RNLI Longhope involved in unusual search that generated international interest
This is a good news story of a small boy and his camera and the positive power of social media
This fascinating story starts on 2 November 2017 on the small (150 acres) island of Süderoog, in the Wadden Sea off the coast of Germany. It is a national park, bird sanctuary and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Two Coastal Protection Officers, Holger Spreer and Nele Wree, the island's only inhabitants and keen beachcombers found a waterproof camera washed up on the shore. They uploaded files from the camera's memory card to a computer and were amazed to discover that the files had survived. One video clip dated 1 September 2017 featured a young boy playing on a beach and he puts the camera, that is still filming, down on the rocks and forgets it. The last footage is of the camera being knocked into the sea by the incoming tide and being rolled about underwater. This was the start of the cameras epic 500 mile journey across the North Sea to Süderoog.
Meanwhile the footage was uploaded by Holger and Nele onto the Süderoog Facebook page where it was seen by Christian Koprek, a Coxswain in the German Maritime Search and Rescue Association (DGzRS).
I'm not sure what motivated Christian to send the link to me at RNLI Longhope Lifeboat Facebook page and ask for our help. Anyway I looked at the footage and there is a very quick and fleeting sideways glimpse of some chalk cliffs in the background where the boy is playing. Well that ruled out Orkney so I googled chalk cliffs of the east coast of Britain. One of the images I viewed seemed similar to that on the video and after studying the location where the camera was found I suggested to Christian that it could be Flamborough Head. I also posted the link to Beachcombing (British Coastline) and someone there narrowed it down to Thornwick Bay, part of the Flamborough cliffs. I immediately updated the finders and DGzRS.
The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of DGzRS then used a computer programme usually employed to calculate the location of people missing at sea, and they agreed the sea coastal stretch of Flamborough as the likely origin of the camera. They then wrote a press release about the camera and it's story so far and the possible location of where it was lost. The story was picked up by The Guardian and other national and international newspapers.
Finally, after this 12-day search, the finders have announced they have been contacted by the father of a 10 year old boy called William, from the Hull area. He explained that William lost this camera when visiting Thornwick Bay with his Nana. A friend of the family saw the article and link in The Guardian, recognised William and passed the message on.
William and his family have been invited to the island of Süderoog to collect the camera and meet the finders, which they hope to do very soon.
It's quite astonishing to be part of this wonderful story with the bizarre sequence of events, the huge amount of luck and the happy conclusion involving Coastal Protection Officers, German Maritime Search and Rescue Association, RNLI Longhope, The Guardian, various Facebook groups and the featured individuals. I hope William and his family have a great time in Süderoog and I wonder if his intrepid little camera will still work.
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.