MADISON, Wis. -- It's said the things we lose have a way of coming back to us, but it might not be in the way we expect.
That saying turned out to be true for a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate.
The Four Lakes Scuba Club does about four cleanup dives per year as part of a public service.
"We target things that are bad for the environment," Ellen Evans, the club's president, said. "That's things like plastic bags, plastic cups, plastic bottles, electronics.”
On these cleanup dives, club members find all kinds of items one would never think would end up at the bottom of the lake. Divers have found furniture, bikes, a stove, bowling balls -- just to start the bizarre list.
"I just try to imagine, 'What were people doing that this ended up in the water?'" Evans said. "Usually I can't come up with a good explanation on how it got here."
What started as a surprising discovery under the waves of Lake Mendota on Sunday would eventually lead to a detective mission for campus police.
On their dive, Evans said they made a routine discovery when coming across an Apple iPhone that still worked.
"We find phones, we always try to charge them up. A lot of times they aren't functional, but occasionally they are," she said. "We charged it up and it came on."
The dive club handed the phone off to the UW-Madison Police Department in hopes of returning it to the owner.
A spokesperson for the department said a detective was able to get inside the phone, which led them to Ellie Eisenberg.
Eisenberg, who recently graduated from UW-Madison, said she lost the phone while her and her friends were out on a boat in the summer of 2022.
Eisenberg said that means the phone was missing for nearly a year.
"I got a new phone because I thought, 'Who would even find it? Who would you call for that?'" she said.
When campus police contacted her, Eisenberg was shocked.
"I picked up the phone, it was a 608 number, and I was like, 'Okay?' It was the UW-Madison Police Department, and I was like, 'Uh oh, that can't be good," she said. "I dropped my phone in a lake a full year ago off of a boat and thought it was gone forever, and I got the call and here it was."
The unexpected comeback brings back even more questions than when it was originally lost.
"Now I'm like, 'What's below me? I have no idea,'" Eisenberg said. "Maybe I should go out there looking and get myself a little scuba set and join the club out there."
Evans with the scuba club said people should be aware of the trash and junk that their organization helps clean up and urges people to look out for scuba divers below the surface through their identifiable dive flags, like those pictured.
"Out of sight is not out of mind," she said. "We'd really appreciate it if people know what a dive flag is and stay away, as that means divers are in the area.
Evans provided the following list of items the team has found underwater:
- Green card
- Empty cash register drawer
- Bowling balls
- Golf balls
- Toilet Tank
- Laundry carts
- Street signs
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