A 32-inch buoy from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary broke free and made a 4,400-mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
The buoy, believed to be from Western Sambo Sanctuary Preservation Area near Key West, turned up on a beach near the small fishing village of Haverigg, located in the upper reaches of the United Kingdom.
“It’s not unusual for Mother Nature to separate a buoy from its mooring, and we have seen them turn up along the east coast of Florida as far north as Melbourne,” said Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Sarah Fangman. “But this journey was unusual in many ways.”
According to NOAA, the buoy needed to remain in the Gulf Stream until it cleared the coast of North Carolina, before favoring the North Atlantic Drift over the more southerly Canary Current.
Drifting toward northwest Europe, it would have been caught in the North Atlantic Current and sent up through the Celtic Sea. From there it went through St. George’s Channel where it passed into the Irish Sea past the Isle of Man before settling along the shore of Cumbria, a county in northwest England, bordering Scotland.
Local resident Alison Smith spotted the buoy during a routine walk along the wide beachscape, jotted down identifying information, and alerted the sanctuary.
Without knowing exactly when the buoy was set free, NOAA experts who specialize in modeling can only guess how long it took for it to make the journey to the UK. Their estimates range from months to years.