More than 80% of the ocean remains unexplored. Even in the areas we have investigated, divers are constantly finding different animal species and amazing relics. In 2014, Canadian researchers went on a routine research dive when they found something unexpected: a camera.
Unknown to the researchers, that camera had remained on the ocean floor for over two years. When they sorted through the photos, they ended up investigating a mysterious shipwreck. Read on to learn what they found.
A University’s Routine Research Dive
On May 13th, 2014, professors and students from The Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre went on a routine research dive. The Canadian researchers left their university in British Columbia and sailed out to the coast of Vancouver Island.
The students were on their final research dive for university credit. Their mission was to count species of starfish and bring some specimens back to class. But during their dive, the students would find something that nobody expected to see again.
What’s On The Ocean Floor?
While diving, two university students, Tella Osler and Beau Doherty, were counting starfish. Doherty noticed an object about 40 feet below the surface. The object was partially hidden by sand, with a leather strap and a lens.
He signaled Osler, who swam to help him dig the object out. They both recognized it as a camera. One student put the camera in his pocket and continued to count starfish before he swam back up to the boat.
The Mysterious Camera
Isabelle M. Côté, a professor of Marine Ecology at Simon Fraser University, was among the faculty members overseeing the dive. While on the boat, she had expected students to return with starfish numbers, not a camera covered in algae and barnacles.
“One of them picked it up and put it in his pocket,” Côté later said. “When they came up from the dive, he said, ‘Look what I found.'” The student brought the mysterious camera on board for inspection.
What Does The Camera Contain?
The research crew was fascinated by the camera. Siobhan Gray, the dive and safety officer on board, said that the camera looked like a pirate movie prop. But the crew didn’t mess with the camera until they brought it back to shore.
“My first thought about the camera was, are there still images on the card?” Gray later said. Shee and Côté delicately took apart the camera with a pair of tweezers in their lab.
A Miniature Ecosystem Inside The Camera
When Côté and Gray opened the camera, they didn’t expect what they saw. Sea creatures had crawled into the camera and used it as a home. Inside of the device were a few brittle stars, at least seven phyla, and one sea cucumber.
Nature had entirely taken over the camera. Some kind of black algae covered most of the device. Despite the damage, though, the most important part of the camera remained relatively intact: the memory card.
Examining The Memory Card
Although the researchers couldn’t revive the camera, they could examine the memory card. Luckily, the Lexar Platinum II, 8 GB memory card remained intact despite some black algae. Gray removed the card, cleaned it, and popped it into her computer.
Miraculously, the memory card still supplied old photos dating back to 2012. Although she felt uncomfortable looking through private photos, she wanted to find out who the owner was. Whose camera ended up on the bottom of the ocean?
Personal Photos Of Strangers
On the memory card, numerous photos depicted family and friends at get-togethers, diving sessions, and boating trips. “There were lots of photos of groups of people, like a family reunion,” Côté said.
Other photos showed family members diving and playing in the ocean. Gray and Côté focused on one photo of friends and family members standing in a line. The town of Brimfield only has 250 people, according to Côté. Someone had to recognize a person in the photo.
The Last Video
Along with photos, the researchers saw a few videos. The researchers did not recognize any of the people. One stood out from the rest; it was the last video ever filmed on the camera.
The video was shot on July 31st, 2012. It showed a full moon over the sea. When Gray first watched the video, she expected to see the camera fall and sink to the sea floor. But nothing happened. It was only a creepy foreshadowing of the camera’s fate.
Searching For The Owner
Gray and Côté saw several personal photos. They felt determined to return the memory card to its owner. Côté posted one group photo from the camera to Twitter, asking if anyone recognized the picture. Many people replied to the tweet.
Despite hundreds of people liking, retweeting, and commenting on the photo, nobody recognized the people in the picture. Côté and Gray didn’t know how long the camera had been underwater; was the owner even still alive?
Will The Locals Know Who The Owner Is?
