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International manhunt after basketball booted off St Kilda 

The ball was found by German school children after travelling more than 1000 miles.

A basketball sparked an international manhunt after a joke - inspired by Tom Hanks' film Cast Away - saw it travel more than 1000 miles over sea from the most remote part of the UK.

The ball, launched into the North Atlantic at St Kilda by John Molyneaux in March, was found by German school children on a hiking trip in Denmark on June 13.

It had been given to the contractor by his colleagues at Ogilvie Fire Protection in Ayr as a nod to the 2000 film.

The plot of Cast Away sees the main character marooned on a remote island and befriending a basketball, which he names Wilson.

Wilson: German teens with basketball from St Kilda.
Wilson: German teens with basketball from St Kilda. National Trust of Scotland

Mr Molyneaux's ball - which had a face painted on it - floated into the North Sea, before washing up on a beach near the village of Vigso in the north of Denmark.

It was found by teenagers from Internat Schloss Rohlstorf boarding school, who then mounted a social media appeal to find out who launched the ball and began to contact the names and numbers written on the ball.

The search was covered by German TV and word got back to the original owners.

Mr Molyneaux was helicoptered on to St Kilda for two weeks work and wrote his details on the ball - which he also named Wilson - at the end of his time there, before kicking it in to the ocean.

John with Wilson before kicking the ball into the sea.
John with Wilson before kicking the ball into the sea. National Trust of Scotland

Paul Ogilvie, who gave the contractor his companion, said: "We couldn't believe it when we saw the photographs and video. We knew it was Wilson right away.

"It all started as a bit of fun. When John was going out on the job, we got him the ball and painted the face on it to look like the ball from the film.

"If he was going to be a castaway, we thought it would be a good idea for him to have some company."

Wilson's journey from the island distanced approximately 1000 nautical miles and took nearly three months, from March 17 until June 13.

It took the children just 51 hours to track down its owners using social media.

Teachers will now use the ball in lessons in the new term, from maths to geography.

Wilson enjoying St Kilda before his trip.
Wilson enjoying St Kilda before his trip. NTS

Maike Kramhoft from the school said: "The ball is here at our boarding school and was presented to all the parents at our summer party.

"The kids are so proud of it. This is an exciting adventure for all of us - the kids and the adults. It was like a message in a bottle - without the bottle."

St Kilda is the UK's only dual Unesco World Heritage Site and is home to nearly one million seabirds, including the UK's largest colony of Atlantic puffins.

After 4000 years of human presence, it was evacuated on August 29, 1930, after the remaining 36 islanders voted to leave as their way of life was no longer sustainable.

The uninhabited archipelago has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) since 1957.

Islanders used to launch their mail into the sea in the hope that it would be picked up by a passing ship and this tradition continues today through NTS.

Every year the team launches a little wooden boat to see where it turns up, although none have travelled as far as Wilson.

Susan Bain, from NTS, added: "There's a message in this for all of us: the oceans are linked and we all share the same resource.

"We may think we are far away at St Kilda, but this shows how we are all connected."

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