MORRISTOWN, NJ - After spending the past eight months at sea, Morristown-Beard School’s 6th grade sailboat, S.S.Beard, has been recovered on the rocky shores of the Shetland Islands, 200 miles north of mainland Scotland and 150 miles west of Norway.  The boat was picked up last week by John and Jessica Falconer and their family.

This is the fifth year in a row that Morristown-Beard School 6th graders have launched a 5-foot, unmanned sailboat as part of the “Educational Passages” program.  This year’s boat — S.S. Beard — was launched from a cargo ship in December, 2016 off the coast of Delaware with help from MBS trustee and parent Joe Robillard.  The vessel is equipped with a GPS that transmits to a satellite, so the students have been able to track its journey on the web.  In its hull, students placed a variety of items, from letters and friendship bracelets to a baseball and Pez dispensers. According to John Falconer, “We have retrieved the contents of the boat, but unfortunately the written documents are ruined and we cannot open the flash drive. It would be really nice for the children to communicate and share the information.”

The first MBS boat — Crimson Tide – was launched in 2012 and was recovered by a fisherman in Guernsey, an island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.  It was later re-launched and washed ashore in France.  Other MBS boats, Crimson Cruiser and Crimson Wave, have traveled to Florida and the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland. 

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MBS Middle School teacher Lisa Swanson says the project is exciting because it can also provide a backdrop to teach everything from physics to world languages.  A significant aspect of the project hinges on the hope that students can connect with their peers across the globe when the boat reaches a foreign shore.  When Crimson Tide was retrieved off the coast of Guernsey, for example, it set up exciting new learning opportunities as MBS students connected with students there via Skype.

Now that S.S. Beard has been recovered in the Shetland Islands, the MBS Middle Schoolers will be anxious to connect with local school children in the Shetland area and learn more about the region. Humans have lived in Shetland since the Mesolithic period, and the local way of life reflects the Scottish and Norse heritage of the isles.