Asking the entire internet for information didn’t work out. So Gray narrowed her search. She posted the family photo to a community message board in her town. Still, nobody recognized anyone in the picture.
Gray and fellow staff members hung flyers across Brimfield. They asked for anyone with information to contact Gray to get the camera back. With a population of just over 3,700, Brimfield had to someone who could give Gray and Côté a tip.
Finally, The First Lead
Although hundreds of people saw the social media post and posters, nobody recognized anyone in the photo. A week after posting, Gray was walking by one of the posters when she ran into a local taxi driver.
The driver told her that he recognized someone in the picture. According to him, one man in the picture resembled someone whose ship sank two years ago. But he wasn’t quite sure. Grey unpinned the poster and decided to consult the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard Could Never Forget That Shipwreck
With the poster in hand, Gray visited the Bamfield Coast Guard station. As the taxi driver suggested, one of the Coast Guard workers recognized a man in the photograph. He believed that he might have rescued the man a few years before.
The Coast Guard and Gray got to work. After digging through old files, they found the man’s name and number. An employee called the man and left a message, saying that they found a camera that had been missing for two years.
Who Was The Owner?
According to the Coast Guard, the camera’s owner was Paul Burgoyne, an artist from Vancouver. In 2012, the Coast Guard found Burgoyne shipwrecked on a rock in the middle of a raging storm. The camera–and Burgoyne’s boat–were nowhere to be found.
The Coast Guard contacted Burgoyne to tell him about the camera. Gray had to wait for a call from the mysterious man, if he was the person whose ship crashed and sank two years ago.
Burgoyne’s Recovered Family Memories
As it turns out, Paul Burgoyne was the camera’s owner. When the Coast Guard called him, he remembered not only the shipwreck but also the missing camera. He thought that he would never see it again.
When Burgoyne finished his call with the Coast Guard, he happily broke the news to his wife. “His wife was laughing a great deal and mentioned how lucky he was,” Gray said. Burgoyne received Gray’s number from the Guard and contacted her.
The Shipwreck That Started It All
Burgoyne’s lost camera came with a story. In July 2012, Burgoyne embarked on a journey from Vancouver to Tahsis in British Columbia. He took his 30-feet-long boat out into clear skies.
“I felt bliss when the ocean went calm, and I was sitting at the back of the boat all by myself,” Burgoyne recalled. “[I was] thinking, ‘What could be better than this?'” However, Burgoyne never predicted that a storm would approach so quickly.
How The Boat Sank
While sailing, weather can change in the blink of an eye. Burgoyne’s journey went from clear skies to a storm within minutes. To make matters worse, Burgoyne made several mistakes while sailing.
Burgoyne soon found himself lost in the harsh waters. “I thought I had the boat on autopilot, but clearly I had made a mistake,” he rehashed. Eventually, Burgoyne’s boat crashed into some unseen rocks. As the ship sank, Burgoyne scrambled in the turbulent waves.
Barely Hanging On To Life
With his boat in pieces, Burgoyne managed to swim to some rocks. Although the rocks were near a cliffside, the waves were too dangerous for Burgoyne to attempt to climb on his own. He began shouting for help.
“I was on the rocks for about six hours,” Burgoyne later recalled in an interview, “and had hypothermia.” Although Burgoyne could have easily passed away, he never gave up. Fortunately, luck was on his side that day.
He Survived Because Of Luck
Luckily, a few tourists had approached a cliff at a local inn. While standing on top, they heard Burgoyne’s shouts. The reached out to the local Coast Guard, who were also conveniently next door.
The Coast Guard saved Burgoyne in the nick of time. The next day, the Coast Guard returned to the spot to collect some of his belongings. Although they found some leftovers from the crash, the camera was already at the bottom of the ocean.
Burgoyne’s Only Memories Of A Family Death
As it turns out, Gray and Côté were correct when they assumed that the camera was important. Burgoyne had used the camera to capture his family scattering his mother’s ashes at Lake of Woods in Ontario. They were the only photos Burgoyne had of the memories.
