Unmanned miniature Sail boat ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’ travelled over 3,000 Km

In: Press Release
iFADO consortium are launching a total of five mini-boats this year on the scope of Educational Passages Program

The Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme and Educational Passages are delighted to report that the 1.5 metre unmanned mini sailboat called ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’, that was deployed in June, was recently found stranded on the Bunes Beach above the Arctic Circle in the Lofoten Islands, in Norway.

After travelling over 3,000km from Irish waters in the Atlantic to Norway, the ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor‘ was found by the Bjørnsen family and friends while on holidays on the Lofoten Island over the summer. Mr Lars Bjørnsen said his daughters were thrilled to discover the mini boat washed up on the remote Bunes Beach, “our neighbour had found the boat and my three girls were so excited to join him to open the hatch of the boat to see the Irish messages and ‘treasures’ inside. We were able to read most of the letters that had been written by the students at Kilglass National School in Galway, although some were a little wet. The girls were also delighted with the Irish candy and crisps – which survived the voyage.”

“Bunes Beach is quite isolated on the western side of Reinefjorden on the Moskenesøya island, Norway. You can only get there by ferry and then have to walk 3km to the beach. It is a beautiful beach in a bay surrounded by mountains and steep ridges. However, not many people get to go there on a regular basis. Therefore, the fact that we found the Galway Sailor mini boat, that had made its way into the bay and then washed up on the shore with little structural damage is amazing for such a small boat,” Mr Bjørnsen further explained.

The ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor‘ is a 1.5 metre unmanned mini sailboat that was provided to Kilglass National School in County Galway, as part of a collaborative school project, coordinated by the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme and supported by the international Educational Passages programme in the USA. The project was also funded by EU Interreg iFADO (Innovation in the Framework of the Atlantic Deep Ocean) project, in which the Marine Institute are partners.

Welcoming the news of the boat being found, Mick Gillooly, Interim CEO said, “The Explorers mini-boat project is a great example of marine science literacy and engaging with the community at a local school level in Ireland as well as across the ocean in other countries. For school children, this project provides an exciting way of seeing real life examples of how the ocean has an influence on all our lives, how it connects us, as well as learning how the ocean influences our weather and climate, and the types of technology used at sea. The Marine Institute are delighted to have been involved with this project and look forward to supporting this collaboration involving the Explorers Education Programme team, Kilglass National school, the Research Infrastructures team at the Marine Institute, as well as Educational Passages in the USA with the ongoing mini boat adventures”.

The mini boat was equipped with a sail and a satellite tracker, which allowed the students at Kilglass NS to track it as it sailed across the ocean, using the international Educational Passages tracking system. Mr Peter Kane, who was the school teacher leading the project at Kilglass National School in Ahascragh, Co Galway was thrilled with the news from Norway and thanked the Bjørnsen family for their lovely message sent to the school children in Galway. “It is truly a mini-summer miracle! Everyone at Kilglass National School are so delighted with the news that our mini-boat ‘Seoltóir na Gaillimhe‘ has been found in Norway. When the mini boats are found after their travels, this highlights how the ocean connects us all”.

The Explorers Education Programme’s marine project involved over 100 children taking part in science, geography and art activities learning about the ocean; as well as preparing the mini boat for its journey. The students painted and decorated the boat, created artwork and good luck messages, and named the boat ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor‘, which recognises the tradition of fishing in Galway. The mini boat was launched by the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer near the M6 Data Buoy, in the Atlantic Ocean during a scientific survey in June.

Peter Kane also commented on the collaboration with the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme, highlighting the importance of marine themes used on the curriculum in Ireland. “The Educational Passages mini boat programme brings children, schools and countries together in so many different ways, from building the boats, tracking them at sea, to finding them in new countries when they reach land.”

“When the ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor‘ last reported its GPS location near the Faroe Islands in June, we didn’t know whether the boat had been damaged or was still drifting with the currents and winds. We were therefore thrilled to get a call from Cassie at Educational Passages to let us know that ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor‘ made it back to land in Norway,” Mr Kane said.

The Marine Institute’s ocean modellers have since provided a map showing the likely journey of the ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’ after it lost its GPS tracking signal. Knowing the last coordinates, as well as where the boat was found, the team were able to produce a map showing the boats likely movement based on the currents and wind direction at the time. It was estimated that the boat travelled over 3000km from when it was deployed in the Atlantic.

Mr Kane further said, “we were also excited to find out that our boat had also set a new record for the most northern journey ever made by one of the unmanned mini-boats with Educational Passages. We now look forward to the next stage of working with the Explorers Education Programme and linking our students with the local Norwegian Primary School, who have taken over the boat’s next new adventure.” For further information about the updates with ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor ‘ see: https://educationalpassages.org/boats/seoltoir_na_gaillimhe/

Engaging in the Educational Passages mini-boat Program, the iFADO consortium of researchers are launching a total of five mini-boats this year around the Atlantic from Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, and the UK. To learn more, and track all these boats together, visit https://educationalpassages.org/events/ifado/.

The Explorers Education Programme is funded by the Marine Institute, Ireland’s state agency for marine research and development.