Whenever we hear about shipwrecks and precious items lost at sea, many immediately think of Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew in the Pirates of the Caribbean. We’ve all heard of the continuous search and the glorious discovery of precious treasure chests filled with gold.
The sea is filled with several wonders and lost treasures. They are probably forgotten by the owners – if previously owned, lying deep in the ocean to be discovered – if they will ever be. These Canadian students were about to discover if they had just discovered another wonder.
The First Step into the Ocean
This discovery occurred in May 2014, when a couple of Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre students went into the Vancouver waters for their scientific diving program. The students and university staff planned the mission to take place along Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
The divers and their professors did not expect this regular research program to be this interesting. Not even in their wildest imagination. Not only did it become exciting, but it was also a fantastic adventure where they discovered a treasure that they never saw coming.
How Spring Got Exciting
Two of the students, Beau Doherty and Tella Osler, excitedly delved deep into the waters for what would have been the last dive of the spring semester and perhaps their last project at the university for the season. They swam 40 feet beneath the surface, looking for starfish.
It was an exciting experience seeing all sorts of incredible aquatic animals, fishes, underwater plants, and secrets. They were not searching for treasures or expecting to find any. The spring semester would end more excitingly than if they made a modern-day pirate movie.
Quick End to the Diving Exercise
Two people, Siobhan Gray, a BMSC diving and safety officer, and Isabelle M. Côté, a professor of marine ecology, oversaw the students from a boat on the surface. The students unexpectedly returned to the surface with what left even the two supervisors seriously baffled.
Professor Côté narrated how the student brought the “object” to him. “One of [the students] picked [the object] up and put it in his pocket and kept counting the starfish. … When they came up from the dive, he said, ‘Look what I found,'” Côté told ABC News.
Taking a Look at the Object
The whole team couldn’t wait to examine this piece of potential treasure after the students brought it out of the water. It was almost impossible to identify precisely what it was in that condition, but it looked like a corroded camera. It was covered in rust and different marine species.
The corroded camera didn’t seem to be working, but the research team didn’t write it off and decided to bring it along. They decided to take it to the lab for further investigation. What interested them the most at the time was the unique condition of the camera.
Growing in an Unusual Place
A lost underwater camera isn’t a unique object, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then this discovery had potential, right? Technically, this type of technology and water never mix well to create something good, but this felt different!
This worn-out camera and the Vancouver waters seemed to have produced a magical concoction. The two professors admitted their amusement in getting the camera to the lab as it had ‘lots of animals growing on it.’ But they didn’t know their discovery had just begun.
The State of the Camera
The team rushed back to the lab to investigate its newly found treasure. The camera in its current form wasn’t bound to function again, but to the scientists and the students, it was a gold mine since it was covered with all sorts of aquatic organisms.
Professor Côté revealed that they had found species from two animal kingdoms and at least seven types of aquatic plant life (phyla) living in the body and around the camera. It just got more interesting. But that’s not all that was living while hidden in the camera.
The Mini Pond for Marine Species
The research team investigated the camera’s content and found water species such as sea cucumber, algae, and even a couple of brittle stars. Now their interest peaked, and they couldn’t stop looking. They found something else that was incredibly interesting within the camera.
The team took apart the camera. Its outside was corroded and transformed into a mini aquatic habitat with all sorts of marine life. When they finally opened the side of the camera, they saw a memory card covered in some black particles.
Waiting to be Discovered
Professor Gray’s initial question upon discovering the camera was whether the camera had any images or files on it. As soon as she found the memory card at the lab, she pulled it out gently, using tweezers to ensure nothing happened to it.
Luckily, it wasn’t far gone, so it didn’t get damaged. They hadn’t checked if the card still works. No one could tell even though it appeared to be in good condition. But the card revealed two essential things from merely looking at it.
There Were Obvious Secrets
The SD card found in the camera turned out to be a Lexar Platinum II 8 GB memory card. Now, the team had an idea of what to expect. Since they knew the storage limit, they had an idea of how large the contents could be.
