William Kiriazis started the marine biology program at William Floyd High School in 1972, the same year he became a teacher there.
“I wanted to develop experiments that students can experience the outdoor environment, and marine environment specifically, since we’re so close,” he said.
That led to him create a course in marine science, where students conducted physical and biological studies.
One particular project was to study the paths of local currents.
Over the course of about a decade, his students threw in one bottle each year from both the bay and ocean sides of Smith Point County Park and waited for responses to see how far they traveled. Several bottles have been recovered, with the farthest-reaching found in Nassau County.
Then, in May, Susan Hennes, 75, of East Patchogue, a self-proclaimed beach bum, was taking one of her usual strolls along a shore when she saw a bottle poking out of the muck along the marsh near the beach opening at the end of Bay Road in Brookhaven hamlet.
It was the high school’s original wire-lid glass bottle.
While it may not have seemed like much to the average eye, Hennes has been an avid bottle collector and metal-detector hobbyist since 2005.
“I picked it up and I’m like, ‘Wow, there’s a note in it,’” Hennes said.
That note read:
“DEC. 1, 1972
THIS IS FOR A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT.
WE ARE STUDYING THE CURRENTS AROUND FIRE ISLAND.
PLEASE RETURN TO WILLIAM FLOYD HIGH SCHOOL.
VERY IMPORTANT TO BE RETURNED.
The bottle was returned today to Kiriazis, 75, of East Hampton, who retired in 1999 and is considered a legend among the science department at Floyd. In addition to teaching high school, he also taught art at Suffolk County Community College’s Riverhead campus for 40 years, until his retirement last year.
The reward scribbled at the end of the note seemed to have been a little joke done by a student, Kiriazis said with a laugh.
“I think finding something like this now just gives the teachers really something to hook onto with the students and make it a really authentic learning experience for them,” said, Christine Rosado, director of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics department as well as the secondary education department at the high school. Rosado was informed about the bottle by Linda Fox, a security guard at the high school, after she was contacted by Hennes.
The discovery has inspired Rosado to have Kiriazis come speak to classes and potentially create an ELA writing program based around the journey of the bottle.
She hopes the students will be inspired to learn more about the ocean and how humans are affecting the environment.
“He had such a great effect on the students back then and now his work is really going to carry into this generation.”