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The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book to be published, with pictures, by Todd M. Neiss. The contents are copyrighted and any use of its contents, without specific authorization from the author, is strictly prohibited by law.
OPERATION: SEA MONKEY
Part I: Genesis
It’s an amazing epiphany when dreams collide with reality.
Four years ago I was asked by my life-long friend, Darren O’Brien, to ride along with him on his boat from Port Townsend to his home port, Port Ludlow, Washington. There he, his wife Lisa and their daughter Arianna lived aboard a 48’ Choy Lee trawler. Bucking 50mph winds and high seas, we arrived some three hours later. Moored in the adjacent slip was a 40’ Tollycraft Tri-Cabin motor yacht. It was love at first sight.
I had always envied Darren’s life style and made the decision right then and there that, if there was a way, we would buy that boat and join the live-aboard community. My wife Diane and I discussed it, and before long, we sold our house and bought the “Jadoo Shikari” (Mystery Hunter in Hindu). We have lived aboard now for the past three years and love it!
From the very start, I pondered the feasibility of conducting our research into the Bigfoot phenomenon utilizing our yacht from the sea instead of by land. I have always been enchanted with the incredibly vast wilderness of Canada. Surely Bigfoot would thrive in such a riparian paradise. Then it dawned on me…why not use the Jadoo Shikari to investigate the desolate territory of coastal British Columbia? With its countless inlets and vast archipelagos, one could spend their entire life and not possibly see it all. To my knowledge, nobody has approached Bigfooting from a nautical angle.
What better way to access this uninhabited aquatic world than by boat?
Surely Sasquatch could live, if not thrive, on the abundant food resources the ocean has to offer.
Based on that theory, in August 31st, 2013, Peter Byrne, Shawn Jones, myself and two others boarded a large zodiac inflatable and set out through the Salmon River estuary north of Lincoln City, Oregon, into pounding surf and out into the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps as a prelude to future endeavors, we searched the shoreline for potential avenues of ingress for the Bigfoot to reach the isolated beaches undetected. We discovered many.
Diane and I reluctantly admitted that our dream of cruising the British Columbian wilderness would have to wait until after I retired from the Army in 2019. Or would it?
After founding the American Primate Conservancy in 2015, we began to map our ambitious agenda for the non-profit research organization. Our near-term research would be confined to continued field studies within the Mount Hood National Wilderness and Clackamas River drainage until my retirement. Our marine-based expedition was relegated to our mid-term goal; with the construction of a world-class Bigfoot Interpretive Center being our ultimate goal.
Call it fate, destiny or the provenance of God, the opportunity to conduct a marine expedition materialized sooner than I had expected. On September 3rd, we were visited at our mountain home (the “Chateau de Squatch”) by my friend Tom Sewid and his girlfriend Peggy. We were sitting out on our deck, discussing the goals of the conservancy when I mentioned our future plans in British Columbia.
Tom is a Canadian First Nations member of the Kwak-Wak’Wakh tribe; who’s ancestral homeland just so happens to be the Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia. Having lived in area for nearly 40 years, Tom was well aware of the area and its rich history of Sasquatch encounters dating back over a century.
Tom suggested that he had connections on Vancouver Island and could arrange for a trawler to take a research team out within just a few weeks. He went on to explained that late September was the prime harvest time for clams and cockles in the Broughtons.
“This is the time that my people collect cockles and clams from the beaches at low tide; as do the Sasquatch.”
He mentioned that there was more protein, per square foot, at this time, on these beaches than anywhere else in the world. He would later prove that.
He asked if I could assemble a research team in just three short weeks. I said I would try.
That was the genesis of what would ultimately become “Operation: Sea Monkey.”
I set out calling fellow researchers to inquire if they were interested and, more importantly, could spare the time to dedicate to this adventure. Within a week, I had commitments from a dream team of associates; Ron Morehead, Thomas Steenburg, Gunnar Monson, and Darren O’Brien as our official cameraman; along with Tom Sewid and myself. This eclectic mix of researchers, and token skeptic, made for some very unique perspectives.
