GREENSBORO — After voyaging across the Atlantic Ocean for more than a year, a bottled message from a Greensboro Day School student landed more than 4,000 miles away.
Student Vivian Byerly now knows what happened to her bottled letter because she received a reply to it Sunday.
The letter’s journey began in April 2019 when Vivian and her classmates, now rising fifth graders, sealed personalized messages in glass bottles to send out to sea.
In Vivian’s letter, she told the future reader her name and that she was a third grader at Greensboro Day School. She included her teacher’s name and email address, along with the school’s address.
“If you find this message, please let us know,” Vivian wrote. Her classmates included the same plea in their letters, but Vivian customized her message with a drawing of a ship and an inspiring quote of her choice from an unknown author.
The messages, which were tightly rolled up and packed into their own glass bottle, were part of third grade teacher Susan Ferguson’s lesson about the powerful Gulf Steam that flows off the state’s coast, inspired by “Pirate Day” festivities at the private school in Greensboro. It was the first time Ferguson taught the lesson and included the messages in bottles.
Tyler Richardson, whose son Brant was another one of Ferguson’s 19 students that year, offered to toss the bottles into the Atlantic Ocean during an annual fishing tournament in May that year off the coast of Morehead City.
The sport-fishing boat Carterican “caught” one of the bottled messages soon after the tournament.
After that — nothing. Vivian and her classmates moved on to fourth grade.
The COVID-19 pandemic kept Ferguson’s most recent class of students from doing the same project, but 18 bottles from Vivian and Brant’s class presumably remained at sea, searching for a shore with a reader curious enough to crack open a mysterious bottle.
Then, on Sunday, Ferguson received an email.
Attached to it was a photo of a glass bottle on a beach, a letter bound with a ribbon peeking out the top. In another photo, a fisherman is pictured beside his nephew, holding a copy of Vivian’s letter.
Her letter traveled more than 4,000 miles across the ocean before it was discovered on White Beach near Guelmim, Morocco, a country in northwestern Africa that abuts the Atlantic Ocean.
“While we hoped to receive a response, we know the likelihood of it happening is slim,” Ferguson said in a news release from Greensboro Day School. “I was shocked to open my email to find an email with photos.”
Ferguson said she has been in touch with Vivian’s third grade classmates, who were excited to learn the news. She said Vivian responded to the fisherman’s family and received another reply.
According to Greensboro Day School, the fisherman’s nephew had to translate the letter for his uncle, including the quote Vivian started it with:
“Be strong because things will get better,” she wrote. “It may be stormy now, but it never rains forever.”