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Since the early 1980s, hundreds, possibly thousands, of bright orange Garfield phones have been washing up on beaches in the Finistère region of France. No one knew for sure from whence the famous cartoon cat came from, but over the years he became a symbol for Ar Viltansoù, a volunteer environmental group who cleaned the beaches.
Now, more than 30 years after the phones first started arriving, the mystery has finally been solved. After seeing Ar Viltansoù’s announcements about the phones, a local farmer remembered seeing a shipping container that washed up following a huge storm around the time Garfield started making his unwelcome visits.
“At the time, I was between 19 and 20 years old,” René Morvan told Franceinfo. “There was a big storm. With my brother, we saw phones everywhere on the beach. We are guys from the coast, we decided to go see.” [Translated from French]
Morvan and his brother discovered the container full of Garfield phones in a remote cave, only accessible during low tide. On March 22, he led members of Ar Viltansoù to the hidden location, finally solving the mystery. Although few around the world had known about it before, suddenly everyone was talking about the story.
the garfield phones mystery (that i didn't know existed) has been solved https://t.co/gCSqlj0tSI— Zoë Marcus (@zmarcus) March 28, 2019
There's plastic sea pollution, and then there's THE GLORIOUS SEA OF NOVELTY GARFIELD PHONES - https://t.co/S3ZwUucVZF— Dave Brain 🧠 (@Ornsack) March 28, 2019
Garfield a French plastic pollution icon as 200 phones wash up on beaches in 2018 https://t.co/Q0DvN6547D— nzherald (@nzherald) February 21, 2019
Sadly, while the mystery has been solved, the problem has not. The shipping container’s location makes it difficult to access, let alone remove. It’s also possible that more than one container was lost and it too might be casting its orange and black stripped contents into the sea. Not to mention the fact that while the Garfield phones are indeed a problem, they’re also a symbol of the more widespread problem of ocean pollution.
A quick tour of eBay shows vintage Garfield phones selling for around $40 each. Ar Viltansoù estimates that around 200 phones washed up on the beach last year alone. It’s too bad none of them are in working condition. We’re sure the environmental group could put the money to good use.
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.