Understandably, Burgoyne and his wife were relieved to receive the photos again. “We were surprised but really appreciate the people who went to that extent to find me and return our photos,” he told ABC News. “That was very kind.”
Traumatic Memories–And A Silver Lining
Burgoyne’s boat had crashed less than an hour after he took his last photos. He finds it remarkable that the card still worked even being underwater for two years. And although Burgoyne lost many belongings in the shipwreck, his camera was the most valuable.
“I have a new respect for, you know, these electronics,” Burgoyne said. “You throw most of it away every two years, but that little card is an amazing bit of technology.”
It Started With A Boat
Mallory Harrigan, Cliff Russell, and Allan Russell always loved going fishing together. The trio loved it so much that they even bought a boat together to start their own commercial fishing business.
Living in Canada, they knew what kind of fish they could catch and what the local markets and restaurants would be interested in buying. What they didn’t know was what to expect when they began hitting the waters everyday in hopes of a good haul.
More Than Just A Business
Cliff, Mallory, and Allan were more than just business partners. They were friends, and they would help each other during the longest days and hardest times. Their new business could have tested that friendship, but it never did.
Everyday, after hours on the sea, they would come home with new bumps and bruises on their bodies. No one would complain, and no one would would quit. They loved each other and were always excited to show up for the job the next day.
That Fateful Morning
On the morning that would change these friends’ lives forever, Mallory was especially excited. She didn’t know what fate had planned, but she had a good feeling about something and showed up early to prep the boat.
Once everyone was there, the trio went through their pre-launch check off list. It was imperative they have everything they needed with them on the boat. Having to travel back to shore after launching would cost them hours on the water.
Prepping the boat was the easy part. They liked to pass the time telling jokes and and stories. They may have been old friends, but every morning felt like a 10-year reunion.
The next part can be described as “the calm before the storm.” The water was calm as usual as the boat headed a few miles off the Canadian coast. They knew the perfect spot to catch crab off of the Canadian coast.
Letting Out Their Lines
Once they reached their destination, the friends turned off the boat engine and let it idle. This spot was perfect and was always full of crabs. They dropped their lines and let the cages drag on the sea floor.
It was the end of crab season, and while the previous weeks had been fruitful, they were hoping to go out with a bang. Since starting their business, this had been their most successful year. Would this be their most successful catch?
The First Catch Was A Sign Of Things To Come
With the cages in the water, one of them steered the boat while the other two manned the lines, making sure they didn’t tangle. They knew this routine like the back of their hands.
As the first cages came up they couldn’t believe it. Their spot had paid off again and it looked like today was going to be their best day ever. They high-fived in celebration, emptied the cages, the prepared to do it all over again.
Moving To A New Spot
The day was going great. Allan, Cliff, and Mallory knew they had a chance to break their crabbing record. Finished at the first location, they turned the boat back on and set off for colder waters.
The further they got, they more dangerous things got. Colonies of seals could be seen resting on icebergs. Birds were nowhere in sight. But as beautiful and serene as the scene was, it was also filled with hidden dangers and surprises.
Iceberg, Straight Ahead!
Huge icebergs floated freely in the Labrador Sea. This was not the place to go on autopilot when fishing. One wrong turn could turn this fishing trip into the groups last.
Allan was on lookout duty when he spotted something in the distance on top of an iceberg. He pointed in out to Cliff and Mallory. No one could make out what the shape was. Mallory thought it was probably a seal sun bathing away from the colony.
Allan Couldn’t Let Sleeping Seals Lay
Cliff fell in line with Mallory’s theory. During their adventures together they had seen plenty of animals pop up in the ice waters from time to time. It wasn’t anything strange, so why was Allan acting so weird about it?
