Message in a bottle  

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A message in a bottle is a form of communication whereby a message is sealed in a container (archetypically a glass bottle, but could be any medium, so long as it floats and remains waterproof) and released into the sea or ocean. Among other purposes they are used for scientific studies of ocean currents.



The first recorded messages in bottles were released around 310 BC by the Ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus, as part of an experiment to show that the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the inflowing Atlantic Ocean.

On his return to Spain following his first voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus's ship entered a severe storm. Columbus threw a report of his discovery along with a note asking it to be passed on to the Queen of Castile, in a sealed cask into the sea, hoping the news would make it back even if he did not survive. Columbus did survive and the sealed report was never found, or, at least, its discovery never reported.

In the 16th century, the English navy, among others, used bottle messages to send ashore information about enemy positions. Queen Elizabeth I created an official position of "Uncorker of Ocean Bottles", and anyone else opening the bottles could face the death penalty.

In 1784 Chunosuke Matsuyama sent a message detailing his and 43 shipmates' shipwrecking in a bottle that washed ashore and was found by a Japanese seaweed collector in 1935, in the village of Hiraturemura, the birthplace of Chunosuke Matsuyama.

Since 1876, people have often used messages adrift in containers to communicate from the remote Scottish island of St Kilda.

In 1914, British World War I soldier Private Thomas Hughes tossed a green ginger beer bottle containing a letter to his wife into the English Channel. He was killed two days later fighting in France. In 1999, fisherman Steve Gowan dredged up the bottle in the River Thames. Although the intended recipient of the letter had died in 1979, it was delivered in 1999 to Private Hughes' 86-year old daughter living in New Zealand.

In February 1916 the doomed crew of Zeppelin L 19 dropped their last messages to their superiors and loved ones into the North Sea. These washed up on the Kattegat coast near Gothenburg, Sweden six months later.

In December 1945, American World War II veteran Frank Hayostek tossed a bottle over the side of his ship. It was recovered by an Irish milk maid, Breda O'Sullivan who set off an exchange of letters that lasted seven years before the two met. Amid an international media circus, the two were never able to get their romance off the ground.

In May 2005 eighty-eight shipwrecked migrants were rescued off the coast of Costa Rica. They had placed an SOS message in a bottle and tied it to one of the long lines of a passing fishing boat.

On June 10, 1914, a scientist from the Glasgow (Scotland) School of Navigation cast 1,890 bottles into the ocean to test undercurrents in the seas around Scotland. One of those bottles was recovered in 2012, and was confirmed by Guinness World Records to be the oldest message in a bottle ever found—98 years. The bottle was found east of Shetland by Andrew Leaper, skipper of the Shetland-based vessel Copious, the same fishing vessel involved in the previous record recovery.

That previous record was a find that spent 92 years 229 days at sea. A bottom drift bottle, numbered 423B, was released at 60° 50'N 00° 38'W (about halfway between Aberdeen, Scotland and the coast of Denmark) on April 25, 1914 and recovered by fisherman Mark Anderson of Bixter, Shetland, UK, on December 10, 2006.

On the 13th of March 2013 the world’s largest message in a bottle weighing 2.5 tons and measuring 30 by 8 feet was towed 200 nautical miles off the coast of Tenerife where it was released to the ocean currents. The bottle was registered as a boat and equipped with AIS and radar reflector and navigation lights. It was constructed by Bård Eker, the owner of Koeningsegg. Every eight hours it is uploading photos to its personal Twitter account live via satellite. The initiative was a PR-stunt from Solo who invited people to follow the journey online via a gps in the bottle - and make a guess of where it would end up. In a press release on the 14th of August 2013, Solo announced that they had lost satellite contact with the bottle and reached out to Caribbean media in order to inspire locals to keep a look-out. The bottle was christened in Marina San Miguel by explorer Jarle Andhøy.

On April 17, 2013, a bottle has washed up on the shores of a beach on the mouth of the Neretva river, near Dubrovnik, in the far south of Croatia, a full twenty-eight years after being thrown into the sea in Nova Scotia, Canada - a journey of around 4,000 miles as the crow flies, but this bottle probably made a journey at least five times longer.

On 8 April 2014, The Local reported the finding of the world's oldest bottle in the Baltic Sea. In the beer bottle, a postcard written by a German named Richard Platz dated 17 May 1913 asked for it to be delivered to his address. The Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg located his granddaughter, Angela Erdmann, and delivered the message to her.

Similar methods using other media

Balloon mail is a similar method of sending undirected messages through the air. The advantage of balloon mail is that it can be launched anywhere and can in principle reach any point on Earth. A further advantage is that it can be launched more effectively, since a bottle dropped into the ocean could be washed back to land by the surf.

The glass interior shell of the Westinghouse Time Capsules of the 1939 New York World's Fair and 1964 New York World's Fair was made of Pyrex, where the exterior metal casing was a special copper alloy of "Cupaloy" (1939) or "Kromarc" stainless steel (1964) to withstand the effects of 5000 years of time, when they are expected to arrive to the people intended.

The U.S. space agency NASA has launched several interstellar "messages in bottles." A graphic message in the form of a 6 by 9-inch gold-anodized aluminium plaque, known as the Pioneer plaque, was bolted to the frames of the Pioneer 10 (launched on March 2, 1972) and Pioneer 11 (launched on April 5, 1973) spacecraft.

In August and September 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, together called the Voyager Project. Each carries a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk, known as the Voyager Golden Record, containing recorded sounds and images representing human cultures and life on Earth.

In 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2008 the Yevpatoria RT-70 radio telescope has transmitted messages to any potential extraterrestrial civilizations:

In popular culture

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Message in a bottle" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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