The Big Question
In addition to his height, he was a very serious-looking navy seal. It looked like he was chewing something. The pile of flyers in her hand caught his eye as he looked at her.
He had a crumpled-up flyer in his fist when Siobhan noticed it. “Are you the one looking for this man?” He questioned after giving her a dubious glance.
Mom, diver and marine professor, Siobhan Gray, stumbled across something that had been lost for years during a routine diving expedition with her marine ecology team.
The mysteries behind her discovery were so alluring that she couldn’t help but search for more answers. A decision that would lead her into a chilling race against time.
One fateful morning, Siobhan’s team from the marine ecology department at Simon Fraser University in Canada was conducting a research dive to study the waters off the coast of Bamfield, near Vancouver Island’s west coast.
Siobhan and her team had begun their day with a very specific goal in mind, but the purpose of their dive was about to abruptly change.
Siobhan was swimming through the crystal clear ocean when she noticed something on the seafloor. It didn’t look like it was part of the natural ecosystem. It had hard edges and a leather strap that was waving in the current.
Intrigued, she swam down towards it. She examined it further and then lifted it out of the sand. She was astounded to see a round lens.
Who Did It Belong To?
It was a camera. Algae and sea life had totally encrusted its rusted metal exterior, it looked very old. She had no idea how long it must have been resting there, or why, but she would find out soon.
Siobhan stashed the rusted camera in her pocket and continued with her research. But she couldn’t stop thinking about what was in her pocket.
More Than Meets The Eye
Once all the divers from Siobhan’s team returned to the boat, she revealed what she found. Everyone gathered around to look at the find, but unlike Siobhan, they weren’t much interested. However, Siobhan knew there was more to this camera than meets the eye.
She decided to take it back to her lab for further investigation, unaware that she had taken the first step towards a shocking revelation.
A Miniature Ecosystem
Siobhan was intrigued by the camera, but as a marine professor, she was also interested in the fauna that was growing on its surface.
When Siobhan opened up the camera, she was fascinated by the miniature ecosystem that was living on and inside it. Besides numerous species of algae, she found a sea cucumber and two brittle stars (similar to starfish) living inside. But that wasn’t all.
Persistence Of Memory
Siobhan then turned her attention towards the thing she had been wondering about all day; the camera’s memory card. Amazingly, it was still relatively intact! Now, her curiosity was insatiable.
Although the SD card was covered in black algae, she hoped that it worked. Even better, maybe she could even identify and track the owner? Little did she know, he wouldn’t be found.
The Moment Of Truth
“My first thought about the camera was, are there still images on the card?” Siobhan said excitedly. She could barely contain herself when discussing the possibility of what the card may hold.
Siobhan carefully cleaned the memory card with an earbud and rubbing alcohol. Then, she slotted it into her computer. Heart racing, she held her breath and crossed her fingers.
It worked! Not only was the eight-gigabyte Lexar Platinum card still working, but it still contained many videos and photos. Siobhan was relieved.
As she looked through these personal and secret memories one by one, she was beginning to feel like she was prying, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away. And then she noticed something.
The photos and videos were of various people at many different get-togethers, dating back as far as 2012.
As exciting as it was, looking at the photos just didn’t feel right somehow. However, she decided that if she wanted to find the owner, she'd need to look at these photos. It was then, when she was trying to put the pieces together that she saw him.
The Search Begins
Photograph after photograph flashed before her eyes, so many different faces she stole glances at. But then she began to see a pattern. There was one man who kept reappearing.
He kept reappearing as she had reached the end. She knew she needed to look for this man. But she had no idea where to begin. How was she going to do this?
Siobhan knew that she needed to do her best to track down the camera’s owner. But she had no idea that she was about to unleash a story that was meant to stay hidden.
Siobhan decided that the best chance she had of finding this man was to take her search to social media. She began to tweet out some of the photos using the hashtag “#detectives.” Unaware of the impending consequences.
Soon, the photos had garnered hundreds of comments and retweets. But, despite the photos receiving a lot of attention, no one came forward. Then, she decided to try a different tactic.
Siobhan wasn’t getting any closer to locating the camera’s owner on Twitter. So she resorted to printing out the photos and posting them around the coastal town and area of where the camera was found.
It was after Siobhan had stuck the poster up in a local cafe, that she first felt like someone was watching her. As she walked from the cafe, across the road to another wooden pole to stick another poster up, she heard the quick shuffling of boots.
