A Christmas wish…in a salt marsh, in May
As conservation interns with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), our work involved exploring some of New Brunswick’s most beautiful natural areas. We wanted to share with you our most intriguing find of the 2019 field season.
Along with NCC staff, we monitored and walked over dozens of nature reserves, both new and old. At some, we helped with ecological inventories; at others, we did surveys for future cleanups or restoration projects. One of the saddest and most frustrating parts of monitoring NCC’s nature reserves is finding trash and various other human-caused disturbances. We’ve found everything from cars, to couches, to abandoned cabins. But it was trash with a message that really surprised us.
In late May, we were monitoring the New Horton Nature Reserve in southeast New Brunswick, near Alma. This reserve protects part of Long Marsh, a long, skinny salt marsh that is landlocked on three sides and extends inland 7.6 kilometres from the Bay of Fundy. The head of Long Marsh is located on NCC’s nature reserve. Although it is well inland from the ocean, the reserve collects debris that washes in on the highest tides. The debris includes larger items like driftwood logs, tires, couches, plastic containers and Styrofoam, as well as smaller items like light bulbs and bottles.
Picking our way through some of the debris, we found several glass bottles that had washed up. We figured they must be at least 20 years old because most of them were not in the greatest condition and none of us could recognize the designs. That said, we struck gold! One of the older bottles was still sealed and contained inside was a message:
Harvey, Albert County, New Brunswick, Canada”
We were disappointed that there was no send date on the message, but the bottle and message were clearly aged. We packed the bottle into our packs and headed off to lunch with curiosity at the back of our minds. We ended up getting lunch at Sapranos, a well-known pizza restaurant in Alma, where we got lucky again.
The owners were a lovely couple who had lived in the area for quite some time. We were examining the bottle when the owners saw our treasure and couldn’t help but inquire. To our amazement, they recognized the name. They generously offered to try and track the message sender down and promised to get back to us with whatever information they could dig up. We left the bottle with them, swapped numbers, and went off to finish our afternoon’s work, still abuzz considering all the possibilities and the story behind the bottle.
That evening we got a text from the owners saying that Rolland Smith (the message sender) still lived in the parish of Harvey, New Brunswick, not too far from where we found the bottle. They promised to return the bottle to Rolland and tell him the story of the bottle’s journey; a journey that, as it turned out, was short in distance, but long in time!
That day gave us a thirst for adventure and made every piece of garbage we picked up more interesting. Finding a piece of local history and seeing how the connectedness of a small community could return it to its owner, many years later, was very rewarding.