, ,

Message in a Bottle from Sunderland, UK Found

This highly unpromising bottled note has been lying around my house since I found it a few years ago in the Caribbean. I suspect now that the message in a bottle had been sailing the high seas for decades when I found it – perhaps since the 1970s…

1970s Message in a Bottle from Sunderland UK

I know I should have opened it when I found it, but I had other bottles to attend to! And this one looked… well, miserable, wouldn’t you say?

Anyway it washed ashore on a deserted Caribbean island where I picked it up and that was that.

Until now.

Clint Buffington with 1970s Message in a Bottle from Sunderland UK

Bottle Contains Fragile Old Letter with Faded Writing

As always, I studied the bottle before I opened it — Glass soda bottles with metal caps like this haven’t been common since the 1980s. This particular shape struck me as more like a 1970s bottle (which would make this a 1970s message in a bottle), similar to John E. Freeland’s 1977 message in a bottle.

I sorted out the message using the standard tools: dremel tool, forceps, scalpel.

1970s Message in a Bottle Yields Few But Vital Clues

Once I had the bottle open, I could tell that the paper was definitely as old as it looked. The age and condition of the paper was consistent with the age of the bottle and again pointed toward this being most likely a 1970s message in a bottle.

What amazed me, though, was that although the paper had appeared to be blank from the outside, I could actually see traces of ink!

Can you see the traces of green ink just above and behind the watermark in that photo?

I’ve noted before that older, faded messages written in ink often become more legible as the paper dries out. As this paper dried, I could actually make out some letters! It was painstaking and slow, but the phantom letters began to be legible in just the right lighting. A bit of editing made the ink become even more visible.

1970s Message in a Bottle from Sunderland UK Enhanced to Reveal Ink

I first made out “Tyne…” and I thought the + sign was a “t”, but in the process of searching the web, figured out that it was actually a location: Tyne and Wear in the UK, written here as “Tyne + Wear”. But there was also a word that began “Sund…” which of course turned out to be Sunderland within Tyne and Wear.

Unfortunately, the hardest part to decipher – and the reason I haven’t found the author yet, is the author’s name and address.

The name is the bit that begins with a “B”. Looks like “Bar…” to me. In fact, I think the name is likely Barclay or Barkley or Barney or something in that realm. It definitely begins “Bar…” and appears to be no more than 6-8 letters long.

The surname begins with “Sy…” and appears to be quite short. It could be Syd, or Sykes, or Symes, or even maybe as long as Sydney.

The last bit of information is the street address. I cannot see a number, but the name of the street appears to begin “Tow…” and could be any of Sunderland’s “Tower Roads” or possible “Townsend” or something along those lines.

Based on current street names in Sunderland, I think the following are the streets most likely to match the message:

Toward Road
Tower Street
Tower Street West
Townsend Road
Townsend Square

1970s Message in a Bottle from Sunderland UK Partially Deciphered

How To Solve an Unreadable Letter in a Bottle

I absolutely believe that we can solve this message in a bottle! We have done it before, and we can do it this time. Here’s how we will do it:

  1. If someone has access to old Sunderland City directories, we would need to look at 1970, 1975, 1980, and 1985 to cover our bases, though any directory from the 70s or 80s would be helpful. Somewhere in there we would hopefully find someone listed among the surnames beginning “Sy…” who had a first name beginning with “B” and lived on a road beginning “Tow…”. That would be the best way to solve it. So if any of you has access to those old directories, please contact me ASAP!
  2. The only other way to solve this is to spread the word far and wide via social media, and, hopefully, local news in the Sunderland area.

If you are asking yourself why should we bother? All I can say is this: A message in a bottle is often the most important letter a person ever receives. If this person is alive, we will be granting them time travel to connect with themselves from decades ago. And if the author has since passed away, try to imagine how meaningful it would be for their family to hear from them one last time.

That–plain and simple–is magic.

So let’s make a little message in a bottle magic happen! Let’s find the mysterious “Bar… Sy… of Tow… road” in Sunderland, Tyne + Wear!


More details have emerged from this message in a bottle! Check here: Will New Details Solve Decades-Old Sunderland Message in a Bottle?

More Message in a Bottle Facts, History, Stories, Photos, Video, and Hoaxes

***If you liked this story, click here to find me on Facebook and like my page for more message in a bottle stories. YOU could be the next one to solve a message in a bottleClick here to learn more about messages in bottles, and you can always contact me with questions, ideas, or stories.