Fresh Print Renews Quest for Yeti
ALISON STEWART, host:
Dateline: Nepal. Found: one big footprint. And the finders believe it may belong to Yeti. So says the crew of the Sci-Fi Channel show, "Destination Truth." The show's host, Josh Gates - who holds a degree in archaeology, by the way - was there when the footprint nearly two times the size of a human footprint was found on November 28th when his team was researching the science and oral history of Yeti in the Khumbu region.
Josh Gates is the host of "Destination Truth." It airs on Sci-Fi, and he's joining us from a ferry off the coast of Zanzibar. Hi, Josh. Thanks for calling in.
Mr. JOSH GATES (Host, "Destination Truth"): No worries. I hope the phone line holds. Thanks for having me.
STEWART: All right, fingers crossed. Quickly, what's the story behind the Yeti? People think Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot. What is, who is Yeti?
Mr. GATES: Well, that's kind of the cool thing about this story, is that I think we in the West have a very narrow view of the Yeti. We just see it as the Abominable Snowman. And, really, in the Himalayas, in Nepal and both on the Tibetan side as well, there's a really kind of a more diverse view of the Yeti.
He's sometimes seen as a monster. He's also kind of seen as a protector of the mountain people in some cases. And in a few monasteries, they even claim to have Yeti remains, which they use in their religious festivals. So it's kind of a complicated viewpoint. They certainly do see it as some large, unexplainable creature that kind of lurks around high in the Himalayas.
STEWART: So tell us about this footprint that you found, describe it for us, and why you think it might actually belong to Yeti.
Mr. GATES: Well, we were up there in the Himalayas for a couple of weeks doing our program in the Yeti. And, really, the way that we do our show is we travel to different countries and we interview as many people as possible - eyewitnesses and experts. And then based on those interviews, we go out and we try to conduct a credible investigation to see if we can validate these stories or, if they don't hold water, really try figure out what is going on.
And so in this case, we went up into the Khumbu region of the Himalayas, up towards Everest base camp. And we had been conducting night investigations for about a week. And one of our support personnel, a Nepalese porter, actually first spied this footprint with a headlamp, and our cameras were rolling. And it's just this really large, you know, anthropomorphic-looking print, and I can't really readily explain it. We've kind of gone through different scenarios, if there - what would have made it and different possibilities, and we were kind of stumped. And certainly, it does fit the profile of other kind of footprints that have been found. And so we're - we've cast the print, and we're transporting it back to the States, and we're going to have it looked at by specialists there.
STEWART: Now, you know there are nay-sayers out there saying, the footprint might be from a Himalayan bear. It actually - getting a footprint out of that kind of area is a really inexact science, and that there's no Yeti. So what do you say to all those people who are saying that what the print that you found does not jive with the Yeti?
Mr. GATES: Well, I think it's a fair enough thing to say. I mean, it is true that footprint castings are not really going to be conclusive. And so no matter what an expert weighs in, I think it's unlikely that we're going to be able to close the book on this. I do think, though, that there is no doubt that many people up in the Himalayas are having legitimate experiences. They are coming into contact with something that they can't explain.
Now, it might be a bear, or it might be some sort of uncatalogued animal. I think that what this footprint invites us to do, though, is really continue to examine the question, and I hope that it just keeps people interested. There certainly is a lot of ground up there that has not really been well catalogued. And I don't think it's, you know, time to close the book on this one, as it were. I think that more people should get involved and kind of check it out. We certainly are intrigued by what we found, and we can't readily explain it. So we're not calling it a Yeti footprint necessarily, but, certainly, I don't have - I don't really have any answer for it right now.
STEWART: Was there just one footprint? Was this thing hopping along, or did you find anything else?
Mr. GATES: We found three footprints. The area in which we found it was really rocky. And so there were just a few kind of muddy expanses in that area. And in this one kind of track of mud, we have this really kind of perfect-looking right footprint. And then we have a half of a footprint of a left print -mostly a heel print, and the toes were kind of would have been on hard rock, so there was no opportunity to cast. And then we have, again, a right footprint that's in kind of softer sand. So we have this sequence of prints, then after that, it goes back to hard rocks.
And they look really, I mean, (unintelligible) and seeing them in the earth, they look legit. They look like some giant walked through there, you know? I mean, I'm - I want to describe myself as - is an open-minded skeptic. You know, I mean, I'm happy to call something out if I don't think it's legitimate, but I don't really have an explanation for what left these.
STEWART: Do you understand why people are skeptical, though?
Mr. GATES: Oh, I'm skeptical. I mean, that's the cool thing about this show. We travel all over the world investigating these really wild stories, and I would say, you know, better than half the time, I don't buy it, you know? I mean, I think that the great thing about these stories is that it's not really a question of them being fake or real. I mean, these are real stories, you know, and I think that they usually grow out of real experiences. And so the question is always finding out the truth behind what causes these stories and what propels people to believe in these things.
In this case, I think science would probably tell me that the odds of some large uncatalogued primate kind of roaming around the Everest base camp area at this point is probably pretty low. I mean, there's a lot of foot traffic up there. There's a lot of people in that area. At the same time, you've got all these people in the Himalayas that are separated geographically by large areas that are describing a very similar kind of experience. And so, from that perspective, I think there's still more work to be done to kind of see what it is that's happening up here.
And again, it's really tricky with the Yeti to separate mythology from zoology, because there's a long history of reports of this creature that has now kind of become part of the popular culture there as well.
STEWART: Josh Gates is the host of "Destination Truth," which airs on the Sci-Fi Channel. Thanks for giving us a call, Josh.
Mr. GATES: No worries. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
LUKE BURBANK, host:
BURBANK: All right, here's the thing. He kept talking about the best song in the world and Laura Conaway bringing it to us, and we totally are going to do that, but because that last guest was in Zanzibar, we couldn't get him at the right time. Things got all messed up. Laura's going to be with us next hour.
BURBANK: Or if you're listening to us in Seattle, an hour ago?
STEWART: Something like that.
BURBANK: I don't know what the space time continuum is doing on that.
But anyway, we are going to have the best song in the world with Laura Conaway.
STEWART: We promise.
BURBANK: We promise.
That, though, does it for this hour of THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. Check us out online at npr.org/bryantpark.
STEWART: He's Luke Burbank. I'm Alison Stewart. Rachel Martin is our newscaster.
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