Why is this a "sludge-cam??? It spent the previous 13 months before these photos were taken… beneath 6 feet of dirty water and a foot of black sludgy rotting vegetation at the bottom of a holding tank in a closed-down water processing plant:
These photos show it after being hosed off and set out in the hot Texas sun to dry for a day. The owner lost his grip on it when changing settings while taking photos from the catwalk over the tank. An attempt to retrieve it was unsuccessful because of zero visibility in the dark water of the tank, made even darker by disturbing the thick layer of sludge.
Over a year later I was working around the old plant and was told about the camera and decided to try to find it. I hose-clamped a garden rake to the telescoping pole on a long-handled pruning saw after first removing the saw blade. This made a crude "snag tool" for dragging along the bottom of the tank. I really didn’t need to see the tank bottom, which was invisible anyway, beneath the dirty water and sludge layer. By extending the pole saw handle, working from the catwalk, I could drag the garden rake’s toothy head across the bottom of the entire tank… even into the corners. The first twenty minutes were spent pulling out sludgy, smelly sticks and rotting leaves. Then a more careful, slow process began. The trick was to move very slowly and notice when anything on the tank bottom offered any resistance to the rake. After ten minutes I finally pulled up a sludgy broken brick… not the prize I had hoped for, but it did provide "proof of concept"… retrieving the camera might be possible. After another five minutes I finally felt a bit of resistance and carefully worked the invisible object against the tank wall and started to lift slowly, keeping pressure on the object… pushing against the wall while raising the handle. Eventually a ball of sludge with a short lanyard hanging out of it appeared, resting on the rake tines. Moving carefully to grab the lanyard, I nearly fumbled the camera back into the tank. What came next was a thorough hosing off in a bucket of water, then drying the camera. To speed the drying process along as much as possible, I removed the SD card and battery, leaving the compartment door open. The battery had corroded itself in place and had to be jimmied out with a small screw driver.
My friend told me that the camera owner was flying in from the west coast to visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. He was presented with the camera and it now sits on his desk at work. But… I was able to give him something else also. The SD card looked pretty grim. Even though it had been buttoned up in its compartment, water had infiltrated and caused an electrolytic reaction, resulting in partial delamination of the gold finger contacts. I plugged it into a spare card reader to see if it contained any images. There was no indication that a card was present… as if the card reader was plugged in, but empty. Looking at the contacts I figured that some kind of cleaning might be possible. I took a round toothpick and crushed the end to make a tiny brush-like tip. Wetting the tip and dipping it in some fine Texas dust from outside made a kind of abrasive tool. Using this to gently scrub each gold contact individually, grime and discoloration were "erased". I had to "go light" to avoid removing any gold. After rinsing and drying I tried once more to get the reader to detect the card. There was still no indication that a card was present… until I tried repeatedly removing and reinserting the card. Then… a folder appeared, containing about 90 pristine, clear, crisp images. They looked as if they had just been taken. All the EXIF data was intact. Before anything could happen to make the folder disappear… a possibility considering the card’s condition, I quickly copied the folder to the computer, then burned it to a disc. The camera owner was amazed when I told him to browse through the disc containing "mystery" images. I hadn’t yet told him about recovering the camera.
Tagged: , Canon , PowerShot S90 , corrosion , corroded , lost , D60 , Nikon , Newcastle , Texas , Young County , water plant