Ron Morehead, is an international explorer and owner of the historic “Sierra Sounds” Bigfoot vocalizations recorded in the 1970s in the Sierra Mountains of California. He has traveled to Nepal, Russia, Peru in search of several mysteries. A veteran researcher, Ron and I have worked together on numerous expeditions including Operation: Entice Contact II on Saddle Mountain in 1998, and another at Bluff Creek, California, along with Peter Byrne and the late Al Berry in 2002.
Thomas Steenburg is a well-known Bigfoot researcher and published author. His research areas span both the Alberta and British Columbian Provinces. He and I had known each other since sharing the stage at the Sasquatch Symposium held in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia in 1996.
Gunnar Monson is the founder of the Tillamook Forest Research Group and co-host of the “Monster X” Internet radio program. He is also the owner of the Sasquatch Coffee Company.
Darren O’Brien and I have known one another for nearly 50 years; having gone to grade school together. Darren’s has combined his passion for cruising and his talent for writing, directing, filming and production and applied it to his career as a writer and videographer for the “Cruising Outpost” (formerly “Latitudes & Attitudes”) magazine. Darren would be our official documentarian.
Tom Sewid and I were recently re-introduced at the “Sasquatch Summit” conference held in Ocean Shores, Washington. He and I were both featured in a documentary 22 years earlier. We have kept in touch, which led to his visit to the Chateau de Squatch on September 3rd. Tom’s contributions would become invaluable; having been raised in our research area and his wealth of First Nations history and culture.
My background as a skeptic turned eyewitness turned researcher has been well documented. In April of 1993, I had an incredible epiphany when I bore witness to three Sasquatch during a military training exercise in the Oregon Coast Range. Since then, I have dedicated myself to proving the existence of these amazing creatures, in an effort to have them officially recognized and, if need be, protected. It never ceases to astound me how a mere 25 seconds changed my life forever. A story for another time.
Aside from recruiting four additional team members, money was of major concern. After receiving a generous $500 donation to the cause, I decided I would initiate a “Go Fund Me” campaign to offset the group’s expenses. Having never done so, I was uncertain of its success. I would be pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of generosity from my friends and fellow researchers. Before I knew it, we had raised over $5,000!
What started out as a vision, was quickly taking shape as a reality.
It didn’t take long for the media to catch wind of the expedition. Before I knew it, I was being contacted by The Oregonian newspaper for an interview. Another interview with KXL Radio followed the next morning. Within days, Blue Talk Radio with Connie Willis, The Chad Benson Show and an in-studio interview with the show Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis would follow. KATU TV also did a brief story on Operation: Sea Monkey in their news program. The word was out!
And so it was, that on September 23rd, Gunnar, Darren O’Brien and myself rendezvoused at Ron Morehead’s home in Sequim, Washington. There we would spend the night prior to traveling together to Campbell River, to meet up with the rest of the team and our trawler crew. Saturday morning came early as we needed to catch the Black Ball ferry at 7am in Port Angeles. We made the ferry with little time to waste. In fact, it was questionable that we would even be allowed to board as we were placed on a standby list. Suffice to say we were allowed aboard and made the crossing to Victoria, British Columbia under sunny skies. Operation: Sea Monkey had officially begun!
Meanwhile, Thomas Steenburg was departing Horseshoe Bay on a separate ferry enroute to Nanaimo, B.C. Our plan was to rendezvous with Thomas Steenburg at a visitor’s center just north of Nanaimo at around 10am. Unfortunately, we were delayed in Victoria and did not get to the visitor’s center until nearly 2pm. There was Thomas, napping in his Suzuki 4x4. After making introductions, we headed north towards Campbell River.
However, we planned a detour to meet with famous Bigfoot researcher and author John Bindernagel in Courtney. John had been suffering with medical issues or I am sure he would have joined the team. He and his wife, Joan, were very gracious guests. John had arrayed a number of track casts and photos for us to review. Ironically, John had recently traveled to Cormorant Island, in the Broughton’s, to investigate strange vocalizations reported by the villagers.
