British Columbia

Corroded camera lost at lake bottom returned to owner one year later, photos recovered

Calgary resident Karen Gagnon lost her waterproof camera to the bottom of Koocanusa Lake last summer, until Dannelle MacKinnon, a resident of Cranbrook, B.C., spotted it poking out of the sand.

The memory card port was 'dry as a bone,' says Dannelle MacKinnon, who saw the camera poking out of the sand

Dannelle MacKinnon says the waterproof camera she found, which Karen Gagnon had lost a year before, was corroded. But the memory card was perfectly preserved. (Photo courtesy of Karen Gagnon)

When Karen Gagnon lost her camera at the bottom of Lake Koocanusa, in B.C.'s East Kootenay, she thought she'd lost it forever. 

Almost a year later, she says it was "incredible" to see her photos again, after Cranbrook resident Dannelle MacKinnon found her waterproof camera sticking out of the sand on the beach. 

"I was like: 'No way. I actually get to see these pictures again,'" Gagnon recalled in disbelief Tuesday as she and MacKinnon spoke for the first time to each other on CBC's Radio West.

Gagnon, who lives in Calgary, said she'd been out on a camping trip last July when her camera fell into the water as she was pushing herself up into a dinghy. "It flipped over. I lost everything. It all went to the very bottom," she said. 

Karen Gagnon said she was relieved to recover lost photos of her trip to San Juan, after her corroded camera was found on the beach at Lake Koocanusa a year later. (Photo courtesy of Karen Gagnon)

She and her friend tried to find the camera, but the water was just too "weedy and murky," and she wasn't able to touch the bottom of the lake. 

Picking up the story, MacKinnon said she was walking her dog at the lake earlier this year when she spotted the camera poking out of the sand.

"I stuck it in my pocket and didn't really think about it again until we got home," she said. 

A couple days later, she dug the camera out. Because it was so corroded, she had to pry open the memory card port with a fingernail file "and it was dry as a bone in there."

"You could tell the water hadn't gotten in there," she said. "I plugged it into the computer and said: 'Oh wow! Somebody's going to be really happy to get this!'" 

On June 6, she posted a few of the camera's pictures on a local Facebook group, where it was shared over 1,600 times. 

Gagnon said a friend notified her of the photos less than a day later, and she and MacKinnon then connected with each other. 

"I never thought I was going to see those again.... I can't believe that port actually stayed sealed like that," she said. She said she's especially thrilled to reclaim her lost photos of a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

MacKinnon said she was "just over the moon" to return the camera to Gagnon and plans to mail it out to her very soon.

"I know pictures are so important. Those are memories," she said.

LISTEN | A camera lost at the bottom of a lake in the Kootenays is rediscovered:

With files from Radio West and Adam van der Zwan.

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