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A Brief Tale of a Message in a Bottle With a $5 Bill

The most money I have ever found in a bottle was in the very first bottle I ever found: two dollars, wrapped around a scroll. Once, I found a single dollar bill in a bottle, covered in strange markings. Other than that, I once found a Euro cent in a bottle. So that brings my total earnings up to three American dollars and one Euro cent. But I just stumbled over the story of David Walker, who found a message in a bottle with a $5 bill on Bolivar Beach!

David Walker Message in a Bottle with a $5 Bill 1

Message in a Bottle with a $5 Bill – David Walker’s find. Photo: David Walker.

I was poking around the web when I discovered David’s post for the Crystal Beach News, where he wrote about finding the lovely and surprising message back in 2016. I’ll turn it over to David here:

“During my daily walk,” David said, “I saw a wine bottle laying in the sand near the water’s edge. The label was washed away, and a few barnacles had attached themselves to the glass. A couple of things drew my attention – first the bottle originally contained some expensive wine, Belle Glos, as evidenced by the elegant red wax seal on the bottle. Also, the cork had been reapplied, and the interior of the bottle was completely dry. Inside the bottle appeared to be a piece of paper.

“Upon returning home, I removed the cork and retrieved the contents of the bottle. The contents included an invitation to attend an art show on the Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship and a $5 bill.

“On a blank section of the invitation, there was a handwritten note from Ralph McCurry with his email address and a request to contact him upon finding the bottle – which I did!

David Walker Message in a Bottle with a $5 Bill Close Up

Message in a Bottle with a $5 bill found by David Walker. Photo: David Walker.

“Ralph, a resident of Huntsville, Alabama, responded ‘Wow! My wife and I left out of Tampa on a cruise to Cozumel and I let the bottle fly on the way back. We were about “80 miles from coast of Cuba and it was March 4th.’ The bottle was laying on Bolivar beach on May 12.

“As for the enclosed money, Ralph adds ‘I put the five dollar bill in there in case the bottle was found 100 years from now, or by someone far away that needed it.’

By my calculations, it took 69 days for the bottle to float from Cuba to Bolivar! That would be 13 miles per day to cover the 1400-mile distance! Pretty incredible!”

David Walker : Ralph McCurry Cruise Flyer from message in a bottle with a $5 bill

This is a flyer for an art show aboard the Brilliance of the Seas from which Ralph tossed his message in a bottle. Photo: David Walker.

Message in a Bottle is a Treasure Among Trash

Kudos to David. I would be over the moon if I found a message in a bottle with a $5 bill!

In David’s article, he notes that “Too many bottles and other containers wash up on our beach each day”.

This is a sentiment shared by nearly all of us beachcombers. Yes–we are out there looking for interesting stuff among the junk that washes ashore, but what we all find is that most of it is junk. Ever-increasingly, plastic in particular threatens the health and safety of all ocean life, as well as all life that depends upon ocean life.

At moments like this, I actually think of messages in bottles as a breath of fresh air, a treasure among the trash that washes ashore. They allow us to connect meaningfully with people we never could have met otherwise. And I’ve got news for anyone who thinks of messages in bottles as trash: The only way we are ever going to solve the plastic pollution crisis is by working together, by caring for each other, by building bonds among us, by inspiring each other–and that is precisely what messages in bottles do. So before anyone hauls off on Ralph or David or anyone else with a message in a bottle story to tell, just remember: Anyone who tries to poison the bonds of friendship created by messages in bottles drags down the cause of cleaning the oceans. That kind of negativity is exactly what stifles and stumps environmental movements.

I’m not saying we should all go out and send messages in bottles now. I don’t do that, myself. In fact, I’m saying the opposite. Because–Me? I find them. I pick up trash along the way. That is why I am a beachcomber. And I say without reservation that message-in-a-bottle stories are worth sharing, because, if we are lucky, they just might inspire more people to get out and walk the beach–and the more people we have walking beaches, looking for stuff, picking stuff up, seeing the truth of the plastic pollution crisis, the better. That is part of our solution. Seeing is part of the solution.

So, let’s rejoice in the new connections and friendships created by messages in bottles, and let’s harness their ability to focus attention on the world’s beaches–the front lines of the plastic pollution crisis. David Walker’s discovery of a message in a bottle with a $5 bill, and his subsequent connection with the author, is exactly the kind of inspiring story that might get people out to the beach.

We need more people to bear witness to the plastic plaguing our beaches and oceans. If someone finds a message in a bottle once in a while, and makes a new friend, and inspires still more people to get out on the beach? Well, to that, I say hallelujah.

***If you liked this post, 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 mysteryClick here to learn more about messages in bottles, and you can always contact me with questions, ideas, or stories. Don’t forget to check out this list of ideas for plastic-free gifts that work for holidays, birthdays, and more.