As a South Florida kid, I embarked on a pastime countless others before me have enjoyed and shoved a scribbled message into a soda bottle and sealed it before pitching it into the surf at a nearby beach. For several weeks, I stayed up late imagining who would find my note, and do you know what happened? Nothing.
My bottle disappeared into the deep without a trace, as most bottles do. But throughout history, some glass-encapsulated missives have survived with surprising results.
— LUX* Le Morne (@LUXLeMorne) April 9, 2018
On Labor Day 2017, Angie Martin of Fremont, Nebraska, discovered a letter in a bottle along the banks of the Missouri River, one that had been written a year earlier by Sandy and Corey Highland in Irene, South Dakota. The message said, “Wishing whoever finds this love and happiness like we have.”
Sandy was amazed that it had survived, saying, “I thought it would be caught in someone’s cornfield and never found again.” Indeed, sometimes bottles can survive and surface after amazingly long periods of time.
Kym and Tonya Illman of Perth, Australia, found “a lovely old bottle” near Wedge Island in Western Australia. Little did they know that it contained a message from another era.
When the couple discovered wet paper inside and set it out to dry, they experienced a shock. It was a letter that had been written 132 years ago, a world record for the oldest surviving message in a bottle.
Shea Shaneyfelt of Glencoe, Alabama, probably didn’t feel the same excitement when she happened upon an old glass Diet Sunkist bottle this year on the shores of the Coosa River. A veteran driftwood collector, she was used to finding interesting odds and ends.
What was surprising, though, was that it contained a letter inside it — a letter dated Oct. 14, 1982. It had been penned by one Julie Watson, who at the time of its composition had been a third grader at Eura Brown Elementary in Gadsen, Alabama.
Though interested in her find, Shaneyfelt decided to take the next logical step and track down its author. Thanks to the magic of social media, she managed to track down Watson, who now had the married name of Julie Menk.
“My mother went to the dentist,” Menk told The Associated Press. “Evidently a friend of Shea’s worked in that office, and he asked Mom if she knew me.”
Menk was amazed that her letter had survived more than three decades and remained legible.
“I figured the bottle would have gotten broken on a limb or debris or something,” she said.
However, the distance it traveled proved somewhat less impressive. After 35 years, it had only managed to move five miles downriver from its initial drop off point.
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