Voyage of the Odyssey Voice from the Sea
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The message in a bottle consists of assorted whale postcards, a letter, photographs of the Odyssey and various currencies from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Australia and the United States.
Photo: Chris Johnson

June 18, 2002
Sea Mail Service
  Real Audio

Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Most of us have probably stood on the deck of a ship or some barren shoreline and thought about sending a message in a bottle across the sea. Although most of us probably didn't act on this impulse, a few of the ones who did were later pleased that they had done so. In some cases fortunes were made, marriage proposals answered, and rescues initiated. Of course, some bottles have carried content of a more dire nature, news of otherwise unknown maritime tragedies-seaman scribbling a last farewell to loved ones before their ship went down and they and the rest of the crew were lost forever.

A bottle is such an excellent message carrier, that it seems all but inevitable that scientists would eventually use take advantage of them. Experimental launches of thousands of drift bottles from known points at sea were made, and when the news came in from finders of just where and when the bottles had drifted ashore the scientists were able to measure ocean currents more accurately than ever before. Eventually, however, oceanographers found that the bottles were too expensive (they often got smashed on rocks in the surf zone). So the scientists made substitute bottles out of clear, plastic envelopes in which a message about where to send the information about the bottle's landing place was sealed. Eventually they printed the words on international orange paper so that even when the plastic envelope was half buried in sand it was easy to spot. Onboard Odyssey, Bob Wallace has his own reasons for sending messages in bottles:

Bob Wallace -

I send messages in bottles so that people find these bottles and its like finding buried treasure. I write letters about the boat and the Voyage [of the Odyssey], about myself. I put in anything that will fit in the bottle - little toys. I always put a dollar bill in or other currency from countries that we have been in, newspaper articles, magazine articles, pictures, so that people have something exciting like buried treasure that they find on the beach. In the past 25 years, I have thrown 2 or 3 dozen bottles; not a whole lot.

Bob Wallace throws the message in a bottle overboard in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
To learn more about Bob and meet the rest of the Odyssey crew - Click Here
Photo: Chris Johnson

I have gotten 10 or 12 answers over the years from people who have found the bottles - a soldier on beach patrol in Trinidad found one, a lighthouse keeper in the Caribbean found one. One of the most funny and unusual ones is a guy in the Dominican Republic. He wrote back in Spanish describing his village, his family and saying that he would send photos of his nieces if I'd like.

Another interesting story I have heard about a message in a bottle, is that John F. Kennedy, after the PT109 was rammed [in World War 2] and he and his crew were stranded on a desert island, he sent off an S.O.S. message carved in a coconut which was found by the allies and he was rescued. That would count as a type of a message in a bottle.

I have never found a message in a bottle myself. I keep looking. I keep scouring the beaches, but I have never found one.

Genevieve Johnson -

Some bottles drift more than 100 miles a day, while others lie in the doldrums in the same acre of ocean for weeks on end. The bottles that survive in the ocean longest seem to be those that were weighted with sand and had a screw cap, suggesting that the sand ballast held the bottle upright so its lid was out of the sea water more time and therefore corroded more slowly. If you ever see a bottle bobbing in the shallows or half buried in the sand, pick it up; it may contain a reward, or the tale of a seafaring adventure. It could even be important data that contributes to a better understanding of the seas.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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