A $1-million reward offered by a beer company and an innovative airship that can float silently over the forest loaded with cameras are breathing new life into the old hunt for sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest.
And nobody is happier about that than William Barnes, who is trying to raise about $300,000 to go where science has never gone before – into the air in search of a creature that many believe is mythical, but which he claims to have seen in the United States.
"It was three feet away," Mr. Barnes said of his encounter with a hairy biped that suddenly materialized by his camp one night.
"I got a good look. To me it's an ape … a wood ape," said the sasquatch researcher, who is based in Utah but regards British Columbia as one of the top places in North America to look for Bigfoot.
"They are built for the wilderness," he said. "When it walked up the hill behind my camp, it never slipped, even though it was so steep I couldn't get up there without falling. It walked so fluidly up the hill it just blew me away."
It is that mobility, he believes, together with the sasquatch's nocturnal nature and its high animal intelligence, that explains why researchers, including many in B.C., have so far failed to prove the creatures are real.
"You can't run through the woods trying to track these things down," Mr. Barnes said on Thursday.
After failing to do that himself despite years of effort, he said he and other researchers, including John Bindernagel, a B.C. biologist, and Jeff Meldrum, an associate professor of anthropology at Idaho State University, came up with the idea of trying to photograph sasquatch from the air.
Mr. Barnes has been trying for 21/2 years to raise funds to have an Alberta company, Remote Aerial Tripod Specialists Inc., build an airship to carry an array of cameras and thermal imaging technology. He declined to say how much the campaign, known as The Falcon Project, has raised so far, but he acknowledged it is far short of the goal.
"It is the hardest sell in the world," the former gold dredger said.
But The Falcon Project got a huge boost last week when Olympia Beer, which is owned by Pabst Brewing Co., announced it is offering $1-million for "irrefutable proof" that Sasquatch exists.
"Evidence must include conclusive DNA evidence and visual proof of a live physical body," the company said in a release.
Olympia, which has also granted $5,000 to The Falcon Project, has tied the reward to an advertising campaign in Washington State that includes Sasquatch billboards and trails of Bigfoot prints that lead, of course, to the Olympia beer in liquor stores.
Mr. Barnes said Olympia Beer is clearly trying to use Bigfoot and the search for the elusive creature as an advertising vehicle, but that's okay with him.
"It's generating a lot of attention, and that's a good thing," he said, noting he has been getting calls from sasquatch researchers all over the Pacific Northwest.
He said when The Falcon Project search is launched, it will target sasquatch hot spots that have been identified from B.C. to California. "We know where they are at, within 100 to 150 square miles," he said.
Dr. Bindernagel said research in the past has largely been restricted to gathering plaster casts of footprints and attempts to capture photos by people in the field.
All of that work, he said, has been done by amateurs because animal scientists have refused to consider the possibility that the sasquatch exists.
"It's the citizen scientists who are moving this ahead. People like William Barnes," he said. "He's taking the next step by developing this airship, and I think it shows real promise."
Stephen Barkley, president of Remote Aerial Tripod Specialists, said a small prototype of the air ship has been designed and tested for The Falcon Project, but the group hasn't yet provided the funds for a full-scale model.