In a small town in Massachusetts, back in 1997, a 5th grader put a handwritten letter in a bottle and tossed it in the ocean. Little did he know that his message in a bottle would embark on a remarkable journey across the vast Atlantic Ocean.
Against all odds, the bottle resurfaced in France 26 years later. Imagine the surprise that his childhood message had endured the test of time and also traveled thousands of miles to a foreign land.
The Curious 5th Grader
In October 1997, a young student named Ben Lyons from Forestdale School in Sandwich had an exciting homework assignment for his science class.
The task was simple yet exciting: write a message, put it in a bottle, and then toss it into the Nantucket Sound. According to reports, this wasn’t the first time the class’s bottled messages had made waves internationally.
Ben’s Letter Was Part of a Larger Project
Over the years, people have discovered others from the same class in far-off places like Greenland and now in France. The bottles turned into time capsules, carrying bits of the students’ lives across the oceans.
On August 11, the handwritten message in a bottle Ben Lyons threw onto the shores of Cape Cod Peninsula was washed up 3,300 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean in France.
The Science Teacher- Mrs Hemmila
As reported by The Enterprise, Frederic J. Hemmila orchestrated the special ocean currents assignment. She was a retired science teacher from Forestdale.
Carol Archambeault, a sixth-grade science teacher, told the Enterprise, “As a culminating activity for the unit, students put a message in a bottle, and a friend of Fred’s, who was a captain of a boat, took the bottles offshore and dropped them into the ocean.”
The Message in a Bottle
The message penned down by the spirited elementary school student read, “Dear Beachcomber, Thank you for being kind enough to pick up my bottle. We are studying ocean currents in science class. We dropped these bottles in Nantucket Sound in October 1997. If you could please fill out the question and return to us.”
Nonetheless, the bottle bobbed along the waves, carrying the hopes of the young sender with it.
A Heartwarming Discovery
The bottle unexpectedly appeared on a beach in Les Sables-d’Olonne, Vendée, France. Meanwhile, Hubert Eriau, a 71-year-old fisherman cleaning up trash along the shore, made the discovery.
According to reports from The Enterprise, the bottle was securely sealed with wax and labeled, “Please open message inside!!” Eriau shared his surprise at finding this uniquely sealed bottle.
The Excited Fisherman Responded to the Message
Eriau did not lose the excitement of finding a message in a bottle. He, however, returned the letter to Oak Ridge School in Sandwich, and his response contained answers to the student’s questions.
He replied in French that the bottle had shells stuck and also mentioned that an article appeared in the newspaper “Quest France” on August 31.
The School Had Changed
But the letter left the school staff scratching their heads in confusion. However, Forestdale School was now a pre-kindergarten school, and the letter belonged to a time when fifth grade was part of the school’s offerings.
Before opening the envelope, the school staff struggled to determine the intended receiver. To further their search, they sent the letter to Oak Ridge School.
The Assistant School Principal Was Astonished
According to the Assistant principal- Brandy Clifford, as the envelope was carefully examined, the realization dawned on them – this was no ordinary letter.
“They felt like they found a treasure when they saw a letter from this gentleman from France, and then this letter that was dated in 1997,” Clifford disclosed to NBC Boston. Grinning, he echoed the joy and excitement that accompanied the discovery.
The Letter Was Difficult to Open at First
Clifford stated that the 5th grader sealed the bottle with wax, making it tricky for the fisherman to open.
“It’s amazing that the bottle stayed intact. It traveled so far,” he said. “These days, we would put a tracker in anything to find out the ocean currents. This was a way back in 1997. We didn’t have the technology to do something like that. So I don’t think anybody ever thought 26 years later, something like this will be found intact.”
The Letter Was Returned
Clifford, who knew Ben Lyons’ parents well, happily returned the letter to him. Even though Lyons refused to talk to reporters about it, he was happy to get the letter back.
“It brought back really great memories of his classmates and his math and science teacher. The secretaries were thrilled because they felt like they found the message in a bottle themselves,” the assistant principal told USA Today.
A Beautiful Reunion
This heartwarming tale that spanned across continents and decades has warmed the hearts of many. Nonetheless, Ben Lyons’s family released a statement on his behalf to NBC10 Boston.
The statement read, “It’s great the kids can learn about the oceans and currents from this. Showing what a small world it actually is. We’ve had fun reading the different articles and the interest this has generated.”