A mystery which has been perplexing French litter pickers in Brittany for decades has finally been solved.
Since the 1980s, novelty landline phones, shaped like the cartoon cat Garfield, have been washing up on Brittany’s Iroise coast.
Clean beach campaigners have been collecting fragments of the handsets as they pick up debris.
Campaigners from the Ar Vilantsou anti-litter group even made the novelty phone a symbol of plastic pollution in the oceans and on local coastlines during an environmental campaign last year.
Garfield’s eyes open when the receiver is picked up, and thousands of the phones were made in the 1980s.
It had long been suspected that the phones came from a lost shipping container, which had perhaps been blown overboard.
It was a plausible assumption because at least 1,500 containers are thought to be lost by cargo ships every year.
Following the environmental campaign featuring the phones, a local farmer, René Morvan, remembered finding some when he was about 19 or 20.
He also suspected that the container was in a secluded cave that could only be reached at low tide.
“You had to really know the area,” he told Franceinfo.
“We found a container that was stranded in a fault. It was open – a lot of things were gone, but there was a stock of phones.
“At the time, there was a lot of things that came to us from the sea.”
Members of Ar Viltansou, along with Franceinfo journalists, went off to look for the container.
Climbing down rocks covered with seaweed towards a cave, they spotted pieces of the destroyed container’s shell and, wedged between some rocks, Garfield phones.
“The mystery is solved – we found our treasure,” said Dominique, a volunteer with Ar Vilantsou.
It may still not be over, however.
Claire Simonin from Ar Vilantsou said that when sea currents and the location of some of the beaches where phones were found are taken into account, it may be that more than one container fell into the sea.