algalita, algalita marine research foundation, beachcombers alert, captain charles moore, charles moore, Clint Buffington, curt ebbesmeyer, curtis ebbesmeyer, erin alberty, flotsametrics, Melissa Majchzak, message in a bottle, messages in bottles, plastic ocean, plastic pollution, salt lake tribune
The work I do with messages in bottles (MIBs) is often solitary work. Occasionally, the stars align and I have help with the work. This May, I had special visit from the Salt Lake Tribune who helped me track down the sender of a particularly elusive bottle. This one:
This bottle had been troubling me for some time. I found it back in 2012, and even then, there was no visible writing on the paper. I thought I could see impressions left by a pen, but the waviness of the glass made it hard to be sure.
When the Salt Lake Tribune heard about my connecting with Clinton (yes Clinton!) and Gwen Bennett live on BBC Radio, we decided it would be fun to document the process of opening an MIB live for the paper.
When reporter Erin Alberty and photographer Melissa Majchrzak arrived, I gave them a tour of some of my MIBs that have survived and turned out well and others that were ravaged by the sea and sun. I wanted them to be prepared for best and worst case scenarios. Then, I picked out the above bottle, borrowed a laparoscopic surgery tool from my girlfriend, and got down to business.
I’m not going to recount the remaining details of that day because Erin Alberty did such a good job in the article she wrote on the experience called “Messages in Bottles are Treasure Hunts for Utah Man,” but I certainly hope you read it! They document the whole process from start to finish.
Here are some photos from that day that Melissa and the Tribune have been kind enough to let me reproduce here:
I promise they aren’t paying me to tell you this next part–but I have to say it. Erin and Melissa are rare people. They understood the complexity of the whole MIB thing. They understood the excitement and magic of it, and they also understood that there is a dark side to this: for every message in a bottle I find, I find several tons of life-threatning, toxic trash, most of which is plastic. I wish that MIBs were the only things floating around in the ocean and washing up on shore, but that is far from the truth. Melissa and Erin got that, and documented it well.
By the way–if you are concerned about plastic trash in the sea, I recommend the books Plastic Ocean by Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, and Flotsametrics, a book written by a world renowned oceanographer and a man I am proud and honored to call a friend named Dr. Curt Ebbesmeyer. He’s among the rare folks who understand both the magic and allure of messages in bottles as well as the fact that they are harbingers of a serious pollution problem.
Erin interviewed Curt for the article, included some tips from me on how to send an environmentally low-impact message in a bottle, and in general, did a great job of capturing the detective work involved with what I do. Many thanks to Melissa, Erin, and the Salt Lake Tribune.
In case you’ve missed the embedded links in the article above, you can check out the Salt Lake Tribune article (which even includes a little video!) here:
Melissa Majchzak’s professional photography web page here (did I mention she’s the photographer for the Utah Jazz? Yeah, her photos are basketball cards!):
And you can follow super-reporter Erin Alberty on Twitter here:
And one last thing! Many of you are beachcombers, and I think you’d really enjoy receiving Curt Ebbesmeyer’s newsletter called Beachcomber’s Alert! It’s a worldwide network of beachcombers (including you, me, etc.) who write in to Curt with stories and photos of interesting things they have found. Then Curt collects these stories, gives readers some scientific context for understanding their significance, and makes it all into an entertaining read along the way! You can sign up for it here: Beachcombers’ Alert!