He probably couldn’t tell you why, but he did know something about what was on that iceberg kept eating away at him. He told his friends that it didn’t move around like a seal and he was skeptical. They looked through their binoculars and couldn’t help but agree.
Even though they knew they needed to keep fishing, curiosity got the best of the group. They couldn’t take their attention away from whatever was stranded alone on an iceberg. They decided to move in closer.
As the boat got closer, the wind picked up along with the chill in the air. Then they noticed there was fur on the animal. Even scarier, the fur was wet. The poor animal must have been freezing! They decided until they knew what they were dealing with, their fishing expedition was on hold.
The friends approached cautiously in the boat. Not only did they not know what kind of animal they might have found, but they were going off-course and venturing into unexplored waters. Allan was convinced they were doing the right thing.
Cliff and Mallory weren’t as sure as Allan was, but the friends agreed that they needed to investigate the situation. If it was an animal in danger, then they needed to rescue it. They couldn’t live with leaving it to die on their consciences!
A Slow Approach
The boat moved through the water slowly. The friends watched over the sides of the boat for any unexpected dangers. Any large chunk of floating ice could damage the boat and the last thing they needed was to strand themselves.
The waves had picked up, too, making the boat move more than usual. Mallory urged the group to be extra careful. They may have been excited about what they were doing, but they still needed to keep their wits about them.
Choppy Waters And Wind Picked Up
Without warning, a strong gust of wind rattled through the area. This made navigation even harder. Even scarier for the group, this unexpected windy whipping made the iceberg move. How would the animal react?
Now that group had more than just ice to worry about. They were terrified the scared animal would jump off the iceberg from fear. Mallory kept her eyes glued to the animal. If the boat could just get a little closer she’d be able to identify what they were dealing with.
Chasing The Iceberg
The situation had taken a dangerous turn now that the team was forced to chase the iceberg. They weren’t just concerned with their safety, but also the safety of whatever was pacing back and forth on the iceberg.
They had to move fast to keep the boat near the iceberg. At the same time, they needed to remain cautious about the water surrounding them. Making matters worse, the day was half over and they would start running out of daylight soon!
The Animal Began Taking Shape
They finally got close enough to the creature to start figuring out what it might be. They could see it had four legs and looked similar to a dog. There was no way this was someone’s lost pet, though.
As they predicted, the poor animal was soaked with cold water and was shivering uncontrollably. Allan, Cliff, and Mallory knew at this moment that they needed to do everything they could to save this animal, even if it meant putting themselves in more danger.
The Animal Identified!
After a few moments of disbelief, the friends realized they were staring at an Arctic fox! They didn’t have time to figure out how it may have stranded itself. It was weak and there were birds starting to circle above it.
Not only was the fox in danger of freezing to death, but other animals were getting excited about their next meal. The friends jumped into action, desperate to make sure the little Arctic fox lived to see another day.
A Dangerous Rescue
With time running out, the group needed to work together to come up with a plan to save the fox. There wasn’t a lot of time, and there was still one big question that needed to be answered.
Would the fox even trust humans with its life? There’s no way of knowing how much contact this wild dog had previously had with humans. That meant despite their best intentions, there was a real possibility that they wouldn’t be able to help.
Cliff, Mallory, and Allan needed a plan to lure the fox to them. First, they tried speaking quietly and holding out their hands to see if the scared dog would come to the safety of their arms.
The fox’s first instinct was to run away. Of course, it had nowhere to go and ended up just staring at the strange humans trying to save it. It refused to jump to them, and they refused to leave.
Patience Is A Virtue
The waiting game was on. The fox showed no interest in the three friends. They continued to show interest in it though and they decided the best game to play was the long game.
Their patience was being tested, but they refused to give up. Finally, just as they were about to break, the fox stepped toward the boat. Would it take a leap of faith? Putting its trust in the hands of humans was looking like the only way to survive.
The fox got as close as it could to the boat. It wasn’t strong enough to jump aboard however and looked to Allen for help. He gently picked it up and placed it on the boat.