After about an hour, we bade farewell and continued north to Campbell River to meet up with Tom Sewid and the crew of the MV Klatawa. Tom had traveled ahead of the team, arriving at the marina a few days earlier to assist the crew in preparing the vessel for its historic voyage.
Upon arrival, we were introduced to Captain Ron Williams and his daughter, Victoria. Ron was a seasoned captain, as well as a retired executive with the Canadian version of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States; thus a valuable resource for marketing connections throughout Canada!
Victoria turned out to be a seasoned videographer in her own right; having brought a high-end video camera and a degree in film production to back it up. She would become our “second camera.”
The Klatawa (Kwak-Wak’Wakh for “Traveler”) was a beautifully appointed 50-foot trawler with two powerful diesel engines. Originally built for a Hollywood starlet in the late 1950s, she had a history. Equipped with two inflatable boats, it would become our mothership for many excursions to shore. She also came with fishing gear and crab and prawn traps; which would prove very productive in augmenting our provisions with fresh seafood along the way!
After exchanging pleasantries, we stowed our gear and were given our sleeping assignments; then headed out for dinner at a nearby restaurant to get to know one another better. Following dinner, we headed back to the marina and prepared to settle in for the night. The excitement was palpable as we fought to get some much needed shut eye. Tomorrow we were to start our epic voyage.
Part II – The Voyage
At daybreak, Ron, Thomas, Gunnar, Darren and I went out for a last breakfast ashore. I had the Steelhead Benedict…only in Canada.
Upon return to the Klatawa, Captain Williams gave the group a safety briefing. He covered every contingency: life jacket locations, first aid kits, and emergency procedures. His primary advice was, “Do not leave a sinking ship until the last minute.” How comforting!
After posing for our group photo on deck, wearing matching American Primate Conservancy t-shirts, we untied from the dock and cast off. The seas were forgivingly calm and the weather overcast with pleasantly mild temperatures. Captain Williams deftly eased the Klatawa into the Seymour Straight, and set us on a northerly course. He timed our departure to coincide with slack tide so we wouldn’t have to contend with a head current. As we plowed onward, we were greeted by bald eagles and escorted by a pod of Dahls Porpoises; riding our bow wave.
While underway, Tom Sewid spread out a chart of our target area; the Broughton Archipelago. He then took a red marker and began to place dots on the map where Bigfoot sightings had been reported. By the time he had finished, more than two dozen red spots dotted the chart. These were just the sighting reports that he personally knew of. As the team watched with excitement, Tom went into great detail about each of these sightings as he personally knew many of the eyewitnesses. It looks like we were heading to the right place!
We entered Johnson Strait; timing our passage with the powerful tide. The mountains surrounding us were draped with low lying clouds. I couldn’t help but think about “gorillas in the mist.” The voyage was looking something like Jurassic Park meets the Calypso.
We pulled into Blenkensop Bay and dropped anchor around 5pm. We were half way to our research area; the Broughton Archipelago. Tom Sewid and I boarded the zodiac and dropped three crab pots in the bay. Tom has promised a bountiful harvest of fresh seafood and he didn’t let us down.
Back on board, Ron Morehead prepared our first night’s meal: hamburger patties, potatoes and corn. We ate well as we discussed the plans for the evening mission.
Just after dark, the team set about preparations for our first night’s operation. Fresh batteries were installed in our equipment: FLIR camera, flashlights, night-vision goggles, Tazcam, Bionic Ear and Game Ear. With Tom Sewid piloting the zodiac, Darren, Thomas Steenburg and I set off into the darkness. Tom wore the night-vision goggles, as he motored us towards the near shoreline at an idle. With headphones on, Steenburg held the Bionic Ear; listening for any vocalizations. While I manned the FLIR camera, Darren stood by with his video camera to film the trip. Our plan was, that if we spotted any heat signatures, we would light it up with a spotlight so Darren could capture it on video.
Back aboard the Klatawa, Ron Morehead activated the Tazcam recorder while Gunnar monitored the VHF radio. Acting as second camera, Victoria filmed our sortie from the top deck of the trawler.
