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A man jumped into the Charles to retrieve his lost phone. He found 11—but not his.

Some of the rescued phones still turn on, and the finders are working to find the owners. 

John Anastos after diving and recovering phones from the bottom of the Charles River Sept. 27. Photo courtesy Jennifer Abramson

What started as a simple paddleboarding date on the Charles River ended up with John Anastos getting up close and personal with the muck, gunk, and surprising number of phones at the bottom of the river. All in all, in a bid to rescue his phone, Anastos recovered 11 phones, none of which belonged to him.

Anastos and Jennifer Abramson had just returned from a paddleboarding session Tuesday night and were packing up on the Paddle Boston dock near Kendall Square.

Then, Anastos set his phone on the dock and somehow it ended up getting pushed directly into the river. 

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After a brief debate of if it was worth it to go after his phone, Anastos jumped in. (Confirming that Anastos is not originally from here, Abramson said, because what local would jump in the Charles River?) 

“Keep in mind, this was our third date, … but reading the mood I was like, ‘All right, screw it, I’m gonna go for it.’ I knew where it went in — I kind of marked it on the dock, and I jumped in from that same spot … every time,” Anastos said. “To be clear, I didn’t know how deep it was because we took a paddle and tried to see how deep it was, and I couldn’t touch the bottom.”

Anastos later approximated that the water was about 15 feet deep in the spot he was jumping. Because of the depth, every jump was an ordeal — he had to get completely out of the water, catch his breath, and psych himself back up to jump in again. Without getting back onto the dock, he would have had trouble reaching the bottom. 

“It was 9:30 at night, and it was cold,” Anastos said. “I dive down and I hit the bottom, and I’ll first say, that is the most disgusting bottom I’ve ever touched in my life. It was so gross. But I’m reaching and I immediately am just like phone after phone after phone, like I feel so much down there.”

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He averaged about one-and-a-half rescued phones for every dive, the pair said, and jumped about seven times. 

“At one point I touched one of the phones, and I just felt like, ‘Do I amputate my hand now, or what? This is disgusting and this is what John was just marinating in,’” Abramson said. “On one hand I was impressed, on the other I was like, ‘Oh you are still going.’ But he kept coming up with phones so I understand [that] it could be the next one.”

His searching radius was about three feet, Anastos said, so the fact that he quickly found 11 phones indicates there might be a plethora of drowned phones surrounding the dock.

“The dock is pretty big, and I gathered all of these phones from one spot,” Anastos said. “I saw where my phone went in so it’s not like I was feeling way far away from where I was jumping.”

Of the 11 rescued phones, three turned on after charging and they have successfully located the owners of two of the devices. 

One of the phones was in a waterproof case — the phone was still wet, but Anastos said he thinks the case preserved it. 

The third phone that turned on that Anastos and Abramson have yet to locate an owner for. – Photo courtesy John Anastos

Of the phones whose owners have been found, one was in the river for about a year and a month and the other had been missing for about a month.

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Anastos and Abramson were able to connect with two owners by using the medical ID feature on iPhones. 

They are still looking for the owners of one of the phones that turned on and are working with the clues they have. The phone, which turned on initially but has since stopped working, features a picture of a dog, presumably named Marshall if the background is to be believed, dressed up for a birthday party. 

“We are desperately seeking Marshall’s owners,” Abramson said. 

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