‘Merman Mike’ scuba dives to retrieve people’s lost keepsakes in Sacramento

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Michael Pelley spends his free time underwater, retrieving people’s lost items. Photo courtesy of Michael Pelley

Michael Pelley’s is a 28-year-old construction estimator in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights. But his hobby and side hustle is scuba diving to rescue people’s lost valuables. He takes requests through Facebook and YouTube. He does it all for free. He even picks up trash while he’s down there. 

“I don’t want someone to lose something, and then they think they can’t get a hold of me because they don’t have whatever dollar amount I would put on a dive,” Pelley says.

He continues, “I’m having fun basically whenever my head goes under the water. So if I can make somebody else’s day, week, month or year by being able to return something to them by doing so, it’s a win-win for everybody, and I love that about this.”

He says his success rate is about 90%. “That’s kind of what I love about it is like getting to prove my own doubts wrong when I get to that point where I’m like, ‘Am I going to find this?’ And then I find it, and I’m like, ‘Yes! Thank you for not giving up.’”


Michael Pelley lays on a table featuring several items he found underwater. Photo courtesy of Michael Pelley

What’s the weirdest thing he just came across? A voodoo doll that was taped around a rock at the bottom of a river, he says. 

The weirdest thing someone requested he find? A $17,000 ring that belonged to the man’s late brother. It was lost in the Sacramento River. “It took multiple different attempts, but we were finally able to find it. And it was such an amazing feeling. He was almost in tears. I was in tears,” Pelley recalls. “And he actually donated the money for this metal detector as kind of a pay-it-forward. He said, ‘I want to make sure other people can have this feeling too, and be able to provide you a better means of being able to do that.’”


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— Written by Amy Ta, produced by Brian Hardzinski