There’s something special about Mrs. Schambach’s bottles.
Every year the students in Susan Schambach’s science class at Summit School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, perform an experiment: they stuff letters into empty wine bottles and set them adrift in the Gulf Stream.
The exercise isn’t in an uncommon one. Students all over the world study the warm, swift current that stretches across the Atlantic Ocean. But there’s something special about the bottles Schambach’s students set loose. They keep getting found! In the five years Schambach has done the project with her students, 53 bottles have gone into the ocean, and three have been retrieved in foreign lands. The first turned up in Portugal in 2014, a second in France in 2016, and a third was found last month in Normandy, France.
“On Sept. 8, I check my email, and I had a message from France,” Schambach told the Winston-Salem Journal of the moment she learned the third bottle had been found. “It said a bottle was found in the sleeve, the French term for the English Channel.”
The bottle in question began its journey in March of 2016 with Ben Geren, now 10. His bottle, which was sealed with a cork, included a letter with Schambach’s email address and a personalized note. Geren drew Poseidon’s trident, as well as an image of a bottle, and wrote, “you found it!”
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Months later, retired grandfather Jean Pierre Enguehard was taking a walk on the beach when he found Geren’s bottle tangled in rope and seaweed. Enguehard brought it home, cracked it open and posted a photo of his discovery on Facebook. “(Found) this morning on the beach with message inside North Carolina USA,” he wrote alongside a photo of the sea-faring (now barnacle-encrusted) bottle.
Geren’s was thrilled when he heard the news. “I was excited, but more surprised,” he told the Journal. “I knew there was a chance in a million that it would be me, but millions happen.”
This year, Geren suggests a high-tech addition to Schambach’s bottles. “It would be cool if we could put a camera on it to see the animals in the water,” he said. “I can’t wait to see whose bottle will be found next.”