A skeptic's encounters with 'Finding Bigfoot'

FLIR's IR technology can help find more than suspects and evidence, pushing search and rescue to another level

“The public appears disposed to be amused even when they are conscious of being deceived." –PT Barnum

Before we go any further, you should know that I don’t believe in bigfoot. I’m a confirmed skeptic. Loch Ness only has fish. Chupacabra is just a goat. Extraterrestrials have better things to do than visit Earth. And there are as many vampires in the rain-soaked Northwest as there are sasquatches (sorry “Twilight” fans).

Nevertheless, in my capacity as manager of public relations at FLIR Systems, it fell upon me to coordinate FLIR’s involvement in an upcoming episode of “Finding Bigfoot,” which is broadcast on the Animal Planet network. I was ecstatic about the opportunity. Not to search for bigfoot, but to help promote FLIR and our thermal imaging cameras. But this didn’t turn out to be your everyday behind-the-scenes logistics gig.

Finding Bigfoot” follows a team of Bigfoot hunters as they follow up on sightings around the world. Featuring Matt Moneymaker, Cliff Barackman, Ranae Holland and James “Bobo” Fay, the show is highly entertaining. The fact that they use and promote FLIR thermal imagers makes me a fan.

On the show, the bigfoot team typically uses handheld FLIR cameras when they’re in the midst of an active sasquatch search. That makes sense because the handhelds are compact, easy to use and inexpensive. Image quality is good enough to spot a man-sized object up to two kilometers out with some of FLIR’s commercially available bi-ocular thermal imagers.

For this episode, FLIR made available the Renegade mobile unit to the “Finding Bigfoot” production. Renegade is a thermal imaging command center on wheels that travels around the country giving demonstrations of the various thermal imaging cameras FLIR manufactures. One of those cameras is HRC: a high-resolution cooled thermal security camera that’s mounted to an extendable arm. HRC is designed for long-range thermal detection and provides a television-quality video output. “Finding Bigfoot” wanted to use HRC to try some different tactics to flush out a bigfoot.

Bigfoot—also known as sasquatch, yeti, Genoskwa, giant ape man, ad infinitum—is a mythical creature who pops up in cultures all over the world. Thousands of stories exist about seeing this creature, a few casts of foot and hand prints have been collected, but no one has ever come forward with physical evidence.

We’ve captured giant squid, a coelacanth and Osama, but eight-foot tall apemen who can imitate tree stumps continue to evade capture.

When it came time to head up to Olympia, Washington, to meet the cast and crew of “Finding Bigfoot,” I took a camera operator, John, and my good friend and colleague, Jen.

On May 31, 2002, Jen’s father had chartered a helicopter for an aerial tour of Mt. Hood. Ironically, this was the same day that a Blackhawk helicopter crashed in a crevasse on Mt. Hood during an attempted rescue mission of some fallen climbers. Just after the helicopter Jen’s father was riding in was ordered to evacuate the airspace around Mt. Hood, he saw a giant, dark creature running impossibly fast through the forest. But since the helicopter was under orders to evacuate the airspace, he couldn’t double back to track the creature.

Jen also has a friend who saw what he thought was a sasquatch cross the road in front of him while on a fishing trip on the Umpqua River. So she’s a secondhand witness to two bigfoot sightings, and she believes they exist. Terrific.

John is a professional television crewman. He’s been doing it for years. He runs at a more frenetic pace than most folks and doesn’t have time to ponder belief or non-belief. As long as he didn’t have to hike too far with the equipment or knowingly put himself in any mortal danger, John didn’t care what it took to get some good footage.

The First Attempt

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