I scanned the shoreline, looking for any heat signatures. After about 30 minutes, I spotted four animals roaming the beach. They appeared to be quadrupedal and loping along. Due to the shallowness of the bay, we could not safely get any closer in the darkness. While I could not positively identify the animals, I surmised they were either deer or a pack of wolves; likely the latter. After about an hour cruising around the bay, we returned to the Klatawa to review our excursion before turning in for the night. Sunday had come and gone.
Monday morning arrived before we knew it and Sasquatch Coffee was already brewing, thanks to Gunnar. While the crew prepared breakfast, Sewid and I took to the zodiac and went to retrieve the crab pots. The catch was fair; about ten crabs between the three traps. The only thing better than fresh seafood is free seafood!
After breakfast, we cleaned up and prepared to travel on to the Broughtons. With the zodiac stowed in the lift, we raised anchor and slowly motored back into the channel.
After a few hours, the captain announced that we had company; a pod of humpback whales were surfacing just ahead of the Klatawa. Everyone scrambled to the deck, cameras at the ready. We were surrounded by these behemoths, spouting as the surfaced. Every so often we would be treated by a classic tail wave. Everyone got plenty of camera footage before they disappeared south, on their way to sunny Mexico. They’re no fools.
As we continued north, through a maze of channels, Tom Sewid regaled us with his vast knowledge of his First Nation’s history. It became obvious that he, unlike the “concrete Indians” (as Tom called them), held a deep passion for his native culture. Tom talked about growing up in the archipelago and learning the history of his ancestors; the Kwak-Wak’Wakh (pronounced kwok-wok-e-wok).
He spoke about fierce wars between distant tribes and the defenses that were constructed, both on land and in the surrounding waters. Rocks and logs were strategically positioned just under the water’s surface; creating an artificial channel that only the villagers could navigate their huge sea canoes between. On the bluffs above the beaches, huge logs would be positioned in such a way as to be easily rolled across the beach; slowing the advance of war canoes and making them sitting ducks for the rain of arrows that followed.
Many of the ancestral villages have long been abandoned, including Tom’s on Village Island. Tom pointed out beaches covered in white shells. These were the traditional clam beaches, harvested for centuries by the native peoples.
He spoke of how the First Nations people were discriminated against by the white man. Potlatches, annual gatherings of tribal leaders to discuss the governance of their land, were outlawed. Children were forced to attend special schools and were not allowed to practice, or even speak of, their native traditions. It was a dark time for the Kwak-Wak’Wakw.
We finally arrived at our next anchorage with a few hours of daylight left. Called Native Anchorage, this was an island that tribes would banish troublesome tribe members, until they got their act together; generally alcoholics. At first they would bring them food and supplies, while they spoke of tribal traditions and taught them how to act like a proper tribe member. As weeks went by, the visits and provisions would be cut off; until such time as the tribe member learned, once again, how to live off the land…and sober up. Only then would they be allowed back into the tribe.
Upon approach, we dropped four Prawn traps in deep waters. After dropping the anchor about 100 yards off shore, Sewid and I deployed the zodiac to drop the three crab rings. More fresh (free) seafood would be forthcoming!
With nightfall approaching, Tom Sewid, Thomas Steenburg, Victoria and I headed to a small cove, littered with cockle and clam shells. Here, Tom had abandoned camp trailer some years earlier. He had lived here, off the land, for over four months. No sooner had we stepped on shore, we all heard a huge crash in the woods, approximately 100 yards in the distance. Victoria was filming and she got all of our startled expressions on film. She had visited this island numerous times, but suddenly became very uneasy.
We proceeded onshore where and up the bank to where the deteriorating camper still stood; windows broken and interior all but destroyed. We began searching for an appropriate place to mount two game cameras and emplace a seismic ground sensor. We located a game trail near the beach and activated the ground sensor. There we discovered a potential Bigfoot track. It was not defined enough to bother casting, and besides, there were Grizzlies in these parts who could make similar impressions. We then set up the two game cameras approximately 100 feet away. At that moment, strange things started to happen. Not one but both cameras shut down for no apparent reason. Next the VHF radio Sewid had could not contact the Klatawa; floating only 200 yards distant and in our line of sight. The consensus was to get off of the island ASAP!
