For around three decades “Garfield” phones have been washing up on the French beaches, but a team has finally solved the intriguing puzzle. Locals had long figured that a lost shipping container was the culprit behind the novelty landline phones, which are modeled after the iconic cartoon character, that have plagued the northern Finistere beaches for years.
“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, the leader of a local beach cleaning group Ar Viltansou in Brittany.
But it wasn’t until a local resident told town leaders that he had located the container after a bad storm in the 1980s that they were finally able to locate the container, which was stuck in a rock formation and only visible during low tide.
“He told us where it was… it was very, very dangerous,” Simonin told AFP after an expedition was sent to track it down.
“We found this incredible fissure that is 100 feet deep and at the very bottom, there were the remains of a container.”
“Under the boulders in front of the entrance, we found 23 complete handsets with electronics and wires. They were everywhere,” she added.
But the strange story, first reported by the France Info public broadcaster, is not fully solved yet.
“We have no idea what happened at the time: we do not know where it came from, what boat,” said Fabien Boileau, director of the Iroise Marine Nature Park in Finistere. “And we don’t know if several containers fell into the water, or only one.”
The hilarious character Garfield, first created by illustrator Jim Davis in the late 1970s, has since brought on a television show, a film series starring Bill Murray as the voice behind the witty cat, and a merchandising line that brings in hundreds of millions annually.
The findings in France showcase the problem of plastic pollution, which has become the subject of a major global environmental campaigns over the past few years. The world currently creates more than 300 million tons of plastics annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic items floating around in our oceans, scientists have estimated. Some scientists say that there will be more items of plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
Container ships that come in from Asia (such as the one carrying the Garfield toys) and elsewhere travel directly by the northwestern coast of France as they head to the large European ports of Calais, Antwerp or Rotterdam.
In March, the barge “Grande America” sank 300 kilometers west of the town of La Rochelle, and it spilled 2,000 cars and 365 shipping containers into the ocean, 45 of which held dangerous materials.