CBS students make a splash in western Ireland

By Mark Squibb/May 26, 2022

It’s a story that spans two continents, four years, and thousands of kilometres — and it’s not finished yet.

It begins with a video contest held by the Marine Institute back in 2018, the prize of which was the opportunity to launch a miniboat, a six-foot, unmanned, GPS tracked vessel, off the coast of Newfoundland.

Grade 8 Frank Roberts Junior High students Kaitlyn Grandy and Stephanie Evans, with the help of teachers Thomas Sheppard and Shawna Walsh, won that contest with their video submission explaining how oceans can affect climate change.

On November 8, 2018, the Raven KASTER, with a little help from Maersk and the Fisheries and Marine Institute, was launched off the Grand Banks. On February 18, 2019, after 102 days at sea, the miniboat ran aground in Western Ireland, where it was retrieved by fisherman Darren Kilbane on Dookinella Beach along the south side of Achill Island.

The name Raven KASTER was inspired by the school’s mascot, the Raven, and the first two letters of team members names (including videographer Eric, who was not present at the event.)

Factors that would have influenced the path of the boat include waves (at the time of the launch, the biggest waves on the planet were being recorded off the Grand Banks), winds, currents, and temperatures.

The boat survived not one, but two storms. Following it’s launch, the boat was battered by what was described by meteorologists at the time as the most intense storm on the planet. After enduring the 130 km/hr winds and 11-metre waves off the Grand Banks, the boat would had to endure Storm Erik off the coast of Ireland before landfall.

And like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, the little boat has a story to tell, though not in words.

Using GPS technology, Grandy and Evans, now graduating Queen Elizabeth High students who plan on attending MUN in the fall, were able to track the boat in real time. The boat dropped into the North Atlantic drift current, but students believe it was Storm Eric that propelled the boat further north to Ireland.

All told, the little boat travelled 5,096 kilometres before running aground on Achill Island, where it is currently on display at the Achill Experience Aquarium and Tourism Centre.

“We’ve learned so much from this, and it’s helping people engage in ocean sciences,” said Grandy. “It’s just amazing, because you never would have thought that just by doing a video, that this would have come from that.”

The team hopes to travel to Ireland in 2023 as Educational Passages Ambassadors (Evans was quick to quip that Ambassador of Ireland Eamon Mckee, who attended the event, was therefore not the only ambassador in the room, a remark met with laughter) and relaunch, with cooperation from a local school, the Raven KASTER from the shores of Achill Island.

“We get to see our boat again, and we get to see a culture that is so similar to Newfoundland,” said Evans. “It’s a really good conclusion to the whole project.”

“Or, maybe it’s just another beginning of the project,” added Grandy.

Where the little boat goes from there, no one can tell — but you can guarantee that the KASTER team will be keeping a close eye.

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