I found this message in a bottle in 2015 and have been dying to open it ever since:
The thing is, like many MIBs, this one is very delicate. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on inside the bottle from these photos, but basically, it looks like a scroll rolled up tightly and surrounded by some sort of shell, made out of wet gloppy stuff.
My guess is that the senders stuffed a bunch of paper towels or something into the bottle in hopes of protecting the message, and as that extra paper got wet, it kind of balled up around the scroll of the message. Anyway, this is part of the reason it took me so long to get around to opening it. I guess the other part is that I’m just a dude with a normal life and it’s not often that I can set aside a whole day to deal with these things, you know?
I was optimistic about this message because I could see writing even before opening the bottle–but it was just typewritten. Mainly I could see the name “Fred”.
In fact, we could see “Fred” printed a few time on the paper. But who was Fred?!
I gave up smashing bottles open a while back, and now prefer to use a dremel tool to score the glass, then crack it open with a light tap from a hammer and flat screwdriver.
The bottle didn’t break quite as cleanly as I had hoped, but once the message was out, I could see that it was as I had suspected: a scroll coated in goop.
It was very wet inside the bottle. But how could that be? The cork was pushed all the way in!
Well, it turns out that plastic / rubber / synthetics corks are not very good at sealing messages in bottles (or wine, for that matter). Real cork is the only hope for keeping a message dry inside a wine bottle, and even that can leak a bit. But not as much as rubber cork. See, real cork swells when it contacts water, so it makes a seal that gets tighter and tighter as it gets wet. Rubber does not swell, so microscopic amounts of water squeeze past. Over time, on the sea, quite a lot of water can get in. That’s what happened here.
The first task was to excavate the scroll by removing the goopy stuff–the scroll was not just wet, but soaked. But as we peeled back the outer goop, we found a scroll wrapped with a ribbon!
This was great news! No one would go to that kind of trouble unless they had written a note inside this scroll…right?
The paper in the scroll itself was weak, and slight attempts to move it caused tears. All we could see was that it was covered in print and images and colors–not handwriting.
If you are wondering who I mean by “we”–I’m referring to my message in a bottle hunting partner and adventure partner and all-around life partner, Kate! She happens to know her way around a scalpel–a handy skill when dissecting fragile, wet paper 🙂
The paper was just incredibly delicate. Imagine running a newspaper through the washing machine, leaving it soaked, and then trying to peel it apart in perfectly intact individual layers. Luckily, that’s pretty much what Kate does all day at work (only with people), so she was able to start peeling the layers apart, one by one, with a little help from a blow dryer along the way to help the paper regain some of its strength as she worked…
It quickly became apparent that what we had in our hands was the daily program for a cruise, though it wasn’t clear which cruise ship this was for.
On board, you could participate in a dizzying buffet of activities that would normally require living several lifetimes to experience–but they were all right here on the ship. You could swing by the Tuscan Steak House where “a plethora of care is taken over every detail” of a “selection of high class specials”. A plethora of care! Then, get yourself a country dance lesson, followed by a trip down the waterslide and a visit to the 1990s quiz party. Wrap up your day by gussying up and twirling through “Glamour Night”. Somewhere in your few days aboard, you’ll also want to go to the spa, attend “Smile Gymnastics,” play a round of “BINGO BINGO BINGO” and hey, while you’re at it, get a “free hair consultation,” a great activity for anyone who struggles to operate a mirror 😛
This all unfolded over the course of hours, so we were beginning to feel pretty bummed out by the lack of handwriting. But just then, Kate unrolled the very last bit of scroll and BAM! Handwriting!
The note is signed by three German women, Andrea, Cornelia, and Helga, including their addresses, and there is not much else on the paper.
At the top, they wrote:
…fahrt von Antigua / *** nach…
auf der “Costa Atlantica”
That means the women who signed this note did so aboard this big ol’ beast of a ship:
Incidentally, do you remember Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia who drove the ship into a submerged rock, and then abandoned ship while passengers and crew were still dying and in distress on board? Well, he used to be captain of the Costa Atlantica. Hopefully not while my new German friends were on board! He won’t be captaining any other Costa ships again any time soon–he’s currently serving a 16 year sentence.
The last line on the paper is the most intriguing and mysterious:
Wir freuen uns uber…
Translated, this just means something like “We are celebrating” or “We are happy about” or something along those lines. But the rest of the sentence is missing! So what are they happy about?! I must find out!
Oh–and remember the name “Fred” that kept popping up? The decks on Costa Atlantica are named for films by Federico Fellini. One of his films is “Ginger & Fred,” and this is the name given to the fitness center / lido deck of Costa Atlantica.
There is no visible date–not even on the cruise program–but there are two clues: #1. The movie “Limitless” was screening on board, and it came out in 2011; #2. There was an on-board giveaway of an Olympus VG-130 camera–a camera that came out in 2011. My guess is that the message in a bottle is from somewhere between 2011 and 2013, but it’s impossible to be sure! This is one of the things I hope to learn from the ladies themselves.
So, I have written three letters, one to each of these ladies at the addresses they provided. With any luck, they still live at these addresses, and I will hear back from them. If that happens, I’ll let you know what I find out!