Return of a castaway

A message in a bottle, recovered, speaks to a middle school.

Todd Nelson
Charlotte Gelinas (l.) and Josie Schamle of Castine, Maine send a message in a bottle into the Atlantic in 2005 under the direction of their teacher Todd Nelson. The messages included contact information and have been picked up by beach strollers as close as Ipswich, MA and as far away as Ribat, Morrocco.

"You have a call from a gentleman in Morocco," said Mrs. Thomas.

This does not happen every day here at Adams School in Castine, Maine. Yes, we have been using the Internet to make Skype calls to far-flung friends and relatives – France, Japan, Turkey, Brazil, Germany, Scotland, and, just this morning, New South Wales, Australia (New vocabulary of the day: "G'day, mate!")

But Morocco?

The caller was Laurence Rizzio. A few years ago, he'd worked in a nearby school district. He was now teaching at a private school in Rabat, Morocco. But that's not why he was calling.

Mr. Rizzio and his daughter had been strolling the beach in Rabat when they found a bottle washed up onshore. It was a wine bottle, sealed, and it had a message inside. What a find! They'd opened the bottle and out popped two postcards, the names of the four boys who had sent the bottle, and the business card of their principal (me), including the school's phone number. So Mr. Rizzio called.

It made my day.

Evidently, this bottle had spent five years in the North Atlantic Gyre. It was probably launched from the RV Argo somewhere off Sable Island, during an excursion in the Gulf of Maine. The Argo has been, on more than one occasion, an Adams School bottle launcher.

Four boys, now sophomores in high school, had just received a message from themselves that they'd sent five years ago, delivered by a Maine-acquainted teacher living in Morocco.

As fifth-graders, the boys and their classmates had filled bottles with personal messages, artifacts of Castine, and contact information so that a finder could locate the senders. That's what Mr. Rizzio was doing on the phone.

He and I were both incredulous.

"Please take photos and send them to us!" I said. "And can we Skype with you at your school?"

"Definitely," said Mr. Rizzio.

Mrs. Thomas said the discovery warranted a broadcast.

She flipped on the school PA system: "Now hear this! Attention all hands! An Adams School bottle has just been discovered in Morocco after five years in the ocean. The senders were Ben, Evan, Truman, and Dustin ... when they were in fifth grade. That is all."

John, a sixth-grader, was walking down the hall when he heard the announcement. "That's cool!" he said.

Adams School has enjoyed a better-than-average return on its messages sent via bottles. At first, it was incredible to hear from people on Crane Beach in Ipswich, Mass., (three times) that they'd found an Adams bottle. Then a bottle turned up in the Bahamas, and a couple on vacation found it and got in touch.

More recently, there was a bottle found in the Azores by a mariner couple who had actually moored their boat in nearby Smith Cove during the summer. They knew Castine.

"We found your bottle afloat in the Harbor at Praia da Vitoria on the Island of Terceira in the Azores," wrote Karen Houston and Guy Crosby. "It had only a few tiny barnacles and a little bit of algae attached to it. Thinking it was from a local kid, Guy decided to tuck it in a locker and take it on an adventure. We did not open it until we reached the Caribbean in January, after sailing to the Madeiras, Canaries, and Cape Verdes and crossing back across the Atlantic. Imagine our surprise when we read that it was from Castine, Maine!"

But Morocco?

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Return of a castaway
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today