Relentless Sleuthing Reunites Well-Traveled Camera With Its Owner

Travel News — By Carlo Alcos on June 18, 2010 at 5:14 am

The Internet is truly an amazing thing, without it we would never have stories like this one: A camera that was found in Key West, Florida was returned to its owner in Aruba, 1800 kilometers (1118 miles) away, reports the New Zealand Herald. The Nikon Coolpix L18, encased in an Ikelite underwater casing, floated with the currents for 6 months to a marina in Key West, where it was found by Coast Guard investigator, Paul Shultz.

Not backing down from a challenge, Shultz began an investigation to track down its owner, even though he didn’t have much to go on. He turned to the Internet, to the dive forum scubaboard.com. He took on the moniker aquahound and posted this:

This is a total shot in the dark.

I found a digital camera and waterproof case washed up here in Key West. I am trying to identify an owner so I can return it. The only somewhat helpful identifyers I can get from the card is a yellow chevy truck filled with dive tanks, and with ….stage.com on the side. The picture is cut off, so I can’t see what is written before stage. The pictures were definitely not taken in the Keys. With the way the Gulfstream runs, it may have been somewhere in Mexico.

Does anyone have any idea what dive website may end in stage.com?

From there the thread takes off and following it is like watching an episode of Matlock. Obscure clues are posted, like this one: “zooming in on a picture at what appears to be a school function, the kid’s artwork on the wall appears to be written in German, or a similar language.”

Other Internet sleuths then join in to try to figure the puzzle out, using images of a plane’s tail number, a building with blue domes, and the foreign-language poster (which turned out to be Dutch, not German) to piece together that the images were taken in Aruba, a Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela.

Shultz eventually posted some pictures at Aruba.com where an Aruban woman recognized the children as classmates of her son. Shultz shared the good news, an email he received from the woman, on the forum. From page 29, post #283 (and 13 days after the original post):

GREAT NEWS. Went to the school, sorted through all the toe-heads to find the owner of the camera who I recognized from the photos you posted. The Mom couldn’t believe that their camera was found in another country (much less in Florida). Venezuela, Colombia, even Panama would have been more believable. She said the camera drifted away from him while he was securing the anchor of the dive boat.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing to be pulled off the memory card was a video of splashing water and what appears to be a sea turtle making an appearance now and again. That video has been posted on YouTube for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

[Image: somegeekintn / Flickr]

Tags: Aruba, camera, Florida, investigation

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