The second reveal from the SD card indicated that the camera’s owner must have recently lost it. Since SD cards were invented in 1999, this meant they have been in existence for around a decade at the time. So, they were sure the camera hadn’t disappeared more than 15 years ago.
Getting Answers to the Questions
The team’s excitement could not be contained at every point of their discovery. Finding a long-lost object at the bottom of the sea and discovering aquatic lives inside and on the camera’s body was a surprise. They now had new things to research while learning fantastic stuff.
This piece of treasure raised so many questions, especially since there was a memory card that could answer the mystery that surrounded it. Questions like who did this camera belong to? How long had it been lost? What secrets could be revealed from the contents?
Is the Memory Card Worth It?
Professor Gray and the team could only hope that the SD card still worked. She cleaned off the dark matter on the SD card and connected it to her computer. It blew their minds when the SD card connected and worked.
The team was amazed by this and quickly checked the content. They concluded the camera had been lost for almost two years. Professor Côté said that it was full of photographs and a couple of videos and that the last item was recorded on July 30, 2012.
What Did They Find on the Camera?
At first glance, no one would doubt it wasn’t working in that condition. So, it was still very unbelievable that the SD card worked. Had it been submerged in 40 feet of water for at least two years? It was amazing!
Of course, we want the biggest question on our minds answered. What exactly was on the camera? Was it documentation of the life around the Vancouver area or just pictures of the ocean? Professor Côté revealed that there were lots of photos of groups of people, like a family reunion.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
While going through the photos on the SD card, a couple of files stood out to Professor Gray. The first one was a group photo. Another was a video recorded on July 30, 2012, the most recent file captured. It showed the full moon over the serene Vancouver waters.
The team realized that most files on the camera were family photos, creating a sentimental feeling in everyone. The group determined to find the owner, and Professor Gray figured that the pictures were the help they needed to uncover the camera’s owner.
Bringing Back Lost Memories
If you’ve ever lost something precious that you thought you’d never find again, you can probably relate to the circumstances. The contents of the SD card imply it held emotional value for the owner. The team was determined to return these memories to the rightful owner.
The team now had a strong determination to make sure the precious pictures found on the memory card made it home. But that just wasn’t enough. How would they reconnect the camera’s owner with this memory piece? They had to return it.
Making the Right Plan
With modern technology at our fingertips daily, we can communicate with millions of people at once. The team also had its hopes set on its ability to use technology. But how exactly would they find the camera’s owner and SD card?
The professors came up with a game plan. They brainstormed what they would post and where to post it that would most likely work. They also decided to use both old school and technology.
Distributing the Tasks Evenly
Professor Côté and Professor Gray decided it would be best to assign tasks so they could cover more places. Professor Côté focused on a quintessential 2014 approach. She took some pictures from the SD card and one of the group photos and uploaded them to her Twitter account.
Professor Gray used the old-school means of finding a lost person. She printed copies of the group picture and physically posted them around town and on community message boards. She left these out there, so anyone that recognized someone in the photo might contact her.
The Internet Is Filled with Wild Coincidences
The team waited eagerly after carrying out the plans, hoping that maybe someone who knew anyone in the photos would contact them. No response came until about a week later. A local Bamfield Coast Guard contacted them and said he recognized someone in the photo he saw on the community message board.
The Coast Guard told them he was working in the same area the picture was taken two years ago. Was this a mere coincidence? The wildest thing was that he was there and remembered the incident that led to the camera falling into the water.
The Last Piece of the Puzzle
The team was thrilled to know that someone in the local community recognized a person in the group photo. The local Coast Guard shared the necessary information with Professor Gray, and the two went to check on some files from when the incident happened.
They hoped to find the name of the man the Coast Guard identified in the group photo. Luckily, they found it. The team immediately looked up his contact information, and as soon as this was found, they quickly reached out to one Paul Burgoyne.
