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On January 17, Brigitte Barthélémy was walking along the seashore just north of France's famous Bordeaux wine region when she stumbled upon a bottle nestled among a pile of seashells. Inside were two tightly rolled pieces of paper. One contained a beautiful hand-drawn sketch of a cormorant, while the other, was a message from the New York Pelagic outlining how litter caught in the ocean currents is often fatal for the water birds that mistake the bright plastic debris for food.
This rather unusual environmental awareness message is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based George Boorujy. From 2011 - 2013, as part of his New York Pelagic project, the artist tossed over two dozen bottles into the ocean from a Staten Island beach. Each contained an image of a water bird and a message similar to the one Barthélémy found. Boorujy says he was inspired to take action after becoming aware of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the impact the carelessly tossed plastic has on our wildlife.
Researchers estimate that 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, and this number could increase to 99% by 2050 if big changes aren't made. Many chicks die annually because their mothers inadvertently feed them bits of plastic along with their food. Boorujy hopes that his message will help start a conversation and raise awareness about the plight of the seabirds that are often forgotten in the overall issue of ocean pollution. He also enjoys the opportunity to give away his art and create a unique experience for the finder.
Over the years, the artist has received calls from numerous people that have been lucky enough to discover his bottles. However, they were all found close to Staten Island, making Brigitte Barthélémy's discovery even more special. As to how the bottle could have made its way across the Atlantic Ocean and all the way to France?
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) oceanographer, Rick Lumpkin, who studies the patterns and currents in the ocean and has tossed 1,250 devices called drifters to monitor their path, has a theory. He believes the bottle must have gotten caught up in the Gulf Stream after it made it to the open ocean. It then traveled on a diagonal, heading towards the Brittany coastline of France. While Lumpkin is not sure how it drifted south from there before landing on the Bordeaux beach, he speculates it was carried there by strong winds.
No matter how the bottle reached France, one thing is for sure — Its poignant message has had a big impact on Brigitte, who also happens to be an artist, and her husband, Alain. They not only plan to be more respectful of the environment but also contact the local bird association and see how they can help. While receiving a message in a bottle can certainly help inspire people, it should not be necessary to remind us how dangerous our careless habits are for the innocent marine mammals and seabirds. So remember to reuse, recycle and most importantly, reduce!
Resources: nypelagic.com, wired.com