Ever since the first Students on Ice Arctic expedition in 2001, students have been participating in ocean research in a variety of ways, but none as hands on as the annual bottle drop.
Glass bottles stuffed with GPS coordinates, contact information, and a personalized note, are sealed with wax and pitched off the back deck, where they drift with the ocean currents, sometimes turning up on distant shores, such as Ireland, the UK, Spain or Iceland.
This project was brought to Students on Ice through Eddy Carmack, a world-renowned oceanographer based at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, British Columbia, who joined our first Arctic expedition and second Antarctic expedition in 2001.
These bottles are a powerful and inexpensive way to study ocean surface currents through citizen science. After collecting and plotting data for the retrieved bottles, analysis has further confirmed that the Gulf Stream moves debris towards Europe. This knowledge is quite interesting when considering the possibility of oil spills at current or proposed drilling platforms on Canada’s East Coast, or the Eastern Arctic, and where currents would take the oil. Data collected tells us a great deal about changes happening in Arctic Ocean currents and how currents are changing due to climate change.
Beyond improving scientific understanding of ocean surface currents, the bottle drop creates unparalleled human connection across borders.
“I’ve yet to meet anyone, from my 7-year old grandson to a constrained senior bureaucrat to the CEO of a major company who can forget tossing a bottle with a message into the sea,” says Eddy Carmack, “the wonderment of who will find it or when or where.”