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Student's Message in a Bottle Found in Portugal 16 Years Later

Outdoor Happening: His hand-written note and drawings were part of a high school project to learn about the Gulf Stream.

Student's Message in a Bottle Found in Portugal 16 Years Later

As a 15-year-old 16 years ago, Jefferey Olsen participated in a message-in-a-bottle program. His message was received in Portugal.

  • “Outdoor Happening” features post occasionally on floridasportsman.com. See the end of this article to learn how to share your own story with us.

After 16 years at sea, a message in a bottle cast to sea by a 15-year-old Central Florida high school student was recently found on the other side of the Atlantic.

Growing up surfing and fishing on Florida’s Space Coast, Jefferey Olsen has never been a stranger to the complexities of the ocean’s tides and currents. When he attended Melbourne High School, it was a no-brainer that he signed up for the school’s marine science elective.

As part of a lesson on the Gulf Stream, Olsen’s marine science teacher, Ethan Hall, started a message in a bottle program. Students would drop a personalized letter and instructions on how to report the finding to the school if recovered. Like fish tagging, the bottles had unique codes for school staff to know when the bottle was set adrift. A local charterboat captain volunteered to release the bottles into the Gulf Stream during fishing trips offshore.

papers with drawing
Bottle 10-067 was sent aswirl into the North Atlantic Gyre, lost in time for a remarkable 16 years.

Olsen’s bottle—which contained a note, map and some fish sketches—was found in December 2023 off Portugal’s western coast near the town of Quiaios. Melbourne High School staff received an email from the bottle’s discoverer, a representative of Brigada do Mar, an organization whose main purpose is—not surprisingly—the cleaning of Portugal’s coastline.

Brigada do Mar, which translates to “sea brigade,” was formally established in 2012, but has been carrying out coastal clean-ups since 2009 and has collected nearly 967 tons of waste from Portugal’s beaches with the help of more than 9,000 volunteers.

So, the next time you come across a bottle while trolling at sea or one washes up while you’re surfcasting, pick it up. It could be a message from afar. Or you could be helping keep our ocean and beaches clean.


  • This story was featured in the Outdoor Happening section of the March 2024 issue of Florida Sportsman magazine. Click to subscribe.

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