Florida tour group found an old camera underwater. Now its owner has her pictures back

Howard Cohen
·4 min read

Update: The camera’s owner has been found. And she’s thrilled.

Someone who saw Plantation Adventure Center’s Facebook post recognized a Vine of the Mountains church T-shirt someone in one of the photos was wearing, said the camera’s owner, Lori Stephens, who lives in Waynesville, North Carolina.

“I heard that my camera had been found from my pastor, Owen Fulghum,” Stephens told the Miami Herald in an email on Thursday, April 22., shortly after a publicist for the tour group reached out after reading the Herald’s story.

“Someone on Facebook had clued into the fact that one of the people in the pictures had a Vine of the Mountains T-shirt on. From there, someone at Plantation Adventure Center got in touch with Owen to see if he recognized the pictures and how to guess as to who had taken them,” she said.

Stephens said she lost the camera seven years ago while paddle boarding for the first time on Crystal River.

“In my excitement at seeing the manatees I dropped the camera and spent the next hour largely ignoring the manatees that I had come to see and searching the grass for my lost camera. Obviously, after this amount of time we had given up hope of ever finding it,” she said.

Her reaction to finding out her camera was found and that its pictures were intact? “Nothing short of miraculous.”

A boat captain at Plantation Adventure found the camera and several staffers, “spent tireless hours trying to pull the information off of the SD card” and that people on Facebook “found the story worth contributing to and took the time to help locate us so that we could be reunited with these special memories,” Stephens said. “Thank you so much for anyone who contributed!”

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Original story:

A Florida tour group found a camera underwater that, apparently, had been submerged for years.

But the corroded Olympus camera contained thousands of photos from its inner digital card. And now the group that found the submerged camera, Plantation Adventure Center and Manatees Tours, based in the western Florida city of Crystal River, wants to find the owners.

The group’s members found the camera Tuesday while swimming with manatees in Crystal River at Kings Bay, a freshwater estuary fed by more than 40 named springs. The group took to Facebook to share the images and hopes they are seen by the people in the pictures, or at least by others who know them.

Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours found an Olympus camera in Florida’s Crystal River on April 20, 2021. The camera was corroded but its SD card was intact and there were thousands of photos dated from 2012 to 2014. The group hopes to find the people pictured in these images.
Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours found an Olympus camera in Florida’s Crystal River on April 20, 2021. The camera was corroded but its SD card was intact and there were thousands of photos dated from 2012 to 2014. The group hopes to find the people pictured in these images.

“The camera was very corroded from being in the water for what appears to be years but we were able to break it open and the SD card is still intact!! These photos are dated from 2012 to 2014 when it looks like they visited Crystal River at that time. There are 1,000’s of photos from all over the country on this SD card that I am sure this family is missing terribly,” the group wrote on the Facebook post.

**PLEASE HELP US FIND THE OWNER** We found an Olympus camera today while swimming with the manatees. The camera was...

Posted by Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours on Tuesday, April 20, 2021

“Help us use the power of social media to help them get their memories back,” Plantation Adventure Center urged.

So far tips are filling the post’s thread.

One guy has a T shirt for a Pittsburgh-based cycling club. The hiking photos look like they could have been taken in the Appalachian region too.

Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours found an Olympus camera in Florida’s Crystal River on April 20, 2021. The camera was corroded but its SD card was intact and there were thousands of photos dated from 2012 to 2014. The group hopes to find the people pictured in these images.
Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours found an Olympus camera in Florida’s Crystal River on April 20, 2021. The camera was corroded but its SD card was intact and there were thousands of photos dated from 2012 to 2014. The group hopes to find the people pictured in these images.

Try right clicking on one of the images on the SD card and look at the Properties. If the camera had GPS turned on, the coordinates will be included with the Properties.

That Olympus put up a fight and had to be broken into to access its SD card. But alas, that tip didn’t pan out. “Tried that trick. No luck,” the group responded.

Another person suggested the Facebook group Found Cameras and Orphan Pictures that tries to locate and reconnect people with their lost memories.

Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours found an Olympus camera in Florida’s Crystal River on April 20, 2021. The camera was corroded but its SD card was intact and there were thousands of photos dated from 2012 to 2014. The group hopes to find the people pictured in these images.
Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours found an Olympus camera in Florida’s Crystal River on April 20, 2021. The camera was corroded but its SD card was intact and there were thousands of photos dated from 2012 to 2014. The group hopes to find the people pictured in these images.

Maybe a Catholic Newman Center at one of the Pittsburgh colleges or universities.

Some of the photos featured three teens in a music room, and another person tipped Plantation to a Facebook page called Jacob & Forrest that featured musicians that may look like some of the teens pictured in many of the recovered photos.

Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours found an Olympus camera in Florida’s Crystal River on April 20, 2021. The camera was corroded but its SD card was intact and there were thousands of photos dated from 2012 to 2014. The group hopes to find the people pictured in these images.
Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours found an Olympus camera in Florida’s Crystal River on April 20, 2021. The camera was corroded but its SD card was intact and there were thousands of photos dated from 2012 to 2014. The group hopes to find the people pictured in these images.