A big-hearted voyage

A LITTLE boat that spent 463 days drifting across the Indian Ocean is making its way into Fremantle Library this weekend. 

The tiny GPS-equipped Star of the Sea, built by students at Sacred Heart School in Kingston, Massachusetts was part of a global project from nonprofit organisation Educational Passages, which aims to connect students around the world. 

So far 165 boats have been launched, but this was the first to make it to Australia.

Once the Sacred Heart students had built the boat and filled it with 50 letters, it was air-freighted to South Africa to be launched on March 22, 2019 above the Marion Rise 

in the Indian Ocean, which scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute are in the process of mapping to help unlock the mysteries of tectonic activity in the deep ocean.

Complex seas

“Biologically, geologically and physically, the planet’s seas are an incredibly complex system of wind, waves current, life and resources that are yet poorly known,” says WHOI chief scientist Henry Dick.

In April this year the mini-boat approached WA’s North West before being swept south on the Leeuwin current, with the eager students at Sacred Heart reaching out to Perth locals by email to direct them to Geographe Bay.

Bunbury councillor Todd Brown’s family and Fremantle geoscientist William Power hunted the mini-boat using the students’ GPS reports, but in a serendipitous twist they were beaten to the punch by local primary school teacher Carol Smith and her husband Brian who’d been walking their dog on Dalyellup Beach.

Ms Smith shared the mini-boat full of full of letters 

and trinkets (but minus its mast) with her year 3 class at Australind Primary School and has become a committed participant in the program. 

She’s now working in a small team with Mr Power and Mr Brown to decide the mini-boat’s fate. For now it’s heading to the Fremantle Children’s Library this weekend and then August 30 to September 6 along with some of the letters.

“While the boat is on display, people can come down, have a look and read a few letters from the kids that built the boat. We need help to repair and relaunch,” Ms Smith said.

Mr Power encourages anyone who is interested in getting involved to head to the mini-boat’s Facebook page ‘SHSOS-Australia’ to keep track of updates or let the team know how they’d like to help.

It’s also touring local schools. Fremantle College’s marketing officer Claire Watkinson said they’re hoping to build from Mr Power’s knowledge and design a similar research experiment for their specialist marine students.


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