News


12/1/2017

Message in A Bottle traveling for a whole year

One year ago (January 10th 2016), Verkís, in collaboration with Ævar the scientist, a popular Icelandic children´s TV personality, launched two messages in a bottle. The bottles were equipped with a satellite transmitter that locates the them every four hours via a GPS receiver. The travels of the bottles can be observed live on Verkis´ website as well as the children's section of the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service´s website. It is safe to say that their travels have been remarkable since tossed out of a coast guard helicopter 40 kilometres southwest of Reykjanes peninsula with a great deal of audience following along. 

Using a weather and ocean currents models, predictions were made based on the weather patterns of the previous year of 2015 that the bottles would head east towards Norway. But due to the position of the bottles on the ocean surface, it is believed that the prevailing winds control the path the bottles go, except for the small duration of time between low depressions when winds die down, which is when ocean currents have more say in the path.

The path to Norway did not come through. Consistent easterly winds right after the release of the bottles carried them west past the Reykjanes Ridge and for the next few months circled a couple of times around the Irminger Basin following the so called Iceland low. Southwest of Iceland, the air pressure is the lowest in the northern hemisphere and forms the Iceland low which is strong in the winters and weak in the spring. Ævar the scientist received information on this from Elín Björk Jónasdóttir at the Icelandic Met Office.

The low depressions spin counter clockwise and as can be seen on the map of the bottle tracks, the bottles went two circles around the Irminger Basin until April of last year when they passed west of Cape Farewell, the southernmost tip of Greenland right when the Iceland low started weakening and releasing its grip on them. Through the spring, they passed the Eastern Settlement, the main community of the Nordic men in Greenland and the dwelling of Eric the Red, the first settler in Greenland around 982. The community of Nordic men thrived in the Eastern Settlement until the middle of the 15th century when it was abandoned.

Throughout the summer, the bottles stayed in the Labrador Sea, circling in fairly peaceful summer weather until it nudged towards the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland, where Leif the Lucky landed in the year 1000 and named it Vinland. Then in August, winds start blowing from the north pushing the bottles southeast along the coast of Labrador until the beginning of September when they headed east towards the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. There they have fought through one low depression after another heading east and northeast  and are now approaching the shores of Scotland after traveling over 14,500 km.

This entire time, the bottles have travelled hand in hand. Bottle 1 has kept a steady lead with bottle 2 closely following. Currently, approximately 300 km separate them with bottle one approximately 90 km west of the island St. Kilda while bottle 2 is still sailing through the controversial Hatton-Rockall basin located about 120 km southwest of Rockall. Bottle 1 has only 160 km left to reach the island North Uist, part of the Hebrides Islands. It will be interesting to see whether the bottle will come ashore or continue the adventure. However, the weather forecast indicates some strong westerly directions showing speeds up to 20 m/sec so it is possible the wind will carry it to the Hebrides.

Bottle 2 is about 300 km from bottle 1 so it is not clear whether it will land ashore at the same location because it is approximately 10-14 days behind and in that time the wind can take it into another direction continuing its journey.

Here the bottles can be followed.