This morning Verne – the EL PAÍS section dedicated to finding the most surprising things on the internet – published a story about how American McGee, a videogame designer, found a GoPro camera in the sea in Thailand, and decided to launch an online search for its owner so he could send it back to him. A post on image-sharing site Imgur about the discovery went up on Thursday evening, and has since been viewed over 460,000 times.
Thanks to the photos that were on the camera’s memory card, and the help of Google Maps, McGee worked out that the owner lived in Port Sa Platja, in Valencia.
This afternoon Toni Sánchez, the owner of the camera, got in touch with Verne. “A friend called me, and asked me if I had lost a camera,” he explains. “I told him I had, but I hadn’t told him anything about it.”
That’s how Sánchez found out his face was on the homepage of the EL PAÍS website (the Spanish and English editions), where he was pictured wearing sunglasses and swimming in an idyllic spot in Thailand.
He went on to receive “15 or 20” more calls today from friends, or messages via WhatsApp that contained the link to the story.
As McGee had discovered, Sánchez lived for many years in Port Sa Platja, but now he works in Madrid. The Valencian, who is aged 38, has got in contact with the US videogame designer. “I wrote to him and sent him more photos to prove that it is me,” he explains. Sánchez will take care of the postage costs, “and I’ll take him out for lunch when he’s here.”
Sánchez lost the camera when he was snorkeling. “The battery ran out and I got distracted because it was hanging off my arm,” he says. “When we got on the boat I asked one of my friends if I had given it to him, but I hadn’t.”
The trip took place during the Songkran festival. “We did a three-day route through the north on a motorbike,” he explains. They had the GoPro because it can get wet. “Normally at this festival they throw water at you.” They were carrying more cameras, but they had lost the videos of those moments, without having back-up copies.
As for the photo he took of the Alcampo supermarket, which was a key element to the search, Sánchez explains that he’s not such a fan of the retail outlet as it may appear: it was just a test picture he took using another camera.
When he saw his vacation snaps on the internet he was a little uncomfortable to start with. “They’re normal pictures, but the feeling of being unprotected, of having no control over them… But later on I was laughing about it, particularly when I saw the jokes my friends were making. You have to take this with a sense of humor.”
While it’s the first time he’s got this kind of attention, it’s not the first time he’s lost something. “I’m really absentminded,” he admits. “I’m always losing my stuff. But I always get it back.” There’s no doubt about that…