Message in a Bottle - True Stories a Drift

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The interesting fact concerning messages placed into bottles (message in a bottle) and tossed to the seas is they can float about indefinitely. They can survive waves and storms that can sink ships. They have been known to float about for decades, even centuries. The following stories are actual accounts of the way this mysterious and often romanticized method have been used.

Paolina and Ake Viking were married in Sicily in the autumn of 1958, thanks to a far-traveling bottle. Two years earlier Ake, a bored young Swedish sailor on a ship far out at sea had dropped a message in a bottle overboard with a message asking any pretty girl who found it to write. Paolina's father, a Sicilian fisherman, picked it up and passed it to his daughter for a joke. Continuing the joke, Paolina sent off a note to the young sailor, the correspondence quickly grew warmer. Ake visited Sicily, and the marriage soon followed their first meeting.

The strangest case was perhaps that of Chunosuke Matsuyama, a Japanese seaman who was shipwrecked with 44 shipmates in 1784. Shortly before he and his companions died of starvation on Pacific coral reef, Matsuyama carved a brief account of their tragedy on a piece of wood, sealed it an a bottle, and then threw it into the sea. In 1935, 150 years later it washed up at the very seaside village where Matsuyama had been born.

Messages placed in a bottle apparently had even an practical purpose. In the 16th Century Queen Elizabeth I of England used bottles to carry intelligence reports. "Elizabeth I received an intelligence report by this means and was so disconcerted to find it had been opened by a boatman at Dover that she appointed an official Uncorker of Bottles and decreed that no unauthorized person might open a message in a bottle, on pain of death."

When he was Postmaster General for the American colonies, Benjamin Franklin realized that, because their whaler captains knew the currents much better than their English counterparts, American ships were crossing the Atlantic much quicker than the British mail packets. He therefore compiled a chart using both the whalers' lore and information he obtained by dropping bottles with written instructions into the Gulf Stream and asking the finders to return them. The information he recorded is little changed today.

In 1914 while crossing the English Channel, a homesick British infantryman named Thomas Hughes wrote his wife a letter, sealed it in an empty ginger-beer bottle, and tossed it overboard. Two days later, he perished in battle. In March 1999, a fisherman found the bottle in a Thames River estuary. The fisherman was flown to Auckland, and personally delivered the bottle to Hughes' 86-year-old daughter. She treasured that note because it was the only letter she ever had from her father.

In the spirit of the British Infantryman Mr. Hughes, we hope your special message in a bottle gives you an everlasting memory.

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