February 18, 2005  -  

A runaway Canadian Coast Guard bouy took more than a year to cross the Atlantic and run aground on a small Shetland Island, but its made-in-Victoria light was still flashing.

The five-metre-tall buoy went adrift off the coast of Labrador in November 2003, says Susan Keough, spokes-woman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador region.

It had been used as a seasonal buoy placed in the water around June and taken out in October or November.

In this case, the buoy took off before it could be collected. It was topped with a flashing light made by Victoria’s Carmanah Technologies. When it showed up in December on the rugged coast of the tiny island of Papa Stour, population 27, the light was still shining, even after travelling 5,800 kilometres.

“They can keep the buoy,” Keough said Thursday.

The buoy was easy to spot, said Simon Calvin, teacher at the Papa Stour school, which has two elementrary school students and one “nursery” child. “I noticed the light early one morning.”

He contacted Carmanah by e-mail and they set up a correspondence. The company sent Calvin gifts and information about Vancouver Island.

Now, students are learning about us. “We have studied Vancouver Island a wee bit,” said Calvin.

Carmanah’s wayward technology has been moved indoors.

“The light is on display at school and the buoy is on the shoreline — too heavy to move!” Calvin wrote in an e-mail to the Times-Colonist. “We are very proud of ‘our’ light and buoy. We were interviewed on BBC Scotland radio last night.”

In the spirit of friendship, the City of Victoria has donated mementos for the entire population of Papa Stour. A packjage of 27 pins, featuring the city’s crest, as well as 27 pens, plus three glossy books about our city is going to the island.

Threse items are packed up with gifts from the Times Colonist, including pens and hardcover books embossed in silver with “official reporter’s notebook” for the two older students, novelty toys for the youngest, a Canadian wilderness calendar, children’s books, and copies of the newspaper article that Calvin requested.

His mailing address:

Simon Calvin, Papa Stour Primary School, Papa Stour, Shetland, Scotland ZEE 9PW, U.K.