Sending a message in a bottle always feels like something that only happens in movies. The odds are stacked decidedly against anyone ever finding the note, and the chances of the intended recipient ever seeing it are astronomical. There are so many things that could happen to keep it from ever being discovered, from the bottle being destroyed, sinking to the bottom of the ocean, or found but cast aside as simple junk. But once in a great while, the seemingly impossible happens, and the right person just happens to find those letters.
10. Chunosuke Matsuyama
In 1784, Chunosuke Matsuyama and 43 other men set off from Japan in search of buried treasure on an island in the South Pacific. During their expedition, the ship was smashed into a reef and destroyed. They ended up on a deserted island with nothing but a few coconuts, some crabs, and no fresh water. Matsuyama knew that he and his shipmates were doomed, and as they began dying off he took a thin piece of wood and carved an inscription detailing their fate. He found a bottle in the wreckage, deposited his note inside, and threw it into the ocean, presumably dying some time later.
9. Sandra Morris and Rosalind Hearse
In July of 1968, eight-year-old Sandra Morris was on an ocean liner, heading back to the United States after a vacation in Europe. She wrote her address on a postcard, along with a note suggesting that the finder of the bottle should write to her at her home in Pennsylvania. Stuffing the note into an empty wine bottle, she tossed it overboard. Three months later, eight-year-old Rosalind Hearse was walking along a beach in Wales when she found the bottle.
Hearse wrote to Morris, kicking off a 40-year friendship. Eventually the unlikely pencils met, with their families growing close over the years. The pair even met up again on the same beach where Hearse had found the bottle exactly four decades later in celebration of their long, miraculous friendship.
8. Dorothy and John Peckham and Hoa Van Nguyen
In 1979, Californians Dorothy and John Peckham were on a Christmas cruise in Hawaii. One of the ship’s traditional activities was to write a message in a bottle and toss it overboard. The couple penned a note asking the finder to write back, going so far as to include a dollar to cover the postage.
Four years and about 9,000 miles away from where the Peckhams threw it overboard, Hoa Van Nguyen found the bottle as he and his brother were fleeing from Vietnam and heading to Thailand. Believing the note was a sign, he kept it for strength. When Hoa and his brother arrived in Thailand, they were put into a refugee camp and while there, he wrote the Peckhams to let them know he’d found their message. The Peckhams received the letter on March 4, 1983, which just happened to be John’s 70th birthday.
Hoa and the Peckhams began a friendship through their letters over the next two years. In the meantime, Hoa was married and started a family, and asked the Peckhams to sponsor his family in a move to the United States, and shortly after, the Van Nguyen family found its way to Los Angeles thanks to a friendship established under the most unlikely circumstances.
7. Laura Buxton and…Laura Buxton?
While this story is not a literal “message in the bottle” story, it does follow the same principles. It involves a 10-year-old girl named Laura Buxton, who was at her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary in Staffordshire, England in 2001. Laura wrote a note saying that if the note was to be found, that the finder should return it to her. She printed her name and her phone number, attached it to a helium filled balloon and released it into the air.
The balloon eventually landed 140 miles away in Milton Lilbourne, Wiltshire. A farmer found it in his field and he knew that his neighbors, the Buxtons, had a daughter named Laura. After passing the note along to the second Laura Buxton, she was eager to get in touch with her counterpart. While speaking on the phone, they found that they shared a number of similarities. The Laura who found the note was only a few months younger than the Laura who wrote the note, and they were both fair haired, about the same height, and had the same pets. The girls met a short time later and have been friends ever since.
6. Private Thomas Hughes
“Dear Wife, I am writing this note on this boat and dropping it into the sea just to see if it will reach you. If it does, sign this envelope on the right hand bottom corner where it says receipt. Put the date and hour of receipt and your name where it says signature and look after it well. Ta ta sweet, for the present. Your Hubby.”
Hughes also wrote a cover letter, explaining the purpose of the letter, asking anyone who found it to deliver it to his wife. He stuffed the papers into an old ginger beer bottle and threw it into the English Channel. Two days later, Hughes was killed in action, leaving behind his wife and infant daughter. After the war, Elizabeth and Emily moved to New Zealand where they lived until Elizabeth passed away in 1979. Fast forward to 1999, when a man named Steve Gowan was fishing off the coast of Essex and stumbled across the bottle. He was able to track down Emily, then 86-years-old and still in New Zealand. The New Zealand Post paid for Gowan and his wife to fly to Auckland, so he could hand deliver her father’s letter 85 years after he wrote it.
