Alex Mansur was paddleboarding with family when he lost his camera on a trip to the Tennessee River in 2012. The St. Augustine Record reports that Mansur and his family were meeting relatives of his in Chattanooga and going paddleboarding together for the first time.
As these things go, the camera disappeared. More specifically, the lanyard slid right off his wrist.
“I felt it falling down my legs and down the board. I jumped in after it, but it just slipped away,” Mansur told the Record.
That was that, he thought. And screamed, he told ABC News Channel 9. “All my family members were really upset as well.”
Fast forward five years.
Nate Wilson and Matthew Schubert of Chattanooga Cycleboats hit the Tennessee River to record footage for an upcoming travel show. As they demonstrated casting into the water from a Cycleboat, they hit a snag. The story, as Wilson tells it, is that they were really just trying to save a “pretty expensive” lure.
But the snag broke, and they reeled it in. What they got was an Olympus camera that had been down there for quite some time, it seemed.
Wilson said finding the camera was exciting.
“When Captain Matt [Schubert] pulled that camera out of the river by the wrist strap the first thing I said was ‘Guys that memory card is going to work, and we are going to find the owner!’ I was pretty anxious and excited.”
They opened the camera with a screwdriver, recovered the SD card, slid it into a computer, and found a whole lot of photos. Hundreds, in fact. And Wilson was startled to see the .EXIF data indicating that the photos were shot between 2009 and 2012, meaning the camera had been sitting on the riverbed for years and years.
Wilson posted the photos on Facebook later that night, including a clear selfie from the camera. In 10 hours, a relative of Mansur had identified it and put them in touch. The internet!
Alex Mansur is, unsurprisingly, enormously grateful.
“Those videos of me hiking alone in the wilderness marked a pretty personal and challenging time in my life, and those experiences I had alone in Southwest Texas were some pivotal moments that led me to where I am today,” he said in a statement posted by Wilson of the account.
I would like to tremendously thank Nate Wilson and everyone for this unbelievable experience in returning my camera I lost 5 years ago! I am still in disbelief over this amazing ordeal and how it has unfolded. He is a tremendous person for taking the time to reunite me with my camera and the many wonderful memories it held. My sincerest gratitude to Nate and everyone who helped!