Sunday, July 27, 2008

Traveling Shoes

I bring good news, Gentle Reader: I have given up my plan to post a poetic homage to the severed feet. I was going to call it either The Feet of Nanaimo or This Weird Flotilla. But I keep thinking about those feet.

British Columbia still has the most, but now they're popping up in Sweden as well.

This is apparently how it works:

* When a body goes into the ocean it sinks to the bottom, where critters chew on it. They can strip it down to bones in about a month.
* The feet remain un-et because they are encased in a sock and shoe. Right feet tend to survive more than left because most people are right-handed and tie their right shoe tighter. (All of the right shoes found have been pristine. The only left shoe found was muddy and darkened.)
* Eventually the sea critters chew through the soft tissue of the ankle, severing the foot from the body - at which point the foot in its high-tech covering bobs to the surface.
* The contemporary sneaker has a buoyancy and longevity that surpasses any other shoe. Well crafted, it does not fall apart easily. Made of space-age cushiony substances, it does not swamp easily. Your average loafer is not going to fare well in the deep; this phenomenon is limited to the likes of Nike, Reebok and New Balance.
* Sneakered feet can travel about 10 miles per day on the Pacific. However, one scientist has opined that given the currents of the Strait of Georgia, the feet are more likely to be local.
* Ocean currents sometimes result in a selection of certain sorts of things going in certain directions. The selection of flotsam and jetsam on a beach is not as random as it may seem. It seems that sneaker-encased severed feet have a predilection for the Strait of Georgia.

In terms of discovering the identity of the feet, the types of shoe that survive are quite informative. The shoes that stay afloat and wash ashore tend to be higher end athletic shoes, and they have serial numbers. The five BC shoes were made in the 1999-2004 timeframe, and one of them was almost certainly purchased in India. (I would add from my personal experience that the higher end athletic shoe shows signs of wear fairly quickly, which should help date its departure from dry land.)

However, it seems that feet provide extremely little forensic evidence. All the police seem to be able to learn is sex and DNA - a foot does not provide any clue as to the age, height or ethnicity of its body. In this day of evidence-based cop shows that seems unlikely, but there you go.

You can view photos of the amazing traveling shoes here.

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