When 18 year-old Gerrit Wesselink threw his message in a bottle into the waters between Nunavut and Greenland last summer, he thought he'd seen the last of it. Then he got a big surprise. 

"A year later I got an email," said Wesselink. "It was very unexpected."

The email was from a Swiss family. They'd discovered his message in a bottle while kayaking in Ireland. 

Wesselink said it was amazing to think that his message survived the journey, and made it into the hands of a family on another continent.

"It kind of shows how, in a weird way, humans can be connected - that a Canadian boy threw it in the water in Greenland and it was found by a Swiss family in Ireland."

Gerrit Wesselink

Wesselink, who is studying political science at the University of Ottawa, was shocked that his message in a bottle survived the journey to Ireland. (supplied)

Bottle's journey helps track ocean currents

Wesselink was on an educational trip in the Arctic last summer when he dispatched the bottle as part of an annual study on ocean currents. 

Students enclosed a note introducing him or herself, and contact information.

The bottles also contained a request for anyone who found one to head online and and enter the GPS coordinates on a website, so that the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans can track where the bottle was carried by the currents. 

Wesselink said over a hundred students tossed bottles into the ocean, but it's very rare for one to turn up. 

"They say about 1 in every 25 bottles is found, the rest of them might crash into the side of a ship or hit a rock, and because they're glass bottles they'll break open and sink to the bottom."

Wesselink says he hopes to keep in touch with the family who found his message in a bottle.