Members of a TV production team investigating the existence of the legendary Yeti in Nepal said Friday that they have found footprints intriguing enough to merit further investigation.
The team of nine producers from "Destination Truth," armed with infrared cameras, spent a week in the icy Khumbu region where Mount Everest is located and found the footprints on the bank of the Manju River at an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,850 meters).
One of the three footprints found on Wednesday is about 1 foot (30 centimeters) long, with an appearance similar to those shown in sketches of the purported apelike creature, the team said.
"It is very, very similar," Josh Gates, an archaeologist who serves as the host of the weekly travel adventure series, told Reuters in Katmandu after returning from the mountain. "I don't believe it to be a bear. It is something of a mystery for us."
"Destination Truth" appears on the Sci Fi Channel in the United States. (The network is owned by NBC Universal, which is a partner with Microsoft in the msnbc.com joint venture.)
Tales by sherpa porters and guides about the wild and hairy creatures lurking in the Himalayas have seized the imagination of mountain climbers going to Mount Everest since the 1920s. Several teams have searched for it and some have even claimed to have discovered footprints. But no reputable investigator has actually seen the creature, nor has it been scientifically established that the Yeti exists.
Gates said the footprints on lumps of sandy soil, which would be sent to experts in the United States for analysis, were "relatively fresh, left some 24 hours before we found them."
"This print is so pristine, so good, that I am very intrigued by this," said Gates, flanked by his team members.
Even if the traces are found to be authentic footprints, it's not yet clear how they could be attributed to a Yeti rather than, say, a less exotic mountain creature. Nevertheless, the evidence may be enough to fuel a TV show. "Destination Truth" chronicles some of the world's notorious purported cryptozoological creatures and unexplained phenomena.
Some local sherpas believe that the Himalayas are abodes of strange creatures and consider the Yeti (also popularly known as the "abominable snowman") as a protector. Others say it is a destroyer.
"There is a kind of mysterious creature that lives in the Himalayas," said Ang Tshering Sherpa, chief of Nepal Mountaineering Association in Katmandu, who hails from the Khumbhu region.
This report was supplemented by msnbc.com.