Worlds collide: A Brockport student’s message in a bottle washes up on the Bahamas coast a decade later | WIVT
BROCKPORT, NY (WROC) – What started as a 4th grade class project in 2010, has now connected people around the world.
Over a decade ago, students at Hill Elementary School in Brockport decided to do a class project. write letters, put them in bottles and ship them out to sea.
Professor Christopher Albrecht said the project came about after a student reported on a bottle found in the North Sea 25 years after it was launched from a cruise ship.
“All I could think was, ‘OK, we’re in Rochester, New York – how do you put bottles in the ocean? ‘” Albrecht said.
But that didn’t stop them.
After the students wrote their letters and Wegmans donated dozens of bottles, Albrecht’s late mother came to the rescue. She lived in the Outer Banks in North Carolina at the time and contacted a fishing boat captain.
“He was able to take them in March into the Gulf Stream,” Albrecht said. “We realized through classroom research that if we just threw the bottles off a jetty, they would come back to shore.”
In March 2011, the captain of the fishing boat took the bottles out into the ocean and Albrecht’s students were able to watch from afar.
“We had our smart board in the classroom and we got to see his son throw those bottles into the ocean live, which was really cool,” Albrecht said.
A total of 43 bottles were thrown overboard that day, all with handwritten letters inside. The following year, five of them will be found.
“About three months later, in Nova Scotia, a bottle was found, so about 900 miles away,” Albrecht said.
Nine months later, a bottle washes up in the Azores, a region of Portugal. Then another appeared in France, followed by one in southern England and the last in Portugal.
“The last one was found, I think, in December 2012, so I thought it was over then,” Albrecht said.
But then, just weeks ago, he learned that another bottle had been found by a woman who was vacationing in the Bahamas. Her name was Kathy Dahn and she was from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“I had just walked in and arrived at my little apartment, packed up my things and went out to dinner,” Dahn said. “The tide was perfect for me to walk on the beach, so I went for a nice walk in a little neighborhood called Twin Cove.”
It was there that Dahn saw a bottle lying on the shore. She didn’t think much about it at the time because the area can have a lot of trash.
“As I got closer, I thought, ‘There’s actually a cork in there. Oh! There’s actually something in it,” Dahn said.
She brought the bottle to her apartment, but she was unable to remove the papers from the bottle. The next day, she ended up breaking it.
Inside the bottle was a letter from a former 4th grader from Brockport and Albrecht’s contact information.
“I went to get Chris first because he had all his information in that letter,” Dahn said. “I thought, what’s the chance he’s still working at this school?” And of course, he was still enrolled on the school thing.
Hearing about Dahn, Albrecht was rightly excited. He decided to contact the student who wrote the letter: Jared Hardies.
When he got the call from Albrecht, Hardies was studying for his finals at Penn State. He was doing his undergraduate studies in meteorology and had completely forgotten about the message until then.
“I always thought that was a really cool idea,” Hardies said. He remembers writing about activities and things he loved, like sports and video games.
“It was also a project designed to learn how to write a letter. So you had salvation and closure,” Hardies said. “But other than that, it was just like, ‘What are your hobbies? Who do you live with at home? That kind of thing.
Hardies said it was a pleasant surprise to learn that his bottle had been found and that it meant a lot to him that Dahn had sent him a very comprehensive message.
“The way she sounded, sounded like she really needed it, sounded like she was using that as a kind of way to say, ‘Oh, the world is still good. There is still some hope,” Hardies said.
Albrecht said a bottle can travel 9 miles a day in the Gulf Stream, meaning this specific bottle could have traveled over 60,000 miles in 11 years.
“I hope that would be the coolest thing, that it crossed the Atlantic to Africa and then came back down south, all the way up and clockwise to the Bahamas” , said Hardies, after doing his own research.
But no matter where the bottle went or what route it took, those involved say it made a difference.
“A bottle that waits 11 years is such…an almost refreshing story, deep and full of good feelings,” said Albrecht. “It’s so different from the world we live in now. It kind of has that iconic feel of yesteryear that we don’t necessarily have as much anymore.
The project has now connected several people from all walks of life and walks of life. In fact, Dahn has already invited Hardies and Albrecht to visit his home in Nova Scotia.
“These little moments in life…I feel like crying right now, just because it was so cool to make that connection with these people. I almost feel like they somehow do sort of part of my world now,” she said.
The six letters found so far have all been written by former male students. However, all were found by females.
There may still be 37 bottles out there, waiting to be found and ready to connect people around the world.