When Captain Robert Webster, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Galveston, boarded the Carnival Magic to return a lost camera to its owner Nina Banks in Grand Cayman, it was the culmination of an incredible journey that began more than two years ago.
While strolling along the shores of Galveston, Dr. Thomas Linton – a marine sciences professor at Texas A&M University at Galveston and Webster’s advisor — came across an underwater camera and really didn’t think too much about it. After removing the camera’s memory card and developing the photos, Linton began a painstaking process of determining where the images were taken. The words “Grand Cayman” in one of photos provided Linton with a starting point to research the origin of the camera so he contacted Det. Rick McCullor from Galveston Police Department’s forensics division to assist in tracking down the owner.
Linton and Webster theorized that the camera may have rested atop some Sargassum seaweed slicks and sailed all the way from Grand Cayman to Galveston Island. The camera’s trail offered Linton a unique opportunity to study the weather and current patterns that allowed the camera to travel atop the seaweed some 1,200 miles from the Caribbean Sea to the Gulf of Mexico without dropping to the bottom. For years, Linton and other researchers have tracked Sargassum’s movement by satellite imagery but the lost camera incident provided an authentic example of their movement and flow.
After more than two years, Captain Webster and his wife Bonnie boarded the Carnival Magic to return the lost camera to its original owner, Nina Banks, a longtime resident of Grand Cayman, completing an incredible and amazing adventure.
Thanks to the Texas A&M at Galveston team for sharing this unforgettable story and to the Carnival Magic team for facilitating the camera’s return!