Over the last few days, 18-21 September 2012, there has been a lot of media coverage over a camera I found while diving. There were some slight inaccuracies within the stories, so I thought I’d tell the story from my view.
During a previous dive in the Helford River I had found a small upturned boat about 4.5m long, the current was too strong that day to study it. Myself and my buddy, Ben Palmer, went for a dive to try and find the boat at slack water around the end of July 2012. Whilst swimming around I came across a black case, my immediate thought was it would make a nice spare mask case. On opening the case I realised it was a camera case with a camera inside it, I placed it into my drysuit pocket.
On returning to our dive centre I removed the batteries and SD card, the batteries were discarded, the camera and card were placed on fresh water after a few rinses. Over the next few days the water was changed regularly. The camera and card were then placed into the drying room for a couple of days. The camera exuded salt from every joint, the card didn’t. I now had a dilemma, what was on the card? It could be anything. I had to find out so I put it in my laptop. The card was recognised and the folder popped up. One of the early photos was one of a man smiling at the camera, I posted the picture on Facebook and asked if anyone knew him. Lots of good luck messages but no ID.
It was a common occurrence for me to pick up rubbish and one day it suddenly dawned on me, it would be a good idea if I could organise some divers and clear the rubbish in bulk. Myself and Nick Lyon were interviewed live on BBC Radio Cornwall, who had a very good response to the story. I put an event on Facebook and 13 divers turned up and collected 12.1kg’s of rubbish. The rubbish was categorised and the info was submitted to Project Aware. It was so popular I decided to organise another clean up four weeks later, at the next beach up the coast, Gyllyngvase beach. I took my camera to film some of the action and get some photo’s to broadcast what we were doing. A local BBC reporter even joined us for the dive, he was so impressed with the litter pick, the idea and even the footage, that he told everyone in the local BBC office. BBC Spotlight picked up the story and found out about the camera from the diving reporter, who had seen it in our dive centre. We met the BBC spotlight reporter and were interviewed about the litter picks as well as the camera. The story went viral, appearing on multiple websites and several national newspapers. My daughter, Natasha, who is currently working in an orphanage in Peru even heard about it. The story even appeared on a Brazilian news website and many other countries as well.
Not long after the BBC aired the program I got a call, could I meet the cameras owners, the McGahan’s the next day. I was in the middle of a Poseidon MKVI Rebreather course with my instructor Jay Selway but we made a gap in the schedule to meet them. They had heard on the news that a camera had been found and thought, wouldn’t it be funny if it was theirs. When they saw the program Rachel McGahan recognised the photos and then contacted the BBC. We took our boat Stingray around to Durgan, the closest beach to where the camera was found, to meet the McGahans. I was introduce to Paul and Rachel McGahan. My first response was ‘I recognise you from your picture’. The McGahans explained that their daughter had dropped the camera while they were out on a friends boat, it had fallen into the water when she dropped it. Their photos from their holidays were lost forever, or so they thought. I handed them the camera and card, they were delighted. There were over 800 photos, the last 500 were of a holiday to the US and of a school play and were not backed up anywhere. In future they will back-up their cards straight away.”
The story was reported in the Daily Mail, The Sun, Mirror and The Metro newspapers. It also appeared on various websites including Yahoo news, AOL travel, gapyear and a Brazilian news website. It also appeared on BBC South West’s Spotlight, BBC online Cornwall and National. New sites are popping up with the news. Shortly the Diving magazines will be publishing their versions, the only one that has actually asked me is Diver.