February 10, 2005  -  

The fine folks at Victoria’s Carmanah Technologies, makers of solar-powered lighting, received an unusual letter last week. It came from Papa Stour, one of the Shetland Islands.

There, a Carmanah-lit buoy had washed ashore, having become untethered and travelling 5,800 km from its original location, off the Newfoundland coast — one of some 1,650 moored off Canada’s eastern shores. Simon Calvin, a teacher on the island, wrote to the company to tell them the solar-powered marker had “washed up on our shores, a wee bit AWOL.” But the light was still flashing.

Technically, the five-meter-tall buoy is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard, for whom it was manufactured. But the Coast Guard have since told the Shetlanders they are welcome to keep it.

Meanwhile, back on Papa Stour, population 24, the buoy’s arrival is the most exciting event in a sheep’s age. The Islanders have struck up a relationship with Carmanah, which shipped them a package containing company T-shirts, B.C. souvenirs, and information about Vancouver Island. Teacher Calvin and his class of two have even added Vancouver Island to the topics for study in geography class.