Lobster fisherman finds soccer ball from Baffin Island on Newfoundland beach

By Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A soccer ball appears to have made a 3,000-kilometre oceanic journey from the top of Baffin Island to the hands of a lobster fisherman on the coast of Newfoundland.

Lee Croucher says he saw the ball on the beach on May 30, as he was unloading after a day of fishing off Beaumont, N.L. He picked it up, thinking it would be a neat surprise for his two young daughters. It turned out to be a special reminder that coastal communities are connected, no matter how far apart they might be.

“With all the bad going on in the world, it’s a bit of a good story, anyways,” Croucher said in an interview.

Beaumont, N.L., is on a small island off the northern coast of Newfoundland. The ball was nestled between the rocks on the island’s shore, and Croucher had seen it a few days before he grabbed it, he said.

“We got the same lobster route every morning, it just took a little while before I decided to go in and get it,” he said. He climbed out of the boat onto the slippery rocks and made his way toward the ball. It was still inflated and in good shape, and when he picked it up, he could easily make out the words “Ulaajuk school” written on its faded green felt in black marker.

“At home, I Googled the name of the school and it wasn’t long before I found out where it came from: Pond Inlet, in Nunavut,” he said. “A bit of a surprise, no doubt.”

Pond Inlet is a hamlet of about 1,555 people in Nunavut’s Qikiqtaaluk Region, at the northeastern corner of Baffin Island, and sits on a sloping outcrop of land, surrounded by fiords and mountains.

The Ulaajuk Elementary School is close to the water. School officials did not return requests for comment, but principal Sandra Rutledge told the Nunatsiaq News in an article published June 5 that a now-retired teacher labelled all the school’s equipment with a marker about a decade ago. She said a teacher told her that a student kicked a ball into the ocean, wondering how far it might travel.

If it’s the same ball, it somehow survived a trip through Baffin Bay and the Labrador Sea. Croucher noted that there is information stamped on the ball indicating it was made in Pakistan.

He said that he hopes to get in contact with Rutledge once lobster season winds down and he has a bit more time.

In the meantime, his daughters, aged five and 10, are taking very good care of their new ball at their home in Robert’s Arm, N.L.

“They were pretty excited about it, especially the older one, she had a bit more of an understanding of it,” he said. “The youngest girl starts school now in the fall … and it’s going to be a good thing for her to bring for show and tell.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2024.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press

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