Toxic time travel

Ella and Johnny get to witness waste being dumped in the bad old days. Their teacher Rafu and a magical book have their part to play in this adventure.

The current carries Rafu over the seaweed meadows and towards the rock shore. He bobs to the surface, and realizes that he is in the middle of the city in the present day.


– Hey teach, did you get shipwrecked?


Two ninth graders, Ella and Johnny, stare suspiciously at him from the cobbled shore boulevard.


– Uhh… I was diving in a bladderwrack forest, in the crystal clear water. Like I taught you, bladderwrack forests grow only in clean water – they’re the oases of the sea.


– We know, we know! answers Johnny. – I mean we just had our biology exam.


The youths help Rafu out of the water. He shakes out his hair and clothes like a wet dog, and then sets off with a slight limp.


– My ankle is throbbing, Rahu grunts, putting the youths out of mind. – I wonder if a tetanus shot will help with ancient shark bites? I have to get to the bottom of this toxic mess.


The youths glance at each other. They have gotten used to the biology teacher’s odd stunts. Rafu is definitely an awesome teacher. – Out we go to learn! he roars, and off they go. He has taken his students out into the park to inspect the buds on the trees and onto the river on an old barge. But this...


– Something’s not right here, Ella whispers.


– Let’s follow him!




Rafu fails to notice the two curious pairs of eyes as he goes to the darkest corner of the library’s Baltic Sea section. He takes the magical book from the shelf with the utmost care.


Last time the book pulled him back in time through the history of the Baltic Sea. Glorious eras have followed one another during the early stages of the Baltic Sea, when the Baltic Shield sailed on the southern latitudes.


– I wish I could once more admire the jawless fish in the Devonian Period, the red coral forest, the cameroceras in the Silurian Period...


But Rafu has a dangerous mission ahead of him, in the era of the reign of men.


– I wonder whether this tome will finally take me to the time of the toxic barrels… or whether I’ll end up in the ice age this time, he mutters as he tries to open the book at precisely the right spot.


Behind the shelves, the youths shove each other.


– That’s no normal nature book, Johnny whispers.


– W-was that a splash?


Right at that moment an incredibly strong vortex drags them inside, and all three of them find themselves wading in the water of a rocky shore. A dark island looms nearby.


– I can’t believe how cold this water is! Where are we? Ella shrieks.


– Ah, those ninth graders just had to stick their curious noses into this toxic mess, thinks Rafu. He is forced to explain.


– This is the Gull Island that you know, but back when your grandparents were young.


– Shh! What are those guys doing? Whispers Johnny.


Dark shapes are moving around on the island. The youths and their teacher hold their breaths, listening from behind an erratic boulder, straining their ears against the wind and waves to listen to the shouts.


– Toss the toxins into the deep!


– A puddle this big, a few tonnes of waste won’t hurt… damn seagull crapped on my head!


– Hey, you there! Spies?


A great wave washes the time travellers back to the present day. They spend the next few days asking pressing questions of one another.


– Are the barrels still in the sea?


– What if they rust through?




– Blow dry? asks Martti, a hairdresser they know, who is frequented by all the pupils of the Riverfront middle school, to have their hair cut according to the latest trends.


– Let the wind dry it, just styling foam please, Johnny says.


– You sure about the styling foam? shouts Ella, who is examining the products in the shelves. – Look at the chemicals in this bottle!


– Oops! A mistake to buy anything from the Dealer… thinks Martti. After the youths have left his shop, he discreetly takes the questionable products to the back room.




The barrels dumped near Gull Island have now been uncovered thanks to Rafu and the youths. What’s best, the toxins can be rendered harmless with new methods.


But it’s not long before Ella and Johnny run into another toxic mystery.


– How moronic – someone is releasing substances foreign to both people and the environment into the waterways through the sewers, Johnny says as they feast on their first ice cream cones that spring at the stall by the shore.


– And we don’t even know what effect they have, says Ella.


They decide to continue tracing harmful substances both at home and out in the city…







Story by Marjo Soulanto
Illustrations by Mari von Boehm
Translation by Arttu Ahava

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