Skip to content

Satellites Displace Message-in-a-Bottle Workers

Is it still OK to intentionally throw a glass bottle into the ocean, with a message locked inside? This is an era where it can feel insensitive to simply spit or pee over the rail, so we wonder how everyone feels about the age-old tradition of purposely tossing a floating bottle over the rail. Does anyone do it anymore?

We recently read a story in the Guardian about a bottle that was tossed out to sea in Japan 37 years ago and just washed up on a beach in Hawaii. Is it litter, or a really cool story of global connections made without the aid of the internet?

The bottle was released into the sea all those years ago by high school students in Japan, and was found approximately 3600 miles away on the island of Hawaii. The report says the bottles have been found in 17 different locations. We assume the rest have become sea glass.

Latitude 38 Message in a Bottle
It’s slower than email, but how much more meaningful is it to find a message in a bottle 37 years after it was written?
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

This bottle was one of 750 thrown into the ocean to help the students investigate ocean currents. Now in their 50s, the ‘students’ are still learning, although satellites and uncrewed surface vehicles (USV), such as those produced by Saildrone, have now largely surpassed this traditional information-gathering strategy.

Thirty-seven years later we wonder how many sailors would want to toss a well-sealed bottle into the ocean to be found by a future beach wanderer this year or decades in the future. If you’re sailing to Mexico in the Baja Ha-Ha or on your own, would you toss a bottle and have folks contact us at [email protected] to see where you would have ended up if the wind and your piloting had carried you toward your intended destination? Or would you just email or call on your Iridium GO!?

How many people still practice the sailor’s ritual of tossing a message in a bottle into the ocean? You can read the rest of the story from the Guardian here.

Leave a Comment