A MESSAGE in a bottle which was tossed into the sea off the coast of Ireland decades ago has been found 4,000 km away in the Russian Arctic.
The bottle - known as a drifter - was used as part of a research programme by academics at NUI Galway during the 1980s and 90s to study currents and tides around the island of Ireland.
They expected the bottle to wash up again on Irish shores in a matter of weeks, but no one could have predicted its incredible 40+ year voyage to the Russian port of Murmansk - in the Arctic Circle.
Inside the bottle was a message, asking whoever finds the bottle to contact the now defunct Department of Oceanography at University College Galway by filling out their name and address on the card provided.
The practice of using bottles to study tides and currents was commonplace before the development of satellite technology.
Oceanographers, who have been scratching their heads following the discovery, have come up with two theories as to the bottle's journey.
One is that it was carried by natural currents towards the North Sea, then east through the Norwegian Sea and around the coastline into the Barents Sea.
The second, and perhaps more feasible (but less exciting) explanation is that it was accidentally picked up by a fishing boat and dumped in the Russian port, located around 700km east of the country's border with Finland.
"It's amazing to think it has gotten that far," NUI Galway oceanographer Dr Martin White told the Irish Times.
"I fully believe it made its way there by itself. It can certainly reach there by the currents.
"It is likely 30 or 40 years since it was deployed. I think it is quite amazing, if it did go with the currents, that it survived intact, without leaking in the intervening years."
Dr White reasons that because the card inside was not destroyed, the bottle had only recently arrived in Murmansk, rather than arriving there decades ago and simply laying at the bottom of the bay.
"The chances are it has taken some time to get there," he said.