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Garfield phones beach mystery finally solved (bbc.com)
320 points by fpoling 56 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 122 comments

Climbing down the slippery rocks to the cave, the team spotted remnants of a destroyed shipping container - and soon, between the rocks, Garfield phones - in a more complete condition than any found before them.

This sounds like a Nancy Drew book in real life.

> The media attention on the new campaign, however, drew the eye of a local farmer who remembered the first téléphone Garfield appearing after a storm in the early 1980s, when he was a young man.

> He also knew the location of the container - in a secluded sea cave accessible only at low tide.

So they've been dealing with this mystery for almost 40 years and this guy knew where the problem was coming from the entire time?

It's been my experience that a lot of seeming mysteries are solved only by the person with the mystery talking to the right person. And the right person could be anyone with an observation.

It happens in Engineering all the time too, where you talk to the one user in ten-thousand who happens to have a keen eye for the exact sequence of events on the display, and their careful recitation of the sequence of frames on the display is enough for you to piece together the system state at the time of a failure.

It's rare that engineers talk to users, and it's probably equally rare for environmentalists to talk to individual farmers looking for information.

It's not even "one in ten thousand", I think more often it's just that the people who don't know assume that no one else knows either and don't bother properly asking around.

Or the people that know think the reason is obvious and will probably get fixed soon so don't brother reporting the issue and what they believe is causing it

Or every time we ask users we get "just fix it" and "I click the thing and it breaks" style answers.

That’s exactly right. There are so, so many events in the world never captured in a durable format that only a few people know, and if you don’t ask them in time, that knowledge is simply gone.

This is a microcosm of why the information age has been one crazy miracle after another.

This is a microcosm yes, but I think a darker one of how the complexity of society has increased without a corresponding increase in coordination to manage it.

You can think of there being interaction and coordination graphs with the same nodes. Both are getting bigger (more nodes) and denser (more edges). But the interaction one is getting denser faster.

tl:dr 50/100 years ago it would have been harder to talk to the fisherman, but also way less trash in the ocean to ask about.

Has the guy been sitting on this information without alerting like any environmental agencies or anyone of the sort?

As far as I know, farmers aren't under some duty to report concerning phone mysteries or whatever. Also, a lot of "commoners" aren't exactly deemed credible and may also not know who on earth they should report anything to.

Until this became a big campaign with a point of contact and so forth, he probably had no hope of getting any real action, even if he had put it all together mentally and tried to harangue authorities into checking out his theory.

if he saw this as a young man/child, chances are it was cool and interesting, but informing law enforcement/environmental agencies was not top of mind.. its only when you cross paths with some other bit of information, your memory triggers, and now as an adult, you might think to speak up.

Suprised there was no mention of the Lego spill: "Nearly 4.8 million Lego toy parts fell overboard from the Tokio Express container ship in a storm off Land's End on 13 February 1997." https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28582621

I'm more surprised they didn't mention the rubber ducks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendly_Floatees

For Lego aficionados, that's about $499,207.34 worth of pieces.

So $100 raw plastic cost then

Manufacturing cost for Lego pieces is relatively high, though, given the effort they put into keeping precise amounts of 'clutch power' for every brick.

This becomes clear when you use any of the cheaper alternatives.

Yeah I tried it once, buying off-brand legos from Ebay. It's truly night and day in terms of quality.

Actually they're getting much better. I bought some off-brand Lego from aliexpress a couple of years ago, and apart from the lack of branding I can't tell the difference, even after two years of use.

Yeah, the reviews say offbrand tires are absolute crap but that is only element that has noticeable quality issues. Not so sure about electronic/pneumatic.

Not true nowadays, e.g try COGO. I'd say, the grip is even stronger compared to Lego, even after long time use.

I wonder how much the Garfield phones will fetch if sold on eBay.

Just think of the patina, the history and the kudos. Perfect gift. I would buy one if I had a landline.

We have something like that in Brazil, but with cans of weed floating at the beach through the whole summer.


> cans of weed

By which, the OP means "marijuana".

> "marijuana"

By which, the OP means "WEED".

This post just makes me sad. It is a sad reminder of just how long lived the plastic in our oceans is. And as a species we are still not doing enough to stop this.

Is it far fetched to think that plastic is one of the most damaging inventions of the 20th century? I imagine it will be affecting us for hundreds of years. Banning single use plastics seems like a no brainer to me at this point.

