Messages and bottles and the restless heart

A friend sent this on

Scottsdale boy’s message in a bottle discovered

The Arizona Republic

Finding a message in a bottle is the subject of pop songs and Hollywood movies.

But one Scottsdale boy’s message in a bottle story is more about youthful innocence.

Jack Johnson, 12, went fishing with his dad, Dan, on a family vacation near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in October of 2008. The night before setting out to sea, Jack and the rest of his family were eating dinner at their hotel as images of the ocean danced in his head.

"I had been sitting thinking on the couch the night before, watching this movie about the ocean," Jack said.

So he asked his dad if he could take the empty wine bottle left over from their dinner on the impending fishing trip.

That night Dan and his son prepped for the journey. Jack wrote a note with his address and phone number included, put it in a sealable plastic bag and stuffed it into the bottle.

To complete his experiment, the next day Jack tossed it overboard, a couple of miles off the coast of Puerto Vallarta.

That could have been the end of the story, if not for a scientist who was doing ecological mapping and sampling on the uninhabited Isla María Magdalena, about 125 miles north of Puerto Vallarta in the Pacific Ocean.

Peter Schaaf said he and some students found Jack’s message in a bottle when they were walking along the northwestern beaches of the island more than a year later.


The Canadian-based Drift Bottle Project attempts to paint a global picture of ocean currents.

The experiment puts notes explaining how to contact the project into empty beer bottles sealed with watertight lids. The bottles are dropped at various locations, mainly in northern oceans. Drop points are noted, many along the western coasts of Canada, the United States and Mexico. When a bottle is found and reported to the project, location information is added to a database for analysis.

He said a typical bottle journey is about one to three years with an average drift of 6 to 12 miles a day.

Carmack said since the project began in 2000, about 4,000 bottles have been deployed and about 150 have been reported back.

"People find these bottles and get really excited," Carmack said. "It makes you recognize you’re just a bottle toss a way from someone around the world."

Every once in a while interesting these "message in a bottle" stories turn up.  Here is one about a bottle found 25 years later.  Here is one after 96 years.

There is something in us, I think, that drives us to send messages in bottles, to project ourselves, to reach out not just to the unknown place, but to the unknown person.  

Perhaps this is a manifestation of our restless heart’s need to come to its place of rest.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. wanda says:

    Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, O Lord.

  2. dominic says:

    96 years!
    At the end of my first year of university, in St Andrews, on the east coast of Scotland, I and a group of friends put a message in a bottle (including my address) and threw it out to sea at the end of a beach party.

    We were surprised (delighted, in fact) to get a reply, only around six months later, from Denmark, where it had been found by a class at a “free school” during their “conservation class”. The entire class (of 12/13 year olds) drew pictures and wrote short texts (for some reason “My name is Lars, I am 13 and I like shooting” is one that sticks in the mind…thoguh most of the messages were less aggressive than that!), and a longer letter came from their teacher.

    So try it, is all I can say…

  3. pseudomodo says:


    Something to do with all those plastic bottles I have! And I was going to throw them in a landfill!

    On the other hand… studying the drift of ocean and even coastal currents is a worthwhile thing. In the past few years, some sneakers with human remains have been washing up on the beaches in the Fraser river delta and Juan deFuca Strait. Where did they come from?

    Scientists experimented with dropping sneakers fitted with GPS trackers into the Fraser River to see where the would end up.

  4. AnAmericanMother says:

    The sneakers with the feet in them probably come from drowning victims, whether from the shore of the ocean or river or from ships.

    The shoes are durable and synthetic, so they don’t rot. They protect the feet from decay and marine life. Eventually the unprotected ankles are disarticulated, and the sneakers (with contents) float to the top.

    Dropping in just sneakers probably won’t replicate the circumstances, because the corpse is going to move for a period of time as a unit, submerged or partially floating.

    I used to do death investigations, so this kind of stuff doesn’t really bother me much any more.

  5. Rob Cartusciello says:

    The human spirit needs transcendence. No earthly thing will ever entirely satisfy the need.

    This is our secret weapon.

  6. Athelstan says:

    It will be a notable day indeed if anyone picks up the Voyager “messages in a bottle.”

    (Most likely it will be us, a few hundred years hence)

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Maybe we are just wanting to be known to God, as such an action is rather like an act of faith and an act of trust.

  8. “The experiment puts notes explaining how to contact the project into empty beer bottles sealed with watertight lids.”

    Where do I apply for the job of the guy who empties the beer bottles?

  9. RichardT says:

    Unfortunately not everyone is happy when they find a message in a bottle.

    With apologies for my compatriots, see here:

  10. AnAmericanMother says:


    The disgruntled inhabitant of Poole sounds like the ugly old man who yells at the kids for walking on the edge of his yard. We all have one in our neighborhood.

    They almost always get their come-uppance, sooner or later.

  11. ejcmartin says:

    A Scout group I was involved in was contacted a couple of years ago by someone in Scotland who had picked up a message in a bottle tossed to the sea by a Scout off the coast of Newfoundland a few years earlier. I know of a few people who have had messages picked up mainly on the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland.
    Our family tossed out a message six years ago now and have yet to have a response.

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