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Originally published Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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3 right feet found in running shoes ... but whose?

The mysterious feet that have been washing up on islands in the Strait of Georgia could have drifted in from as far as 1,000 miles away...

Victoria Times Colonist

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The mysterious feet that have been washing up on islands in the Strait of Georgia could have drifted in from as far as 1,000 miles away, according to an expert on ocean currents.

"That's the range they will have to consider when attempting to identify the victims. They could easily have come that far from California or Alaska," Curtis Ebbesmeyer said Friday from his home in Seattle.

"I suppose they could even have come from Japan, because things do drift in from that distance, too," he said.

Ebbesmeyer is an expert on drifting objects and has assisted investigations in Washington state when body parts were found in the ocean or washed ashore.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the British Columbia Coroners Service are investigating three cases of washed-up right feet inside running shoes. The latest was discovered on a beach on the east side of Valdes Island on Feb. 8.

The first foot was found washed ashore on Jedediah Island on Aug. 20, and six days later a second was found on Gabriola Island.

Both were in size-12 runners. No information on the size of the shoe of the third foot has been released.

When the second foot was found, an RCMP spokesman listed the odds of that happening as being a "million to one."

What the odds are for three right feet in running shoes showing up within about 40 miles of each other within six months is anyone's guess.

Ebbesmeyer said the fact they are all right feet is intriguing.

"That's certainly very strange. There will be an explanation for it, no doubt, but it's very odd," he said.

Not so odd is that they were all in running shoes, he said.

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Running shoes are the most likely article of dress to survive when a body breaks up in the water from decomposition because they are made of hardy materials that float. The shoes then carry with them the remains of the feet, he said.

Ebbesmeyer has some experience with floating shoes, as he studied what happened when 61,000 pairs of Nike sneakers fell into the sea from a container ship in Alaskan waters in 1990. The shoes drifted to parts of the Canadian coast, including the Queen Charlotte Islands, and as far south as Washington and Oregon.

Jeff Dolan, assistant deputy chief coroner, said Monday that an extensive examination of the remains is being made, including an attempt to generate a DNA profile of the three victims in an effort to link them to a known missing person.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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