I think plastic is a true miracle invention. Aviation, medicine, technology, there probably isn't an area where we haven't benefited from this great material. Used properly, it's not a problem.

What is damaging is the brute ugliness of modern materialism. We don't just use plastic to manufacture surgical tools, we use it to make plastic toy that we ship halfway round the world to give away with an equally repugnant 'happy meal' from McDonalds. Then we throw it away (hopefully into a bin) along with all its plastic wrapping.

That's not to say I don't agree with you - I massively support a ban on throw away plastic too (and more). I just think we need to be careful about demonising plastic as a material.

Alternatively, ban non recyclable/biodegradable garbage. Make the suppliers take back refuse as condition for selling, no longer can suppliers think of the waste as externalised cost.

Quickly, distributor countries would solve garbage problem as every country returns plastic, metal, tires, etc that is not biodegradable/recycable. As we saw, some countries absolutely does not want to deal with the garbage from other countries that goods are shipped to. They know it costs so much to deal with that it's better for other countries to internalise the cost.

You would still have your plastic benefits and without worrying about the impact on environment.

The Onion had a great article title about this. "Child amused for 3 minutes by toy that will take 1,000 years to biodegrade".

> most damaging inventions of the 20th century?

It would be impossible to say, without knowing the numbers - both of damage, as well as constructive, healing, or life-saving purposes.

For instance - think of all the things plastics have made possible, that no other material is capable of (or works as well). I'm thinking things like medical implants, as well as more mundane things like adhesives and tapes, and products based on those - for instance, how much infection have bandaids helped to prevent?

Then there's clothing, automotive interiors lessening injury in accidents, as well as use as a material that is lighter weight to lower fuel consumption for a variety of vehicles, among other uses.

I don't think you can paint plastics completely in a terrible light, just like you can't nuclear radiation, and any number of other things.

At worst, they are all double-edged swords, and we must as a species either decide to get rid of them entirely, or learn to use them properly. In the case of plastics, I doubt that the former will be the route we take for a variety of reasons - mainly though because their benefits seem to far outweigh their detriments (unless and until we have hard numbers for both, though, that's as unsupported as your original proposed claim - but it seems like that's what we've mostly decided).

So we need to learn how to better process and manufacture them, how to better manage their shipping and transportation, and how we dispose or recycle them (whatever that ultimately means).

I guess it raises the question, damaging to whom? Humans as a whole are certainly better off, at least for now, because of plastics. The natural world, however, is much worse off. Not just because of the direct results of plastic pollution, but also all the extra economic activity and human life saved you mention. All of that has lead to pollution and habitat destruction.

So it's a question of ultimate values.

There's enough important applications for single use plastics (keeping medical equipment sterile before use, for example) that I'd hate to see an outright ban.

However, I think we should be seriously be considering a cap-and-trade approach to managing it.

This could also be a tool to get corporations to use recycled material effectively. Post-consumer recycled material could either not count against the quota, or could be counted at a different rate than "virgin" plastic.

I'll be somewhat contrarian to the popular view, and say that making things biodegradable is even worse because it's essentially planned obolescence; the manufacturers continue to consume resources for producing products which are guaranteed to self-destruct.

The real problem is that people don't seem to appreciate just how amazingly durable plastics are (or the companies try to dissuade that in order to ensure their revenue stream...), and instead waste them carelessly.

If you were suffering from a life threatening illness or injury, would you choose to go to a hospital that refused to use any plastics?

> Is it far fetched to think that plastic is one of the most damaging inventions of the 20th century?

Well, given the vast range of utility and the fact that plastics have been in use for over 3000 years, probably (both the word “plastics” as a label for them and fully synthetic plastics are early 20th century inventions, though.)

Plastic in ocean gives extreme insensitive to bacteria or other life forms to come with way to consume it for energy. If something will come up with necessary enzymes and reactions, then not only we will end up without plastic, but perhaps without oil as well in a world polluted by byproducts of that plastic consumption that may not be compatible with human life.

> Plastic in ocean gives extreme insensitive to bacteria or other life forms to come with way to consume it for energy.

That's just not very likely to happen from a basic chemistry point of view.

Plastic tends to be quite stable--that's the whole point. However, that stability means that there is almost nothing to be gained by breaking plastic down--certainly not energy. And, in the ocean, practically everything plastic could provide when broken down is far more abundant and easier to access by other means.

Consequently, there is no good reason to evolve the ability to consume plastic.

