By Mark Squibb/December 9, 2022
Students at Coláiste Pobail Acla in Achill Island, Ireland, met with Frank Roberts Junior High students this week via Zoom ahead of the relaunch of the Raven KASTER miniboat.
The story begins way back in 2018, when then Grade 8 students Kaitlyn Grandy and Stephanie Evans, both now studying at MUN, with the help of teachers Thomas Sheppard and Shawna Walsh, entered, and won, a video contest hosted by the Marine Institute, the prize of which was the opportunity to launch a miniboat, a six-foot, unmanned, GPS tracked vessel, off the coast of Newfoundland.
That miniboat, with a little help from Maersk and the Fisheries and Marine Institute, was launched off the Grand Banks in November 2018. The little boat travelled 5,096 kilometres before running aground on Achill Island on February 18, 2019 — a total of 102 days at sea.
This week’s virtual meet-and-greet lasted about an hour, during which, Ambassador of Ireland Eamon Mckee waxed eloquently on Irish gods, Vikings, the Norman Conquest, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, the invention of the telegram, the colonization of Newfoundland, and the war in Ukraine, highlighting the depth of navigational history and interconnectivity that exists between Newfoundland and Labrador and Ireland specifically, and North America and Europe generally.
Students also taught one another local sayings and idioms, so while Irish students learned what a CFA was and that the phrase ‘Who knit ya?’ has nothing to do with yarn, Newfoundland students learned that in Ireland, good craic (pronounced ‘crack’) refers to a fun time, not an illegal substance, and that ‘grand’ in Ireland means adequate, not fantastic or wonderful.
“I think it was really fun meeting new people,” said Frank Roberts student Nova Butler. “It was really fun.”
Cassie Stymiest, executive director of Educational Passages, Sheena Fennell, senior oceanographic technician with the University of Galway, and Kieran Reilly, scientific and technical officer with the Marine Research Infrastructures team at MI in Ireland, also joined the conversation virtually.
The boat will soon be relaunched from the coast of Ireland, and where it eventually ends up, no one can know.
“I’m hoping that it will come back here, but there’s also a chance that it won’t,” said Frank Roberts student Angelina Main. “It could go off track and end up in the United States.”
Sheppard, who acts as project coordination, added that conversely, prevailing winds could carry the boat north to Norway.
“So, we just don’t know (where she will go,)” said Sheppard. “But the fun part is taking the data, looking at it, and figuring out what’s going on and what’s causing these boats to go where they go. So, we’re learning a lot about how changes in the current, and weather in North Atlantic, are affecting us all.”
Sheppard said projects like this help address, and hopefully answer, questions pertaining to everchanging ocean systems.