Sunday, October 21, 2018

Bottle on the Ocean of Time

by Anastasia (writer), London, January 24, 2013

Credit: Ashley Dace
My Message in a Bottle

A message in a bottle finally got through, although it took almost eight decades.

We all of us live in the age of instant communication, the age of email, the age of texting, the age of Twitter. Now just imagine a different age, just imagine a message that took seventy-six years to get through!

Have you ever put a message in a bottle and cast it out to sea? I did, once, though I can’t remember now what I wrote. I hope it wasn’t anything too embarrassing, just in case it turns up decades later, when I have reached the grand old lady stage of life.

Herbert Earnest Hillbrick’s message turned up, sadly many years after his death. Last November his bottle with a message was found by a man called Geoff Flood on a beach on New Zealand’s North Island. It had been bobbing around the oceans of the world since March, 1936.

Inside was a note bearing the mark of the P&O shipping company. Cast overboard from a ship by the name SS Strathnaver, it read “At sea. Would the finder of this bottle kindly forward the note, where found, to the under mentioned address.” The address given was in Leederville, Western Australia.

Speaking to the local media the finder said;

As I picked it up and started looking, I could see it was an old envelope with P&O on it and I thought this might be something special. There was a bit of a mad panic to extract it. I carefully cut a couple of bits of wire and quietly would it up with the bits of wire so we didn’t damage it. I thought; who knows where it’s been? How many times around the world, you just wouldn’t know would you?

As it turned out, the sender died in the 1940s, but Mister Flood was able to trace his grandson, Peter Hillbrick, who lives in Perth, Western Australia. Also amazed by the discovery he said “For this one to be floating around the ocean for 76 years and just all of a sudden pop up in New Zealand. Where has it been? What story is it going to tell?”

None, unfortunately, other than the words on the paper. What we do know is that the SS Strathnaver was a British Royal Mail Ship that carried people between England and Australia. We also know, from photos still in his grandson’s possession, that Herbert and his wife Ethel sailed on the ship. The bottle was presumably dropped in the ocean in a mood of whimsy.

The next time you read about delays in snail mail you might care to bring this story to mind. The Royal Mail may be slow but it gets through in the end.

I'll send an SOS to the world
I'll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah

About the Writer

Anastasia is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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