Plastics burns and releases a lot of energy during that process. In that regard its energy density is similar to wood. The problem is that compared with cellulose the life has not figured out how to harvest the energy of plastic oxidation at the room temperature. But there is no law that prevents that.

Given that amount of plastic waste that humans put into the ocean is already on the scale comparable with a mass of a lot of fish species, an organism that can consume it can have a nice evolutionary advantage.

> > Plastic in ocean gives extreme insensitive to bacteria or other life forms to come with way to consume it for energy.

> That's just not very likely to happen from a basic chemistry point of view.

Actually, it has already happened (DOI 10.1126/science.aad6359, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6278/1196). However, do note that there are many types of plastic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic#Types) - the linked article is about degradation of PET specifically.

And, yet, that bacterium isn't consuming and breaking down all the PET around it (It was isolated outside a bottling facility, after all. It should spread like wildfire.).


Because the energy expended to break down the plastic means that it is outcompeted by the bacteria who get their materials by other means unless plastic is the only thing available.

In the ocean, there is always lots of other things available.

Perhaps this will turn out like the evolution of lignin-modifying enzymes, but those took a LONG time to come about even while lignin is far less stable than most plastics.

do Garfield phones count as single use?

What usage lifetime justifies the total lifetime of a plastic object?

> What usage lifetime justifies the total lifetime of a plastic object?

Probably depends on if you're having to justify it to someone who wants to 100% ban all plastic or someone who wants a silly phone simply because they like Garfield.

I'm not sure, but you could definitely put a dollar price on cleanup, and it wouldn't be super high for something like a landline phone.

The value of reusable plastic devices in a pollution sense is less that the device will be ~20 years older by the time it's thrown away, but rather that there will be so much less plastic used overall than if disposable devices were used for that purpose for that time.

Who would want to use a Garfield phone more than once?

Plastic that's been buried in a landfill won't show up in the ocean. Plastic that's been burnt in incinerators won't show up in the ocean. As this story shows, if plastic finds its way into the ocean, it's because people had loaded it onto ships and dropped it there.

No, cars are. A million people directly killed every single year, another million killed by pollution. Roads everywhere. Killing animals. Huge industry polluting. Mining. Oil. Oil spills. etc...

Not to bring this thread down too much, but it reminded me of a sadder mystery: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salish_Sea_human_foot_discover.... Hopefully it gets solved as well.

Simple, suicides or drownings.

People die in the water wearing running shoes.

Then most of the body decomposes, but the feet stay in the shoes, which float on the surface due to the buoyant cushy soles (often containing air bladder cushions).

Sure - that's a reasonable hypothesis, but as the Wikipedia article notes, there are other potential explanations. The level of rarity section speaks to the decomposition process as well as the likelihood of finding feet without other body parts.

you'd think with the new dna 'matching random dna leads to that person's relatives' that keeps happening would lead us to identify some of those remains.

Sadly, this problem will only get exponentially worse. Those phones were from 30 years ago. Considering how much the population and consumerism has grown since then, I imagine in 30 years this will be a relatively common type of manmade disaster.

You should be more concerned that global CO2 emissions rose last year more than that emitted from air travel, and we’re nowhere near hitting 2C by 2100 (closer to 4C).

IMO both problems are similarly serious. Phytoplankton are responsible for producing at least half of the world's oxygen (50-85% depending on who you ask) and at the moment they are under constant threat, as they tend to consume plastic microparticles (not to mention are under heavy stress from the ever-increasing levels of noise pollution from e.g. fracking, oil exploration, shipping, etc).

If the global temperature rises a few degrees, the consequences will be catastrophic, but I somehow think we as a species will somehow survive (albeit many many many people will likely die).

Whereas if in 50 years there is 50-85% less oxygen in the air, I have a feeling that humans will be in a considerably worse position.

But who am I to kid, both events are likely going to happen and we will soon learn the meaning of Fermi's "Great Filter".

> Phytoplankton are responsible for producing at least half of the world's oxygen (50-85% depending on who you ask) and at the moment they are under constant threat, as they tend to consume plastic microparticles

Phytoplankton gain energy by photosynthesis, so how would they consume plastic microparticles (most of which are probably larger than the plankton)?

It's more complicated than that.

I can't find any good sources right now but here's some information[0] (with references to NASA and MIT). Here's one relevant bit:

> Along with sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, phytoplankton require a variety of other nutrients from the water including nitrogen, phosphorous and iron. The most important are nitrogen and phosphorous which are essential to survival and reproduction. Nitrogen is in short supply in some areas but in other areas, phosphorous is limited. Phytoplankton cannot continue to grow when one or the other has been used up.

