Flickr's digital detectives
Last year, Nicholas Filippelli, a U.S. oil executive, lost his Olympus digital camera while exploring some Bronze Age ruins in Scotland. He’d forgotten all about it, until he got a call recently from Rhonda Surman, who had found the camera and traced it back to Filippelli—which wasn’t easy. The camera contained no personal information, so Surman posted several of its digital images on the photo-sharing site Flickr. Combing the images for clues, including a distant skyline and a house, Surman and other Flickr users eventually connected the camera to Filippelli. “When we found out about everything that went into tracking us down and understood how far she went, that was really touching,” said Filippelli, who sent Surman flowers.

A canine Robinson Crusoe
A dog that fell overboard as her owners sailed through rough seas off Australia in November survived and has been reunited with the family. “Sophie Tucker,” an Australian cattle dog, managed to swim five nautical miles to St. Bees Island, near the northeast Queensland coast. There, rangers who routinely patrol the island found her living on a diet of baby goats. Though Sophie had reverted to a feral state on the island, snarling at strangers and refusing to take food offered to her, she immediately recognized owner Jan Griffith. “She started whimpering and banging the cage,” Griffith said, “and they let her out and she just about flattened us.”

Message in a bottle found in Spokane River
Darin Winkler was walking along the banks of the Spokane River when he spotted an antique bottle with an old-fashioned cork stopper. Inside was a pencil-written note dated March 30, 1913, requesting that the finder contact Emmett Presnell of Rockford, Wash. By sleuthing on the Internet, Winkler determined that Presnell died in 1978 after a long career as a homesteader. Presnell’s 86-year-old nephew, Tom, thinks his uncle launched the bottle out of curiosity while tending cattle on the banks of nearby Rock Creek or Hangman Creek.