A camera lost off the coast of Vancouver Island nearly two years ago during a shipwreck was found and returned to its owner thanks to the fact that the memory card inside the camera holding the photos was fully intact.
Two students conducting research dives near Bamfield, on Vancouver Island’s west coast, discovered the camera on May 13 while diving for starfish.
“They were about 40 feet down and they came across this camera,” Isabelle M. Cote, professor of Marine Ecology at Simon Fraser University, and one of the two professors overseeing the dive, told ABC News.
“One of them picked it up and put it in his pocket and kept counting the starfish,” Cote said. “When they came up from the dive, he said, “Look what I found.”
Cote and her co-professor, Siobhan Gray, were fascinated by the camera because it had been underwater so long that that there were, “lots of animals growing on it.”
To their surprise, when Cote and Gray opened the camera, they found the memory card fully intact inside. To their further surprise, after Gray peeled the memory card out of the camera using tweezers, cleaned it and placed it in her own computer, they discovered that the Lexar Platinum II, 8 GB memory card still worked.
“It was full of photographs and a couple of videos and we saw the very last thing that had been recorded was on July 30, 2012,” Cote said. “There were lots of photos of groups of people, like a family reunion.”
Cote tweeted one of the photos and she and Gray also printed the photo and hung copies up around Brimfield — population 250 households, according to Cote – hoping a local would recognize someone in the photo.
Their wish came true, but surprisingly it was a member of the local Coast Guard station who recognized one of the men in the photo as the same man they had rescued from a shipwreck nearly two years ago, on July 30, 2012.
That man, Cote and Gray learned with the Coast Guard’s help, was Vancouver artist Paul Burgoyne, who had been attempting to sail to his summer home in Tahsis, B.C., on that fateful night.
“It turns out he was a little bit lost and in rough waters and he thought his boat was on auto pilot but it wasn’t and it hit rocks,” Cote said of Burgoyne. “He had to scramble and swim to shore and climb rocks and then he started shouting for help.”
“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,” she said. “They went back the next day and collected some things but by then the camera was on the bottom of the ocean.”
The Coast Guard contacted Burgoyne to let him know that his camera, however improbably, had been found.
“My wife and I just laughed and laughed and laughed,” Burgoyne told ABC News. ”That to us that was never the story. To us, the story was I challenged mother nature and almost lost my life. I was on the rocks for about six hours and had hypothermia and very easily could have passed away.”
“I’d like to know the ending of the other hundreds of possessions at the bottom of the ocean,” he said. ”I can’t believe it was the camera they found.”
It also turns out that the photo that helped return the camera to Burgoyne was, in fact, a sad affair. The photo of Burgoyne with his family was taken while he and his relatives were burying his mother’s ashes.
“We were surprised but really appreciate the people who went to that extent to find me and return our photos,” Burgoyne said. ”That was very kind.”
Cote and Gray have already mailed the memory card back to Burgoyne but, knowing the memory card’s past, they also backed up the photos before sending the card away.
“That card seems to be a little unlucky,” she said.