Diving for memories: Good Samaritan recovers long-lost artifacts from Yellowknife lakes

Lost your phone in a lake near Yellowknife? Jeremy Macdonald's got you covered, using his set of diving equipment to pull long-lost items from the water and reunite them with their owners.

Jeremy Macdonald says he's recovered everything from iPhones, to glasses, to purses and clothing

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

When one thinks of a search for buried treasure, the conversation usually turns to looting, plundering, selfish pirates.

But Jeremy Macdonald is changing that — one find at a time.

The Yellowknife Good Samaritan has been using his set of diving equipment to pull up people's long lost possessions from the city's many lakes, finding everything from old phones, to glasses and purses.

Though it originally started as a simple hobby, he's now begun taking requests — like from Suzie Landry, who enlisted Macdonald to help find her glasses, which she said she lost diving in the water a week ago.

Landry found Macdonald through Facebook, where he's displayed his wares from previous dives for people to claim.

"Two weeks ago, I was diving... recovered a bunch of items that people have lost," Macdonald told CBC as he prepared to dive for Landry's glasses.

"Posted them on Facebook. Some of the things, like phones, even though they were underwater for five years, you could still recover the pictures on them. 

"So I was posting pictures of people from their phones, saying "hey, does anyone know this guy?" And, in typical Yellowknife fashion, it took about three minutes for someone to identify him, and we got in touch."

That post snowballed into a litany of requests for help finding once-lost possessions. Macdonald said that he chose Landry's request because "it sounded like it had the most chance of success.

Suzie Landry waits in the water to direct Macdonald as he prepares to dive for her glasses. Landry enlisted Macdonald's help after finding him on Facebook. (Marc Winkler/CBC)

"You become really surprised at what you find underwater," he said.

"I think my most interesting find was a lady's purse that was stolen out of her van three years previously. There was one item in there that had significance, which was an old dollar bill that her dad had given to her before he passed away.

"At the time when I got in touch, she was actually going through a bunch of medical procedures. And she took it as her dad was watching over her, that this thing was returned to her at that given point."

'There's really some interesting stories'

While diving is a hobby for Macdonald — he asks that people needing help buy him a tank of air for his diving equipment — he still uses sophisticated equipment, including a GPS and a dive computer to help track his location. 

While looking for Landry's glasses, he conducted a "pendulum search" — affixing a rope to the shore and sweeping back and forth on the lake bed.

For Macdonald, the thrill is in finding once-lost treasures, but also in discovering secrets left behind by the lake.

"There's really some interesting stories that you find out doing this kind of thing," he said.

"Like over at the [Long Lake] cliffs, where kids jump off, at the bottom there's a ton of clothes. So you kind of get a feel for the energy of the place, what the people are doing. It's a different world down there, finding these kinds of objects."

As for Landry's glasses? Macdonald recovered them in under a minute — his "fastest dive ever," he said.

"I'm happy!" Landry said, with a laugh. "They came back to me! And I'm never going to go dive with them again."

A happy ending: Landry and Macdonald pose with the newly-returned glasses. (Marc Winkler/CBC)

With files from Marc Winkler


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