In April 1956, Dean Bumpus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod began releasing bottles—a lot of bottles—into the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly 58 years later, a biologist studying grey seals off Nova Scotia found one of them in a pile of debris on a beach, 300 miles from where it was released. "It was almost like finding treasure in a way," says Warren Joyce. The drift bottle was among thousands dumped in the Atlantic between 1956 and 1972 as part of Bumpus' study of surface and bottom currents, in the days before satellites made the job easier. About 10% of the 300,000 bottles have been found over the years.
Joyce found the bottle Jan. 20 on Sable Island, about 185 miles southeast of Halifax. He contacted scientists at Woods Hole and dutifully gave them the time and place information that Bumpus had asked for in a postcard inside the bottle. His reward will be exactly what Bumpus promised in 1956 to anyone who returned a bottle: a 50-cent piece. "I didn't want the reward, but they said they are sending it to me anyway." Bumpus died in 2002. (Click to read about other ocean-traveling bottles.)