OCRACOKE, N.C. — Our lives are filled by moments and connections.
But some connections remind us maybe our world isn’t as big as we think. Just ask Charles Temple, whose world shrunk a little bit this holiday season.
“Wish I could remember when I came up with the idea," he laughed.
Charles is a teacher at the Ocracoke School, the only school on the small Outer Banks island that teaches kindergarten through 12th grade. With a population of roughly under 1,000 people, Charles says the atmosphere among students is more like a family than a typical high school dynamic.
“It's not unusual to have an entire class of kids that went to pre-kindergarten together," he said.
Around 2017, Charles began sending off his seniors with a unique parting gift: placing class photos inside a bottle (one for each graduate) and having a friend launch them into the gulf stream in the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’d seal up a flyer from the graduation ceremony that always has a picture of the kids, for each kid I’ll write a note… seal it up in a bottle," he said.
He'd seal the bottles with wax to ensure the bottles had a chance of making it through their ocean trek. For years, his messages in a bottle have been floating out in the ocean. Their location, unknown.
But that changed on December 17, when a woman posted on Facebook she found one of Temple's bottles off the coast of Portugal!
“I never kept track of it, because I have no expectations anybody would ever find one, but here we are," he laughed.
Inside was a class photo of the 2020 graduating class at Ocracoke School, which was posted to the Portuguese woman's account with the school tagged. Her original post has now been shared hundreds of times and is still growing.
“I expected it to take about two years. Whether the bottles are still out there circulating, it’s anybody’s guess," Charles said.
Days before Christmas, he sees the find as its own unique holiday surprise.
A gift reminding him how small our world really is.
“It feels like when a graduating class goes out, you send them out into the world... you don’t know where they’ll end up, the adventures they'll go on."
Charles says the student whose picture was pointed to in the found bottle in Portugal is the son of the man with the charter fishing boat who's been launching the messages in the first place!