In February 2022, a sixth-grade student named Karel in Norway found a small boat that had run aground on a small island called Smøla. The boat was coming from Rye – but Rye is not nearby. It’s in New Hampshire, thousands of miles away. While the boat was foreign, its shippers were not so different from Karel: College mates launched it.
Sheila Adams’ class made the miniature boat with help from Educational Passages, which teaches kids about ocean currents, weather, technology — and apparently, Norway. His class of 2020 at Rye Junior High kicked off the boat project, but when the pandemic hit, they put it on hold. The next class picked it up and launched it into the Atlantic Ocean from a larger boat in October 2020, filling it with notes and other keepsakes – like a mask they had all signed.
“Our boat started going north, so I really thought it was going to Ireland or somewhere,” Molly Flynn, who was part of the project with her class of 2020, told CBS News.
“I kind of thought it would be just like coming back and going to Vermont or maybe Canada. So that was pretty cool because I wasn’t really expecting Norway,” said Keira Haggen, whose class helped complete the project.
“It would stop recording for moments and it would get really, really annoying because we didn’t know if our boat had sunk or where it was,” Molly said.
The boat was sporadically reporting its location and Educational Passages realized it had landed in Norway – after traveling 462 days and more than 8,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
So, they posted in a local Facebook group about the mini-boat, asking people on the island to look for it.
“And so, a lot of people said they were going to look for him. And this family, they went out and looked for him and they found him right in their backyard,” said fellow student Caitlin Tabit. . The boat’s sail had fallen off and it was covered in barnacles, but the notes inside were intact and Karel knew he had found Rye Junior High’s boat.
The fact that a college friend discovered it was fortuitous. Karel brought it to his school and the two groups of kids met – virtually.
“It was really cool and fun talking to them because we got to zoom in on their class and ask them about what they do in their free time,” said student Jack Facella.
“Well, we heard that they like to do a lot of sports like us. But most of them take a boat to school every day, which I found very exciting because I would love to do this every day,” Molly said.
“And one thing we’ve learned is that they don’t know what the grass looks like because the island they live on is all rocky,” Jack said.
“They measure gasoline by the liter, instead of the gallon like we do,” Kiera said.
“They also play some similar video games like us, like Fortnite and Call of Duty,” Caitlin added.
During a pandemic, when the world might seem dark, these children had a little light in their lives. “I thought it added to our day because we had something to look forward to,” Caitlin said. “And every day we would check it, and it was really cool that in our day and age we could look to see where it was going and guess where it was going.”
“And it was also something that made you forget the whole ongoing pandemic and school,” Jack said.
The little boat’s transatlantic journey was shocking, because the world is, of course, huge. But when you’re able to bond with people across the ocean, it might actually seem small.