[0]: https://sciencing.com/phytoplankton-eat-5065524.html

Yes, but the way they absorb those nutrients is by having dissolved ions pass through their cell membranes, just like land plants do it. That's not the kind of "eating" I'd associate with the consumption of plastic particles. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus from waste water are a problem, but mostly by causing too much growth at the expense of other organisms.

Are you saying that nanoparticles of plastic couldn't ever be small enough for "ingestion"?

I'm having trouble finding references to support my claim, other than phytoplankton attaching themselves to plastic particles, which are then consumed by zooplankton, or plastic particles blocking sunlight thereby preventing photosynthesis, but nothing about actual plastic "consumption".

Think about what plastic actually is on a molecular level: it's the exact same atoms that make up all of life. (Carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, rarely chlorine.)

So if anything the plastic might be beneficial, assuming that it's able to decompose it and absorb only those atoms it actually needs as nutrients.

That's kind of what the person you are replying to is saying: if the plant is absorbing it, it's obviously been decomposed into its constituents and is actually beneficial to it.

It doesn't work the same as it does for an animal that eats in the standard way you use the word eat.

Thanks for the clarification. I get now what you both are saying and I welcome the uplifting alternative viewpoint.

I was a bit confused (and at work) before but I was originally thinking of some species of dinoflagellates[0] who hunt/absorb/engulf prey (which I assumed to be larger than atoms), granted they are the exception. I could only find a study which noted higher concentrations of varying plankton/organisms (some dinofl.) near plastic[1] and partially related, on land some lifeforms were found to process PET bottles[2]. Life will hopefully find a way to process our trash before the ecosystem collapses ;)

[0]: http://oceandatacenter.ucsc.edu/PhytoGallery/dinos%20vs%20di...

[1]: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1...

[2]: https://phys.org/news/2016-03-newly-bacteria-plastic-bottles...

More generally: Leibig's Law of the Minimum.


> not to mention are under heavy stress from the ever-increasing levels of noise pollution from e.g. fracking, oil exploration, shipping

Wow, is this really a thing? Got any links on the subject? I wouldn't have thought that they could perceive sound/vibration in any capacity, if only due to their limited cognition.

I should divulge that I'm working on an art/science project to raise awareness about noise and plastic pollution, but here is a small collection of links[0] to papers and articles.

I'm not a biologist (or scientist of any sort), so my knowledge and terminology is severely limited, but as I understand it, sound creates pressure waves, which if strong enough, can literally kill plankton, such as used with "air guns" for oil exploration. Here's one study[1] with a snippet from the abstract:

> Here we present evidence that suggests seismic surveys cause significant mortality to zooplankton populations.

[0]: http://noiseaquarium.com/resources/

[1]: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0195

From practical and philosophical points of view, if the container and its cargo are stuck at the bottom of the sea forever, is it really a problem?

Of course, I'm aware that random man-made things polluting the oceans is a bad thing in general, but in this specific case, if the plastic is just stuck there forever, is it still pollution in practical terms? The electronics inside the phones probably won't pass modern environmental standards (e.g. RoHS), so let's forget about the electronics for now and only focus on the plastic.

On the one hand, does the plastic release toxic chemicals in high enough concentration as it decomposes (slowly?)? On the other hand, does the container and its cargo somehow become a new shelter/habitat for certain species of marine life?

Toxic chemicals are only one aspect of pollution. AFAIK the more serious threat is from plastic decomposing into micro/nano-sized particles, which are then consumed by plankton who then perish and/or are consumed by ever-larger creatures in the food chain. Plankton are vital for our species' survival, since they produce 50-85% of the world's oxygen supply, as well as feeding all other living things in the ocean (and eventually ending up in Human stomachs).

Yea but the ocean is full of things decomposing into small particles. Rocks for one.

I don't think you should be downvoted, as it's a valid observation.

Nanoplastics concentrate toxic compounds within themselves, smuggling them past animals' defense system. This does not happen with rock. There has not been enough time for animals to evolve systems to remove nanoplastics from their bodies.

I don't doubt that microplastics are not good for the environment and organisms that consume them, but can you provide a citation for the toxin concentration claim so I can learn more about it?

The wording of the grandparent comment was sloppy.

You might try DOI 10.1039/C8NR09321K (https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2019/nr/c8nr0...).