She turned around to see a man was following her, and not just any man, he was a Navy seal.
He was tall, and very serious looking. He looked at Siobhan and then at the pile of flyers she held in her hand. Siobhan noticed that his hand was clenched as he walked towards her.
As he got closer, she realized that his clenched hand was holding a scrunched up flyer. He had tore one of her posters down.
He looked at her inquisitively, she looked at him the same. Before she could ask him why he tore down one of her posters, he reached out his hand and said, “Are you the one looking for this man?”.
Siobhan told him that she was. “You don’t know?”, he asked. Siobhan could only reply in confusion when he explained the mysterious missing case of the man she was looking for.
Missing Case Of Paul Burgoyne
The man she was looking for was Paul Burgoyne, an artist from Vancouver. The Navy man explained to Siobhan how his wife had been looking for him.
He had gone out on a fishing trip and never returned until the Navy found him. But the reason for his disappearance is still unknown. This piece of information only made Siobhan more intrigued, so she kept digging.
One morning in 2014, two years later, Siobhan got a phone call that finally put an end to the mysterious missing case of Paul Burgoyne.
The Navy officer had eventually tracked down his phone number in an attempt to get further information about his whereabouts. Siobhan asked him if he got through to anyone to send her contact through.
A Harrowing Tale
She answered the private number, oblivious to who she was about to speak to. Paul Burgoyne was on the other end, and “He was thrilled,” she explained.
“He says when he got off the phone with the Coast Guard he and his wife were laughing a great deal, and mentioned how lucky he was.” But it was only when Siobhan heard his harrowing tale that she understood what happened to him and why the Navy were involved.
An Ill-Fated Trip
It turned out that Paul was an extremely lucky man. He told Siobhan the story of how he had lost his camera.
On July 20, 2012, Paul was sailing to his summer home in Tahsis, British Columbia. His trip had gone without a hitch until he ran into a spot of bad weather. With the sea growing turbulent, his boat was thrown against some rocks. He subsequently lost his camera in the wreck.
When Paul’s boat crashed against the rocks, they smashed his hull apart. Paul found himself stranded in the freezing cold water and developed hypothermia.
It was lucky that patrons at a nearby inn spotted him and called the Coast Guard. But it was only six hours later that he was rescued and brought back to shore.
Paul was thankful that he had made it out alive, but he had lost hundreds of personal possessions in the wreck. Over the years, and although it hurt him deeply, he had grown to accept what had happened. He was most heartbroken about his camera.
But after he had gotten the call from the Navy officer informing him that his camera had been found, he couldn’t believe his luck!
Another Lucky Turn
The photographs on Pauls’s camera didn’t depict an ordinary family reunion. In fact, they had been taken when he and his family had scattered his late mother’s ashes.
And the photographs served as a reminder to be thankful. After all, he had nearly lost his life on the night that he had lost his camera.
Siobhan was very careful to back up the contents of the SD card before they had handed it over to the officer. “That card seems to be a little unlucky,” she laughed.
Paul is delighted to have his precious memories back. He never thought he would ever see those bittersweet photographs ever again until fate stepped in. Paul is one lucky man!
The next week, Siobhan received a lovely email from Paul. He told her that he had spent the week restoring his memory card so that he could retrieve some of the damaged files.
The old man was so happy to have some of his old memories back. Because he had spent the last few years longing for the belongings the sea had taken from him. He printed and enlarged a few of his favorite photographs to frame in his house. His wife was happy as he seemed to get his life back. He thanked her and said he would keep in touch.
Hearing that Paul was well on his way to getting his old personality back made Siobhan happy. But something stung inside her heart, her mouth went dry, and she swallowed. She remembered that she still had all his photographs from the camera on her personal laptop.
Siobhan grew a conscience. The photographs were not her property, she had no right to even look at them without Paul's permission. So why did she still keep them on her laptop?
A Moral Choice
The weary, diver mom sat down at her table and looked at her laptop. She was contemplating whether to look at the pictures or not. It was the curious explorer in her. She had found the camera on one of her expeditions. Just like her other finds, it was a treasure, a piece of evidence, proof as to what she did underwater.
She kept everything she found safe and categorized. But these pictures were not hers, they belonged to a stranger. What should she do with them?
Siobhan made herself a Café Mocha. It was her favorite coffee and always helped her mind think straight when she had tough decisions. She was in deep thought and sat down at her table again.
