I write about finding messages in bottles and meeting the people who sent them. Time after time, I am amazed by the power of these bottled notes. They may seem silly to some, but messages in bottles have the power to connect people in a profound way. They create real friendships between strangers all the time. They make people care about each other–people who never even knew each other existed before. And, especially with older messages like this one, a message in a bottle may be the most important letter some ever receive.
Messages in bottles have saved lives, led to marriage, and reunited folks with lost loved ones. In my view, there’s nothing silly about them. I found my first message in a bottle in 2007. I must have walked past several thousand bottles that day—I had almost zoned out when something caught my eye: a blue bottle lying right on the sand, like it had just washed up. There was something inside! I stumbled over to the bottle and held it up, examining the contents: bright orange paper rolled up tightly and tied with a piece of string that poked out the top of the bottle which had a rubber cork. Wrapped around the message inside were two US dollars.
That bottle sparked something in me that led to finding more messages, and led to this blog. The idea of finding even a single message in a bottle had always enchanted me–but to find dozens of them?! How could I NOT write about it?!
Over time, I found that most people who send messages in bottles are wonderful, kind, friendly folks, who enjoy making friends with the person on the other end of their bottle.
My hunt for messages in bottles started purely as a form of adventure–the thrill of finding them is intense! However, although I go looking for “treasure,” what I mostly find is trash. Looking for messages in bottles opened my eyes to the staggering problem of plastic pollution in our oceans.
The sheer volume of plastic trash on our beaches and in our seas is overwhelming and a little scary. We are entering uncharted waters here: we know that human life depends on the ocean, but we don’t know what will happen as more and more plastic ends up in the ocean.
I’ve also learned that marine critters are killed by plastic trash at a rate that is both alarming and difficult to measure precisely, due to the size of the ocean and the scale of plastic pollution. Whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and all kinds of sea-dwelling birds are dying everywhere with bellies full of plastic. I see the impact of plastic on marine life everywhere I look for messages in bottles. Check out this Osprey who built a nest using the very kinds of plastic ropes that can entangle its young and itself.
If you’ve been with me since the beginning of this blog, you know that what drives me and this blog is adventure–the thrill of finding messages in bottles and journeying to meet the senders in distant lands. That sense of adventure will always be at the heart of this blog and everything I do, every story I tell.
But there is a bigger adventure underway–one we can all join: the adventure of learning about plastic pollution, and doing something to stop it–even if it just means picking up a plastic bottle you see on the sidewalk (and definitely never sending a message in a plastic bottle).
I hope you’ll join me as I continue seeking out messages in bottles and meeting the folks who send them, while shedding light on the plastic pollution crisis along the way.