Camera sunk near Bamfield reunited with owner

A Vancouver artist who almost lost his life when his boat sank in the Pacific Ocean near Bamfield said finding out that his camera had been found almost two years later is a fitting end to his ordeal.

Paul Burgoyne said he and his wife “almost died of laughter” when he realized his camera had been found by researchers diving off the coast of Vancouver Island.

“The story to us is the fact that I challenged Mother Nature and lost and almost lost my life,” he said.

“It’s going to be like the cherry on the cake for my story.”

The events leading up to Burgoyne’s mishap started in July, 2012 when he was on a solo trek around Vancouver Island to his summer home in Clayoquot Sound. At about 1:30 a.m., he was looking for a place to moor and drop anchor to sleep. That’s when he believes he made an error using his navigation equipment and hit some rocks.

Water filled the cabin so quickly he was forced to swim out through a window. Burgoyne said all he could think about was that his fishing trip was going to be ruined.

Covered in diesel and in pitch darkness, he swam the short distance to shore. He believes he was in shock so didn’t notice how cold the water was.

Once on land, he climbed a bluff but got pinned in a tight spot. When he began to develop hypothermia, he stripped off his wet clothes and started to, as he said, dance “this Irish jig for hours to stay warm.”

Later, Burgoyne failed to attract the attention of a passing boat with his screams for help. But the noise he made was enough to wake up anglers staying at a fishing lodge up the hill.

Rescued by the Coast Guard, he discovered he was less than 1,000 metres away from Bamfield.

“It was a very traumatic part of my life,” he said.

Burgoyne’s camera was found earlier this month thanks to a still-functional memory card and an old-fashioned community bulletin board.

Siobhan Gray, a dive and safety officer with the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, was on the boat the day students Tella Osler and Beau Doherty surfaced with the camera, which looked like a prop from a pirate movie.

The students had been on the final dive of a university credit scientific diving program run out of the centre when they found the device on the sea floor. The camera was covered in sea organisms, including a slow-growing algae, a couple of brittle stars and a sea cucumber. Its memory stick was coated in some sort of black growth, Gray said.

“My first thought about the camera was, ‘Are there still images on the card?’” said Gray, who brought it back to shore. “I cleaned the contacts off of the (memory card) put it in my computer and it worked.”

She posted a photo on a community message board, asking for anyone who recognized the photo to contact her. About a week after the post, Gray ran into a local water taxi driver who said he thought it might be a guy whose boat sank in a serious nighttime accident a couple of years ago. He suggested contacting the Coast Guard.

It turned out one of Gray’s friends at the station had attended the call and agreed that one of the people in the photo might just be the man whose boat had been shipwrecked. After digging through old files, the Coast Guard called the man and left a message for him, along with Gray’s number.

On Wednesday, she got a call from Burgoyne.

She said the tale offered up a beautiful display of her community, having involved so many different people in the quest to solve the riddle of the sunken camera.

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