She tapped on the laptop with her nail. Thinking, questioning… “Perhaps one last look before I delete them?” She thought and opened the laptop.
Curiosity Gets The Better
She stared at the blank screen as her laptop powered up. What was she doing? she thought, almost disgusted in herself. “That poor man had been through enough already. Why are you digging into his past ?” she shouted at herself.
The laptop was on and the file folder was saved on her desktop. Bamfield Camera Find. She hadn't even renamed it as ‘Paul.’ She felt as though it has her find, her information. “I promise I will delete them after one last look,” she said aloud as if someone was standing with her.
Siobhan moved her mouse over the file and clicked open. She was in. There were thousands of pictures and she didn’t get a chance to see all of them. She wasn’t particularly interested in Paul as a person, but she felt that there was another reason that she had been the one to find his camera.
The first pictures were of family, then holidays, sea dives, underwater pictures, and lastly the ash scattering ceremony for his late mother. She quickly scrolled through the thumbnails, she didn’t want to open all the images.
A Streak Of Blue
A row of pictures seemed to catch Siobhan's eye. They were all blue. She opened the first image. It was an underwater picture of a beautiful coral Reef. Siobhan immediately recognized it and thought there was a connection. She had dived there hundreds of times.
He had been diving in one of her favorite spots. This was a conservation area that was preserved. One had to get special diving permission to access those waters. Was Paul a professional diver and a Navy Seal? She grew more curious as she ogled the underwater photographs.
This specific area was on the west coast of Vancouver. The reason it was protected was because of a legal case pending against a giant corporation for illegal dumping and mining. The Pharmaceutical company was fined for improper mineral extraction and illegal dumping in the ocean.
As Siobhan was one of the top Marine professors in her area, she was approached to assist in the case against Big Pharma. Her duty was to study marine and coral life and to monitor any negative impact on their environment.
The legal case had been going on for the past 3 years now. The court could not come to a conclusion due to a lack of evidence. This was not true. The tests and experiments were done by Siobhan and showed a decrease in oxygen and an increase in pollution in the water.
Siobhan knew that Big Pharma had the best legal team. She didn't stand a chance to prove them wrong, not alone anyway.
A Closer Look
The passionate marine professor knew that she had hit the mark. This was why she couldn't let the pictures go. She had a feeling that there was something on it that she had to see.
She scrolled through the pictures, they all looked similar. Coral, fish, pollution, plastic… she was looking for something specific. Something that would be real proof to put this case to rest once and for all.
A Discovery On Land
There were hundreds of underwater photographs all in a row. Paul must have spent over an hour down there she thought. Click, click-click, more fish, a deformed fish, poor thing, more pollution, click click click. Her eyes were getting dry from concentrating n the screen.
It was getting late now and she was tired, maybe she was wrong, maybe there was nothing. “Perhaps I should just delete the file,” she thought. I don’t want to get involved with the Navy or Police. My life is hectic enough. She tapped on her laptop and that is when she saw it.
A Different Blue
It was a large blue container. A chemical drum, the type you use for toxic waste dumping. Siobhan almost choked on her Café Mocha. This was it. There were a few pictures just like it. She tried to look for a company name or signage but the polluted water made the pictures blurry.
Siobhan zoomed in to a few photos and there it was. One picture had red tape with the company logo all over it. “Gotcha!” Siobhan said and placed her mug down in triumph.
An Astonishing Find
The exhausted mom let out a huge sigh of relief. It had been a busy past few years because of this case. Now she finally had evidence to back up her theories from all this time. The clever lady quickly made extra copies of the photos and saved them in a separate file.
The hard part was done but she still had to put all this information together and present it in court. She needed more backup – and decided to call Paul. “I’m sure he will understand,” she thought.
Siobhan called Paul and explained what happened. Paul told her that he had run into some trouble with the Big Pharma company which is why he had to lay low for a while. He said he thought someone was after him trying to kill him.
He had tried to forget, to push it away, because he just wanted to move on with his life. But now he realized that the camera came back because they had to set things straight in the world.
Paul agreed to help her in court. He would be a witness and would get the Navy to back up his story. Siobhan was relieved that this horrible case would finally be closed and that the relevant parties would get the justice they deserved.
The environmental team also helped Siobhan gather more recent information to help her case. She was confident that she could take on the law with facts and integrity. These criminals would not walk away scott free. They would pay for damaging her beautiful marina.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.