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Teacher's Message in Bottle Found 47 Years Later

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 19:09
Susan Hennes, who found the bottle, with William Kiriazis, a retired William Floyd High School science teacher, at the Brookhaven beach where Ms. Hennes found the bottle.
Courtesy William Floyd School District

William Kiriazis retired as a science teacher from the William Floyd High School in 1999, but one of his lessons will live on at the school thanks to a discovery made on a Brookhaven beach.

Mr. Kiriazis, who has lived in Springs for 34 years, developed a course in marine science when he first started teaching at William Floyd in 1972. One of the experiments was on ocean currents -- an experiment he said he and his students carried out by tossing a message in a bottle into the ocean each year. Most were written on self-addressed postcards, but the first one they ever wrote and launched, on Dec. 1, 1972, was on a piece of paper rolled up and tucked into a brown Grolsch beer bottle with a cap wired closed.

"The school is within five minutes of the bay, the ocean, the brackish water, so we had all types of opportunities," Mr. Kiriazis said on Friday. "We would get about 90 percent of the cards back, but this one kind of just disappeared somewhere."

About three months ago, Sue Hennes of East Patchogue found it.

Ms. Hennes was beachcombing for glass bottles, which she collects, at the end of Bay Road in Brookhaven, when she discovered the bottle. She stowed it away, planning to open it after a surgery she was scheduled to have, and finally opened the bottle and read the note inside last week.

"I was just walking along, and a foot away from the high tide line, in the reeds, in the muck, I saw it laying down," Ms. Hennes said. "The tide didn't do anything to it. It didn't chip."

She contacted a friend of hers who works at William Floyd High School, and was ultimately connected with the head of the science and technology department and with Mr. Kiriazis himself. On Thursday, they met at the beach where Ms. Hennes found the bottle.

"They were ecstatic," Ms. Hennes said. "It might inspire the kids of today, like a time capsule. I liked the bottle and said, 'Should I keep it?' But it was about the kids. It belongs over there."

The bottle and its note are destined for display case at William Floyd High School.

The note promised a reward of $50 to its finder, but that did not come to pass.

"The student who that wrote that note just put that in and it got by me," Mr. Kiriazis said. "It was kind of a joke."

But Ms. Hennes said finding the bottle and note was rewarding in itself.

"It feels great. I feel like I'm a part of the school district," she said.

Mr. Kiriazis, also an artist who is currently showing his work in the Springs Invitational at Ashawagh Hall, said the goal of the lesson was not just to teach kids about currents but to help them develop an appreciation for nature.

"You have all of these environments right around where you live," he said. "You have to really appreciate what you have and what's out there, and I think it was very successful."