Once aboard, we decided to watch the film footage we had just taken. That’s when things got really weird! Upon review, and while I was emplacing the ground sensor, an unexplainable audio anomaly came over the video. It is difficult to describe, other than to say it sounded like some sort of electrical interference. It was not a result of the seismic sensor’s transmitter, as we could clearly see me switch it on after the noise began! To this day, I cannot (nor will I) explain the origin of the interference. Suffice to say, it was disturbing!
That night, the team worked in shifts throughout the night until daybreak. Each two hour shift entailed scanning the shoreline for heat signatures, while listening to the receiver for any signal from the seismic sensor. My shift was from midnight until 2am. The FLIR system was mounted to a tripod to make scanning easier. Nothing to report on my shift. Below, in the main salon, I woke up my relief, Gunnar; who like me was assigned a couch to sleep on for the duration of the voyage. I fell asleep with no problem.
Day break arrived as Ron Morehead’s shift ended. He was adamant that he had recorded a bipedal figure on the shoreline, but after further review, it turned out to be a great blue heron. In his defense, it did appear as a possible large bipedal creature…without magnification.
One of the lessons we learned about using the FLIR was to focus it during the daylight hours, when you can make out the object you are focusing on; rather than trying to do it in the dark. Later we would learn that it was even more helpful to focus on actual humans to get a more proper perspective.
After breakfast, we decided to explore nearby Village Island; Tom Sewid’s former home as a child. We set out in both zodiacs towards the village. We had decided to bring the drone, which I had to purchase out of my personal funds, as the Phantom 3 Professional drone had some technical issues with the onboard camera. Enroute, Tom pointed out large square cement blocks, visible on the shorelines of several islands. He confided that, due to prolific grave robbing on the islands, the tribes decided to collect whatever remains they could still find and encase them in cement. Sad.
When we reached the island, Tom Sewis pointed out his grandfather’s house, which was totally overgrown with salmonberries and falling apart. We scrambled up the embankment, where we stood at a huge archway, which were the remnants of an old longhouse. Tom corrected us by telling us that traditional long houses were hundreds of feet in length, and that they simply called them “big houses.” This is the place where traditional potlatches were held. There Tom communed with his ancestors; asking us not to film as a matter of respect. Tom started by presenting a traditional offering of tobacco, then spoke to his ancestors, explaining our reason for being there. He explained that we were looking for T’zoonikwa (their name for Bigfoot). He went on to tell them that we would be using equipment (lke the drone) which they might not understand. He finished by thanking them and we went about our research.
Tom gave us a tour of the village, where we discovered numerous tunnels through the salmonberries, made by bears. He also pointed out large pathways through the berries which looks as though a car had been driven through them. These, he said, were paths made by T’zoonikwa. We returned to the beach to unpack the new drone for deployment, only to discover that the camera gimbal was broken. The drone would not fly on this expedition.
The team, led by Tom, went on a hike through the village, past the old school house, and out to a beautiful bay, where Tom had once set up a First Nations visitor’s center, where he sold native artwork and fresh seafood. Months later, members of his tribe burned the facility to the ground out of spite.
The presence of bear shit was everywhere! There was a pile of fresh bear shit nearly every 15 feet! Tom then took us over to where the last totem pole laid on its side along the embankment above the beach. He explained the symbols and their meaning to the person it was made for. Amazing history!
We headed back to the Klatawa for an incredible dinner of fresh prawns from the traps we had placed earlier. I have never eaten so many fresh prawns that I couldn’t possibly eat more! Well perhaps just a few more.
Next Part III – Dead Point, Alert Bay & GRIZZLIES!
25 September: Blenkensop Bay
26 September: Native Anchorage
27 September: Dead Point
28 September: Alert Bay – Minke Whale, Showers – Museum – Port Elizabeth – fishing – fence crabs prawns CLAMS 3x3
29 September: Topaz Harbor, Reed Creek, Bears and Wolves.
30 September: Homeward Bound – Campbell River – Showers - Dinner
OPERATION: Sea Monkey
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