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Pressure Releases and Pressure Release Systems, Part I

by Tom Brown Jr.

My new standard classes are now learning the major pressure releases and systems, as well as foot mapping, and an assortment of other tracking skills that weren't covered in classes previous to 1982. Thus, anyone attending a standard before 1982 will find himself at a disadvantage when taking an Advanced Tracking, Nature Observation Class held this year. In an attempt to catch up my students, I will be covering the major pressure releases over the next few issues of the newsletter so that all advanced tracking students will have the same skill training.

This first instalment will cover the moving forward pressure releases and the systems that teach us what speeds, gait changes, and other things the moving body has undergone. Remember that these are only a few of the larger pressure releases for forward movement, and we will be using a human track as our standard. Keep in mind that these pressure releases will be found in all tracks, larger in sand, smaller, almost minute in hard-packed soil, only as grit compressions and spirals on rock.

Wave - The large general pressure release of wave or waving means that the man or animal is walking at a slow gait showing no slow down, speed up, fast pace, or unbalanced stance (see illustration). This can be easily seen on the beach when someone is walking. Keep in mind that strolling has a different waving system. On hard ground it will be a gentle gathering of particles and dust in the arch axis of the footprint.

Double Wave - A double wave is a small wave followed by a larger wave, moving from the front to the back of the track. This pressure release indicates a faster pace and will continue with the walk, until it slows down. On hard ground it will appear as a ridge, in front of the gathered particles and dust, previously described in wave pressure release.

Disk - This round disk-shaped pressure release appears just behind the ball of the foot and indicates a speed change, from slow to fast. As the speed increases, this disk will fissure, then eventually crumble. Remember that fissuring and crumbling are separate pressure releases so you must use the two names together, such as: disk crumble or disk fissuring. Remember also that fissuring comes from forward movement against the primary wall in any direction. Crevicing comes from dirt on the primary wall being pulled away; and cracking is an act of nature drying or contorting the soil with the two flex temperatures.

Dish - Right after the disk crumbles the arch of the foot begins to split from the wave and creates a dish, indicating higher speeds. This dishing will occur the entire pattern until the body slows or picks up more speed. The dish will then fissure then eventually crumble as speed increases more. (Keep in mind that if a dish-like pressure release occurs on the outside of the true print, this is called a plate or plating.) Dishes can be read on hard ground as mass accumulated ridges.

Explode-Off - The final act of acceleration is where the dirt literally blows out the back of the track, much like a drag racer peeling out. This pressure release is only kept up until high speed is obtained, then evens out to piling fissure dishes.

Please keep in mind that these are only the larger acceleration pressure releases. I have left many more subtle pressure releases out because they would only confuse you at this point. Later, in a Field Guide dedicated to Advanced Tracking, or in an Advanced Tracking Class, I will be teaching those in-between pressure releases.

From The Tracker magazine, Summer 1983, published by the Tracker School.
For more articles from The Tracker magazine, visit the Tracker Trail website.