, , , , , , ,

A Fragile Message in a Bottle

As I mentioned in my post on Message in a Bottle Day 2017, my brother, Evan, found this message in a bottle back in 2015 when we were on a family adventure together.

Evan Buffington with German Message in a Bottle

We were stoked about the find, because it is obviously old! But Evan is a very busy guy, and this message is incredibly fragile. I don’t know if you can tell from these photos, but the paper is insanely brittle. Like, if you shook the bottle, it definitely would have crumbled to fakes. Pieces actually flaked off every time we picked it up and rolled it around to examine it.

Evan Buffington's Hamburg Message in a Bottle 2 Evan Buffington's Hamburg Message in a Bottle 3 Evan Buffington's Hamburg Message in a Bottle 3

When we finally set aside time for the bottle on Message in a Bottle Day 2017, we planned our approach to opening the bottle carefully. Evan got out his Dremel tool, so he could cut through the glass without having to smash the bottle.

Evan picking Dremel tool to open German message in a bottle Evan Buffington using Dremel tool to open German message in a bottle, wearing a creepy mask

This is the best way we have found–Evan thought of it–to open bottles without damaging the notes inside.

But the paper was so incredibly brittle, there would be no hope of unrolling it without shattering it to pieces.

Luckily, I had experimented with a new technique on a different, crispy old message, that allowed me to unroll it with almost no damage. It’s a remarkably simple trick: I simply fill a spray bottle (the kind that can spritz out a fine mist) with water (preferably distilled), then spritz the roll to soften it. As new, dry paper is revealed inside the roll, it gets spritzed, too. Slowly, slowly, slowly, this allows us to unroll paper that is crispily dry. The trick is not to oversaturate–making a message too wet can make it more vulnerable to damage. This time, though, we had to use a Q-tip to drizzle water since we didn’t have a spray bottle handy.

Unrolling Evan's Message in a Bottle with Damp Q-Tips

Flaschenpost from Gerda of Hamburg, Germany

Finally, we were able to reveal the contents of the message. Here’s what we found:

Evan Buffington with opened German message in a bottle Evan Buffington's German message in a bottle from Gerda close up Evan Buffington's German message in a bottle from Gerda - Date Sent

A German message in a bottle! A Flaschenpost! I LOVE a good Flaschenpost! Maybe that’s just because I love Germany. One of my favorite Flaschenpost finds was sent by Sabine of Dusseldorf, who I met in 2015. Of course, I recently opened another Flaschenpost myself. I really think Germans might love messages in bottles even more than Americans!

Anyway, I already wrote about the difficulty of deciphering this message’s handwriting in my post on Message in a Bottle Day 2017. Basically, we couldn’t tell if the first name was “Gerda” or “Gevda” or Geuda”.

Close up of Evan Buffington's German message in a bottle from Gerda

But my sister Ryan, who knows German better than me, felt certain that it must be “Gerda”. So that’s who we are looking for!

As for the address, well, we couldn’t tell if it was “Peter-Bieeuck Strasse” or “Peter-Beeuck Strasse” or “Peter-Beerck Strasse” or what.

Close up of address on Evan Buffington's German message in a bottle from Gerda

None of these returned any helpful results via search engines. I began to wonder if the street had been renamed, or perhaps done away with altogether.

Searching for Gerda from Hamburg, Germany

Finally, months later, I searched online for the postal code–and amazingly, Google Maps highlighted the boundaries of the zone in Hamburg!

Then, I just zoomed in and started looking for streets that began with “Peter” since that was about the only part of the address that seemed at all clear. Well, I got incredibly lucky and found the right street in a matter of minutes: Peter-Beenk Strasse!

I have never seen a “n” that looked more like a “u” than this one…

Close up of address on Evan Buffington's German message in a bottle from Gerda

But there you have it!

So far, I have not been able to figure out who Peter Beenck was or why he has a street named after him in Hamburg–if anyone out there knows, please tell me! But I did learn that there was a big flood in the 1960s that inundated Peter-Beenck Strasse with several feet of water. I wonder if Gerda was around for that?

My brother and I have so many questions for Gerda, but our best chance for finding her is you! If you know anyone who lives in Hamburg–or anywhere in Germany–please forward this story to them and let them know:

We are looking for a woman named Gerda who lived on Peter-Beenck Strasse in 1994, and who cruised aboard the Fedor Dostojewskij in the same year. Help!

***Update! This message in a bottle has been SOLVED! Click here to read the second part of this story!

***If you liked this story, click here to find me on Facebook and like my page for more message in a bottle stories! You never know when YOU could be the one to solve a message in a bottle mystery, regardless of where you are from! Click here to learn more about messages in bottles, and you can always contact me with questions, ideas, or stories.