Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 15:38 UK

QM2 couple reunited with camera lost in the Atlantic

Barbara Gregory seen posing on the QM2 with the QE2 in the background
Mrs Gregory was seen on the deck of the QM2, with the QE2 behind

A cruise ship passenger who dropped her camera into the Atlantic ocean has been reunited with her holiday photographs.

Fourteen months after it fell overboard from the QM2 between New York and Southampton in 2008, it was caught in the trawler net of Benito Estevez.

The fisherman from Vigo in Spain found that the camera was ruined, but the memory card was intact.

A search to find the owner led to Barbara Gregory, from South Africa, who went to Spain to collect it in person.

Mrs Gregory and her husband Dennis, who live in Johannesburg, travelled to Vigo to meet the fisherman earlier this week.

The deep concern of Benito to find us, and the effort that he went to, is beyond the normal call of human duty
Barbara Gregory

"It's too big a thing to sit a million miles away at home and just say thank you by email," she explained on the dockside in Vigo.

The couple were there as Mr Estevez came ashore from another trip into the Atlantic.

Online forum

As the crew unloaded crates of fish, she said: "The pictures were of our silver wedding anniversary trip of a lifetime. But once it falls to the bottom of the Atlantic you just give up on it.

"The fact that he dredged it from the sea bed is almost miraculous. But beyond that the deep concern of Benito to find us, and the effort that he went to, is beyond the normal call of human duty."

Mr Estevez and his friend Fernando posted a note on Cruise Critic, an American online forum for cruise enthusiasts.

From there the ship was recognised by BBC South Transport Correspondent Paul Clifton, who was also on the dockside in Vigo to complete the story.

Benito Estevez
Mr Estevez believed it was destiny that the camera had been found

He said: "We had filmed the start of this voyage, as Queen Mary 2 sailed with QE2 on her last ever transatlantic trip from Southampton.

"The chances of this chain of events happening were tiny. For the camera to be caught in a fishing net, and for the memory card to work, and then for the owner to be traced across three continents, is extraordinary.

"A friend of Barbara's was watching BBC South Today at home in Oxford and got in touch.

"The story was reported all round the world, with hundreds of thousands of people following the search for Barbara online.

"A happy ending had seemed so astonishingly unlikely."

On the dockside, Mrs Gregory hugged Mr Estevez. He speaks no English and she does not speak Spanish. But the lost camera has led to a most surprising new friendship.

"I was so excited," he said in Spanish.

"I looked for the owner of the pictures because I thought how I would feel if I lost some important memories. And now we have met Barbara and Dennis, I am so happy."

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