CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Mission-Aransas Reserve usually finds interesting beach artifacts and knickknacks washed up on the shore of North Padre Island while they conduct their weekly beach surveys, checking for injured birds and sea turtles.
However, a few weeks ago, the team stumbled across an unusual find with a unique backstory of its own: an abandoned migrant boat that had come all the way from Cuba.
After finding the boat, UT Reserve Director Jace Tunnell did his research and found out that the boat had formerly carried 12 Cuban migrants that were leaving Cuba to go to Mexico.
He said there's a loop current in between Cuba and Mexico that pushes anything that comes near it towards the Louisiana and Texas coastlines. The boat that carried the Cuban migrants fell into that current and was discovered by a ship in Louisiana on April 1.
After rescuing its passengers, the ship left the now empty boat in the ocean, where the current continued carrying it. It eventually made landfall near Bob Hall Pier and was found on April 26.
"There was still the half gallon of water on there, clothes all over the place, fruit that had mold all over it. There was actually a bag that said Cuba food on there, so that's how I first knew it was from Cuba," Tunnell said.
All 12 Cuban migrants survived but were in desperate need of food and water when they were rescued.
The Cuban migrant boat also had the letters "OK" spray painted on the side. That is what the Coast Guard wrote before leaving the boat in the ocean, to let others that know that the people on the boat were rescued and safe.
Despite the rough ocean conditions, the boat was in stable condition when the Mission-Aransas Reserve found it washed up on North Padre Island. The boat was later picked up by Nueces County officials and taken to a landfill.
Other regular beach visitors that came across the boat said they saw the story behind it without knowing it.
"I take daily walks with my dog here, and I just saw it from far away," Port Aransas resident Tony Romero said. "I did see all of their belongings, which was sad because you can see an example of their journey resident."
So although the boat's story came to an end, it potentially helped change the story of the twelve people it carried.
The Mission-Aransas Reserve recorded their findings on their Youtube channel MissionAransasNERR. They post videos of their new findings every Monday at 1 p.m.