An Idaho State University professor who has dedicated his career to the study of Bigfoot has joined an effort with the end result of deploying an unmanned, helium-filled airship to find the elusive beast if it exists.
Jeff Meldrum, an anatomy and anthropology professor at ISU, said in a press statement that he has been recruited as scientific adviser to the Falcon Project.
The project will first use a team of volunteer trackers, biologists and wildlife specialists, many with military experience, called Sasquatch Trekkers, to identify telltale signs of Bigfoot — hair, remains, feces and even sounds, the professor said in the statement.
The plan, according to Meldrum, is to have the Sasquatch Trekkers work around the clock for six months. The team intends to use GPS mapping of areas it considers would be potential lodging and food sources for what are known in scientific terminology as relict hominoids, or in layman’s terms, large, hairy, man-like Bigfoots.
“Establishing the existence of the species based on physical remains is the ultimate goal of the search,” Meldrum writes.
Once that goal is achieved, he writes, “Data collected by the Sasquatch Trekkers will establish the foundation for designing the aerial survey strategies utilized in the Falcon Project … and will provide the basis for the deployment of the Aurora airship and placement of the mobile command center and ground teams.”
The Aurora is a 35-foot dual-cell catamaran-style airship. Meldrum said it can stay airborne for about 10 hours and carry a 75-pound payload consisting of cutting-edge thermal imaging cameras and high definition videography equipment. The professor said the airship will be operated and monitored by a knowledgeable ground crew. Thermal imaging is needed, Meldrum said, because the Bigfoot creature is considered to be nocturnal.
The Aurora is the invention of Stephen Barclay, an aeronautical engineer and owner of Remote Aerial Tripod Systems, or RATS Inc. in Alberta, Canada.
The Falcon Project itself is the brainchild of William Barnes of St. George, Utah, who believes that using drones, or UAVs, would be the best way to find North America’s great ape. Meldrum states Barnes believes he saw Bigfoot one summer night in 1997 at a remote gold-dredging camp in California’s Sierra Mountains.
The project’s funding, like the Aurora itself, seems up in the air as of now.
“Our team members are initially working on a volunteer basis until sufficient funds are available to compensate them for their time and expertise,” Meldrum told the Journal.
The ISU professor also revealed a funding strategy for the project.
“The Falcon Project is tapping the crowd sourcing pipeline, in addition to a select few significant and generous benefactors who desire only to be part of this historical exploratory project,” he told the Journal on Thursday.
“Donations made to the ISU Foundation, which has established an account for the Falcon Project, provide a tax benefit to the donor, and assurance of institutional oversight, but we are not approaching the funding of this project as an ‘investment’ with expectations of individual dividends.”
Meldrum emphasized the word “investment” in reference to a Wall Street Journal article published Wednesday about Carmine “Tom” Biscardi, a partner in the newly formed Bigfoot Project Investments, which seeks investors to raise up to $3 million in a proposed initial public offering, or IPO.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the company intends to spend $113,805 a year on expeditions to find Bigfoot.
But, if Meldrum has his way, not a penny of what Biscardi and his business partners raise from making movies of Bigfoot expeditions and selling the resulting DVDs will end up in Falcon Project coffers.
"It is unfortunate that his story attracts such inordinate attention from the media when serious research and analysis of credible evidence is overlooked or trivialized," he said. "We will have no association with him or his activities.”
Biscardi has lost a significant amount of credibility in Sasquatch circles, as explained in the Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal article.
“In 2008, (Biscardi) held a news conference in Palo Alto, Calif., to detail his examination of what he said was the carcass of a male Bigfoot that checked in at 7 feet 7 inches tall and weighed more than 500 pounds,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “The Bigfoot, found by two men in Georgia, turned out to be a rubber gorilla costume stuffed with animal parts and outfitted with a set of teeth that may have been bovine in origin.”
The Wall Street Journal report goes on to state that when the newspaper confronted Bacardi about the incident, he said he was deceived.
So if it doesn’t intend to take any money raised by the discredited Biscardi and his planned IPO, how does the Meldrum’s Falcon Project intend to raise money for its venture?
“Crowd-sourcing such as Kickstart and FanBacked offer incentives to individual donors like autographed books, VIP experiences in the field, in recognition of larger donors,” Meldrum said.
The Falcon project includes its own VIPs. In addition to Barclay and Barnes, Meldrum in his press statement lists an impressive array of experts. Among them are Jim Halfpenny, a renowned tracker, licensed guide and founder of the Track Education Center and Museum in Gardiner, Montana; John Bindernagel, who has spent a 45-year career as a professional wildlife biologist with the Canadian International Development Agency with the United Nations; John Mionczynski, a wildlife consultant with 40 years’ experience in trapping, radio collaring and documenting food habits and behavior of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem of Montana and Wyoming for the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team and U.S. Forest Service; Bill Munns, who has 45 years of knowledge in what Meldrum calls the “creature business” or fabricating ultra-realistic physical models of living, extinct and fictitious creatures for Movies, TV, theme parks and Museum Exhibits and computer graphics imagery; and Pete Aniello, who has over 20 years’ experience in the geospatial field and is a technical manager at Environmental Systems Research Institute and has previously worked at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey and Space Imaging.
Whether the Falcon Project team’s ultimate goal of finding Bigfoot is achieved remains to be seen.