Laguna Beach in California is well known for its private coves and scenic views, so naturally, it is a popular romantic destination for couples — both tourists and residents. But the couple who took these photos never thought that they would see the light of day, let alone be seen by thousands on Facebook.
They walked along the beach, hands entwined as they admired the rolling blue waves. But they didn’t have to walk far until their calm was shattered. Alex stumbled on what he thought was a rock, but on closer inspection, it turned out to be something else entirely.
The rusty, sand-covered Canon camera looked like it had been in the ocean for a long time, and when Maria uncovered it with her fingers she knew that they had stumbled upon a mystery that was just waiting to be unraveled. What secrets were hidden inside? Recovering the camera’s photos was a painstaking process, but when they were finally revealed, Maria couldn’t believe her eyes.
It was a long shot, and she knew it. Could the photographs inside the camera have survived somehow? If anyone could recover them, she knew it was her brother Nick. But when she handed him the soggy, sandy camera, even he had his doubts. She looked at him pleadingly. She just had to know what was on the camera. Was it lost by accident? Or had someone decided to destroy it on purpose? Only time would tell.
Nick laid all the tools for the job on the table before him: pliers, screwdrivers, and tweezers. When he opened the camera up, to his dismay, he saw that the inner workings were rusted beyond repair. Of course, the camera wouldn’t switch on, and the battery had corroded. But he was determined to try.
Turning the camera around in his hands, he doubted whether any of the images had survived. A digital camera stores photographs in its memory, and if the camera had been damaged, that data was irretrievable – wiped out and gone forever. But what was this? At the top of the camera was a slot. Could the SD card still be inside?
He peeked inside and saw a flash of blue – there was indeed a memory card inside. He only hoped that it hadn’t rusted into the slot. He’d have to lift it out carefully if he didn’t want to damage it. With a pair of tweezers, he began to lift it out of its compartment, taking care not to pull on it too hard.
Nick let out a triumphant yell when the blue SD card slid into view. It was worse for wear, as he had expected, but it was still intact. He gently cleaned it with an alcohol solution. All that was left to do was to see if his computer could read it. He slid it into his laptop’s SD slot and held his breath.
The SD reader made a whirring noise as it tried to read the memory card. Then, suddenly, the images began to load and Nick couldn’t believe his eyes. All in all, there were 500 photographs on the SD card, and when Nick flicked through them he knew he had to put them on Facebook. He had to let everyone know what he had found.
Nick uploaded some of the photos to his Facebook account with the caption: “This Canon T5 w/ 75-300mm telephoto lens drank too much at this wedding in Laguna Beach and it took a nap in the ocean for a few months.” “500 photos were recovered from the SD card including this wedding that was apparently held on May 6, 2017 at Woods Cove, Laguna Beach, CA.” He asked everyone to share the photos of the bride and groom, and sure enough, his feed exploded. Everyone wanted answers.
“Is there a photo right before the camera went into the ocean? I need to know the story behind the ocean camera!” one commenter wrote. And just 50 comments later, everybody following the post would finally get their answer. Meanwhile, Nick contacted Laguna’s city hall to see if there was documentation of the couple’s wedding that day, but they refused to release the information.
Then, a woman named Taylor Ochoa recognized the groom and blew the case open wide. “Oh my gosh! This is the groom’s sister’s camera + photos. I’ll pass this post along to the bride. YAY! I love social media,” she wrote. But now that the couple was identified, they still had some explaining to do.
Heather and Kole Powell had decided that it was finally time to tie the knot. But they didn’t want a big, expensive ceremony and all the politics that go with it — so they decided to elope. With only immediate family to witness their nuptials, they had a small beachside wedding at Laguna Beach on May 7th, 2017. Unfortunately for the couple, luck wasn’t on their side that day.
In a stroke of bad luck, the weekend they had chosen for the wedding had been stormy and unpleasant. The waves grew choppier and choppier by the minute as the couple said their vows in front of a select few of their closest loved ones. After the ceremony, everyone placed their purses and valuables on a low sea wall – including Kole’s sister, who was responsible for taking photographs that day.
Suddenly, an enormous wave rolled up the shoreline, sweeping the camera and handbags with it as it went. The couple also lost their cellphones to the sea, but what everyone was most concerned about was the camera. It contained priceless memories – and they’d never be able to get them back. The bride and groom rushed into the waves to try to retrieve the camera, to no avail.
“Kole’s mom looked over and saw that everything was gone,” Heather Powell told ABC News. “We were pretty shocked.” “It was a sour mood kind of but we didn’t want it to ruin the entire day,” she added. “We tried to look at it as a positive, just another rough patch to get through and a sign that everything will be OK.”
Three months after the wedding, Heather was delighted when she got a call. “I just was so shocked,” Heather said. “I ran over to my husband and said, ‘Oh my gosh, someone found our camera.’” The power of social media had reunited the couple with their priceless memories – but how could they ever thank Nick?
Shortly after Heather contacted him, Nick updated his Facebook post: “UPDATE: I am happy to announce that the newlyweds have been found! I am filled with gratitude for all the people who shared this post and helped to reunite the camera and its photos with their owners.” He transferred the priceless memories onto a DVD and shipped them to the couple, who were ecstatic.
“We tried to convince him to let us pay the shipping and he wouldn’t,” Heather said in an interview. “We told [Nick and Maria] that if we make it out to California again we’re going to buy them dinner and meet them to thank them… both my husband and I are just blown away by their kindness. There aren’t enough words …”
Since then, Nick’s post has gone viral, with over 1000 likes and shares. People couldn’t get enough of the heartwarming story. Susan Richards Doern, Heather’s mother, had this to say: “I am the mother of the bride. Heather called her dad and I early this morning to share this story. Since then, I have read every one of your comments (so far), and I have cried all the way through them! Thank all of you so much, and especially Nick!!! This is the kind of story that restores my faith in humanity. As I said that day (May 6th), the real loss wasn’t the camera, the phones, the purse, it was the loss of the pictures that we mourned the most. I am totally overcome with emotion and gratitude!!”