Who can resist the mystery and allure of a message in a bottle? For centuries, people have written notes and letters, placed them in glass bottles, and tossed them into the sea with the hope that someone, someday, would find the bottle and read their message.
The lucky people who have discovered a message in a bottle often find their lives are changed forever. Most of the floating missives are real messages in bottles, though they are sometimes sent as a joke. Messages found in bottles might offer good news or bad, express a longing for love or friendship, or contain words of hope or regret - but all of them offer a sense of wonder and wishfulness.
Many people have undoubtedly wondered over the years if any of the Titanic passengers had the time and presence of mind to write a note, find a bottle, and toss it into the Atlantic as the great ship was sinking. Well, it turns out someone did.
A young Irishman named Jeremiah Burke was traveling with a cousin to join their family in Boston. He was off to start a new life and was excited about the possibilities. So, when the Titanic began to sink and Burke realized he would perish, he managed to write out a note. Before his departure from Ireland, his mother had given him a small bottle of holy water. In his last moments, Burke put his note into the bottle and cast it into the sea. His note read:
"From Titanic, goodbye all, Burke of Glanmire, Cork."
Sadly, both Burke and his cousin perished in the sinking and his poignant message washed ashore in the bottle a year later, just a few miles from his home.
The Lusitania was once a luxury ocean liner, meeting its demise within years of the Titanic. Despite the fate of its predecessor, the Lusitania continued to sail undeterred by the dangers brought about by World War I. That is until the great ship was tragically hit by a German torpedo in May 1915 while on its way from New York to Liverpool. The damage was so severe that the Lusitania sank in only eighteen minutes. More than 1,000 people lost their lives and only around 700 were rescued.
Somehow, there was one passenger aboard who had the presence of mind and the time to dash off a quick note, put it in a bottle, and set it adrift before the end came. The unknown author chillingly wrote:
"Still on deck with a few people. The last boats have left. We are sinking fast. Some men near me are praying with a priest. The end is near. Maybe this note will…"
The writer of the message must have realized the he only had a few moments left to roll up the note and secure it in a bottle, tossing it into the sea just in time.
Not everyone who feels the need to cast a message off into the universe in a bottle has a body of water available to them. There are some bottles with messages found not only on seashores, but on land. Such was the case in a hauntingly sad story from Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp.
This bottle, which was discovered in 2009 by construction workers near the camp, held a message dated September 9, 1944. On that day long ago, a desperate camp inmate recorded the names, camp assigned numbers, and hometowns of seven male Auschwitz prisoners.
A couple vacationing in Hawaii in 1979 decided to have a bit of fun by placing notes - and cash - inside empty champagne bottles and tossing them into the Pacific from their cruise ship. The couple, Dorothy and John Peckham, added one dollar to each bottle as a way to provide postage to anyone who should find the bottles and wish to write back to them.
Dorothy and John waited four years before they received a response. Then, in 1983, they received a letter from a former Vietnamese soldier named Hoa Van Nguyen, who had found one of the champagne bottles with his brother under rather difficult circumstances.
At the time the brothers discovered the bottle, they were floating helplessly off the coast of Thailand in an attempt to escape their miserable lives under the Vietnamese government. When they reached shore, they used the dollar to purchase postage and mailed a letter to the Peckhams.
They wrote asking if the couple would be able to assist the Nguyen family relocate to the United States. The Peckhams were thrilled to receive the letter and determined to make the Vietnamese family's immigration happen. Two years later, in 1985, the Peckhams met Nguyen and were able to help him and his family move to the United States to begin a new, happier life.