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Messy Message in a Bottle Found on a Rocky Shore

Once upon a time, waaay back in 2013, I was limping along a Caribbean shore with a hurt foot, when I stumbled upon this bottle that looked about as bedraggled as my foot felt. Just before this journey, I had tripped off of the curb in front of my house in a  lively flail, causing something in my foot to snap loudly enough to turn the heads of passersby. After that, the foot mostly hung limp at the end of my leg as I dragged it along behind me, and I made very distinctive tracks in the sand… So I was grateful for a break from walking to examine this apparently hopeless message in a bottle. Inside the bottle was not a “message,” exactly, but a discouraging wad of paper with some letters visible here and there.

Clint Buffington with hopeless message in a bottle on beach

I found this battered message in a bottle on a rocky shore…

Hopeless message in a bottle displays few visible letters.

Twin Messages in Bottles?

What struck me immediately was how much this bottle and the wrecked message inside both resembled Kelvin Euridge’s 28 year old message in a bottle from 1983, which I had just found in 2011. Here they are side by side, with Kelvin’s on the left and the new one on the right:

Side by side comparison of two hopeless messages in bottles.

Side by side comparison of two hopeless messages in bottles.

That’s a little creepy, right?! It’s almost THE SAME bottle! I began to wonder if this could be another one from Kelvin?

Both are in Gordon’s gin bottles; they have identical caps; the caps are identically battered; the message inside is likewise battered, with parts of both messages balled up.

I remember thinking that Kelvin’s was a hopeless message in a bottle, but I did solve it. I thought, well, maybe I could solve this one, too?

Of course, Kelvin’s message was from 1983, and since this one was in a similar bottle, I thought there was a good chance it would be old, too. Worth carrying home, for sure.

How to Open a Fragile Message in a Bottle

Fast forward to last week when I FINALLY got around to opening this thing… I knew I would have to be extremely careful since the paper had dried out over time and had become fragile. This was a job not for the hammer, but for the dremel tool. In fact, this kind of message requires the use of actual surgical tools.

So I got the bottle open and it turned out to be just awful inside–“wreckage” is the word that comes to mind. Nevertheless, I got out the scalpel my wife gave me, along with my spritzer spray bottle, forceps, and pocketknife and got to work peeling apart any layers of paper I could find.

Most of the paper was like this:

Paper fragments from a hopeless message in a bottle.

Piecing Together Fragments of a Bottled Letter

I slogged through this process for two days. Two days of dissecting rotten, destroyed paper.

Obviously, I got pretty excited when I unfolded one clump of pulp and could read numbers through the paper! Numbers are good! Numbers are very good! They can be addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. These looked like upside down sixes and maybe a zero?

It took me a looong time to delicately, surgically peel apart this paper. I was glad I took my time, because it turned out to be one of the only pieces of paper with any worthwhile information on it – in fact, it might just be the key to this whole jigsaw puzzle!

Fragment of hopeless message in a bottle from Finland containing a name and address.

“Mr. Ahti”… Who was that? And is Ahti a first name or a last name?

And Finland! I have always wanted to find one from Finland! And now here one was right in front of me! In a million little pieces, sure, but it was here.

The other word, “Vasakuja,” was indecipherable to me, but since there was a number 6 beside it, I figured it probably meant “apartment”.

Finnish Message in a Bottle Yields Few but Important Clues

Naturally, I crammed all of this into the interwebs and was amazed–shocked really–to immediately get back a clear result: Vasakuja is the name of a street, and 6 is the house number, and the big number 26660 is a zipcode, and Rauma, of course, is a town within that zip code! So just like that, I went from having a hopeless message in a bottle to having a home address!

On top of that, I did some googling and found that Ahti is a fairly common first name in Finland. So I had a first name and an address. If only I could teleport to Rauma, Finland, and go knock on this door…

The other key piece of paper aligns with the first like so:

As you can see, “Mr. Ahti” in the lefthand fragment aligns with “lmunen” on the righthand fragment. This tells me that Ahti’s last name / family name ends with: “lmunen”. So, back to the interwebs I went, and I found that there are several family names in Finland that end with these letters: There’s Tolmunen, Vilmunen, Valmunen, Palmunen, etc.

And here is where I slip off the map and into the realm of pure conjecture…

See, there are also these bits of paper with some squiggles that look an awful lot like a signature to me. Most of it looks like hieroglyphics to my eyes…

But look at this:

If that is a P, and it is the beginning of the last name, then I think there’s a pretty good chance I am looking for someone named Ahti Palmunen! Or maybe Pulmunen? Polmunen?… Of course, this “signature” spans three separate pieces of paper, and I cannot tell what order they go in. Maybe it’s not like the photo above, but like this:

Partial signature from hopeless message in a bottle

Partial signature in “hopeless” message in a bottle from Finland. Could that be a last name starting with the letter “P”?

In any case, it looks to me like that P is probably the beginning of the last name, and we know from the fragment with the address that the last name ends with “…lmunen”. I don’t know enough about Finnish names to know what the possibilities could be other than Palmunen, Polmunen, and Pulmunen. The problem is that I cannot find anyone by any of those names online anywhere. So…back to square one.

Help Solve a Hopeless Message in a Bottle from Finland

Here we are, me asking for help again, hoping that you will help spread the word in Finland. I hope to have help from Finnish media, but who knows?

I wrote to the address in the message weeks ago and haven’t heard back yet. Of course, the message could be decades old, and the author could have moved or passed away…

All I have is a dream in a bottle – someone’s gesture of reaching out into the chaos of the ocean and the unknowable, reaching out to make contact with someone somewhere – anyone, anywhere – and that someone, that anyone, is me.

It will be a small miracle if the letter I wrote even reached its destination. It will be a somewhat larger miracle, I think, if Ahti or someone who knows him received and opened the letter. I feel like my letter to Ahti was a message in a bottle itself…

In the meantime, you can help by spreading the word and sharing this story especially among friends in northern Europe, just on the off chance that someone who knows Ahti from Vasakuja street in Rauma, Finland will see this and help us connect.

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

Let’s do it!

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

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