Thursday, May 2, 2013

Touching A Heart With A Message In A Bottle-A True Charleston Story

Message In A Bottle is a 1999 film based on a novel bearing the same name written by Nicholas Sparks. It is about a woman who finds a mysterious, intriguing love letter in a bottle in the sand. She is fascinated by the message and comes in possession of two more, which leads her on a search for the originator of the released bottles. She finds him, befriends him, and the two of them get involved, but she is not totally honest with him, hiding the fact their meeting was not accidental and she possesses the letters he wrote a deceased wife he has not been able to let go of. The story has a powerful but sad ending.

The use of a message in the bottle has been a form of communication going way back in antiquity. The first recorded messages in bottles were released around 310 BC by the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus as an experiment attempting to prove the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the inflowing Atlantic Ocean.

A message in a bottle recovered east of Shetland in 2012 is believed to be the oldest message ever found at 98 years. It was one of 1,890 bottles released on June 10, 1914 by a scientist from Glasgow testing undercurrents around Scotland. The previous record was 92 years and 229 days also released in 1914 and found on December 10, 2006. It contained longitude and latitude coordinates placing its release somewhere between Scotland and Denmark. It was discovered by a fisherman around Shetland, Scotland. The farthest traveling message in a bottle was recovered on a beach near Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 17, 2013. It was tossed into the ocean 28 years earlier from the shores of Nova Scotia, Canada. It traveled around 4,000 miles.

The saddest story involving a bottled message dates all the way back to September 9, 1914. The bottle was discovered in 1999 by a fisherman while pulling in his nets. Inside the eroded bottle were two letters. The first note requested the finder to forward the second note, a love letter, to his beloved wife named Elizabeth Hughes. He was headed for France to fight in the Great War. The fisherman was moved by the letter and set out to deliver it. It had been 85 years since the letters were written. His search led him to the couples daughter living in Auckland, New Zealand. He found out Thomas Hughes was killed in battle shortly after releasing the bottled messages. Thomas never got to see his wife again and never met his daughter, Emily.
Breech Inlet and the H.L. Hunley Bridge
I have made it a practice to release wine bottles with a message from time to time into Charleston's coastal waters. The messages are lines of poetry I have written about life and dealing with its struggles. An email address is included. Charleston's coastline offers a variety of places for an entry point for a bottled message. My favorite drop-in point is the outgoing tidal currents of Breech Inlet accompanied by a strong off-shore breeze. I have sent out three and so far received one response. It is a unique story. Not as dramatic as the film, but it demonstrates the power a message from a bottle can have.
Isle of Palms beach
It was a month from the time I set this particular bottle afloat on the ocean currents to the time of its discovery. It was discovered on the Isle of Palms. So, in the one month period, it did not travel any great distances. It possibly floundered around offshore until an ocean wind brought it in. A woman found the bottle while walking the beach, something she does often to cope with a loss in her life, she informed me. Following is the original email I received:

"I found your message in a bottle.....a green bottle on the shore. Where did u release it? If u don't mind me asking... I lost the love of my life 3 years ago in aug. and I walk that beach for therapy to deal with losing him. I have released a balloon there once with a message inside, and was touched by your poem...It was a cool thing to find. Take care."
Sent from my iPhone

I was glad to hear the right person found the bottle and the message.

My next message ready for release
Charleston is surrounded by coastal waters and rivers. It is rich in stories associated with its long maritime history. I have not read any stories about messages in bottles being discovered in the Charleston area, but I am sure some do exist. Someday you may be walking on one of the beautiful beaches of Charleston and to your surprise see the top of a corked bottle sticking out of the sand. Upon pulling the bottle from its final resting place after its solitary journey on the ocean currents, you discover there is a message within. Maybe, it could turn out to be a record breaking message in a bottle dating back hundreds of years or it could turn out to be one of mine. I look forward to hearing from you.

The closest thing to the message in a bottle I know of in Charleston involves the Vendue Inn. It is a custom for people staying there to leave messages in some of the bedposts, or so I heard. I sent an email to Vendue Inn to verify that, but as of yet have not received an answer.

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