News & Opinion | March 29, 2019 2:00 pm

Mystery Solved: Why Garfield Telephones Kept Washing Ashore on a French Beach

After 30 years, the sources of the phones—a lost shipping container—was found in a nearby cliff.

Spare parts of plastic 'Garfield' phones on a beach. (Fred TANNEAU / AFP)
AFP/Getty Images

For more than 30 years, people have been finding pieces of Garfield telephones on beaches in the northwestern France, but no one knew where they were coming from or why. Sometimes locals would find the lasagna-loving cartoon cat’s bulging eyes, or just his face, or sometimes, his entire body splayed out in the sand.

Occasionally, there were stray curly wires or dial pads, showing that the pieces came from the once-popular Garfield novelty telephone, which hit the shelves in the early 1980s.

Claire Simonin-Le Meur, president of the environmental group Ar Viltansoù, told The Washington Post that she had been looking for the origin of the Garfield litter for years, because she was concerned a shipping container had sunk to the bottom of the ocean, and that the plastic would pollute the ocean indefinitely. Finally, she got a tip from a local farmer, who said there was a metal shipping container stuck inside a cliff, likely due to a bad storm that occurred during the mid-1980s.

However, this story does not have the happiest of endings. When Simonin-Le Meur and her team went to explore the shipping container, they found that, though it was indeed the source of the detritus, most of the Garfield phones were already gone, scattered about by the elements.

“Our preoccupation was to understand why we had so many Garfields everywhere. We thought it would be helpful to find the container so we can stop it. But that was unfortunately not the case,” Simonin-Le Meur said to the Post. “What we found was the remainder of the shipping container. And it was empty.”