Nearly nine years ago on Christmas Eve, a German sailor in the north Pacific sent out a message the old-fashioned way: rolled up in a bottle. After almost a decade at sea, the message was found by a marine debris clean up crew in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Monika Decker says the bottle stood out from other plastics they’d collected. It was half-painted yellow, possibly to catch a mariner’s eye. And there was something in it:
“At first I thought it was a stem from a spray bottle… until I saw a tied scroll!” she says.
The paper tore a bit as she and her coworkers were unraveling it, but the message was clear…. sort of:
“I wish you a good day. This is a sailor, me in the middle of the ocean. This on the ocean means we were N 42 degrees, 41′. E 169 degrees, 62′ in the Pacific on 24.12.2006 Christmas Night.”
The sailor left his address in Germany, asking to be contacted if anyone ever found his message.
And here’s where the story gets even more interesting: of all the people to find the bottle, Decker speaks German. She penned him a note in his native tongue and sent it out using a more modern tactic: the postal service.
Decker is still waiting to hear back from her new pen pal.
UAF marine science professor Tom Weingartner says the bottle likely hopped on the North Pacific Current, which brought it to the Gulf of Alaska. From there the bottle crossed onto a shelf and was swept inshore into the Alaska Coastal Current, which is pretty speedy as far as ocean currents go, Weingartner says.