By: Scott Way
A mini-boat released by students from a New Hampshire middle school has been discovered by a 6th grader in Norway 462 days after its launch. The boat traveled over 8,000 miles across the Atlantic and was tracked by a GPS monitor documenting its route.
In February of 2020, the 5-foot mini boat was built by students at Rye Hr. High in New Hampshire. The vessel was part of a science project and was built from scratch with a hull, keel, mast, and custom artwork. The class named the boat Rye Riptides. Unfortunately the pandemic put their plans on hold when in-school learning was delayed, but the vessel was finally launched with the help of the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on October 25th, 2020.
In an interview with the Portsmouth Herald, science teacher Sheila Adams said the launch delay was “Devastating. The kids were devastated, too, so it was kind of difficult." But the project continued virtually, with students submitted artwork to their teacher, which she then scanned, printed, laminated, and attached to the boat's hull.
"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," said Cassie Stymiest, the director of Educational Passages, a non-profit group that works with children to educate them about the ocean, said in a statement. "So we waited until fall and introduced the new 5th-grade class to the project virtually."
In addition to the custom design and artwork, students also filled the inside with messages, pictures, a facemask with their signatures, leaves and acorns from local trees, and New Hampshire silver quarters.
The boat was also outfitted with a GPS device, which pinged its location throughout the journey. With each ping the students marked the progress of Rye Riptides on a map. The map depicts a meandering journey across the Atlantic with various twists and turns, which was further exacerbated by hurricane season in late summer 2021. A final ping went sent on September 30th, 2021, and then Rye Riptides went silent. It was believed the boat had sunk in bad weather, or had otherwise met an unfortunate end somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.
But four months later the boat pinged its location unexpectedly from an uninhabited island named Smøla, near Dyrnes, Norway. Educational Passages sent a message to a nearby grade school via Facebook to ask if the students might be able to retrieve it. Despite the Norwegian school being closed for vacation, the message was relayed to a local community group, where a mother and her 6th grade son took it upon themselves to find the missing Rye Riptides.
On Feb 1st, 2022, Karen Nuncic, her son, and their puppy traveled by boat to the island. They found the Rye Riptides covered in barnacles and missing its mast, hull, and keel but much of the artwork, and all its interior pieces, were still intact. Nuncic's mom filmed the discovery, which was seen by the class back at Rye Jr. High.
"I was going crazy,” Rye sixth-grader Jack Facella told NBC10. “I was very excited and happy."
Nuncic brought the boat to his school the next day, where his class opened it. Then in mid-February, both classes from Norway and New Hampshire met each other over a Zoom call to celebrate their find.
"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 told NBC10. "It's just like, this little boat has changed our lives so much."
You can see the route of Rye Riptides and its recovery in Norway below.