In summary, for whatever reason it seems that nanoparticles of some plastics readily penetrate and accumulate in biological tissues. There are also chemicals that will adsorb onto these nanoparticles. This can make a chemical at a given concentration more toxic to an organism, or even potentially make something toxic that was previously not.

That was my point, to suggest that the size of the particles alone shouldn't pose a hazard, there must be more going on.

Yes but I assume that plankton are smart enough not to eat rock particles, since they have both existed for millions/billions of years and plankton have adapted to discern between edible/inedible, whereas plastic is a very recent invention and is easily mistaken as a food source.

Perhaps you need an analogy:

Consider if a company were to sell you a plastic hamburgers disguised as a real hamburgers (i.e. how advertising food products used to be before being outlawed). Now, pretend you could swallow and ingest a hamburger whole (without chewing i.e. how plankton eat). What do you think will happen to your body?

Here is a video in case you are unable to follow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beUhzQAkanM

Knowing what to eat is actually a very advanced function. There are humans that don't even know not to eat paste. Dogs that eat feces. Teenagers that eat TidePods. Plankton is at a severe disadvantage when comparing neurons.

>Dogs that eat feces.

Yet another reason why it baffles me that anyone wants one of these things as a pet.

Cats are smart enough not to eat feces, theirs or anyone else's. They're also smart enough to do their best to bury their own feces so they don't stink up your place.

That's just the toxoplasmosis talking [0], the little furry monsters have already made you their servant.

In contrast to cats, these dog "things" can actually be very useful, and extremely loyal [1], working animals.

[0] https://www.sciencealert.com/we-finally-know-how-the-mind-al...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D

It's my understanding that the dog isn't harmed by doing that, and it's just a way to recoup/find missing nutrients.

This point stands without the snark. I understand the frustration when people poopooh climate issues, but at the end of the day, nobody is served by a slapfest.

Would you please consider editing to remove the snarky jabs?

I'm not reading snark in the parent's response. Consider giving people the benefit of the doubt.

> Perhaps you need an analogy

> Here is a video in case you are unable to follow:

This is patronizing and rude.

Possibly, but in cases where someone is being willfully obtuse (which I'm not claiming is the case here, but I see it elsewhere a lot), how else are you supposed to respond? Constantly being polite when someone is being willfully contrary actually seems to result in the other person appearing to win the argument according to bystanders. We see this in politics all the time: the candidates who sling mud and make bad arguments and cite outright falsehoods win elections, while the ones who always take the high road lose.

It definitely wasn't my intention, but you're right that I could have worded it better. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, I'll pay more attention in the future.

Apologies, I honestly didn't mean to be snarky :( I'll try to watch for that in the future.

Well that's OK then. Thank god.

It's not buried at the bottom of the sea though. It's in a cave on the shore.

And the cargo is not stuck on the bottom of the sea permanently either; it's periodically washing ashore and causing ongoing pollution and litter problems.

its still polution to the life in the ocean. humans aren't the only ones inhabiting this place as you point out. (taking into account there could be any number of containers - as if one ends up there, it's likely this process of it ending up there is not unique)

"Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change."[1]

I think the above comment is questioning whether this container is causing `adverse' change. If not then I suppose this particular case wouldn't be classified as pollution.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollution

Should we consider sea snails leaving behind their shells when they die litter?

Yes, but 'litter' is not necessarily bad. Fallen leaves are 'leaf litter' for example.

The problem is not litter per se, but how it degrades over time. Shells become sand, leaves become soil. Glass becomes sea glass. Plastics become deadly blockages in animals stomachs.

If one beach had a million sea snails leaving shells behind, and the beach were cluttered with them, and it was choking out any other life on the beach, then yeah we would consider that litter.

It's the same as when sea urchins devour whole kelp forests, rendering parts of the sea floor totally barren. One or two urchins aren't a big deal but when they breed without limits they can completely destroy an ocean ecosystem. And so we kill them off when we need to to try to be good stewards of our planet.

> If one beach...

The very existence of beaches at all is the result of the overwhelming dead remains of billions of diatoms and crushed shells. I have no doubt there would be a totally different ecosystem if it weren't for their remains.

So if some organisms were naturally excreting a chemical toxic to most life on the planet, with no feedback mechanism to stop them, you'd be against that, right? Don't answer that, it's a trick question. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event

Garfields are one topic but another one is 500 meter pipes with a diameter of 2 meters.


