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Shelter Island teen's message in a bottle found in Bahamas

Andrew Gracie, 60, of Bermuda, with a message

Andrew Gracie, 60, of Bermuda, with a message in a bottle that washed ashore on a private island in the Bahamas. The bottle, which he found on Feb. 12, was thrown into the Atlantic Ocean three years ago by Connor Corbett-Rice, who's now 15, as part of a school project at Shelter Island High School. Credit: Andrew Gracie

Connor Corbett-Rice cast a bottle into the Atlantic Ocean three years ago from Shelter Island for a school project, hoping someday that someone far away would read the message inside.

He got more than he bargained for. Connor never imagined the bottle would drift more than 1,000 miles and wash ashore on an island in the Bahamas.

“I was shocked. I forgot about the entire project up to that point,” said Connor, now 15 and a sophomore at Shelter Island High School. “I couldn’t believe it reached the Bahamas.”

The teen included details about Shelter Island, his family and interests in the message.

After Andrew and Carol Gracie, of Bermuda, stumbled upon the bottle Feb. 12 on the shore of Musha Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, the couple emailed the teen’s teacher, Jack Reardon, who included his contact information in the bottle.

At first Reardon, who teaches technology education at the high school, was skeptical and questioned the authenticity of the couple’s story. But their theory of what likely happened clicked in his mind.  

“It ended up drifting south of our location, and nothing drifts south when you throw it in the water; it all goes north,” said Reardon, 55, of Greenport. “There had to be some sort of explanation, and it turns out their story made perfect sense. The bottle circumnavigated the Atlantic Ocean. It’s definitely a weird occurrence.”

Reardon has been assigning his seventh-grade students the message-in-a-bottle project for nine years as a way to teach them about ocean currents. His inspiration for the project drew from another school district’s experience. About 15 years ago, he said a student from the Mattituck school district found that his message in a bottle made it all the way to France.

“The couple found the bottle undisturbed for who knows how long,” said Reardon. “The chances of it being found were minuscule. That's what makes it so satisfying. The furthest bottle we’ve sent off only traveled 20 miles and was found in less than a week.”

Andrew Gracie and his wife, who have always been avid beachcombers, happened upon the clear corked-bottle after docking their 48-foot motorboat at the private island for the day to avoid bad weather.

After uncorking the bottle, the couple read the note and then looked up where Shelter Island was located using Google Earth. Gracie then could guess the bottle’s route.

“After reading the note we realized just how far the bottle had traveled,” said Gracie, 60. “I immediately emailed Connor and Jack Reardon detailing how and where we found the bottle.”

Gracie said he admired Reardon for implementing such an inventive and fun school project.

“Being able to stimulate students in this day in age is quite an achievement,” Gracie said. “It was great to be a part of it.” 

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