The original version of this was published at CollegeOfCuriosity.com. This one is a bit different. – Jeff Wagg
I take people on trips when I’m doing what I like doing best. We’ve been to some amazing places: South America, Oceania, the Middle East and soon, Africa to name a few.
The thing that makes us want to travel is also the thing that makes us put messages in bottles. It’s a good thing—a life affirming thing. I think we should do more of it. It’s sending out a message to the world that you are here, now, and you know that you won’t always be. But you want to celebrate that moment and share it with someone else whose in the same boat.
You’ve heard the song, and read the book or seen the movie. You may even remember the screen saver that was based on a guy stuck on a desert island. Bottle messages are icons in our culture, and interest in them continues unabated. Search Google News for “Message in a bottle” and see how many articles there are, many of them recent. Here are some facts about messages in bottles that add to the romance.
- Bottle messages are not litter, as they are not discarded. Steps can be taken to reduce their environmental impact.
- Bottles don’t have to be thrown into water. They can be left on transportation, mailed to random addresses, or left hidden in the woods, desert, or ice to be found far away in time if not in space.
- As far back as 310BCE, Greeks were tossing bottles into the sea to test currents. They learned that the Mediterranean Sea was filled with water from the Atlantic.
- In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I of England created an official position, “Uncorker of Ocean Bottles.” Anyone in England finding a bottle with a message was to bring it directly to the crown. The English had figured out ocean currents enough to use them as a conveyance for messages from spies.
- The oldest bottle found to date had been afloat for 108 years. It was a science experiment.
- Some bottle messages have traveled at least 10,000 miles.
- One man, Harold Hackett, has thrown nearly 5,000 messages into the Atlantic. He has received over 3,100 responses. One took 13 years.
- Bottle messages were dropped by the crew of Zeppelin L 19 before it crashed. The messages were recovered six months later.
- Though not in bottles, NASA has sent messages into space aboard Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft. Voyager probes even included a record with an attached record player.
- Balloons have been used to send messages through the air. (There are environmental and safety concerns with releasing balloons.)
- Bottle messages have been used to track where drifting World War II mines were likely to end up. They’re also used to track trash movements and also how currents affect fisheries.
- Bottle messages have actually saved lives. The crew of a cargo ship was being held hostage and dropped messages in bottles to give information about their location and condition to NATO forces in the area. NATO stormed the ship and rescued them.
As a beta test and to learn more about sending message in bottles, I’ve been giving them to travelers on the last few trips. We know have bottles floating in many of the world’s oceans, a few rivers, in glacial run off and one bottle found it’s way into the fountains at the Bellagio. Two have been found so far by people in New York and Italy.
Now, the project is live and you can participate. You can buy a kit or follow the instructions for making your own. Of course you do need to do anything, but we do offer tracking of your bottle and it’s nice to share the experience with everyone else.
Your message may be found tomorrow, in a hundred years, or never. But that’s not important. What is important is that you are here, now. Celebrate that fact. Share it. And encourage others to do the same.