It's a connection made between two countries that has, literally, taken flight.
A young girl from Japan and researchers at Kure Atoll have become friends. And it all began with a message in a bottle.
The letter reads:
"Dear someone who has picked up this bottle. Hello. My name is Rumi and this is from Kagoshima, Japan. I’m [a] 6th grader. I wrote this letter because we’ll graduate elementary school so I wanted it to be a graduation memory…Could you please tell me where you received the bottle and what country you are from. Please tell me a little about your country. We are sending a card and can you send it back with your information? Thank you very much! We appreciate it. I hope to meet you sometime!"
"Even though it’s unfortunate it is trash, it can be exciting and this one just happened to be three pieces of paper lying on the beach," said Ilana Nimz, a biological technician who found the letter in early January among the pile of marine debris that regularly washes up on Kure Atoll.
It had broken free of the bottle, but amazingly had survived seven years in the ocean.
"I’ve found other bottles and I haven’t gotten a response back. But this one was just really adorable," said Nimz.
Rumi Sugimoto was a sixth grader in Kagoshima, Japan when she and her classmates tossed the bottle into the ocean.
Since the discovery, Nimz has been communicating with the young girl.
"The last email had a picture of the volcano in Kagoshima and how there’s a bunch of ash. So I got to share how we have vog currently. Maybe it’s not quite as bad as in Kagoshima, but we have the same idea," said Nimz. "It's fun finding these little connection between our two homes."
Another connection now exists. One of the ten black-footed albatross Kure Atoll biologists are tracking is named after Rumi.
"You know, the albatross goes all over the ocean and so did that bottle," said Nimz.
Trackable trash like this letter actually provides useful information for scientists, such as ocean currents that give a picture of what's happening in the Pacific gyre.
Proving more than an expanse of water, the Pacific is building international connections.
According to Nimz, Rumi Sugimoto is now a college sophomore studying social science at her local university.
She said she wants to become an elementary school teacher and hopes to teach her students about Kure Atoll State Wildlife Refuge.