Justin Greene thought he was just doing it for fun.

During a trip to Newfoundland last summer the 12-year-old from Ottawa visited the most Eastern point in North America, Cape Spear.

There, he did what countless visitors before him have done. He wrote a quick message with his name and phone number, stuck it in an old plastic bottle, and threw it in the water.

“I think it was my grandfather's idea,” says Greene. “He thought it would be always cool to have, when you throw out a bottle in the ocean, have it travel so far and someone else find it.”

Except that hardly ever happens. The ocean is a big place.

“I didn’t think anyone would find it,” he says. “I just thought it was just something to do for fun.”

Back home in Ottawa, Greene didn’t give it much thought. That is until just this past week when his father took a most unexpected call from across the Atlantic.

“He said I found this message in a bottle,” explains Paul Greene. “And then I put the phone on hold and told Justin. And Justin kind of screamed with delight and ran over to the phone.”

“I was really excited,” adds Justin. “I was surprised. And I was mostly not aware of how far it went.”

In just six months the bottle managed to travel all the way from Cape Spear, Newfoundland to a tiny island in the English Channel called Alderney. An incredible journey of 3,642 kilometres to an island barely 5 kilometres long.

And not only did it make it. Someone found it. And that someone decided to answer the message.

“It was fantastic, you know?” says Angus MacIntyre, a civil servant on Alderney. He found the bottle while working on a local beach. “We opened it up and it was from this young lad, Justin Greene. And I thought, well, he’s got a nice polite letter in it. I’ll respond to that.”

For Justin, the experience has been “mind-blowing,” and even a little educational, since he had to look up where Alderney was. What was initially just for fun turned into a thrilling, hands-on lesson in ocean currents, geography, and the fickle laws of probability.

And maybe even an example of how, against all odds, even the simplest communication can make the world a much smaller place.