When 10-year-old Brit William Etherton realized he’d left his action camera on an English beach after a day exploring tide pools with his older sister, he was sure he’d never see it again.
That was in September, so imagine the boy’s surprise when footage from his beach outing showed up on Facebook two months later.
It was posted by Holger Spreer, whose grandfather Roland had found the camera on a beach 350 miles away on the tiny island of Suderoog in northern Germany.
The camera, which William had sensibly placed inside a waterproof housing, had spent around eight weeks in the icy cold waters of the North Sea, drifting from one country to another and even filming some of the journey as it bobbed up and down on the waves.
William and his family were so delighted with the Spreers’ efforts to trace the camera’s owner that they traveled all the way to Suderoog last weekend to receive it in person from Holger and Roland.
When Holger tested the camera’s memory card and saw that it still worked, he realized there was a chance he could trace the owner of the device, a GoPro-like SJCAM action camera.
Turning to Facebook, Holger posted a message explaining how his dad had found the camera. He said the footage showed an English-speaking boy playing on a beach, adding that he put the camera down and apparently forgot about it. A short time later, the video showed a small wave knocking it into the sea, setting the device on its long 350-mile journey from England to Germany. Holder posted some of the footage with his message, and eventually it was seen by the right people.
William’s mom, Helen, said her son had been really upset about losing the camera because it was a gift from his great-grandfather.
“I never thought in a million years that it would’ve survived that journey and be able to get the memory card and have such clear pictures from it,” Helen said last month. As for William, he happily acknowledged: “I’ll have to take better care of my camera in future.”
Tales of lost cameras
The survival of William’s camera is testament to the case’s robust design as well as the camera’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures, but there have also been other stories where photos survived on memory cards inside case-less cameras lost for lengthy periods of time in similarly challenging conditions.
In 2014, for example, a compact Lumix camera was discovered two years after it was lost in the sea off the west coast of Canada. The camera didn’t look too hot, but the card was fine, and, similar to William’s experience, the person who found it turned to social media to trace the owner.
In another incident, a New Zealand man found his camera two years after an earthquake caused it to sink into mud outside his house. Again, the camera was toast, but he was able to recover the images, which included several taken during his wedding and honeymoon.