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In 2007, I found this message in a bottle. It was one of the first messages I ever found:

Cheers!

I found it on the beach of this one desolate island I hiked to with my brother and my dad. Here’s a map of the hike we went on that day:

This probably doesn’t need a caption…

As you can see, the journey involved hiking 80 billion miles across 3 islands and back, wading through sharky water, and tip-toeing past stingrays. We also hiked over treacherous crumbling rock, and I ran out of water in the extreme heat, while we lugged heavy sacks full of beach trash on the way back.

Here’s a scene from the beginning of that day, just for fun:

The morning was bright, with a few angry-looking clouds on the horizon, and the glowing turquoise water glinted sunlight in blinding flashes.  As my brother and I stowed our shoes in waterproof bags and got ready to cross the first channel, Dad called out from the water.

“Just so you guys know, mumble mumble mumble…”

“What did he say?” I asked Evan. A breeze between the islands carried off his words.

“He said there’s a little shark out there.”

“Huh,” I said. “You see it?”

“Yeah, dad’s pointing at it with his walking stick.”

Just like in movies, a small triangular dorsal fin was weaving confidently through that gleaming water, slicing the sunlit facets of the choppy waves. Dad was in up to his chest on a sandbar, and the water was getting deeper.

“That shark’s kind of close to dad, don’t you think?” I asked Evan.

“Yep—he’s crazy. I’m not getting in there.”

“Come on!” Dad called from the sandbar, “It’s just a little nurse shark! We don’t have all day!”

As the “little nurse shark” swam past dad, he slapped the surface of the water with his walking stick. He meant to scare the shark away—but from where I stood, it made him look like something injured and thrashing around. This is an image I wish I had on film: my gray-haired dad, standing in chest-deep, turquoise ocean water on a desolate sandbar between two islands, fighting off a shark with a stick of driftwood.

Luckily, we survived the sharks and the stingrays, and we hiked for hours. Just as the angry rain clouds were rolling in, I saw a green bottle lying on the sand right where I planned to turn around. Seeing paper inside the bottle knocked the air out of me—I just stared at it for a minute like I was waiting for the bottle to make the first move. Finally, I picked it up and stuffed it into my backpack. You know when Frodo is carrying the One Ring to Mordor? That’s what it feels like to walk around with a message in a bottle in your backpack (only more fun)—like you are carrying something impossibly rare, fragile, and important. It has a weight that seems too great for its size.

When I found the bottle, the message inside was wet and plastered to the inside of the glass, so I decided to bring it home and open it here to keep it safe. When I broke the bottle open, this is what I found:

That crusty looking stuff is what’s left of the cake.

It says:

Ed and Carol Meyers celebrated their first wedding anniversary at the Sanderling Inn Resort on February 14, 1999. They were wed on Valentine’s Day in Fredericksburg, VA USA. Included with this note is some of our wedding cake.

Peace and love to you. We wish you happiness.

Ed Meyers
Carol Meyers

I couldn’t believe it!  This note was 8 years old! But alas, notice: there is no contact info. No address, no phone number, no email address; nothing. How could I ever find them?!

It seemed that the real adventure was only beginning.

Click here to read the second part of this story.

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