A mystery stretching back more than three decades, in which plastic phones modeled after iconic cartoon cat Garfield have been washing up on French beaches to the ongoing curiosity of locals, has finally been solved, CBS News reports. For over 30 years, the bright orange landline phones have appeared in the surf and sand along the French coast to be picked up by beach cleaners along the northern beaches.
“Our association has existed for 18 years and in that time we have found pieces of Garfield telephones almost each time we clean,” said Claire Simonin, who is the head of Ar Viltansou, a local beach cleaning team. In all that time, and even before, no one knew where the phones were coming from or how they ended up in the ocean in the first place.
Some light was finally shed on the puzzling mystery recently when a local resident claimed he had some information. He said that in the 1980s, he had discovered a shipping container wedged in a partially submerged cave that was accessible only at low tide.
According to Simonin, her group investigated and it quickly appeared that their informant was correct.
“We found this incredible fissure that is 100 feet deep and at the very bottom, there were the remains of a container.”
Beneath some boulders that marked the entrance to the cavern, they located 23 complete Garfield handsets.
Since the 1980s, hundreds of Garfield phones washed up in France and no one knew why.
Until now. https://t.co/AZtVw57vx5
— VICE (@VICE) March 29, 2019
However, according to Fabien Boileau, director of the Iroise Marine Nature Park, the mystery isn’t necessarily fully solved, considering that to this day no one knows where the container came from.
“We have no idea what happened at the time: we do not know where it came from, what boat,” Boileau said. “And we don’t know if several containers fell into the water, or only one.”
Regardless, the discovery was the result of a concerted effort of locals to track down the source of the mysterious Garfields, with divers and other water-sports enthusiasts all keeping an eye out for clues. Ultimately, it was a local farmer with a long memory who helped crack the case.
The amusing and quirky resolution to the Garfield mystery unfortunately highlights a darker reality in the exponentially increasing problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Humans currently generate more than 300 million tons of plastic annually, with some scientific forecasts predicting that there will be more plastic in the seas than fish by the year 2050. Animals living in the deepest parts if the ocean have been found with plastic remnants in their stomachs, according to research published in February, showing the extent of the pollution.