5. 88 Peruvian and Ecuadorian Migrants
In 2005, 88 migrants from Peru and Ecuador were being smuggled to the United States when their boat started having trouble off the coast of Costa Rica, near Cocos Island national park. When the boat ran into trouble, the smugglers abandoned the ship, along with the passengers, and took all the communication tools with them.
Stranded at sea and low on supplies, the people on board needed to do something. They wrote an SOS, put it into a bottle and threw it overboard. Amazingly, a fisherman found the bottle just three days later. He alerted the local authorities, and the boat was quickly located. The passengers, who were mostly teenagers, women and children, were dehydrated, but all survived.
4. Frank Hayostek and Breda O’Sullivan
On Christmas Day, 1945, Frank Hayostek was returning from military duty in France. While in New York Harbor, he wrote a letter that said, “Dear Finder, I am an American soldier… 21 years old… just a plain American of no wealth, but just enough to get along with. This is my third Christmas from home… God bless you.”
He signed his name, gave his home address, and after stuffing it into an empty Aspirin bottle, threw it into the Atlantic. Eight months later, he was at home in Pennsylvania when he received a letter from 18-year-old Breda O’Sullivan, whose father found his letter and gave it to her. It had washed up on the shore of a beach near Dingle, Ireland. That letter blossomed into a pen pal relationship, and eventually Hayostek saved enough money to visit his new friend in 1952.
Unfortunately, the newspapers had learned about the amazing friendship and pounced on the couple, taking it from an intimate visit to a media frenzy. It turned out to be too stressful for the pair, and a romantic relationship never developed. Hayostek returned to the United States…and promptly wrote another note, stuffed it into another Aspirin bottle, and threw it into the Atlantic.
3. Josh Baker
On April 16, 1995, 10-year-old Josh Baker wrote a note that said, “My name is Josh Baker. I’m 10. If you find this, put it on the news. The date is 4/16/95.”
He put the note into an empty bottle of vanilla extract and threw it into Wisconsin’s White Lake, where it would drift, unfound for the next decade. When Baker was 18, he became a Marine, and within a year was serving in Iraq. He returned home safely, but was tragically killed in a car wreck just a few months later in 2005. As you might expect, his death was especially difficult on his family.
But in 2006, a man named Steve Lieder was at White Lake with Robert Duncan, who was Baker’s best friend and had served in Iraq with him. Lieder noticed a bottle of vanilla extract with a note inside of it floating in the debris, and was shocked when he opened the bottle and saw that Baker had written the note. The pair delivered it to Baker’s mom, who took it as a sign that her son was still watching over her.
2. Ake Viking
Voyages at sea can get a little dull, as an 18-year-old Swedish sailor named Ake Viking discovered in 1955. Because life at sea can also get a little lonely, he penned a letter that began, “To Someone Beautiful and Far Away.” He wrote about himself, and suggested that the finder should write him back. He sealed it in a bottle and dropped it overboard. After two years, Viking found a letter waiting for him with the postmark of Syracuse, Sicily, Italy. He got a shipmate to translate, and that’s when Ake learned it was from a 17-year-old named Paolina. Her letter said:
“Last Tuesday, I found a bottle on the shore. Inside was a piece of paper, bearing writing in a strange language. I took it to our priest, who is a great scholar. He said the language was Swedish and, with the help of a dictionary, he read me your charming letter. I am not beautiful, but it seems so miraculous that this little bottle should have traveled so far and long to reach me that I must send you an answer…”
They continued to exchange letters, and Viking eventually traveled to Sicily. A short time later, the pair that came together through the most miraculous of circumstances was wed.
1. Sidonie Fery
Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast of the United States in late 2012, but amazingly, it managed to jar loose one particular piece of debris that would change the life of a woman named Mimi Fery. A worker cleaning up an area of Long Island found a green ginger ale bottle with a note inside, which he showed to his supervisor. After reading the note, his supervisor decided to call the number written on the message, which led him to Fery. Mimi had lost her 18-year-old daughter, Sidonie, in a tragic accident in 2010, but soon realized the note inside the bottle had been penned by her daughter a decade before its discovery.
Receiving the note almost two years after her daughter’s death provided closure and comfort to Mimi, offering a simple yet profound message that enabled her to move forward with her life. So what did the note say? It was a quote from Sidonie’s favorite childhood movie, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, telling its finder to “Be excellent to yourself, dude.”