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Camera Lost At Sea Found On Deserted Caribbean Island, October, 2013.

An endless white beach stretches to the horizon in both directions. Turquoise water shushes and laps at the sand. Cartoonishly perfect white clouds puff along through an impossibly blue sky. A fin slices through the glinting waves–a shark, hunting. Overhead, an osprey hunts. Below and above the water, everything is hunting, hunting.

There stands my dad – salty beard, seared skin, eyes scanning every square inch of sand. Hunting. For treasure? No–for trash. It’s what we do.

An odd shimmer catches his eye. He stalks over and picks up the surprising object: A silver digital camera, sealed inside a gleaming waterproof case… and it’s dry inside!

Dad turns the camera over and over, examining it in disbelief. We find waterproof cameras sometimes, but only the old film kind. Well, it is 2013, and film cameras are becoming as quaint as messages in bottles.

Incredibly, this camera looks brand new. Could it possibly contain a functioning SD card after being lost at sea?

Bob Buffington With Digital Camera Lost At Sea

Bob Buffington with digital camera lost at sea (and other “treasures”), October 2013.

Dad stuffs the camera into his backpack and walks onward, onward, over a beach that will never end, under a merciless sun, bearing the burden of someone else’s memories, answering the call to preserve what was thought to be lost.

Dad With Unsalvageable Camera Lost At Sea

Same Dad, Different Camera. This one was unsalvageable, but I wanted you to see him in action 🙂

Finding The Camera Was Easy; Finding Time To Find Its Owners Is Not

I first see the camera and photos around Thanksgiving 2013. I’m blown away by these clear, beautiful pictures – about 70 of them!

Digital Camera Lost At Sea With Waterproof Case

Dad checks the data attached to the photos, and says it shows they “range from the first taken on February 19th, 2010 to the last taken on February 21st, 2010 at 1:22am”. Incredibly, this SD card and camera, lost at sea for 3.5 years, remain intact and functioning! We joke about Canon hiring dad to do a commercial speaking to the durability of their gear…

We want to post about the camera online to find the owners. But we get sucked into the whirl of Thanksgiving and it never happens. We all go home, back to work, and the camera is forgotten again.

But the pictures haunt us…

Every time we get together, I say, “Dad! The time has come! Let’s find these people!”

“Yes!” Dad says, “Let’s do it!”

Instead, we play with the children of the family, joke with the adults, go for walks, and wait for “later” to arrive. You know about “later” – it’s the mythical time when you do the things you want to do, but which don’t strictly have to be done. The trouble is, later never comes…

Clint and Bob Buffington on Beach with Messages in Bottles

Me and dad, chasing new mysteries when we should be solving the old ones!

Again and again, we make plans; again they unravel as the humdrum calamity of life calls us to the day-to-day: I teach college writing classes, start a band, and share and solve other messages in bottles. Life goes on: I marry my love; we move and have a baby; we move again; change jobs; we have another baby; dad refuses to retire…

The years tick by as we do nothing with this camera. Somehow, nothing.

But that changes now.

Help Find The Adventurers From The Camera Lost At Sea

In the back of my mind, as we kick the can down the road, vowing to solve the camera mystery “later,” I know a humbling truth: Every message in a bottle is a race against the clock. The health and well-being of the person/people on the other end is unknown. My own health and well-being. No one is promised tomorrow, right?

Well… now, today, all of a sudden, it is now. After 8 years, we are finally trying to locate the owners.

And we need your help!

We know these folks traveled among the British Virgin Islands on a Festiva Sailing boat during February 2010; we know they stopped at Pirates Bight on Norman Island. I’ll be reaching out to these places, of course!

We know at least some of them are scuba divers; One man wears a shirt for “The Deep,” a 1977 film starring Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte about “A pair of young vacationers involved in a dangerous conflict with treasure hunters when they discover a way into a deadly wreck in Bermuda waters” (trailer here if you are interested).

Without further ado, here are the best photos of people and places recovered from the camera!

A Traveler Photographed By Digital Camera Lost At Sea Travelers Photographed By Digital Camera Lost At Sea Happy Adventurer From Digital Camera Lost At SeaCamera Lost At Sea Reveals Scuba Diving Adventure Camera Lost At Sea Reveals Scuba Diving Adventure 2

A Traveler From Camera Lost At Sea Relaxing On Deck Travelers From Camera Lost At Sea Aboard Festiva Sailboat Travelers From Camera Lost At Sea Lounging On Norman Island Adventurers From Camera Lost At Sea Visit Norman Islane Travelers From Camera Lost At Sea Visit Pirates Bight on Norman Island

Mysteriously, the last four photos are identical, and they each look like this:

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Mystery Camera Outtake

I just love this photo, which apparently captures a glimpse of the instructions for putting the camera into its waterproof case. Clearly, they followed the instructions like pros!