When you think about it, we're always just one wrong move from losing or breaking a camera. An unexpected stop on a crowded train, a misstep near a storm drain, or getting a camera strap snagged can all spell disaster. Even when you're not purposefully taking your cameras on perilous journeys, you could be one slip away from losing your work and your precious memories forever.
Or maybe not?
Some cameras have been dropped out of airplanes, snatched by wild animals, and swept out to sea, yet they still somehow managed to survive. Or rather, the footage did. We've trawled the internet for the best of these survivor stories: Miraculous tales of cameras who have gone through bitter ordeals and lived to tell about it.
GoPro Survives 177-foot Waterfall
Most people would probably avoid sending a $300 camera down a waterfall, even if it's something as rugged as a GoPro. But that's exactly what this guy did. The idea was to build a camera rig that would follow an orange toy canoe over the South Falls, as part of an annual event at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon.
The event is in commemoration of daredevil Al Faussett, who was injured when he jumped the falls back in 1928. The GoPro survived the 177-foot drop without any problems, probably due to being housed in a waterproof case—an advantage Mr. Faussett was sorely lacking. Being an object of lower mass also may have helped.
Nikon D3s Tortured by French Guy
This is like watching the movie Saw, but with a pleasant French man providing running commentary. If watching someone attempting to destroy a $6,800 camera makes you squeamish, you should not watch this video.
Spoiler for those who don't have 15 minutes to spare: the camera survives. The controls are a bit melted, and it probably smells a little swampy, but the live view turned on. It then becomes psychologically warped by the traumatic experience and becomes the antagonist of the next movie in the series.
Pentax Dropped in Lake
If we were to face the nightmare scenario of dropping a camera through a storm drain or into any body of water, we would probably consider it lost forever. Greg Mather dropped his waterproof Pentax point-and-shoot into a lake in Wyoming and thought the same thing. (After all, even waterproof cameras aren't designed to withstand long-term submersion.)
The Pentax fell into Meadowlark Lake, which happened to be drained two months later. A local resident by the name of William Kumpe was out looking for coins when he stumbled upon the camera, took it home, and nursed it back to health (by letting it sit in the sun for a few days). To his surprise, the camera still worked, and its battery still had half a charge left.
The Wyoming man then looked through the photos in the still-functioning memory card, eventually tracking down the original owner in Bozeman, Montana. After contacting the local newspaper and posting it on Facebook, the Pentax and Mather were reunited, two months later and still working.
Surfer Loses GoPro in Hawaii for a Year
You think a camera being submerged for a couple of months is bad? A surfer in Hawaii lost his GoPro to a strong wave, and the hardy camera survived being submerged for about a year. When it was eventually found, it still worked.
Army chaplain Donald Eubank stumbled on the camera in 2012 during a night dive, and found 51 video clips on it. He posted images from the videos on Craigslist, and eventually identified the owner as Air Force veteran Dennis Curry, who had borrowed the GoPro from a friend and lost it in 2011.
Curry had bought a replacement for the $300 camera for his friend during the interim, having thought the GoPro was gone for good. Now that he's been reunited with it, he plans on putting it on a leash so he won't lose it again.
Canon PowerShot Goes on 6-Year Voyage
Hawaii seems to be a great place for losing cameras, as that is where this Canon PowerShot started its epic 6-year journey. It travelled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, presumably fighting sea monsters and avoiding whirlpools along the way, until it ended up in Taiwan.
An employee of China Airlines found the camera, which was still in its waterproof housing, and was able to identify its owner from the photos off the still-functioning memory card. The airline offered Lindsay Scallan, who lost the camera on a trip to Hawaii in 2007, a flight to Taiwan to be reunited with the camera in person. However, work commitments stopped her from making the trip.
Whoops, Dropped My GoPro (From 12,500 Feet)
If we're learning anything from this article, it's that GoPros are indestructible. In this video, a skydiver bumps his head on the doorframe on his way out of the plane, knocking his helmet-mounted GoPro out of its casing and sending it free-falling to the earth.
(Warning: More spin than your local laundromat)
The skydivers find it shortly after landing, undamaged, but probably dizzy. Knowing that a GoPro can survive a drop from 12,500 feet makes these guys seem less crazy. For $300, you too can get a camera that doubles as a hacky sack.
Gator Steals Camera, Returns It 8 Months Later
Water and gravity are obviously natural enemies of cameras, but there are also plenty of animals that see them as lunch. Take this story of a Florida man who was taking night-time photos at the Everglades Alligator Farm.
As if there weren't enough reasons not to use your camera's built-in flash, photographer Mario Aldecoa was attacked by a 500-pound alligator when the flash on his camera went off. The beast clamped on to the $1,300 camera, and Aldecoa decided to abandon it after a brief struggle.
Eight months later, the Florida man found a gator walking out of a pond, dragging the camera with it. It was covered in bite marks, and the LCD screen was cracked, but the memory card was still intact. Aldecoa was able to retrieve the pictures off of it, but the camera no longer worked. This is why we avoid using flash.
Sea Eagle Takes Camera for a Ride
Either cameras look like prey animals, or they're made of meat. Earlier this month, this video of a sea eagle snatching a camera and taking it for a ride went viral. If you were ever curious what the last moments of a fish or bird caught by one of these predators might look like, this video is a pretty accurate depiction.
(Warning: The Majesty of Nature)
The motion-activated camera was set up near a crocodile meat trap at Kimberley National Parks in Western Australia. It disappeared shortly after, and wasn't found again until a few months later, 70 miles away from where it was planted.
When park rangers looked at the footage, they were surprised to find that a sea eagle had stolen the camera and unwittingly recorded the heist. It even caught the bird's attempted murder on film, but the bird quickly learned that the camera is, in fact, not made of meat.
The rangers say they will be bolting down their cameras in the future. Maybe they should just stop using tasty cameras.
Hero image: Flickr user "carnivillain" (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)