1st Voyage

  • About the Jackalope

    Jackalope was built from a kit by ten 7th and 8th graders under the supervision of Mrs. Theresa Williams at the University of Wyoming Lab School. The students included maps of Wyoming and a flash drive with a slideshow about the project in Jackalope’s waterproof hold, so finders will be able to learn a little about Wyoming and the boat’s history and contact students at the UW Lab School. Instructions for recovery and redeployment are written in multiple languages on the hull to help students in another country send Jackalope back on her journey.

    Image Caption: Middle school students in Theresa Williams’ UW Lab School class pose with the ship they built. Dubbed “The Jackalope,” the small sailboat is outfitted with a GPS and will be tracked by NOAA. Students pictured are (front) Ryan Chamberlain; (second row, from left) Yousuf Abdelkader and Anna Chen; (back row, from left) Kairi Fahlenkamp, Zane Tillman, Williams, James Boyers, Rhonwyn Edwards, Malachi Bustos, Sadie Smith and Anna Roesler. (Michael Cheadle Photo)

  • February 2017 - Launched at sea

    Thanks to Mike Cheadle and Barbara John, this boat was deployed off the R/V Atlantis near Easter Island in the Pacific on 12 February 2017. The story of the cruise and all the activity that went along with it is posted  at https://www.pitodeep.org/.

    From the cruise blog, February 17, 2017 “Jackalope’s Journey” By Theresa Williams:

    Hello Friends, Fans and Strangers,

    Slackjaw Sally here with news of Jackalope.  Jackalope and I became friends working and relaxing in the Main Lab on the Atlantis where she told me her story.  Her first memory is being hauled from the University of Wyoming Geology Department to the UW Lab School by Tanner and Chris along with Mike and Bobbie.  It was a little bumpy, but she was well packed and didn’t mind.  Next thing she knew, she was engulfed in bright light as her box lid was removed and a dozen young faces were looking down at her.  They quickly pulled all her parts out of the box, excitedly checking off the packing list and commenting on how cool she was.  That was a happy day for Jackalope!

    Every Tuesday and Thursday for a month, the 7th and 8th grade students came and worked on her, filling her keel, sanding, gluing, caulking and finally painting her.  It was a lot of fun getting so much attention.  The discussion of what to name her and how to decorate the sail was especially heart-warming.  The kids chose a mythical animal, a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope, because it was more interesting to draw and especially because jackalope is fun to say.

    October came and she was hauled back to Geology and onto a truck.  Mike and Bobbie drove her to Oregon and stored her on the Atlantis until this group of scientists arrived.  After the installation of her GPS and some final gluing and caulking, she was set up in the Main Lab to hang out with me.

    Saturday night she made her big escape!  Catfish and Kevin lowered her over the back of the ship and set her loose.  She just gave us one last look, turned around and sailed away.  I felt a pang of sadness for losing her company, but a swell of happiness for her to finally be on her long-awaited journey.  I’m living vicariously through her now by following her GPS pings on the internet.  Jackalope is moving mostly west and a little south.  She made 52 kilometers that first night, 89 km the following 24 hours and another 74 km in the last 24 hours, so she’s moving right along for a five-foot sailboat.  Her location is posted each day at 9 AM Eastern and you can follow her here!

    We can all learn a little about currents and winds in the South Pacific Ocean by following Jackalope’s adventure!


    More on Mike Cheadle, Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming Department of Geology & Geophysics, and how he researches the processes involved in the formation of ocean crust and calls the ocean floor “the last frontier of exploration” on planet Earth:

    Summary of Expedition: Journey to the Pito Deep

    In January and February 2017 an international team of scientists boarded the R/V Atlantis, to explore the Pito Deep. This is a point at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean where tectonic plates have exposed a cross section of lower ocean crust. Using remotely operated and autonomous underwater vehicles they collected an unprecedented collection of lower crustal rock samples, created an incredibly high resolution map of the area, and discovered at least 4 new hydrothermal vents. You can find a record of the journey here including our blog postsphotos and videos.

    Jackalope is the first mini-boat to be deployed in the South Pacific, the first to include an Iridium transmitter with global coverage, and the first to be launched by a school from the Rocky Mountain Region (a 7,280 foot drop in elevation for the boat).

