When he got it back to his house, he decided to check out the SanDisk memory card inside the camera, not really believing it would still work. But incredibly, it did.
Browsing through the 581 images on the card –the most recent of which was shot in 2009 – the 39-year-old teacher started to wonder whether he would be able to identify the owner of the camera by using information gleaned from the photos.
A couple of pictures stood out for Noerr – one of a woman sitting outside a house numbered 327, and another a few frames later of a ‘3rd Street’ sign. A picture of a bagel shop also formed a key part of his search.
Believing the majority of the photos had been snapped in New York City, Noerr began to explore the city’s outer boroughs using Google Street View, checking out all the 3rd Streets he could find.
After hours of searching, Noerr located the bagel shop and, shortly after, house 327. Using public tax records, he discovered that the house belonged to the Comeau family.
Next, he wanted to try to match up the name with the face of the woman in the photo, so he went on Twitter to see if Ms. Comeau was using the microblogging service. Lucky for him, she was.
Noerr contacted her and told her he’d found a Canon camera with a bunch of images. Comeau responded, explaining that it belonged to her brother, and had indeed lost it three years ago when it accidentally fell from a bridge.
“It’s one of those little miracles. It’s totally bizarre. I can’t wait to get it back,” Michael Comeau said last week after being contacted by Noerr.
For Noerr, too, it was evidently a satisfying achievement. “There was a moment it could have belonged to any number of seven billion people. Then, there was a moment when it belonged to just one,” he said.
The story is also, of course, a testament to the build quality of SanDisk’s Compact Flash memory card. After all, there can’t be many cards that would still work after three years sitting at the bottom of a creek.