How a camera lost and a camera found underwater forged a connection
There is a strong convention among divers about discovered gear: what you find, you try to return
This is a story about how, sometimes, everything just works out the way it's supposed to — thanks to the world of social media and maybe just two degrees of separation. And it begins with a watery grave.
The island of Cozumel off Mexico's Mayan Riviera is a magnet for scuba divers. Its reefs and wildlife attract divers from around the world.
In February, I joined the underwater hordes in the crowded ocean for a diving vacation. But things started badly.
On my second dive, I climbed back onto the boat to discover that my old but much-loved GoPro camera was no longer attached to my gear. It had been knocked off as I climbed out of the ocean.
Unfortunately, the diving around Cozumel is mostly what is called "drift diving," where you are pulled along by strong currents. So by the time I noticed the camera was gone, the boat had already drifted several hundred metres.
I was saddened, but after many years of sterling service around the world I was also happy that it had been buried at sea. It seemed appropriate and, anyway, I had a larger, newer camera with me to record all the turtles, rays, sharks and moray eels on the Cozumel reefs.
Spotting an upgrade
The next day, I was back in the water on a different part of the reef. I was exploring a coral outcrop when I found what looked like a brand new GoPro — sleeker, faster and a lot more expensive than the one I had just lost.
It seemed like the universe was giving back, after so cruelly taking from me.
But there is a strong convention among divers about discovered gear: what you find, you try to return. Particularly something as expensive and personal as an underwater camera.
So once we were out of the water, I started asking around. I knew the camera had not been underwater for long, so I spread the word around among all the divers I could find.
Perhaps surprisingly — because on a busy day there can be 40 or more boats around a site and 500 divers underwater — I found the owner.
"The only thing better than finding a camera," I told him, "is being able to return it."
Strangely, finding someone else's camera lessened the pain of losing my own.
2 degrees of separation
A week later, back home in Halifax, I get a message from a Facebook friend.
"Someone found your GoPro," he said, attaching a screengrab of a posting on a Facebook forum for divers.
In the international-but-small world of divers, it takes just one or two degrees of separation to make a connection.
I messaged the finder. Meg Reid, it turned out, lives in a small town near Austin, Texas.
What was she doing diving in Cozumel? She had a story to tell. Reid and her husband retired to live on a small pecan orchard in Rockdale to escape the expense of living in Austin.
Then Meg found that she had breast cancer.
The trip to Cozumel was her second adventure with the Divas and that is where she spotted my camera nestled in the sand by a coral head. So of course, she had to try and find out who owned it. It only took a couple of days.
And, of course, I had to find a way to say thank you; I offered to send her a CBC T-shirt.
"How sweet!" she said. "The joy of returning your camera is thanks enough."
But she confessed: "You had me at T-shirt."
So if you happen to visit the town of Rockdale — population 5,851 — look for a small pecan orchard and a lovely woman wearing a CBC T-shirt.
Be sure to say hi to Meg for me.