GIRL’S MES­SAGE IN A BOT­TLE DIS­COV­ERED IN POR­TU­GAL

Let­ter finds way back through so­cial me­dia

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS chris.lewis@cb­n­com­pass.ca

From Old Perlican to Por­tu­gal, one small mes­sage in a bot­tle made quite the jour­ney over the last few months.

Ella Kelly is the two-yearold daugh­ter of Old Perlican res­i­dent Dana March. In the sum­mer of 2017, she and other chil­dren took part in the com­mu­nity’s sum­mer recre­ation pro­gram, or­ga­nized by Old Perlican recre­ation di­rec­tor Kelly Rodgers. While the chil­dren take part in a num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the sea­son, in late July they tried send­ing mes­sage in bot­tles across the At­lantic Ocean.

“It took a lot of tries. It was a windy day, so some of the bot­tles we’d toss out would just drift right back, so we’d pick them up and throw them out all over again,” Rodgers ex­plained, laugh­ing at the mem­ory. “We had, I think, just un­der 40 kids with mes­sages, and they were all so ex­cited about it, even when a lot of them just floated back to the shore a cou­ple times. It was a bit dif­fi­cult, but we fi­nally got (the bot­tles) out there.”

While Rodgers made sure the kids ex­cluded too much per­sonal in­for­ma­tion such as ex­act lo­ca­tions or phone numbers, all it took was the men­tion of Old Perlican for one of the mes­sages to find its way back through the power of the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia.

Kelly’s short mes­sage, tucked in­side a wa­ter bot­tle, floated its way 3,666 kilo­me­tres across the At­lantic Ocean to Setúbal, Por­tu­gal – a trip that would nor­mally cost up­wards of $1,200 on a 13-hour plane ride.

The mes­sage was re­ceived by a woman named Joana Curto, who ex­plained she had been tak­ing a leisurely stroll across a har­bour in Setúbal, col­lect­ing lit­ter and other ob­jects that had floated in from the ocean. When she saw the pe­cu­liar-look­ing bot­tle, Curto re­moved the pa­per in­side to find Kelly’s short mes­sage, ex­plain­ing she was a two-year-old girl from Old Perlican, de­tail­ing some of her favourite things to do, and urg­ing any­one who found the let­ter to write her back.

From here Curto did some light re­search on­line, find­ing a so­cial me­dia page ded­i­cated to Old Perlican, run by Dave Fisher. Curto reached out to Fisher with her find­ings, and her re­ply ul­ti­mately made its way back to March, Rodgers and Kelly.

“I ex­plained to the kids it might take a while for some of these mes­sages to land some­where. It could be a year or two be­fore some­one ac­tu­ally finds them, but this was less than a year – we sent them out at the end of July or be­gin­ning of Au­gust, and Ella’s was found al­ready,” Rodgers said. “I think I’m more ex­cited about it than some of the kids are, to be hon­est. I just think it’s amaz­ing how fast it hap­pened.”

While there have been no signs of any of the other bot­tles be­ing picked up or found, Rodgers said she is sat­is­fied with even just one, not­ing how far this one had to travel to be found in Por­tu­gal.

“I don’t know if Ella re­ally un­der­stands just how far away that is, or how crazy it is that one of the bot­tles were ac­tu­ally found, but she’s still just as ex­cited about it as we are,” March said.

March also added how the small mes­sage at­tested to the power of so­cial me­dia, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in gen­eral.

“I mean, if it wasn’t for this page about Old Perlican, who knows if (Curto) would have been able to even track us down. It’s not like there was a lot of in­for­ma­tion on the mes­sage – just Ella’s name, and Old Perlican, but be­cause she could find Dave’s page ded­i­cated to Old Perlican, it was only a cou­ple mes­sages and posts, and we were in con­tact,” she said.

Curto has told March and Rodgers that she plans to send some­thing back to Ella, as per the girl’s re­quest for a re­sponse, though it likely won’t be via a bot­tle sent across the ocean.

“This could end up be­ing some­one Ella would want to stay in con­tact with when she gets older, who knows,” Rodgers said. “But the fact that it even got this far is just re­ally ex­cit­ing.”

GOOGLE SATEL­LITE IM­AGE

Kelly’s mes­sage left Old Perlican and drifted across the At­lantic Ocean for 3,666 kilo­me­tres.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ella Kelly’s mes­sage in a bot­tle was picked up in Setúbal, Port­gual.

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