Those feet keep showing up in Canada….
“Please don’t call them ‘severed feet.'” So says forensic scientist Gail Anderson of Simon Fraser University, whose research involving dead pigs plays a big role in getting to the bottom of a mystery that flummoxed Canadian locals and police near the Salish Sea off British Columbia’s Vancouver Island for years: Why were sneaker-clad feet washing ashore? In an excerpt from Erika Engelhaupt’s Gory Details: Adventures From the Dark Side of Science, National Geographic shares the fascinating science. The first foot washed up on August 20, 2007, and another—also a right foot in a men’s size 12 sneaker—was found six days later. Over a 12-year period, 15 feet were found, leading to theories ranging from a serial killer to aliens. Science ultimately proved otherwise.
Engelhaupt recounts a 1977 Navy study that got to the first question: Does a dead body float or sink? The study determined that sinking to the bottom was likeliest, and a forensic anthropologist with the British Columbia Coroners Service explains that water pressure stops the expansion of gases that could otherwise bring the bodies back up. As for why the feet would have been come back up, in her work with dead pigs Anderson found underwater scavengers like shrimp and crabs gravitated toward softer tissues and ligaments, which is exactly what you’ll find in our ankles. That makes it likely the feet naturally separated thanks to those scavengers. Credit today’s sneakers for the rise, too: Most feature foam and gas-filled pockets in the soles that make them buoyant. But who do the feet belong to? Police now have an answer in nine of the cases, and all are thought to have died via accident or suicide.
This article got me to thinking about ‘body farms’.
If you watch “Bones” then you were exposed to the idea of a body farm.
But what but Hell is a “body farm”?
Body farms, really, are just outdoor laboratories. Using donated human bodies, the aim is to get a better understanding of the decomposition process. Monitoring the different processes of decomposition in various environments, the research findings can then further understanding in forensics.
The term “body farm” can imply some slightly unsettling things. But, a body farm really is not scary or unsettling at all. In truth, a body farm is simply a research facility where human decomposition is studied. This may not sound appealing or appetizing to some people, but the study of human decomposition is very important. It helps both scientists and law enforcement to develop methods for identifying human remains, and also to learn more about the person’s life and lifestyle.
Most body farms accept donated human remains. Depending on the policies of the body farm, this may or may not affect planning for a funeral. It is possible to finalize arrangements for a donation before death, or family members and loved ones can make arrangements after the fact.
A short definition…..but where did this idea originate?
In the middle of the woods, just a few miles from Alcoa Highway in Tennessee, you may come across a 1-hectare (2.5-acre) plot surrounded by a razor-wire fence.
The plot, which we’d highly advise you don’t enter if you’re squeamish, is home to the world’s first “body farm“, where human bodies are left to rot in the open, locked in trunks of cars, or submerged in water, all watched closely by scientists to see what happens next.
Body farms as a concept are a surprisingly late invention, conceived by anthropologist William M. Bass in 1971. Bass had spent most of his career in Kansas. In the state, given the massive amounts of land, it was often the case that bodies weren’t discovered for years, meaning when he was asked to identify remains, he was generally working on a skeleton.
Now you know all there is to know about the history behind the term ‘body farm’…..
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“lego ergo scribo”