In early February, a five-foot-long miniature boat built by students in New Hampshire in 2020 was found on the Norwegian island of Smøla. The little boat traveled over 8,000 miles across the Atlantic in 462 days.
Students at Rye Jr. High School began building the vessel as a science project to learn about currents, science and math, per a statement. They worked with Educational Passages, a nonprofit organization that teaches kids about the ocean.
The students were just getting ready 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 kind of difficult,” science teacher Sheila Adams tells the Portsmouth Herald’s Ian Lenahan. But they continued virtually; students sent their teacher artwork, which was scanned, printed, laminated and stuck to the boat’s deck as a collage.
"Over the summer, we worked together to try and find a deployer for the vessel that could take the boat out to sea beyond the Gulf of Maine, but found it challenging with all of the restrictions in place," Cassie Stymiest, the director of Educational Passages, says in the statement. "So we waited until fall and introduced the new 5th-grade class to the project virtually."The new science class chose messages to put inside the boat and colors for it, per NPR’s Rachel Treisman. Adams filled the boat with pictures of the middle schoolers, a facemask with their signatures, fall leaves, acorns and state quarters, states the Portsmouth Herald.
On October 25, 2020, the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, launched the mini boat.
The boat’s GPS pinged locations along its journey that the student recorded on a map. After ten months, hurricane season hit, and the GPS began reporting only intermittently. It sent a location on September 30, 2021, and then fell silent.
Four months later, the boat pinged a location on an uninhabited island in Smøla, near Dyrnes, Norway. Educational Passages sent out a Facebook message to a nearby school to see if anyone could retrieve it. Though the school was on vacation, it posted the request to a community group, where a mom of a local sixth grader saw it.
After school on February 1, Karel Nuncic, his parents and their puppy traveled by boat to the island to find Rye Riptides. They found the small vessel adorned with barnacles and missing its mast, hull and keel. Most of the deck and the ship's cargo remained intact. Nunic’s mom filmed the discovery, reports NBC10 Boston’s Katherine Underwood.
"I was going crazy,” Rye sixth-grader Jack Facella tells 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 over 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 else," seventh grader Molly Flynn tells NBC10. "It's just like, this little boat has changed our lives so much."