  • August 2017 - Landed and recovered after over 12,000 km

    On August 22, 2017, after several months of sailing west and logging 12000 kilometers, it was apparently recovered and brought on to a very small atoll east of Papa New Guinea and north of the Solomon Islands.

    Jackalope’s story was reported in the news – by the University and local printers Gillette News Record. Here are a few quotes from the stories:

    • “She traveled 12,310 kilometers in 190 days at sea, or 9,550 kilometers along a great circle,” Cheadle explains. “That’s the longest straight-line distance traveled in a single voyage by one of these boats. A few have gone farther, because they’ve been relaunched or go around in circles.”
    • “Maybe they’ll contact us?” Cheadle says of residents living on the atoll. “But, it is a pretty remote place. Only 2,000 people live on the entire atoll, and its only contact with the outside world is a supply ship visit once a month.”
    • “I still hope that we will eventually receive some correspondence from the finders of the little ship,” says Theresa Williams, a middle school teacher, whose students at the Lab School built the small craft. “Since we haven’t heard anything yet, I wonder if they have internet access on the atoll/island. I don’t know if they speak one of the languages we included in the instructions.”
  • February 13, 2018 - Update

    After not hearing about the Jackalope for many months, an email appeared from a George Kaola that reads as follows: “The Jackalope Project by the University of Wyoming in the United States was dismantled by the finder from Ontong Java Atoll. It is a small sailing boat about a meters long with a tracking device (GPS), purposely to study the wind and current of the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately the finder dismantled everything when he found it.

    My daughter and I inspected the boat

    When I first read about this project in the local paper late last year 2017, I contacted our people in Ontong Java and even posted it in our facebook group (Marae Forum) but without success. I suspected such thing would happened because most of our population in the island are illiterate. Also they usually dismantled tracking devices with solar that were attached to fishing net from big fishing boats whenever they found it.

    When I went home for Christmas I enquired and located it so I went and got it. I felt so sorry about what happened to it. I do apologies on behalf of the finder who ruined the project.

    My kids were so sad about what happened to the boat.

    It is sad because the information about the project are written on the boat yet they ignored it. “This is a result of illiterate and lack of knowledge of such project”. I assume the level of language in English is very complicated for our people to understand it and also there should be a clear message telling the finder not to destroy or remove anything from it. Because the boat would be expected to arrive at places where people know little about such project and even how to read.

    I (with hat) took it to our men’s beach hut and told them about this project and my disappointment of what happened to it.

    I brought the boat over to Honiara just in case those from the University want to come over and repair it, reinstalled the missing GPS and launch it again. It is without any GPS, the information documents and the sail also is broken.”

    The project team continued writing with Mr. Kaola who had taken good care of the miniboat and tey all worked together to help relaunch it. Check out the story of Voyage #2 below to find out all the details!

Voyage 2

  • December 7, 2018 Update - Will be refurbished!

    Students at the University of Wyoming have painted a new sail, and sent a number of trinkets and gifts with it and a new GPS to the Solomon Islands. Check out the full update in an article published by the University here. We especially enjoyed reading the last quote, “but wouldn’t it be cool if it could get passed along — school by school — and made its way back to the East Coast of the United States?”

  • August 2019 - Repairs begin for relaunch

    Students from Kukum SDA School repairs and prepare the miniboat for relaunching. Photo: George Kaola

    George Kaola continues to help get the Jackalope miniboat ready for relaunch… in August of 2019 he had in hand a new sail and GPS thanks to the U.Wyoming group. George noted on August 6: “I will introduce to my class tomorrow about this miniboat and our project on this. I am so excited already as we will finally begin what we been longing for. Pass the good news to your students.”

    We are just as excited as George and all those following the Jackalope… the journey continues!

    October 2019 : Painting!

    The final moment of these Kukum SDA School students with the Jackalope before it was taken to relaunch.


  • December 2019 - Ready for relaunch

    The Jackalope will sail again! Stay tuned for details.

