Of the many items that have intentionally or unintentionally crossed the Atlantic Ocean from New England and landed somewhere in Europe, a Maine Department of Transportation hard hat is probably one of the most unusual.
Messages in a bottle, boats launched by schoolchildren and even a class ring from Morse High School in Bath have all made their way from Maine and other New England states across the ocean over the years, but a few days ago, a Norwegian man who was out on a walk with his mother discovered a hard hat lying in a bed of seaweed in a nearby fjord.
When Trondheim resident Sigbjorn Eide picked it up, he first thought it was from England, or perhaps the French province of Maine — but then realized it was from the U.S. state of the same name, more than 3,300 miles away.
“My thoughts when I picked it up were, ‘Hmm, maybe a helmet from the neighborhood, somewhere close?’” Eide wrote in his message to the Maine DOT. “But then I saw the American flag on it. When I Googled it I found [the Maine DOT] at once. I was astonished and impressed about the long voyage the small helmet had taken.”
It’s not known exactly how long the hat had been in the ocean, or sitting on the shore in the Norwegian fjord, but it was covered in algae and other accumulated sea goop. Eide later cleaned up the hat, which revealed a stamp on the inside of the brim that was dated August 2016, which means it’s unlikely it had spent more than five years in the water.
Maine DOT spokesperson Damian Veilleux said that Eide reached out to the Maine DOT Monday to let the agency know he’d found the hat. The department posted photos of him wearing his unusual find on the Maine DOT Facebook page on Tuesday morning.
“It’s pretty cool to think that this hat somehow fell in the ocean, and then followed the same set of currents that old sailors used to follow in the 1400s,” Veilleux said. “It was definitely a ‘wow’ moment for us.”
Eide said it was meant to be, as the same day that he found the hat he was hired as a professional beach cleaner for Eco Camp Norway, a local outdoor recreation facility.
Veilleux said the Maine DOT hopes to send a box of Maine goodies to Eide as a thank you for retrieving the hard hat — though he said their new Norwegian friend can keep it.
“We are not asking for the hat back,” Veilleux said. “After such a long journey, it seems only right it stay there on international exchange.”