Human Feet Keep Washing Ashore in Canada—Now Scientists Can Finally Explain Why

Wednesday, 16 May 2018 - 1:17PM
Wednesday, 16 May 2018 - 1:17PM
Human Feet Keep Washing Ashore in Canada—Now Scientists Can Finally Explain Why
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Image credit: Pixabay

Imagine taking an early morning walk on the beach. As you stroll through the sand you find an abandoned shoe. When you get closer, you notice something strange and bend down to inspect it closer. Looking into the sole, you see a human foot still inside.


It might sound like a horror movie, but for the last 10 years this scenario has been playing out in British Columbia, Canada.


On May 14, Royal Canadian Mounted announced that for the 14th time this decade they'd found a "disarticulated" human foot washed ashore on the beach.


There's no denying it—this is one of the creepiest stories we've ever heard. But experts now believe there is actually a valid scientific explanation for why it keeps happening.


Surprisingly, it doesn't involve a serial killer.

According to Vox, finding severed feet is so common in BC now that the British Columbia Coroners Service keeps a map with details about where and when the disturbing discoveries were made.


The coroner's office said in a statement that eight of the feet have been identified and connected to six people whose deaths are not believed to have been from foul play.


Officials with jurisdiction over the Salish Sea (which includes the Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia) say that because the coast is so densely populated with around 7 million people, the number of drownings and suicides is higher than in other bodies of water. 

The way the Salish Sea flows also adds to the bounty of floating feet.


"Things that float at the ocean surface move with the currents, but also are pushed a bit by the wind, and this can be significant in getting them to shore," University of Washington oceanography professor Parker MacCready told Vox via email.


"The prevailing winds here [around the Salish Sea] are west to east, and so floating stuff in this part of the Pacific gets blown to the coast effectively."


But why have feet specifically been washing up on the shores of the sea?


Forensic experts say we have human anatomy, decomposition, and changes in footwear manufacturing to thank for that.


In 2016, a coroner told Canada's National Post that a change in running shoe material causes dismembered feet to float now; before companies like Nike introduced these materials in modern running shoes, they used to just stay at the bottom of the water.

"Feet easily disarticulate and when they are attached to a flotation device such as a running shoe, they are easily washed ashore," Gail Anderson, co-director of the Center for Forensic Research at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, told Vox.


"Notice there are no feet washing ashore in stiletto heels or flip-flops." 


Feet washing ashore in either of those options would be much more disturbing, so I guess we're grateful that things aren't worse?


Weird Science