GoPro Hero 5 Found After 9 Months in the Ocean

I started freediving last year and wanted to share the experience. Naturally a GoPro is the way to do it. My GoPro Hero 5 didn’t need a case to be waterproof and had plenty of video quality for YouTube and Facebook videos. A perfect small camera for the job.

And then I lost it.

Scene of the incident

February 9, 2020 diving off a small beach near where I live I flipped up my mask to clear it. The headstrap the GoPro was on popped off my head and sank to the bottom. Not a big deal I thought. I knew where it came off. I was only in a few metres of water. This has happened before and I’ve found it.

Except I couldn’t this time.

I had already been in the water 30 minutes. I spent 30 more trying to find it. Frustrated that I couldn’t find the damn GoPro in a few metres of water near the shore, I got out to warm up. With some hot coffee and food in my belly, I hopped back in the water for another 40 minutes.

Still nothing.

Knowing exactly where it came off within a few square metres made it all the more frustrating. I looked under every seaweed leaf and in every rock crack.

Nothing.

I had never spent more time in the ocean in February. Shivering and blue, I gave up and got out. I couldn’t believe I had just lost a camera I was using so much, that I had worked hard to purchase, that I had just been thinking that morning, “I wonder if I should tie this to my mask in case it falls off again?”

Driving home, I realized there would be an extremely low tide that night. I had been diving at high tide and that location would be dry that midnight.

With a nearly full moon and the brightest headlamps I have, I headed back to the beach to hopefully rescue my GoPro. With the tide just over a foot, everything was dry where I had been swimming before. The moon light up the fine sand and the wet rock as I combed over every inch on the rocky spit near I had been diving that day. I walked the sandy beach. I moved all the rocks and peered into all the cracks.

1:30 am I had to give up. The tide was starting to come in. I hadn’t seen anything, not even a hint of a GoPro strap or a glint of the moon off the LCD screen. Nothing

Weeks later, I had all forgotten about it. Plans were made to get another GoPro. The 5 was lost at sea.

November 2020

November 11, 2020 I was scrolling through my many emails and spot one from that came through the contact form of this website. I love getting emails from you guys. They’re always about cool trips and cool gear. This was had a different subject than I normally see.

“Found your GoPro 5.”

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What? That’s ridiculous, it went into the ocean 9 months ago. It must be spam or a cruel joke from someone in the Facebook group I had posted in asking if anyone had seen it.

Not a joke.

Some amazing people had been walking the beach at high tide and spotted it in the sand. 9 months later.

They took it home and knew to put it in rice to try to dry it out. Good luck with that 9 months later, but I had heard that the card could be saved sometimes. Maybe I could get it out and see the videos of it falling. The camera would be toast but maybe it showed where it fell and at least I could solve the mystery of where it had fallen.

I arranged to pick it up on their doorstep (staying distanced and all) and left it to decontaminate for a few days (again, COVID and all). The card looked brand new. Hardly a mark.

The GoPro had sand in every hole, in every hinge, around the lens. The lens was scratched from being dragged through the sand but not broken. The back LCD wasn’t even broken. For something that had been in the ocean and sand for 9 months it looked in pretty good shape.

I stuffed it into the computer to see what I could recover from the microSD card that had spent 9 months in the ocean in a GoPro. Every picture and every video was there. The SD card was in perfect shape.

Digging through the footage, I pulled up the last minute I had it. One minutes it’s on my head, the next it’s falling and touches lightly down in the sand. It doesn’t look like fell behind a rock or under some massive seaweed leaf. Just in the sand. I spent an hour looking for it after that.

I was hoping seeing the footage would clear up why I couldn’t find it. Show exactly where it landed so I could forgive myself for not find it that day. Nope. It was just in the sand and I completely missed it for an hour after.

I still can’t believe the card was still good. I had heard of cards being retrieved from GoPros after and the footage being good. It was protected by the GoPro but still. How does water not get into electrics after that long in the water and sand. I’ve found other action cameras in the water and on the beach before and their long gone, parts hanging off, water in every port and crevice.

For a lark, I tried to get the battery back in and see if I could charge it. The GoPro was toast but I figured I’d keep it just because the story was crazy. First I had to see if it would charge.

I put in the battery that had been in it and plugged it in and the light didn’t come on. Yup, it’s toast. I went for lunch.

I came back to my computer after lunch. The light was on. That’s insane. 9 months in the ocean and sand and the light still works. I’m impressed GoPro. The light went off a short while later. Now it must be dead. One final breath and and then it’s gone. I grabbed it and went to tell my wife that the light had come on.

We can’t come this far and not test the whole thing. The damn thing turned on. The screen turned on. I could set the options. I could record to the SD card. The lens is scratched to hell, the ports and doors are crunchy with sand but after 9 months in the ocean and sand the damn thing still works.

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