Getting to Know the Owner
Paul, however, didn’t answer their phone call, so they left him a message, hoping he was the right person. Shortly after, Paul returned the call. He left everyone shocked when he said the camera belonged to him. That sounded too easy! But we know it wasn’t.
Paul was surprised and appreciated the people who went to that extent to find him to return his photos. The only question left in our mind having found the owner is how the camera ended up at the bottom of the sea.
Reuniting With His Lost Camera
It is indeed one of the fascinating experiences to find something you’ve lost and thought you would never see again. It’s even better when someone finds it and returns it to you! When he got off the phone with them, Paul said he knew just how lucky he was.
Although Paul was shocked by everything he’d heard over the phone and how unbelievable the news was, he was also over the moon about the situation. A great loss for him in the first place had turned out to be a story with a happy ending.
A Mix of Bitter Emotions
What’s the story behind Paul’s loss? How did the camera end up 40 feet below the water’s surface? The photos and videos found on the camera were from a heart-breaking incident that occurred that weekend. The family had gathered around the waters to spread Paul’s late mother’s ashes.
Paul’s mother had recently passed away, which prompted the weekend events. He went on a 300-mile journey from Vancouver back to his summer house in Tahsis. While attempting to sail on his vessel (Boot Legger), Paul ran into some more unfortunate luck.
It Was Lost in a Minute
Though he had heavily mourned the loss of his beloved mother, Paul recalled feeling short bliss before he was shipwrecked. The ocean was calm, and he sat at the back of the boat, wondering what could be better than this. And shortly after, “all hell was breaking loose.”
The video of the moonlit and the serene waters found on the memory card was recorded shortly before that happened. It was indeed the calm before the storm. Paul’s wreck happened in a flash, and before he knew it, he was looking for a way to survive.
Calm Even in Distress
Professor Côté explained that it turned out the calmness absorbed Paul felt on the water, and in the middle of his distraction, he thought his boat was on autopilot. But that wasn’t the case; the ship had hit rocks, leading to its sinking.
It was a dark and cold night, but Paul left with no choice but to jump off his beautiful 30-foot vessel and watch it sink deep into the water. He had to scramble and swim to shore. He found rocks which he climbed and then started shouting for help.
Lost and Abandoned for Hours
For six hours, Paul sat alone on the rocks, hoping someone would come around. In the middle of the cold night, having been forced to abandon his precious boat, we can’t imagine how he must have felt. Luckily for him, he wasn’t alone as he thought.
There were people close by. Professor Côté further explained the events to ABC News, “At the top of the cliff is an inn, and there were people there, by chance, at the inn who called the Coast Guard, which is next door, and the Coast Guard rescued him.”
The Happily-Ever-After End
He was safely rescued, and the next day, Paul returned to where the shipwreck happened. He hoped to find any of his belongings floating around to get them back. Unfortunately, his camera was long gone with all the memories in it. But it came back.
Paul was so amazed that his camera was found. He knew he had lost several other things, and the camera was probably the last thing he thought anyone would find. He said he would like to know how the other stuff at the bottom of the ocean ended up.
A Twist of Fate
Neither Paul nor his wife ever imagined these photos would be returned to them. But they were safe and sound. Neither did the research team know what they would find when they first realized that there was a chance of discovering the true backstory of the mysterious camera.
The couple found this twist of fate hilarious. Paul said he and his wife couldn’t stop laughing when the divers found the camera. The initial story was that he challenged mother nature and almost lost his life, but now the narration has changed.
Don’t Take a Risk
The students and professors became more emotional when they heard of Paul’s struggle before he lost everything to the waters. They found a unique item to research, and they were beyond glad to have helped the camera’s owner reunite with the irreplaceable and sentimental pictures.
The research team didn’t hesitate to mail him the memory card. They refused to take any risk, so they backed up the files just in case something happened to the SD card while moving it around. How thoughtful and considerate!