OLD PERLICAN, NL — From Old Perlican to Portugal, one small message in a bottle made quite the journey over the last few months.
Ella Kelly is the two-year-old daughter of Old Perlican resident Dana March. In the summer of 2017, she and other children took part in the community’s summer recreation program, organized by Old Perlican recreation director Kelly Rodgers. While the children take part in a number of activities throughout the season, in late July they tried sending message in bottles across the Atlantic Ocean.
“It took a lot of tries. It was a windy day, so some of the bottles we’d toss out would just drift right back, so we’d pick them up and throw them out all over again,” Rodgers explained, laughing at the memory. “We had, I think, just under 40 kids with messages, and they were all so excited about it, even when a lot of them just floated back to the shore a couple times. It was a bit difficult, but we finally got (the bottles) out there.”
While Rodgers made sure the kids excluded too much personal information such as exact locations or phone numbers, all it took was the mention of Old Perlican for one of the messages to find its way back through the power of the internet and social media.
Kelly’s short message, tucked inside a water bottle, floated its way 3,666 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean to Setúbal, Portugal – a trip that would normally cost upwards of $1,200 on a 13-hour plane ride.
The message was received by a woman named Joana Curto, who explained she had been taking a leisurely stroll across a harbour in Setúbal, collecting litter and other objects that had floated in from the ocean. When she saw the peculiar-looking bottle, Curto removed the paper inside to find Kelly’s short message, explaining she was a two-year-old girl from Old Perlican, detailing some of her favourite things to do, and urging anyone who found the letter to write her back.
From here Curto did some light research online, finding a social media page dedicated to Old Perlican, run by Dave Fisher. Curto reached out to Fisher with her findings, and her reply ultimately made its way back to March, Rodgers and Kelly.
“I explained to the kids it might take a while for some of these messages to land somewhere. It could be a year or two before someone actually finds them, but this was less than a year – we sent them out at the end of July or beginning of August, and Ella’s was found already,” Rodgers said. “I think I’m more excited about it than some of the kids are, to be honest. I just think it’s amazing how fast it happened.”
While there have been no signs of any of the other bottles being picked up or found, Rodgers said she is satisfied with even just one, noting how far this one had to travel to be found in Portugal.
“I don’t know if Ella really understands just how far away that is, or how crazy it is that one of the bottles were actually found, but she’s still just as excited about it as we are,” March said.
March also added how the small message attested to the power of social media, and communication in general.
“I mean, if it wasn’t for this page about Old Perlican, who knows if (Curto) would have been able to even track us down. It’s not like there was a lot of information on the message – just Ella’s name, and Old Perlican, but because she could find Dave’s page dedicated to Old Perlican, it was only a couple messages and posts, and we were in contact,” she said.
Curto has told March and Rodgers that she plans to send something back to Ella, as per the girl’s request for a response, though it likely won’t be via a bottle sent across the ocean.
“This could end up being someone Ella would want to stay in contact with when she gets older, who knows,” Rodgers said. “But the fact that it even got this far is just really exciting.”