He was a Navy seal, tall and very serious looking. He was chewing on something. He looked at her and then at the pile of flyers she held in her hand.
Siobhan noticed that he was holding a scrunched up flyer in his clenched hand. He looked at her sceptically before asking “Are you the one looking for this man?”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 torn 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!