up my thoughts on the National Geographic Channel's special on bigfoot that aired last night.
I have to tell you that I had absolutely no positive expectations as to how the subject would be treated. In the past, National Geographic has all but mocked those who believe it possible that a large, upright, and undiscovered primate may exist in the forests of North America. If you saw the bigfoot episode of their Is It Real? program you know exactly what I'm talking about. The program I viewed last night, thankfully, bore no resemblance to the debacle that was the Is It Real? episode. I thought the program took a very objective look at the subject, sought the opinion of experts in their fields, and went where the evidence led them. That is all anyone could ask. That is what science is supposed to do.
I was a bit concerned right off the bat when the opening sequence centered around some engineers who were sent to digitally scan the Bluff Creek site where Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin filmed an alleged sasquatch 40+ years ago. The idea was sound enough, I suppose. Get a 3D rendering of the sighting location, digitally insert a sasquatch walking the same path as the Patterson-Gimlin subject, and, hopefully, be able to draw some conclusions by comparing the figure to static points of reference. My concern was that after forty years the site could not possibly look the same as it did when Patterson filmed the creature. Therefore, conclusions reached using this data might be flawed. I still wonder if this could not be so. It turns out the conclusions reached by these engineers did nothing but strengthen the case for the Patterson-Gimlin subject being a living animal and not a man in a suit.
Another sequence featured Bill Munns "upgrading" the Patterson film to hi-definition. He did this, much like Rick Noll did a few years back, by painstakingly photographing each individual frame of the film. Munns was working from a first generation copy of the film that had been in the possession of Roger Patterson's widow. His images produced one of the sharpest versions of the film yet seen. Clearly, massive muscles can be seen working just below the hair/fur of the subject. The muscles in the thigh, calf, traps, and even the achilles tendon could be seen clearly contracting and relaxing with each step the creature took. Limb proportions and "break points" like knee joints were also discussed. Munn's opinion, after studying the hi-res version of the film, is that the Patterson film subject was not a man in a suit but, instead, a live animal.
As is typical with these programs, the producers saw fit to bring in an actor, in this case one that stands 7'0" tall, to attempt duplication of the compliant gate exhibited by the Patterson-Gimlin subject. The actor was reasonably successful in this attempt. However, he had difficulty maintaining the proper posture even on a nice flat floor. One aspect of the whole compliant gate issue that I have never seen brought up on any television show on the subject is the step interval of the creature. My friend, and fellow TBRC member, Alton Higgins did a great analysis and presentation on this a few years back. Alton pointed out that this was one of the few, if not only, times in history where video evidence was backed up by tracks. The footprints left behind by the creature in the sand of Bluff Creek were measured and cast by Roger Patterson, Bob Titmus, and others. These castings have been studied by experts the world over. However, the step intervals, the distance between each individual footprint, were measured as well. As I write this, I do not remember the length of the creature's stride exactly but know it was in excess of four feet. I would submit it is impossible for a man, even one 7'0" tall to mimic the compliant gait of the Patterson subject, while navigating through and around a debris strewn creek bed, AND continually maintaining a stride length in excess of four feet while wearing a bulky gorilla suit. Anyone who doubts this should try it. It is impossible for a man to maintain a stride that long without jogging/running. The Patterson subject is clearly not running. One foot remains on the ground at all times. In my eyes, the step interval length is the nail in the coffin of the "man in a suit" theory. Why this important detail has not been discussed in any of these programs remains a mystery to me.
Now, on to that "man in a suit" theory. As has been done on other specials, the producers paid a visit to a special effects shop, in this case Jim Henson's Creature Shop, to see if an ape suit could be created to rival what is seen in the Patterson-Gimlin film. The state of special effects technology back in the late sixties was touched on as was the tired rumor that John Chambers, of Planet of the Apes fame, might have had something to do with the film. Basically, it was determined that the technology that existed at the time Patterson shot the film was not good enough to produce a suit so convincing and the "man in a suit" theory was all but tossed out as a possibility.
There was more information presented including the fact that hairs have been found in North America that exhibit the properties of a primate but are neither human nor ape. It was also mentioned that DNA had been extracted from a few such samples that did not match any known animal. I could go on but, hopefully, you get the idea.
I have to give National Geographic credit. This was by far the best program on the subject of sasquatch evidence I have seen, and I think I've seen just about all of them. The producers allowed the experts to follow the evidence wherever it led them and draw their own conclusions. National Geographic stopped short of coming out and saying that the evidence points to the sasquatch being a real live biological entity. They did, however, allow the featured experts, like Munns and Meldrum, to say it. This alone is a huge step in the right direction. Maybe, Henry Gee was right when he said, "Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold."
I hope so.
P.S. - If you missed the program, it will air again on January 31. Check your local listings for times. It is well worth your time.