Five years ago, Laura Phillips of Burke stood impatiently on the deck of a ferry going from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia.
When the ferry finally reached the middle of the Bay of Fundy, 9-year-old Laura and an older sister each dropped a baby food jar with a note inside into the icy waters.
Last month, one of the baby food jars was found by a man strolling along the New Jersey shore. In it was Laura's note, giving her name and address and asking whoever found it to let her know where it was found.
"It's not every day that somebody comes across a letter in a bottle, " began the note from Michael C. Votta, a council member in Monroe Township outside Atlantic City.
"But on August 10, 1987, while I was walking on the beach at Cape May Point in Cape May County, New Jersey, I found just that," Votta said. "Your message has really been around."
"I was so surprised, I'm like wow, you know," said Laura, now 14, describing her reaction to receiving Votta's letter.
Although it has been five years since she dropped the jar into the water, Laura said she and her family never forgot about it. "We were talking about it this summer when we were on another boat," wondering "wherever did that bottle go?" said Laura, who will start eighth grade next week at Lake Braddock Secondary School.
According to an expert, it could have gone one of two ways. The longer route, about 22,000 miles, could have taken the baby food jar along the North Atlantic Gyre, a term describing the currents that form a large clockwise circle in the Atlantic Ocean.
"It could have gone up to Greenland, Iceland, then southwest along the coast of Europe, then westward along the equator, south of Cuba, up the Florida coast and then gotten kicked out of the Gulf Stream" near New Jersey, said Henry R. Frey, chief of the Estuarine and Ocean Physics Branch of the National Ocean Service in Rockville.
Or the jar "could have been slopping back and forth" for quite a while until it was carried southward along the East Coast by the Labrador Current, said Frey. That trip is roughly about 1,000 miles and the jar could have spent months drifting in places such as Long Island Sound, he said.
Laura said it's unlikely that she'll repeat her experiment: "It took so long," she said.