Fourteen Feet Deep

Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca make up part of the Pacific coasts of the American state of Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Collectively, they make up the Salish Sea. Their beaches are like most other ones, with one disturbing feature:

For some reason, disembodied feet keep washing up on shore.

In August of 2007, a 12 year-old Washington girl was visiting British Columbia’s Jedediah Island. As reported by CBC News, she found a black and white Adidas sneaker with a sock and foot still inside — with no other body parts to be found. Later that month, a couple found a Reebok sneaker on nearby Gabriola Island — again, with human remains somewhat preserved inside the shoe. Both shoes were size 12, men’s, and right feet. Two different people meeting very similar fates.

And the feet just kept on coming. A third foot was found in February of 2008, again a male right foot. A fourth foot was discovered in May — the first one of a woman — and a fifth one in June. The fifth foot, uniquely to this point, was a left foot, and DNA tests confirmed that it belonged to the same person as the first foot found. The locations of where the first six feet were found are flagged on the map below. Over the next four years, another eight feet would wash up on the shores of the Salish Sea. Fourteen total feet belonging to a dozen people.

No one is sure why the feet are washing up while the rest of the bodies never emerge. The most likely theory is that when submerged bodies decompose, the hands, feet, and head detach, as they are the parts most loosely connected to the rest of the body. In most cases, these detached parts would sink soon after, but in the case of the fourteen Salish Sea feet, the foot/sneaker combination has enough buoyancy to keep it afloat.

As for the identities of the people who once walked using the discovered feet? Investigators have used DNA tests of the human tissue and forensic analysis of the shoes to come up with answers. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. The currents in the area draw from across the Pacific and the body fat in the feet forms a soap-like substance which interferes with scientific testing. With one exception, there are more questions than answers. In November of 2011, the Canadian Press reported that two of the feet belonged to a woman who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in New Westminster, British Columbia, seven years earlier. To date, the owners of the other dozen feet are unidentified.


Bonus factAccording to a 1994 study of just under 1,200 men, the average adult male foot measures 26.3 centimeters — or about 10.3 inches — with a standard deviation of 1.2 centimeters (just under half an inch). In other words, the vast majority of human feet are not quite a foot long.

From the ArchivesMcBarge: Another thing floating off the coast of British Columbia? A derelict McDonalds.

Related: “Islands in the Salish Sea: A Community Atlas” — in case you want to plot the feet findings.