The Coolpix L18 washed up in a Key West, FL marina, where it was discovered by Paul Shultz on May 16 2010 -- a few days more than six months after it was lost off the coast of Aruba, some 1,000 nautical miles from where it was found. While the Ikelite housing encasing the red Nikon camera was so thickly covered in marine growth that it was described as looking like a rotting tomato, it did its job admirably, with the camera remaining free of salt water.
Perhaps even more incredibly, after more than two months at sea, a sea turtle had managed to trigger the camera to begin recording a video, while trying to free its flipper from the housing's strap. (The camera recorded a full two gigabyte, twenty minute video before powering off, and a five minute clip containing the highlights can be seen on YouTube -- perhaps the first video to be recorded entirely by a marine creature!)
A Coast Guard investigator by profession, Paul examined the photos and video on the camera's Secure Digital card, before setting his mind on tracking down the camera's owner. The task might seem impossible, but this isn't the first such story we've heard -- just last January a camera lost overboard from a cruise ship was discovered by a fisherman, and returned to its owner after spending fourteen months at sea.
Paul had perhaps even less evidence to go on, but after enlisting the help of various internet forums, was nonetheless successful in reuniting the camera with its owner -- and did so in less than two weeks after starting his search! Royal Dutch Navy sergeant Dick de Bruin lost the camera on November 11 2009, during a marine salvage operation to recover a ship's anchor, which now stands on a marine base in the fishing village of Savaneta, Aruba, serving as a World War II memorial.
All in all, a very cool story -- and an impressive testament to the resilience not only of Ikelite's housing, but also of Nikon's camera, and of modern flash media. Congratulations to Paul, and to everyone at the various websites who helped him bring the story to a very happy conclusion!
Nikon's Coolpix L18 digital camera.
Photo provided by Nikon Inc.