In early February, a five-foot-long miniature boat built by New Hampshire students in 2020 was found on the Norwegian island of Smøla. The little boat sailed more than 8,000 miles across the Atlantic in 462 days.
Students at Rye Jr. High School began building the ship as a science project to learn about currents, science and math, through a statement. They worked with Educational Passagesa non-profit organization that educates children about the ocean.
The students were preparing to decorate their ship, which they named rye riptides– when Covid-19 sent them home for the rest of the school year.
“Devastating. The kids were devastated too, so it was a little difficult,” science teacher Sheila Adams told the Portsmouth HeraldIt’s Ian Lenahan. But they continued virtually; the students sent in their teacher artwork, which was scanned, printed, laminated, and glued to the deck of the boat as a collage.
“Over the summer we worked together to try to find a deployer for the vessel who could take the boat out to sea beyond the Gulf of Maine, but we found it difficult with all the restrictions in place,” said Cassie Stymiest, director of Educational Passages, told in the statement. “So we waited until the fall and virtually introduced the new 5th grade class to the project.”
The new science class chose messages to put inside the boat and colors for it, for NPRIt’s Rachel Treisman. Adams filled the boat with photos of the middle schoolers, a face mask with their signatures, fall leaves, acorns and state quarters, says the Portsmouth Herald.
On October 25, 2020, the Sea Education Association of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, launched the mini-boat.
The boat’s GPS recorded locations throughout its journey which the student recorded on a map. After ten months, hurricane season hit and the GPS started reporting only intermittently. He sent a whereabouts on September 30, 2021, then went silent.
Four months later, the boat reported a location on an uninhabited island at Smøla, near Dyrnes, Norway. Educational Passages sent a Facebook message to a nearby school to see if anyone could pick it up. Although school was on vacation, she posted the request to a community group, where the mother of a local sixth-grader saw her.
After school on February 1, Karel Nuncic, his parents and their pup traveled by boat to the island to find rye riptides. They found the small ship adorned with barnacles and devoid of its mast, hull and keel. Most of the ship’s deck and cargo remained intact. Nunic’s mother filmed the discovery, reports NBC10 Bostonis Katherine Underwood.
“I was going crazy,” Rye sixth-grader Jack Facella told NBC10. “I was very excited and happy.”
Nuncic brought the boat to school with him the next day, and his class opened it. In mid-February, the students from Norway and New Hampshire met on Zoom, per Educational Passages.
“It was really cool, because now our little fifth-grade project that meant so much to us, now it means a lot to everyone,” seventh-grader Molly Flynn told NBC10. “It’s like this little boat has changed our lives so much.”