Elycia Monaghan panicked when she first felt it: her wedding ring — a family heirloom of her husband's — slipping off her finger and into the Yellowknife River while she was swimming.

"I kind of froze," she said, before swimming to shore with her sisters, grabbing goggles and starting a search.

Before long, though, reality set in.

"And we were like: 'oh no, we have to tell Patrick.'"

Patrick Monaghan, Elicia's husband, was surprisingly calm.

"We just had to decide from there," he said. "Can we find this ring or is it gone forever?"

The pair quickly learned about a scuba diver in town who's made a specialty out of finding things underwater.

Jeremy Macdonald

Jeremy Macdonald prepares to dive in Yellowknife's Long Lake in 2016. Macdonald has been using his diving equipment around popular swimming spots in the city, recovering lost items and reuniting them with their owners. (Marc Winkler/CBC)

"The initial message was, can you help find my wedding ring, I lost it in the Yellowknife River," said Jeremy Macdonald.

"My response to that was, well, it's kind of a big space with a little thing to find."

The find

That wasn't a deterrent.  

They made a simple plan to meet at the spot where the ring was lost, about 11 kilometres northeast of the city.

"That's the best thing to do is get somebody on the ground so they can say, here is where I lost it," Macdonald said.

Elycia Monaghan pointed out where she jumped in, and how many swimming strokes she was from shore when she felt the ring slip.

The riverbed is pebble gravel until it turns to boulders about four meters out from shore, Macdonald said. "I knew if it was in there I'd have a good chance of finding it."

He hit the water, and nine minutes later, he came up holding an archery arrow in triumph.

"They're looking at me thinking, you found an arrow, and I'm like, no not the arrow, look ON the arrow."

"That's it," he recalls Elycia Monaghan saying. 

Found wedding ring

The ring, safely returned. It's a family heirloom of Patrick Monaghan's. (Alyssa Mosher/CBC)

'An emotional reward'

Diving in the N.W.T. has had many rewards for Macdonald.

He particularly likes the Cameron River, with its fish and plant life and interesting birds overhead.

"You just put your arms out and go with the current and… you're flying."

Jeremy Macdonald

'For me, honestly, it's therapeutic,' says Jeremy Macdonald of his diving habit. (Alyssa Mosher/CBC)

But finding things for people brings its own rewards.

In the past two years, Macdonald has had three calls about lost rings. One he's already fished out of Madeline Lake, and another is still pending.

"For me, honestly, it's therapeutic," he said of the intense sensory deprivation of being underwater.

"Being able to help some people out in some small way… [it's] kind of an emotional reward that gives back."

With files from Juanita Taylor, Alyssa Mosher