Found: a science experiment, 47 years later
A note and bottle were found after 47 years traveling through the Great South Bay.

Courtesy photo

Found: a science experiment, 47 years later

Story By: GLENN ROHRBACKER
8/1/2019


Bill Kiriazis and his class at William Floyd High School were studying the current patterns around the Great South Bay. That was 47 years ago - but a piece of that experiment was just found on a shore in Brookhaven hamlet. 

"Oh my word!" was the reaction of Susan Hennes, 75, of East Patchogue when she found the bottle, half buried in the sand around the corner from Beever Dam Creek where it meets the bay. Hennes walks and collects things often in that area (including bottles), but was surprised and delighted to find something significant like this. She found the bottle with the note inside a couple months ago, but had minor leg surgery shortly after and couldn't follow through. Finally, she reached out to a friend who is a security guard at the high school, who connected Hennes to the right people to deliver the bottle back. 

The note inside the bottle, dated Dec. 1, 1972, says that it is a science experiment and if found, to return to William Floyd High School with a reward of $50. Hennes said she didn't want the reward, just to use the experience to inspire students to keep learning.

"It will give incentive to these kids to work on more projects," she said. "They deserve the whole thing."

Kiriazis said the experiment was to study the flow patterns in the bay, a project he led for about 10 years, and then was taken up by his successors. This was one of the first projects he did, as he started teaching at WFHS that same year. The now-retired educator said he and other teachers would take kids out on the bay and many of the bottles were thrown from the Smith Point bridge. They eventually upgraded to have self-addressed post cards to make it easier for those who found the bottles. The farthest Kiriazis said the bottle made it was to Nassau County. 

The bottle, an old-fashioned Grolsch with a porcelain top, was still sealed air-tight when Hennes found it, with no water inside and little exterior damage, and the note, despite some oxidation, was still intact. Kiriazis and Hennes met near the location in Brookhaven Thursday and the teacher thanked her for finding the bottle and returning it. The district will put the bottle and note in a shadow box and display it in their Rita Rech Museum of William Floyd School District history, which is located in the high school. 

A few major events this tough bottle survived in its 47-year journey:

  • Hurricane Sandy (2012)
  • The breach at Fire Island (2012)
  • Hurricane Gloria (1985)
  • The Blizzard of 1978 (1978)