2-88. Bottle Messages


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.

Here at the College of Curiosity, we’ve recently launched our Message in a Bottle program. We have kits and instructions for the do-it-yourselfer, and we have online tracking of where the bottle was dropped, and should you be so lucky, where it was found. If you’d like to join, head over to collegeofcuriosity.com and click on the Bottle Messages link.


Bottles that have been launched and found with our Bottle of Curiosity project.

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