Most of the time, when we lose something dear to our hearts, we hope that we’ll find it before too long. But when relocating an item is simply impossible, we have to let bygones be bygones and move on with our lives. At least, that’s what we think…

This remarkable story is about what happens when the the unexpected happens. When a team from the marine ecology department of a university in Canada set off on a routine expedition, they stumbled upon something that had been lost years prior. The team had so many questions that they began a new search: to find the owner of an item someone thought they’d lost forever!

It was May 13, 2014 when a team from the marine ecology department at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, decided to conduct a research dive. The students hoped to study the waters off the coast of Bamfield, near Vancouver Island’s west coast.

The expedition team set out specifically to learn more about the region’s many variations of sea stars. They planned to study the animals’ behaviors both in the ocean and in their school laboratories.

Simon Fraser University students Beau Doherty and Tella Osler were the first from the expedition to discover something else on the ocean floor, however: an old camera. It was covered in algae and other aquatic life. Still, they were excited; would it still work?

“One of them picked it up and put it in his pocket and kept counting the starfish,” said professor Isabelle Côté in an interview. “When they came up from the dive, he said, ‘Look what I found.'”

Also on the boat was Isabelle’s co-professor, Siobhan Gray, of Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. It was Siobhan who brought the camera back to land. She was as fascinated by the camera itself as she was with the fauna that had been growing on it!

The camera delighted the researchers in particular because a miniature ecosystem of sorts had developed on the camera. Two brittle stars (similar to starfish), a sea cucumber, and plenty of algae all called it home.

To top it all off, the memory card was still intact! Though it was covered in some sort of black growth, the team still hoped that perhaps it contained some images that could, in turn, help them track down its owner.

“My first thought about the camera was, are there still images on the card?” Siobhan explained of the prospect of discovering what the camera might hold. Amazingly, she said, “I cleaned the contacts of the [memory card], put it in my computer and it worked.”

As it turned out, there were still plenty of videos and photos in the eight-gigabyte Lexar Platinum II card, all dating back to July 30, 2012. Most of them were pictures of people at various get-togethers.

Of course, seeing these pictures was exciting to the group, but something just didn’t feel right. At that, Isabelle and Siobhan knew they had to try to find the original owner. And so began their mission to track the person down…

Isabelle and Siobhan used the hashtag “#detectives” to tweet out some of the photos, like the one below, in the hopes of finding the original owner. Still, after waiting a while, nobody claimed them—even after their posts received over a hundred retweets!

 They even made copies and pinned one of the photos around town. Shortly after, a member of the Coast Guard recognized a man in the photo as one who had been rescued from a shipwreck. Could it be him?

The man, Paul Burgoyne, was an artist from Vancouver who had lost his boat when it sunk in the area in 2012. After tracking down his phone number, he decided to call the man in order to get some more information.

Soon after, on May 21, 2014, Paul connected with Siobhan. “He was thrilled,” she explained. “He says when he got off the phone with the Coast Guard him and his wife were laughing a great deal, and mentioned how lucky he was.”

Paul was lucky indeed! As he recalled, he’d been sailing to his summer home in Tahsis, British Columbia, on July 20, 2012, when he ran into bad weather. He wound up crashing into rocks and he lost his camera during the wreck.

Paul, stranded in the water, even developed hypothermia. Luckily, patrons at a nearby inn found him and contacted the Coast Guard. Six hours later, he was rescued and brought back to shore.

Paul had lost hundreds of possessions in the crash, and that was something he’d grown to accept over the years. In fact, he thought he’d never see his camera again—so you can imagine his excitement when he was contacted!

Being reunited with his camera was important for Paul, because the photos didn’t depict just any ordinary family reunion. In fact, many of them were taken as his family buried his deceased mother’s ashes. He also remembered how he almost died himself on that fateful night.

Paul was thankful for the team that uncovered his old camera. They sent the memory card back to him, but they were sure to back it up first. “That card seems to be a little unlucky,” said Isabelle.

It just goes to show, you never know what you’ll discover in the ocean. If this camera was any proof, buried treasure does exist; you just have to be in the right place at the right time to find it!

What an incredible coincidence, not to mention such a meaningful ending! Sometimes, fate actually works out in our favor.

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