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Lost At Sea
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Lost At Sea

A Class Ring is Returned After 20 Years in the Indian Ocean

It is a little worn and somewhat battered, but after more than 20 years in an underwater cave in the Indian Ocean, a class ring has made its way back into a Notre Dame College alumna’s possession.

The saga of the ring began in 1984 with Clare Cavoli Lopez ‘76, then a staffer at the United States Embassy in Port Louis, Mauritius, scuba diving in the cold waters of the Indian Ocean off of Flic en Flac, a village south of Port Louis. “The diving was beautiful, the water was clean and clear, the fish and the coral were lovely. In short, it was a perfect dive,” she recalled.

However, during the dive, about 25 to 30 meters under the ocean’s surface, her Notre Dame College class ring slipped off of her finger.
 
In January, 2007, Wilfried Thiesen, a professional diver from Kirchheim, Germany was diving in the “Cathedral,” one of the most famous dive sites off of Mauritius. He was searching for lobsters in one of the deeper parts of the cave, moving on his belly across the sandy bottom when he noticed a shine in the sand. He quickly grabbed at the item before it was lost in the shifting sand, and found a golden ring .

Thiesen, a former fighter pilot and a flight captain with Lufthansa Airlines, has been diving since 1968. Because of the travel associated with his work, he has been able to dive in locations around the world from Asia to the Caribbean. In 1986, after completing 2,000 dives, he earned his Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) License and is now the owner of Thiesen-Divers.

During his dives, Thiesen has found undersea artifacts from Greek and Roman ships as well as World War II era war ships and submarines. On this occasion, however, he said “I thought there might be a chance to find the unlucky person.” Fortunately, the owner was safely on shore, though thousands of miles away.

When he returned from his trip, Thiesen notified Notre Dame College that he had found the ring. He said that its blue stone was still intact and it had markings distinctive to the College. The sides were engraved with “BA” and “1976,” but, according to the email, the interior was “ruptured and torn out.”
 
With this brief description, the Alumni Relations Office and Christian Taske, editor of the student newspaper, Notre Dame News, began working together to track down the ring’s owner. A story about the ring was posted in the College’s faculty and staff e-newsletter and in the monthly alumni e-newsletter, Alumni e-Falcon. These articles generated interest, but no leads.

The big break in the search finally came from Maryellen Amato Stratmann, M.D. ‘76. During an interview about an unrelated subject (See Young Author’s First Book Aims to Inspire Others on page 18), Stratmann was asked if she had ever been to Mauritius. Though she had not, she did recall hearing that Lopez had spent some time there.

When contacted, Lopez enthusiastically confirmed that it was her ring. Arrangements were made to put her in contact with Thiesen to have the ring returned.

“I have long since replaced that lost NDC ring with another one which I have worn ever since,” said Lopez. “To have my own original ring back is a surprise and gift I never, ever expected.”

Steve Ruic is the writer and editor for Notre Dame College.