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4 Incredible True “Message in a Bottle” Stories

The idea of writing a note, rolling it up, placing it in a bottle, and throwing it out to sea is universally exciting. People have written songs, poems, and dramas about this simple act of hope that someone out there will hear your message. The possibility that someone might find it washed up on a beach on the other side of the world makes us all feel a little more connected. 

The notion of throwing a message in a bottle out to sea was born when Greek philosopher Theophrastus did it to test his hypothesis that the Atlantic flows into the Mediterranean Sea around 310 BCE. Today, “drift bottles” are used to study ocean currents, though only 4% of the bottles they throw into the ocean are ever found. 

Today we want to share 4 incredible true stories of messages in bottles that have washed up on a foreign shore.

1. A 9-Year Journey

Our first story begins in 2010 in Rockport, Massachusetts, where a ten-year-old Max Vredenburgh and his dad threw a message in a bottle out to sea. In their message, Max wrote his name, interests, and address in the hope that someone would find it and reply. 

Time went by and Max soon forgot the letter, but nine years later, the message was answered by someone called “G Dubois,” who lived in France, on the other side of the Atlantic. 

The response said, “It will have taken 9 years to cover the 6000 kilometers that separate us. You’ll have grown a lot during that time: 10 to 19 years old.”

2. A Message From the Titanic

Irish cousins Nora Hegarty and Jeremiah Burke were passengers on the Titanic in 1912. Burke boarded the ship with a bottle of holy water, not thinking he’d be using it for such a poignant purpose. 

As the Titanic tragically began to descend into the sea, Burke scrawled the message, “From Titanic, goodbye all, Burke of Glanmire, Cork,” which he rolled up and put inside the holy water bottle. 

Both he and his cousin perished, and a year later, the bottle washed up on the shore just a couple of miles from Burke’s childhood home. This message in a bottle was kept in the family for almost 100 years until 2011 when it was donated to the Cobh Heritage Centre in the same town.

3. The Oldest Message in a Bottle

The oldest message in a bottle was found in 2018 by a family in Perth, Australia. Tonya and Kym Illman found the bottle while walking on a remote beach and brought it home, where they dried it carefully in the oven. When they unrolled the paper, they saw printed German that asked the reader to contact the German consulate. 

The family also saw the faint date: 12 June 1886, but weren’t sure it was real. Fortunately, they decided to take the bottle to the Western Australian Museum, where it was confirmed to be real. 

The bottle is believed to have been thrown overboard on a journey from Cardiff in Wales to Indonesia, and likely washed up on the Australian coast within 12 months, where it was promptly buried under layers of sand. The Illman’s timing was incredibly fortuitous. 

The Illman family have now put the bottle and message on loan to the Western Australian Museum, where it is on display.

4. Rescued After Throwing a Message into the Sea

In 2005, 88 South American migrants were adrift on a boat off the coast of Costa Rica. The boat they were being smuggled on became damaged, and the smugglers left them to their fate, floating adrift.

Afraid for their lives, some of the women on board saw fishermen’s lines in the water, and came up with the idea of tying a message in a bottle to one of the lines in the hope of getting their cry for help into the hands of someone who could help them. 

Shortly after, the fishing vessel found the note and alerted the authorities at the Cocos Island national park. They paid an independent company to investigate, who rescued the migrants.

These four stories are just a few of the many fascinating tales of messages in bottles. While we don’t recommend throwing bottles into the ocean, these stories are fascinating, and there are dozens more out there to find and marvel at!