Message in a bottle floats from Long Island to Sanibel Island - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Message in a bottle travels from Long Island, NY to Sanibel Island, Fla.

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It's an intriguing method of communication that dates back thousands of years, but a Fox 9 News employee found a real message in a bottle while on vacation and tracked down the person who sent it. 

Russ Weseman and his wife decided to head down south for a little rest and relaxation, but their dream vacation took an unusual turn when they went "shelling" on a beach on Sanibel Island.

"My wife and I were floored by it," he said. "We spent the whole weekend in awe."

Although they came to Florida looking for four days of fun in the sun, they wound up finding a reminder of time gone by washed up on shore. While searching for sea shells, Weseman noticed something on the edge of the waves that caught his eye. When he picked it up, he discovered it was a bottle with a note tucked inside -- capped with a cork to keep it afloat.

"I said, 'Oh, someone threw their beer bottle on the beach,'" Weseman recalled. "I was just going to pick it up and throw it away."

It turns out, the message was sent by 20-year-old Brittany Wood, of Long Island, New York.

Wood had gotten the bottle as a souvenir from a trip her mother and sister had recently taken to Georgia. She put her note inside and threw the bottle from a pier near her home early in May. In about 3 weeks, it traveled nearly 2,000 miles down the eastern seaboard, around the trip of Florida, and into the Gulf of Mexico. 

"That was crazy," Wood said. "When he said, 'Florida,' I was surprised. When he said the west side, I couldn't believe it."

After talking with Wood, Weseman decided the best thing to do would be to put the bottle back into the water. So, he tossed it into the Gulf of Mexico to see who would get it next. Now, both Wood and Weseman are eager to see where it will end up.


It's not the most reliable method of delivery, but there is no doubt that a message in a bottle holds a dramatic and mysterious allure. The mode of communication also has a storied history.

The earliest known message in a bottle was sent by one of Aristotle's pupils in about 310 B.C. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus wanted to test his theory that the Atlantic Ocean flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

He was partially right. The two bodies of water meet at the Strait of Gibraltar between the southern coast of Spain and the northeast coast of Morocco, but there are two currents there. An upper layer of Atlantic water flows east into the sea above a saltier and heavier layer of water from the Mediterranean Sea which flows west into the Atlantic.

Sailors used to send messages in a bottle to relay information about enemy navies at sea. In fact, Queen Elizabeth made opening an "ocean bottle" without authorization a crime -- one punishable by death, at that -- in the 16th century. She even appointed a royal "Uncorker of Ocean Bottles" to fill the post.

Within the last 200 years, bottles were released into the ocean en masse in order to gather data on ocean currents, starting in 1846. However, many have contained grim goodbyes instead of secrets or far-flung hopes.

In the early 1910s, messages from victims of the Titanic and the Lusitania washed ashore after the vessels sank.

Some even spent decades waiting to be discovered, like the bottle World War I private Thomas Hughes tossed into the English Channel when he left to fight in France in 1914. He died in battle two days later, but his 86-year-old daughter got the message in New Zealand in 1999.

In the mid 1990s, an amateur Canadian fisherman began sending messages out. To date, he has sent more than 4,800 and has received more than 3,100 responses.

Would you send a message in a bottle? Let us know what you'd write

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