What could be more exciting, than wandering on the beach and discovering a bottle, washed up on the sand with a message inside? Preserved in its little glass vessel, perhaps a note to find a long-lost love, an experiment to map the currents in the ocean or to simply write a cheery message in the hope that one day it would be found.  Whatever the sentiment, there’s something very special about unfolding a note and reading the message inside that could have possibly travelled thousands of miles, travelling past continents and through oceans for many years.

Back in 310 BC, Greek philosopher Theophastus placed sealed bottles into the sea.  This was in an experiment to prove that the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the inflowing Atlantic Ocean.

The world’s oldest letter in a bottle is thought to be 101 years old.  It was found by a fisherman in the Baltic Sea off the northern city of Kiel in March 2014.  Richard Platz a twenty-year-old baker’s son wrote the message and placed it in the glass bottle in 1913 while out with a nature appreciation group.  The message has since been presented to the sender’s granddaughter.

A message in a bottle has also helped to rescue members from a highjacked Italian cargo ship named ‘Montecristo’ in Somalian waters.  The crew locked themselves in a room called a citadel when the pirates stormed their ship.  When the pirates disabled Montecristo’s communications, the crew had to rely on the very basic message in a bottle.  They wrote out a distress message, stuffed in a bottle along with a flashing beacon and threw it out a porthole into the ocean.  It was later picked up by a nearby NATO ship who came to the crew’s rescue.

In 2005, 88 South American refuges, stranded at sea near Costa Rica were rescued due to the quick-thinking ladies of the group.  They decided to write an SoS letter, place it in a bottle and attach it to the long lines of a fishing vessel.  When the lines were brought in, the Captain notified authorities on the Isla de Coco national park, sending out a boat to investigate.  They found the group and towed them back to the safety of the island.

A message in a bottle almost created a love story.  Frank Hayostek, an American World War ll veteran tossed a message in a bottle into the sea in December 1945.  This was found eight months later by 18-year-old milk maid, Breda O’Sullivan from Dingle in Ireland.  Seven years of letters were exchanged across the Atlantic with a meeting in August 1952.  When Hayostek had saved enough money to fly to Ireland.  Unfortunately, the romance never got off the ground.

An eerie message from the Titanic washed up in a holy water bottle on a beach near Cork, Ireland.  Jeremiah Burke, 19 from Glanmire in Cork and his cousin Nora Hegarty, 18, boarded the Titanic to meet up with his sisters who had settled in Boston a few years earlier.  When Jeremiah knew the ship was sinking, he wrote the message “From Titanic, good bye all, Burke of Glenmire, Cork.”  The cousin, also died.  A year later the bottle washed ashore a few miles from his family home.

‘Message in a bottle’ would make an excellent theme for literacy, linking into many other areas of the curriculum too.  For geography, children to write a letter from the era they are studying, or to write about a village, town or city where letters in bottles have been discovered, the ideas for this theme are endless.  As a whole class, the children could write their own letters to be placed in one glass bottle. (If you have read my blog ‘Plastic Whale’ on rubbish in our oceans particularly plastic, it would be advisable to use a glass bottle).  How wonderful if the children received a reply, however, if going by some of the stories above, it may not be for many years to come!

For information on educational projects and aquariums for the classroom, please contact Aqualease for more info.