More than 4,500 miles separate Ponte Vedra High School and Germany, but that distance has all but evaporated for the school’s German Club since a bottle that was dropped in the Rhine River fell into their hands.
Following Hurricane Irma, Ponte Vedra High Media Specialist David Richards was walking along the beach with his father when he discovered a glass bottle lying in the sand. Upon further inspection, Richards realized that the barnacle-covered bottle contained a message written in German. Unable to translate the message himself, Richards had an idea.
“I decided to take it to school and give it to the German Club, and they jumped right on it,” he said.
Taking care to leave the bottle intact, the Ponte Vedra High German Club went to work translating the message.
“It just says, ‘Hey, we’re a kindergarten from Germany,’” German Club President Sydney Vitti said. “‘We read a book about a message in a bottle, and we wanted to try it ourselves, so we dropped this in the Rhine River and we hope someone gets it.’”
Dated Aug. 13, 2014, the message also specified that the kindergartners attended the Traumland (“Dreamland”) school in Altenkirchen, Germany. After further research, the club gained permission to call the school long-distance to speak with Birgitt Bay, Traumland’s kindergarten manager.
“She was dumbfounded that we found it, and that it was still together,” said club sponsor Christina Waugh, who helped translate the call for the students. “They threw 10 bottles in on that day. One was found in the Netherlands, and none of the others were found until this one.”
Bay advised the club that, although the 2014 kindergarten class had since moved onto primary school, Traumland still had contact with them and would try to gather pictures to send via email. Now, having established a method of communication with the school, members of the German Club are hoping to foster a continuing relationship with its students.
“It’s terrific,” said Principal Fred Oberkehr, weighing in on the idea. “And I think that if [the students] can make this connection, it’d be really great.”