Yeah but the pipe is all in one piece and is removed all in one go while these Garfield phones will keep showing up possibly forever

Well not any more, they go and recover the container and its remaining contents, the ones between the container and the beach will arrive and then no more phones.

From the article:

> The container remains inaccessible and it is not known how much of its cargo is sealed within it.

> In the meantime, both Ar Viltansou and local officials say they will continue to harvest Garfields from the coastline.

Fair enough. It's an engineering problem though right? I read 'inaccessible' as "it would cost too much to get to it" rather than "it's physically impossible to get to it."

Yes, but the pipe can go down and pollute the ocean for thousands of years until it's dissolved.

>Since the 1980s, the Iroise coast in Brittany has received a supply of bright orange landline novelty phones shaped like the famous cartoon cat.

>But now, the source of the problem has been found - a lost shipping container.

Isn't that the most obvious?

They also found the location of the shipping container, which is impressive

This is what the post-humanity planet looks like: broken, dirty novelty phones piling up on a beach for a hundred years.

It doesn't really seem like a mystery just the source was found.

The rubber ducky container is also interesting.

Indeed, it had to been obvious it was from a shipping container from day one.

I'm surprised nobody seem to be curious who manufactured the phones. I was waiting for some reveal: the designer was X, it was made by Y... not the main point of the article, but I'm still curious about it. In some office somewhere there's someone who shipped that container and it never arrived... who's that person? Won't be able to sleep tonight :-p

I don't understand how something can be inaccessible in this day and age. Helicopters? Boats? Submarines? Is it really impossible to retrieve the wreckage or just economically impractical?

1. It's a function of cost. None of these things are cheap.

2. It might not be possible. Helicopters will need a somewhat direct line of sight to the container (which might be tucked in a cave), boats probably won't reach (too close to the rocks#, submarines... Lol.

The only viable approach is probably by land, which means months of construction work to bulldoze whatever obstacles there are... Which brings us back to point 1, cost

Economically impractical, yes.

You can bet that if for some reason the demand for those phones, or perhaps other things we may consider just waste today, rose high enough, there would be enough incentive to recover them.

Look up "low background steel" for one notable example. CFC refrigerants are another --- what used to be cheap and freely available gases were used in large quantities and simply released to the environment, then started causing environmental problems, so production was eventually banned and the price shot up enough that recovering and recycling became profitable.

"It's bad to release it into the environment" doesn't motivate as much as "it's very valuable so don't release it into the environment even if you don't care about pollution."

Yes it's physically possible to somehow retrieve and remove the container and phones. It would also likely be absurdly expensive to do so for the gain.

It's likely cheaper, easier, and safer to simply keep picking them up off the beach as they wash ashore.

Seems like they should be able to get a team of volunteers together to go to the shipping container and remove the phones by hand so they don't keep going out into the ocean. How hard can this possibly be?

Based on the description it sounds pretty dangerous for the limited value gained from doing so. The reporter said they could see the container, but that doesn't mean it's immediately accessible.

Can they seal the container?

Maybe, I don't have enough information to answer that. My guess is doing any work in a coastal cave that is only accessible at low tide is going to be expensive and dangerous.

It's reportedly in a cave accessible only at low tide. (I only have modest swift-water experience, but that's terrifying.) Of the three options you list, the only possibility would be a boat, and it's probable that the space is too restricted to get a large enough boat and equipment to move a shipping container in. And, it's a cave, so going in from the land side would probably require mining and still be dangerous.

If you just want to prevent Garfield pollution, it would seem like the best option would be to use explosives to close the cave and pretend it never happened.

It's more than the tide. They showed in the video that the container is deeply embedded into the rock and mud. It's not just a matter of walking into it and picking up the phones. Most of it is buried.

You seem to be one of the few people here who actually read the story to the end.

They literally walk up to the container in the video in the article, it doesn't seem to be difficult to access at low time (which happens at a predictable time twice a day...)

It is buried, not easy to retrieve... but you could just pour fast setting concrete on all the openings.

i'm originally from about 20km away of that place, I remember in the 80s there used to be kid shoes and whatnot washing ashore from time to time

Contents of the article aside, this for me was the hardest to parse headline I've read on HN in a long time!

Since the 1980s, the Iroise coast in Brittany has received a supply of bright orange landline novelty phones shaped like the famous cartoon cat.


Climbing down the slippery rocks to the cave, the team spotted remnants of a destroyed shipping container - and soon, between the rocks, Garfield phones - in a more complete condition than any found before them.

"Guys, I have a prank idea involving phones...hear me out..."

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