Diver finds gizmos dropped into sea, decorates Fisherman’s Wharf houseboat

Cellphones, some from the 1980s, digital cameras and pagers adorn the outside of Adam Coolidge’s houseboat at Fisherman’s Wharf.

For seven years, he has been diving under the wharf and finding a trove of electronics that people have dropped into the sea.

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He has 32 cellphones, 11 pagers and six cameras mounted on the outside of his house, and expects to put up more. A 32-gigabyte iPod is the latest addition to the collection. The devices don’t work anymore — water and electronics don’t mix.

“One day, I don’t know why, I picked one up. Then I picked another one up. It just keeps growing,” said Coolidge, a sonar supervisor with the Royal Canadian Navy.

Coolidge, who has been diving for more than 20 years, started out as a steelworker in Niagara before joining the navy 15 years ago.

The project began in 2006 when he moved to Fisherman’s Wharf and began diving in the surrounding water.

A commercial diver while not on duty with the navy, Coolidge was curious to see what local waters held.

“One day you’ll swim and you won’t see a phone. In two weeks, you’ll go by the exact same spot and find a phone from 1984” — a phenomenon he attributes to the high movement of tidal ebb in the area, which frequently shifts the sand beneath the wharf.

In 2009, when he repainted his house — red, white and blue after the Alpha flag used by divers to signify a diver nearby — he decided it was a good time to display the waterlogged electronics.

The pagers are mostly from nearby Barb’s Fish and Chips, which distributes them to customers to let them know when their food is ready.

What started out as a pet project now prompts tourists to pose for pictures in front of his home and inquire about their own lost devices.

The iPhone 5, for example, has to be returned for an extended warranty to take effect, so Coolidge fields requests to go diving for the lost phones.

Recent passersby have also used the house as a conversation starter on dates.

“Every single day, we hear guys show off their knowledge about the house to their girlfriends,” said Mika Olgivie, Coolidge’s partner.

The hot spots for phones are near Barb’s Fish and Chips — where tourists feed seals — and along the walkway in front of his home.

Coolidge enjoys the hunt. “When I first started diving 20 years ago, I put in my log: Find treasure. That’s what I’m doing.”

nwells@timescolonist.com

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