Saturday, May 06, 2006
Message in a Bottle
Today's Telegraph review of Karen Leibrach's The Letter in the Bottle begins with a sentence that is always sure to get my attention: "This is a curious book about a curiosity."
In the Fall 2001, oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer wrote a fascinating Cabinet article about messages in bottles. In addition to "ocean evangelists" who from the 1940s onwards launched some 300,000 scripture-filled bottles into the ocean, he notes another rather less theological effort:
On a lonely Kent beach in the winter of 2002, a woman found a message in a bottle, written in French and wrapped carefully round two entwined locks of hair. Intrigued, she sent the letter to Karen Liebreich to translate. The message appeared to be a sort of elegy, a mother's farewell to a dead son.... Liebreich began a quest to seek the truth of what had happened.
The only other case that rivals the scale of these evangelists' efforts was by Guinness beer in the 1950s when the company threw 200,000 specially designed bottles with messages into the ocean as part of an advertisement campaign. On average, one of these bottles still washes up on shore every year.Its message? Instructions on how convert the bottle into a table lamp.....