Photo by Michael Gill
Captain Sean Bercaw
Title of Talk: "Pitcairn Islands:
The Bercaw Family's Four Trips: 1951, 1972, 1987, 2002"
Video of talk PowerPoint slide show with images (67 MB)
From 1971 through 1975, young Sean Bercaw sailed around the world on his family's 38-foot ketch, Natasha. His was a seagoing family. Jay Bercaw, Sean's father, had sailed as first mate for Captain Irving Johnson on the fifth and sixth world voyages of the brigantine Yankee, later meeting and marrying Sean's mother, Gretchen, a former Girl Scout Mariner.
Sean said that he was inspired to study ocean currents by throwing bottles over the side of the boat as a ten-year-old, but that the first hurdle he had to overcome was getting wine bottles. "My parents didn't drink," he laughs, "but I was able to conquer this difficulty by sleuthing behind bars in our various ports of call." Sean threw 35 bottles over the side eventually as he sailed through the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, recording the data in a comprehensive format. This included the date, latitude and longitude of deployment, a description of the location, condition of the seas, and how the bottle floated.
Each bottle contained a note asking that the finder notify Sean with information, including the bottle number and the location and date of the find. His first response came in 1974. A bottle that had traveled over 1,500 nautical miles in less than three months was found by a boy living with his grandparents in Nicaragua. Thus began the intrigue of this science experiment and the individual story associated with each bottle's recovery.
Later, after a naval career, Captain Sean Bercaw taught sailing for a decade and a half for the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. See, listen and read more about Captain Bercaw and his bottle-throwing and other adventures here, here, and here:
An online article in National Geographic Daily News for September 18, 2012 featured Captain Bercaw:
"Oldest Message in a Bottle: Behind History's Famous Floating Notes"
Captain Bercaw was interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) News' Talk of the Nation on October 9, 2012:
Transcript of interview: "Casting Hopes and Dreams to Sea in a Bottle"
Audio of Captain Bercaw's interview: "Casting Hopes and Dreams to Sea in a Bottle" (13:49)
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Last updated October 10, 2012
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