Howdy folks! Today’s post is a plea for your help: I found a message in a bottle from someone named Ray who lives in Philadelphia, but I need help finding Ray!
archives of the sea, castaway, hoax, Inspiration, Long Island Sound, message in a bottle, New York Times, News, North Atlantic Current, Norwegian Current, shipwreck, SS Crathie, SS Elbe, The North Sea
On January 30th, 1895, a German steamship called Elbe was in the North Sea, making her way from Bremerhaven to New York carrying 354 passengers.
In the predawn hours of January 31st, she was accidentally rammed by a British steamship called Crathie. The Elbe went down within 20 minutes, and out of her 354 passengers, only 20 were rescued. Of the 20, all were German or Austrian, except one English pilot.
A few months later, on June 5th, 1895, a man named Walter Turner found a bottle with a note inside on the beach at Whitestone, Long Island–just south across the Long Island Sound from Manhattan. The note read:
Stranded in midocean from steamship Elbe. I have been drifting about in an open boat for forty-two days, with nothing to eat but cake and beer to drink. The finder of this will please advertise in papers. Yours, in hope, Adam White.
“Beer and cake”! I love it!
This note has a “stranger than fiction” quality that just about wins me over! But you know what the problem is?
Well, the Elbe sank in the North Sea. That’s here–north of Germany, east of the United Kingdom:
Thus, if the writer of the note is “stranded in midocean” he must mean in the middle of the North Sea.
However, the message in a bottle was found in Long Island Sound:
Here’s the difference, including relevant ocean currents:
See how the Norwegian Current (purple line) goes straight northeast past the mouth of the North Sea? If the bottle exited there, it would have traveled north and east, not west.
But what if the bottle snuck out of the north sea to the south, through the English Channel? Well, then it would have headed south for months and eventually west. My friend Curt Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who specializes in tracking drifting objects, estimates that it takes 2-3 years for something to circle that north atlantic loop (green line). That means it would take a bottle from the North Sea at least 1 – 1.5 years to reach New York, IF it managed to exit the North Sea–a process that would likely take months in itself. In other words, the bottle was found in New York waaay to early to be authentic.
So, no. This bottle is not genuine. It was not sent by a stranded Elbe survivor.
Even if you reeeeally want to believe this bottled note is genuine, and sent by a lighthearted, drunk, cake-eating castaway, there are other problems with the story.
The note is in English, but most of the Elbe’s passengers were German. Only one of the rescued folks was English. Furthermore, eyewitness reports clarify that only one of Elbe’s lifeboats made it away safe. One capsized, and others were frozen to the ship–they could not be released. There was no second “open boat” for this guy.
The 20 survivors were picked up about 5 hours after the sinking, and the captain who rescued them said they could not have survived much longer in those freezing, January, North Sea conditions. So, the idea that one guy, alone, survived 42 days? Well, it just didn’t happen, folks. It’s nice to think it did–I mean, the image of this castaway munching cake and swigging beer while waiting to be picked up is pretty great, I admit.
But there’s just no way it happened.
So there you have it: another 19th century message in a bottle hoax. Another prank pulled by someone who wanted to make it into the local paper. And they did.
In 2012, according to The Olympian, Mattie and Jake Harrison sealed their wedding vows to each other in a bottle and set them adrift to mark the start of their journey through life together.
What IS surprising, if you ask me, is that the bottle has since been found at least 3 times!
According to The Olympian, when 17 year old Camille Folweiler found the bottle over Memorial Day Weekend of 2016, she discovered that the bottle already had two other notes crammed in alongside the vows from Mattie and Jake, both of which wished them luck.
Finding the bottle “felt very movie-ish, sort of old-fashioned,” Folweiler told The Olympian, describing Mattie and Jake’s letters as “adorable”.
Mattie and Jake only included their first names in their letters, but Folweiler couldn’t stop thinking about the message and the people who were behind it. She felt she simply had to find them! Amazingly, after months of searching, she found Mattie and Jake’s wedding website where Mattie’s mother’s name was listed. The rest is history–she reached out and let Mattie and Jake know their note had been found several times and was still on its journey.
How is it, I wonder, that messages in bottles so often seem to connect the “right” people? I mean, if Camille Folweiler hadn’t found their bottle, Mattie and Jake might never have heard of its ongoing journey. Folweiler, who wants to study oceanography in college, must have an intensely curious mind and a kind heart. She gave Mattie and Jake a great gift by telling them of their bottle.
Of the experience, Mattie told The Olympian, “This experience has renewed our love for each other, and shown us the kindness and thoughtfulness of strangers.”
This is the incredible, impossible power of messages in bottles, pointed out again by a chance discovery, and an even more unlikely connection between the senders and the finder. Camille Folweiler was the third person to find the bottle, and her response, along with the other two, was pure encouragement and kindness. I don’t know about you, but I like those figures. That’s a 100% rate of kindness among people who have found Mattie and Jake’s bottle. Not bad, humanity. Not bad! If only we could get that success rate out in the real world. Can you imagine–strangers being kind to each other all the time? Messages in bottles prove to me that such a world is possible. That’s a world I look forward to building. We can do it.
It seems Asbury Park Press was able to track down the sender of the message in a bottle discovered recently on Long Beach Island. The finder was Vince Stango, who “runs a software and IT consulting firm” according to APP; the sender was Stuart Brown, retired engineer, of Yorkshire, UK. The men have exchanged text messages since the find.
Asbury Park Press was able to make out the phone numbers Continue reading →
As fond as I am of finding and responding to messages in bottles, I am not the best at listening to or responding to voice messages on my phone. I know, I know. That’s bad of me…
But it seems I am not alone in this bad habit!
In late January, 2017, Vince Stango (cool name, hey?) was walking along the beach in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, when he spotted a bottle with paper inside.
One day in 2013, a young woman named Jess and her dog were walking along the beach on the UK’s east coast.
Suddenly, something caught her eye Continue reading →
My friends, we have a mystery to solve!
Whoa. That caught my eye! As best I could tell, they Continue reading →
What is a “Bark,” you ask?
Ya’ll, this is a Bark!
Also known as a Barque, this style of sailing ship Continue reading →
Rebecca Whittaker discovered a note in a bottle while walking along Widemouth Bay on November 16th, 2016. After posting a photo of the message online, she connected with the 12 year old sender, Ciara, from Ireland.
Ciara then sent Rebecca a card wishing her Continue reading →
I was just thinking about fate and mystery…
I am often asked whether I feel like it is “fate” when I find a message in a bottle, or meet a sender. Continue reading →
1. A Poem in a Bottle
Photo Credit: Alexi Nelson / ptleader.com
In 2010, three high school friends wrote a poem, sealed it in a bottle, and Continue reading →