Message in a Bottle from Norwegian Cruise Lines Found, Forgotten, and Found Again
When I open a message in a bottle, I try to find the senders right away. Sometimes, it’s surprisingly easy, like with Kelvin Euridge–whose name is unique–even though his message was 30 years old. Other times, it takes a while, like the message in a bottle I found from Ray. It took me over a year to find him despite the fact that his message was only a year old when I found it–but with your help, I did! And since I’ve had some luck recently with revisiting old mystery messages and solving them with your help–like the one my mom found from Larry and Janie of Little Rock, and the 1985 message my dad found from Nova Scotia–I’ve decided to dust off another old message in a bottle and see if I can’t track down the senders. This one here is a message in a bottle from Norwegian Cruise Lines, and I found it waaaay back in 2011.
Apparently, I didn’t take any photos of the opening, but as you can see, the message was completely blank.
Or so it seemed at first. As I let it dry out, the most incredibly faint writing appeared… Here are a few close ups that show you how challenging it was to decipher the writing on this message.
A Small Message in a Bottle Leads to a Big Mystery
It is impossible to show you all the writing in photos, so here’s my transcription of the note, minus the latitude and longitude coordinates, which are a bit muddled:
5 – 31 – 03
If you find this please let me know where and when / Off the coast of Washington, D.C.
That’s it! Pretty straight to point, hey?
I know what you are thinking: Why don’t you just write to the email address on the note? Well, I did. At least, I thought I did. It looked like LJD22@aol.com, and that’s the address I wrote to.
But guess what? It’s an AOL email address. We all had one of those back in the day. But I ask you: Do you still have an AOL email address that you check regularly? If you do, you are a rare specimen indeed.
Between the time this message in a bottle was written in 2003 and the time I found it in 2011, AOL lost a LOT of subscribers. Like most of them. In 2003, they had about 25 millions users. But by 2011? Only about 4 million. So the likelihood that the author of this note still using their email address would be less than 20%.
When I hit the “send” button, my email bounced back immediately. I checked the message again, read the email address again. I had it right. Just for kicks, though, I tried to see the letters differently. What had looked clearly like a 2 before…well…maybe it was a Z? So I emailed various combinations of possible addresses, and all bounced back.
The senders of this note did not sign their names or offer any other identifying information. I ask you: Why would someone send a message in a bottle without signing their name? I had no choice but to give up the search. There was nothing I could do but file this message away among my unsolved mysteries, and get on with the business of solving other messages.
Who Sent This Message in a Bottle?
That is where the story rested for years.
But then I met someone I never could have expected to meet, and everything changed!
In autumn of 2017, you all helped me solve a message in a bottle from a young girl named Amanda, sent ten years before it was found by people cleaning a Connecticut river in 2017 (click here for that story).
As I explained in my post about Amanda and her mother, Jacquie, they are kindred spirits of mine because they are both private investigators. They solve mysteries for a living, people!
Because Jacquie is awesome, she offered to help me solve this Norwegian Cruise Lines message in a bottle. She recently dug up some info on the LJD22@aol.com email address and found a couple names associated with it, and even a phone number.
Well, a few days ago, I called the phone number. The man who answered said he never sent a message in a bottle in 2003. Nothing about the note I described to him rang any bells.
Jacquie helped me solve a different message, and I knew her leads were pretty much always right. So what happened? Did the guy just not remember sending it? Did one of his friends send it and put his email address in it without telling him?
Well, I am easily confused under the even the best of circumstances, so this mystery really had me scratching my head.
A New Discovery and a New Mystery
Finally, I pulled the message out one last time and examined it under a powerful new light–one I didn’t have before. My jaw dropped. What had looked like “22” before was now obviously “77,” making the email address LJD77@aol.com! I have explained before that the legibility of “ghost writing” like that on this message is affected by various factors, including lighting. But it always, always gets easier to read over time as the paper dries out more. I think that’s what happened here.
Mystery solved! Right? NOPE. I emailed that address and it bounced right back. So, I am still looking for the author of this note.
But I did learn two things from chasing the the wrong email address: 1. I had given Jacquie the wrong information, so the failure to connect was my fault and not hers, and 2. The bewildered stranger her phone number put me in touch with was a very kind-sounding old man who had nothing to do with this message in a bottle from Norwegian Cruise Lines. Yet, I sort of wished it had been him. He seemed really nice.
Calling All Norwegian Cruise Lines Cruisers: Is This Your Message in a Bottle?
Normally, I would never publish an email address without the owner’s consent. But the thing is, this email address doesn’t exist anymore. And yet, it is my only lead.
So I’m just putting this one out there: A “blank” message in a bottle, signed with a dead email address that I hope someone out there recognizes.
Did you or someone you know take a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines in 2003? Did you or someone you know send a message in a bottle on that cruise while off the coast of Washington, D.C.? Does the email address LJD77@aol.com ring any bells for you?
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