Things still weren’t alright. Allan and Cliff grabbed towels to dry the fox and keep it warm but were hesitant to handle the scared creature. One wrong move and it could attack. How long was this fox’s trust going to last?
An Escape Attempt
Scared to death, the fox decided it made the wrong choice and jumped out of the boat without warning. Everyone was stunned as the wild animal raced in the water to get back to the iceberg.
The friends followed the fox until it ran out of energy. Allan gently picked it back up and placed it in the boat again. It scurried to a corner and stayed there, terrified of the situation it was in.
Back From The Brink
This time the team was going to make sure the Arctic fox couldn’t get away. While Mallory was busy steering the ship back home, Allan and Cliff watched intently and waited for their moment to approach.
They knew if they couldn’t warm the fox back up its body would go into shock. They looked around the boat, trying to find anything to make the little guy warmer and more comfortable. They never took their eyes off the animal, though.
A Warm Place To Rest
From behind the steering wheel, Mallory suggested that they find a way to give the fox warmer accommodations. Cliff and Allan could only find sawdust, which they thought they could use for filled as bedding.
While collecting the sawdust, they found a plastic bin to put it in. This would make a great bed frame! They packed sawdust into the bin, hoping it would act as insulation, then placed it in an area on the boat with the most sun.
Getting The Fox In Bed
Allan, who up to this point was the de facto animal handler, picked up the Arctic fox and placed it in the bin. In a matter of seconds, the exhausted fox was sound asleep.
While it was recuperating, the team continued to get back to the Canadian shore as quickly as possible. The fox was okay for now, but surely needed medical attention to make sure it would survive long term.
No Rest For The Tired
Still about 30 minutes from shore, Cliff took over driving duties from Mallory. He changed course, knowing they might not have 30 minutes. Then he hit a wave and the fox woke up.
It stared up from the bin, terrified and exhausted. Looking to calm the fox back down, Mallory suggested trying to feed it. Surely they could spare some of their fresh catch. A good meal could do wonders for the animal, if it was willing to take food from humans.
All Turf, No Surf
The fox was dry now, and the bin had indeed helped warm it up. Mallory offered the fox some fish and crab but it looked away, disinterested. There had to be something it would eat?
Mallory decided to look in the crews personal food supply. She found some Vienna sausages, which she soaked in water and put in a bowl in front of the fox. It sniffed the food, then scarfed it down like a ravenous animal. This was its first meal of the day, and possibly more.
Coming Back To Shore
The fox fell back to sleep after eating its meal. Shortly after, the boat began docking at shore. The noise ended up waking the fox back up. Mallory stayed near it, trying to keep it calm with the storm of noise around it.
Mallory spoke softly the to the fox. It wouldn’t be able to understand what she was saying, but maybe her voice would help soothe it. She just needed to keep it calm until they were done docking.
Finding The Fox A Home
Safely ashore, the next decision the friends had to make was what to do with the fox. It was warm, dry, and fed, making this the last big thing to do.
True to her character, Mallory came up with the answer. She remembered there was an area near the docks that would be perfect to release the fox back into the wild. There would be no imminent danger and they could watch it safely reintegrate to its natural habitat.
A Room With A View
Not only was the fox’s new location safe for it to re-enter the wild; it was equipped with a makeshift dog house! The structure was 10 minutes from the dock and very remote.
They searched the area for the dog house. They knew it was located on the bluffs, but were uncertain of its exact location. Cliff carried the fox the whole way, doing his part to keep it safe while the friends finished their rescue mission.
A Successful Rescue
It took a bit of time, but the friends found the fox a house. As they had done all day, they left the fox as much to its own decisions as possible. They placed the bin near the house and waited.
The arctic fox stepped out of the bin, shook itself off, and walked to the house. It sat down at the entrance and looked over its new home. At this moment, Mallory, Cliff, and Allan all knew they had done something amazing.