  • January 23, 2020 - Set to sea once again

    George Kaola, the teacher in the Solomon Islands and the lead repairer for the Jackalope, with a couple of children before relaunch. Kaola and some of his students repaired the vessel and launched it from the atoll out to sea Jan. 24. (George Kaola Photo)

    The Jackalope was set to sea again from the Ontong Java Atoll in the Solomon Islands thanks to the diligent work of George Kaola who had rescued it and has been preparing it for relaunch for the last two years.

    George posted pictures on Instagram stating, “Jackalope Miniboat finally launched on Friday 24th January at 7:30 am Solomon Islands time. Venue: Pelau Island, Ontong Java Atoll, Solomon Islands.” [GMT time = January 23 @ 20:30]

    The Jackalope sailed northeast past Nukumanu which was the last place on the flight path of Amelia Earhart before she and her co-pilot Fred Noonan disappeared forever. Where will the Jackalope sail to this time?

    The University of Wyoming posted an article about the Jackalope on January 31, 2020 – “Jackalope Vessel Repaired, Finally Sails Again“.

  • May 2020 - Landed on Hiu Island, Torres, Vanuatu

    May 16, 2020

    The Jackalope miniboat landed on Hiu Island, Torres, Vanuatu – a new country for Educational Passages! The boat was successfully recovered and we are awaiting full story and hopefully pictures, too. It is the Northernmost island in Vanuatu with only a few hundred people. Here is a video about the island and the people that live there:


    On this second voyage, the miniboat Jackalope sailed for >5,837 km (3,151 nm) in 114 days from dropsite off Pelau Island, Ontong Java Atoll, Solomon Islands on January 24, 2020 (GMT) to Hiu Island, Torres, Vanuatu on May 16, 2010. In a straight line the distance was only 1,194 km (645 nm).

    June 26, 2020

    Mr. Kaola spent about a month connecting with people around the islands and arranging for a rescue mission. On June 26, Jonathan V Pitamama, Kino, and three other boys who live and work on Loh Island (south of Hiu also in the Torres Islands) headed for Hui Island, Vanuatu to pick up the Jackalope miniboat and they were successful!

    Here are some pictures that Mr. Kaola shared with us on Facebook of the rescue mission:

    Thank you to the Hiu Islanders and all the finders and rescuers involved!

    January 24, 2022

    George Kaola, who originally found the boat after its first voyage, and set it back to sea after repairs in 2020, posted a message on Facebook to Vanuatu community with the following note:
    “A humble request to release this miniboat from Vanuatu still continues. This miniboat story is an interesting one. It begins it’s journey from outside Easter Island and travel alone by wind and current. There is no human on board only a GPS, information documents about this boat.
    The boat landed in Ontong Java Atoll, Solomon Islands where it was rescued and relaunched early 2020. It landed on Hiw Island and later taken to Loh Island in the Toress Islands in mid 2020. Until now we heard no further plans of relaunching this miniboat as it was meant to be. We those who somehow became part of this project do humbly request our good people of Torres Area Council to help us relaunch this boat. We the students of Kukum SDA Primary School and people of Ontong Java Atoll in Solomon Islands along with those students in Wyoming USA calls again. Please join us to repair and relaunch. Thank you so much.”
    And the community is responding! Once it is safe to do so, there are a few volunteers who have offered to help get the boat set back to sea. Maybe 2022 will be the year that Jackalope sails again!

7th and 8th graders under the supervision of Mrs. Theresa Williams at the University of Wyoming Lab School (2016)

Jackalope is the first mini-boat to be deployed in the South Pacific, the first to include an Iridium transmitter with global coverage, and the first to be launched by a school from the Rocky Mountain Region (a 7,280 foot drop in elevation for the boat).

UW Husband-Wife Research Team to Lead Pacific Ocean Floor Research Expedition

Post Expedition Analysis of R/V Atlantis: Gess, Michelle (2017): Geologic Map of lower ocean crust at Pito Deep (S Central Pacific). University of Wyoming. Presentation. 

UW Scientists Discover Hydrothermal Vents on Deep Ocean Voyage

‘Jackalope’ Vessel Journeys 190 Days at Sea, Makes Landfall Near Solomon Islands

Jackalope Vessel Repaired, Finally Sails Again