When Martin Burley and Fen Jeremias tied the knot last year, they had no idea their wedding festivities would go out with such a bang — literally.
The couple got married on Feb. 20, 2011 and left their home in a suburb of Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city, for a honeymoon at nearby Governors Bay. They returned on the morning of Feb. 22. But just an hour after they walked in their front door, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake rocked the Christchurch area, forcing the newlyweds to evacuate, stuff.co.nz reported.
A total of 185 people were killed in the earthquake, which caused more than $12 billion in damage, making it one of the Pacific nation’s costliest natural disasters.
A few days after the quake, the couple realized they had lost their camera, which contained more than six months of photos and included shots of their wedding and honeymoon, at some point during their evacuation. With their driveway covered in silt and debris up to waist level, they assumed the catastrophe had swept away the camera after it fell out of a bag they had hastily packed. The couple told stuff.co.nz they accepted the loss, though they were “gutted.”
“We said, ‘OK, there’s nothing we can do about it,'” Burley said. “We just put it out of our minds and carried on.”
But almost two years later, Burley and Jeremias received a late wedding present. On Oct. 17, Burley was walking down the driveway after a period of bad weather when he noticed something familiar emerging out of the mud. It was the camera, corroded, buckled and covered with silt. Overjoyed, Burley scrubbed the mud from the camera and retrieved the memory card, hoping to recover the photos, ITV reported.
“I really didn’t expect to find it there at all. Everyone’s pretty amazed,” Burley told stuff.co.nz. “I thought even though it was dead as a camera, maybe I can get the memory card out of it.”
Although Jeremias was “pessimistic” about salvaging the images, after two tries, her husband was able to retrieve all 2.5 gigabytes of photos.
“It was one of those ‘wow’ moments,” Burley told ITV. “I thought these had gone forever…[it’s] a special day for both of us.”