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July 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 36, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Dive Camera that Floated 1,000 Miles and Still Works

from the July, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Talk about an endorsement for Ikelite. Its waterproof camera housing stayed buoyant and unscathed, protecting the Nikon camera inside, for a 1,000-mile float across the Caribbean. And kudos to the U.S. Coast Guard criminal investigator who decided to solve the mystery of where the camera traveled from and who it belonged to.

On May 16, Paul Shultz found a red Nikon camera washing up against the rocks of a Key West marina, covered in six months’ worth of sea growth. At first, Shultz thought it was a rotting tomato. Looking closely, he saw the camera was totally undamaged, but the latest image on its memory card was dated November 11, 2009, six months prior.

Shultz found photos of two men preparing to dive, a family sitting on a sofa, and a mysterious relic on the sea floor. There was also a short video of splashing water and a brief glimpse of what looked like a fin, with the camera thrashing around under the control of something clearly not human. Nothing on the camera identified the owner but Shultz put the images on to get divers’ help.

ScubaBoard users identified the location as Aruba, based on a shot of a school poster in Dutch, and another showing a plane’s tail number that, after a computer search, identified the aircraft on the island the day that photo was taken.

Close examination of the mysterious video shows an encounter with a sea turtle, who mistook the camera for a meal and inadvertently switched it on. The date is January, two months after the camera was lost. The best guess is that the encounter happened off the coast of Honduras.

Shultz then posted the pictures on travel websites and Two days later, a local woman contacted him to say she recognized the kids in the photos as her son’s classmates. They belonged to Dick de Bruin, a Royal Dutch Navy sergeant who saw his camera float away while exploring the USS Powell wreck at Eagle Beach. He now has his camera back and says it’s working just fine.

Shultz said he owes the happy ending to members of the online boards he used. “This case shows what can happen when people come together in an Internet forum and work to achieve a positive goal,” Shultz told “People tend to be a bit nasty on forums, but this is an example of the goodwill that exists in most.”

To see the the images the turtle took of itself, click here:

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