How would you like to sail across the Atlantic Ocean?
If we're being honest, it's a pretty intimidating journey. That's many thousands of kilometres of often windy high seas. Not a journey for the faint of heart.
But for a tiny drifting sailboat full of children's art and messages? It just might work. Especially if you don't mind waiting a year or so for the journey to be completed!
That's the story behind the Rye Riptides. This un-crewed, 2-metre- (6 ft.) long vessel was built by a Grade 5 science class in Rye, New Hampshire in 2019 and 2020 as an experiment.
The idea was to fill the boat with maps, letters, and coins, and then send it across the Atlantic. By using the boat's GPS (global positioning system), the students could see where it would go.
Launched in October 2020, it was found in Norway in January 2022, and mostly intact! How did it travel this incredible distance? That was actually the main point of the experiment!
Ride the Gulf Stream
Though the boat had a small sail to help it along, most of its journey was powered by the Gulf Stream. This is a powerful ocean current along the eastern coast of the United States. It begins around Florida and flows northeast arriving off the coast of England and Ireland.
The Gulf Stream is the reason why England has mild winters even though much of it is farther north than Newfoundland, Canada, which has pretty chilly winters. The current carries warm tropical waters all the way north-east, warming the area's climate!
And the current is also what carried the Rye Riptides to the other side of the world's second largest ocean!
Tracking the ping
The journey started off pretty great. The boat was carried out to sea on a larger ship so that it could be released into the Gulf Stream (otherwise, it just would've washed back on shore). Then the class was able to follow the pings of the boat's GPS as it slowly made its way. But in August 2021, the GPS stopped releasing a signal. The pings stopped. It was feared the sailboat had sunk in a storm.
But then in January 2022, the pings came back! The boat had reached land! It was found in the Norwegian island of Smøla! The New Hampshire class' teacher, Sheila Adams, wanted to find a class on the other side of the Atlantic that would be interested in recovering the wreck and opening the boat over a livestream with her own students.
A Norwegian school—Smøla barneskole—was eager to participate. Though the boat was covered in gooseneck barnacles and missing its sail, it was otherwise intact. The students from the two schools recently got together over a video chat and shared stories of the boat together. So cool!
Watch a news report on this epic 462-day voyage below!