Yeti, Sasquatch, Almasty – all names for the same thing, Bigfoot. Everyone knows of one or more of them. Most people have a view on whether they actually exist or not. Loads of intrepid TV folk have made programmes about them. So what was different about our series ? Simple. Science. Yes. Actual science.
There’s a Professor chap at Oxford University called Bryan Sykes who, like me, is interested in cryptozoogy – essentially the study of animals whose existence is not yet proven. Mythical creatures, if you like. Only Bryan is a lot cleverer than I am and he has a lab that can extract the DNA from very old strands of hair and tell you what animal the hairs came from.
I got to know Bryan because he had made Bigfoot believers a very big offer – to test the DNA of the samples they claim prove its existence. No one had ever done this before, partly because the necessary scientific know-how and kit was somewhere between thin on the ground and non-existent. The Bigfootologists, as they call themselves, jumped at the chance.
So, Bryan needed an assistant. Someone to head off around the world to track down the samples and send them back to Blighty. That was me. And what a journey it turned out to be. From the deeply forested Olympic Peninsula in America’s Northwest, to Siberia and Abkhazia and on to Nepal. I met some very lovely people and shared some truly weird experiences.
Most of the hair samples turned out to be from very familiar animals, but not all. Bryan came to a controversial conclusion that threw a grenade in to the world of cryptozoology. The most likely biological explanation for the Yeti, he said, is that it was, may be is, some form of hybrid between a polar bear and a brown bear. Not everyone agrees. The debate continues.