Message in a bottles tell multiple tales

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A drift bottle was found on Sable Island, about 190 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Jan. 20. Warren Joyce, a biologist working at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, found the bottle while conducting research on gray seals. The bottle was numbered and inside had a paper and postcard.

The bottle recovered on Sable Island was released from the research vessel Albatross III during its Cruise No. 73, which departed Woods Hole on April 17, 1956, to sample haddock eggs and larvae on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine and to also collect hydrographic data.

The bottle was one of 12 launched on April 26, 1956. In all, 800 drift bottles were released from the Albatross III at various locations during cruise 73 before the ship returned to Woods Hole on April 28. If that many bottles were released on one cruise, were drift bottles released on other Albatross III cruises, and if so, for what purpose?

Further investigation revealed that thousands of drift bottles were released from the Albatross III during cruises in 1953, 1955, and 1956 to determine the distribution of haddock eggs and larvae and to identify general circulation patterns of water in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank regions.

These cruises revealed that the area of maximum haddock spawning – the northeast part of Georges Bank — coincided with the area of minimum drift bottle returns. Haddock eggs and larvae spawned on the northeastern part of Georges Bank could therefore be transported out of the area by water currents and lost to the fishery.

“Cruise reports and data logs indicated that vast numbers of drift bottles were released over several decades by our ships, primarily the Albatross III, but also several other vessels,” said Nancy McHugh. “Our filing cabinets of data are truly a gold mine of information and provide yet another interesting window to the past.”

Click here for the full report by NOAA.