STATEN ISLAND — Sting would be impressed.
A message in a bottle flung from the shores of Staten Island bobbed 3,500 miles across the Atlantic before washing up in front of two people walking along a beach on France's western shore.
Alain Barthélémy and his wife Brigitte found the bottle in La Tremblade. It had been launched from Wolfe's Pond Park Beach in 2013 by painter George Boorujy, riding the waves to Europe until it was found on Feb. 17.
The bottle was part of Boorujy's New York Pelagic project and the message included a drawing of a bird inside and a letter asking whoever found it to contact him.
"I was not expecting this at all," said Boorujy, who posted about the discovery on his blog over the weekend. "Most of the other ones that have been found, most have been found not terribly far from where they were launched."
Alain Barthélémy emailed the artist saying he and his wife stumbled upon the bottle while walking their dog Elton on the sand dunes.
While Brigitte Barthélémy, who's also a painter, was looking for pieces of wood to decorate their home in Saintes, Charente-Maritime, she noticed the bottle in the sands.
"I take bottle with a lot of shells on the caps and fond, and I start investigation and cleaning bottle," Alain told DNAinfo in an email. "We saw written on the bottle 'NY Pelagic.' We say, 'Impossible NY is 6000 km between here.'"
Alain opened the bottle at home, found the picture of the bird and the letter, and reached out to Boorujy.
"I was completely shocked and then very delighted," Boorujy said. "The email was so French and so charming."
Boorujy started the New York Pelagic project in 2011 after seeing photographs by Chris Jordan of albatross corpses with their stomachs filled with plastic. At the same time, news stories about the Great Pacific Garbage patch were making the rounds.
"I was struck by the idea that there's these open ocean birds that are really numerous, but our territory doesn't really overlap with them much. Yet we were having a really, really big impact on them," Boorujy said.
"Almost all my work has to do with man and nature. It was sort of a natural outflowing."
Boorujy put drawings of different pelagic, or oceanic, birds inside to add some value to the bottles and give people a chance to own original art.
Since the project started in 2011, Boorujy has put 20 bottles out to sea from various spots on the East Coast. Eight have been found, with most discoverers excited to share with the artist how they find them.
Most turned up close to where they were launched, with one in New Jersey and another in Connecticut.
"I'm actually shocked at how many got found," he said. "It seems like such a needle in the haystack."
Boorujy said he tried to use natural materials so the bottles could eventually decompose in the sea, and decided to keep it low-tech and not add GPS to track them.
As the project was wrapping up, Boorujy decided to trek out to Staten Island in October 2013 because he hadn't launched any bottles from there yet. He threw one in the waters at Great Kills Beach and the other at Wolfe's Pond Park.
In an email, Alain Barthélémy wrote that the couple connected with the project because they love nature and live in a part of France with several bird preserves.
When the couple first reached out to Boorujy, they sent him links to tourism websites on the nature preserves near where they live and even invited him to fly over to France to stay at their home so they could give him a guided tour of the country.