Nine-year-old Abbie Graham was in for a surprise when she went for an outing on a Hawaiian beach with her parents. The family stumbled upon a mysterious bottle that carried a message sent 37 years ago and from more than 6,000 kilometres away.
At least 750 such bottles had been released into the ocean between 1984 and 1985 by students from eastern Japan as part of a science experiment to investigate ocean currents.
The bottle found by Abbie contained contact forms in English, Japanese and Portuguese and explained it had been released off the coast of Choshi, a coastal city in Chiba prefecture. It also asked the finder to contact the school.
Abbie found the bottle in June and sent the forms back to the high school early September, enclosing a small memento along with them: a drawing of her and her sister eating sushi.
Upon learning about the discovery, Choshi High School authorities confirmed the science project and expressed delight at knowing how far the bottle had travelled.
The forms reached the school on 3 September and on Wednesday, the school’s vice principal acknowledged the discovery at a press conference. “We thought the last one was found in Kikaijima. We never imagined another would be found 37 years on,” Jun Hayashi said.
The bottle has been recognised as the first such discovery since 2002, when the 50th bottle from the released lot had reached southwest Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture on Kikaijima island in 2002.
In the past 37 years, these 50 bottles were spotted and discovered by locals in Japan’s Okinawa, Akita and Kyoto. They were also found in the US, the Philippines and China.
The last message confirming the discovery of such a bottle was from 2002, and the school suspended the project in 2007.
Now, a new batch of students from the school have written letters of appreciation in English, thanking Abbie and her family. They also included a miniature Japanese catch flag along with the letters for Abbie, reported The Mainichi newspaper.
“I want to cherish the connection the bottle brought us across borders and spacetime,” a student wrote in one of the letters.
The news came as a delight for 54-year-old Mayumi Kanda, a former member of the school’s natural science club, which carried out the experiment. “I was surprised, it revived nostalgic memories of my high school days. I thank those involved,” she told the Japanese paper.