CASTINE, Maine — When three Adams School students wrote messages and sealed them in a bottle in 2008, they hoped it would reach Europe.
Seventh-grader Dustin Colson and sixth-graders Liam Griffith and Hannah Flood had all but forgotten about the school project until their bottle was discovered earlier this summer on a beach on the island of Santa Maria in the Azores, off the coast of Portugal.
“I was surprised that my bottle had gotten that far,” Liam said Monday. “Wow.”
The message in a bottle was part of a school project the three took part in during 2008. In previous years, students and teachers had included messages in their bottles, sealed them and dropped them into the ocean off the Castine town dock.
In 2008, however, the students enlisted the help of Hannah’s father, Randy Flood, captain of the Argo, who was setting weather buoys along the East Coast of the U.S.
Hannah’s dad and her uncle, Lance Burton, agreed to drop the bottles into the ocean during the trip, and they plunked them into the water off the Bahamas in March 2008.
“Everybody in the school put a note in a bottle,” Dustin said. “There were a lot of messages.”
He estimated that the school sent out more than 30 bottles that year with multiple messages in each.
“The idea was to get them out into the Gulf Stream to see if they would get to Europe,” said Adams School teacher Cheryl McFadden of enlisting the Argo captain’s help.
“I wanted mine to go to Africa,” Dustin said.
Other bottles from the 2008 experiment and previous years have wound up in various places, including East Coast states and the Bahamas, but the Azores is the farthest any bottle has traveled — so far, McFadden said.
The bottle with messages from Dustin, Liam and Hannah was discovered in July by members of a family from Hudson, Mass., who were in the Azores on an annual summer trip. They found the bottle on the shore of Sao Lourenco Bay on the island of Santa Maria, the southernmost of the Azores islands.
In an e-mail sent in August to a reporter in Massachusetts, Jim Cabral explained that he regularly walks to the bottom of his driveway on Santa Maria, sipping his morning coffee and “wondering what adventures await me today.”
On the day Cabral found the bottle he was accompanied by his son, Timothy, and they noticed an orange life preserver and a bottle nearby on the beach.
“I joked with Timothy, who first noticed the bottle, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a message in the bottle,’” Cabral wrote. “We were both surprised and ecstatic to actually find the bottle contains a message and then bring the bottle home and share it with our family.”
The messages also contained information about the school in Castine and some personal information about the children, such as the fact that one of them liked Legos.
Liam acknowledged Monday that he probably wrote that, although the three youngsters said they had trouble remembering exactly what they had written.
McFadden said that since receiving word by e-mail that the bottle had been found, she has included the Azores in the social studies and geography unit the students have started to work on. This is just the second week of school, so they haven’t done much with the information yet, she said.
The students haven’t yet calculated how far the bottle traveled. Trueknowledge.com lists the distance from the Bahamas to the Azores as 2,971 miles. The bottle likely traveled on the Gulf Stream up the East Coast of North America and then caught other ocean currents in the North Atlantic before heading southward to the Azores off the coast of Portugal.
Hannah said she has checked out a website about the Azores recommended by their new “bottle pal.”
“I learned where the Azores is,” she said. “And that they have a lot of dolphins there and it’s a good place for scuba diving.”
It’s also a busy seaport, she said.
“Ships going from Maine to France will stop there to refuel,” she said.
Although there are no current plans to send more bottles adrift on the ocean, McFadden said there are a lot of bottles from Castine students still afloat, so there could be more of them found and more messages to come from across the sea.