I Now Have Five Minutes

Found May 1895, Yarmouth.

In a bottle, written in pencil on a rough piece of paper:

April 20.
I have now five minutes to let you know we have taken to the boat, trusting we shall be picked up. Good-bye.
Frank Click, Petrel, Peterhead.

It was reported that the Petrel was a fishing boat.

[Exmouth Journal, 18 May 1895]

The Barque Grotesque

Found May 1881, South Ronaldsay, Orkney.

In a bottle, written in pencil:

Foundering in North Sea, with twenty men on board, the barque Grotesque, on 7th March.

This message in a bottle was picked up on the shore by a fisherman. No further record can be found of the barque Grotesque.

[Shields Daily News, 20 May 1881]

Most popular Messages from the Sea

The top ten most popular Messages from the Sea, based on stats from our website’s first two years:

Titanic Sinking
One of several messages said to be from the famous White Star liner.
Know I Died Happy
A final message from George J Mills of the Spanish Queen.
A Pretty Little Boy
A poem found inside an 11ft shark.
The Body in a Well
Is this murder confession, found off the white cliffs of Dover, genuine?
Inside a Cod
A remarkable message found inside the stomach of a cod.
I Know I Cannot Escape
A sad message from William Graham on board the Pacific.
Lifting of the Body
This message reveals a grave-robbbing mystery.
Look After My Boy
A sad farewell from the missing steamship City of Boston.
God Help Us
What fate befell the schooner Lizzie?
I Expect My Turn Will Come Next
John Marshall of the Bavaria’s last, desperate plea.

Waiting Death Now

Found 23 May 1901, Firth of Forth, off Granton.

In a bottle:

Croft. Mid ocean, Atlantic. Sinking fast. No hope. All hands going down. No time. Whoever gets this note, send at once to my wife, Mrs Haggart, Churchill Terrace, Edinburgh. Farewell. Waiting death now.

The 800ft steel steamer Croft sailed from Leith to New York on 27 December 1898, then left New York for the return journey on 26 January 1899. “A great storm prevailed in the Atlantic when she was out,” reported the Shields Daily News, “and this is the first word from the steamer and crew of thirty.” The message was said to have caused great distress in Leith, and also in the Croft’s home port of Newcastle. It was reported that the official crew list did not contain the name Haggart.

[Shields Daily News, 24 May 1901]

Lifeboats upset

Found 18 September 1920, in the water off Pier 1, Hoboken, New York.

In a bottle, written in pencil on blue note paper:

3 P.M.
Four lifeboats upset, twelve passengers and eight of crew lost. Water, food and whiskey giving out. The bottle in which this message is found contained the last water we had. Two cases of whiskey and canned goods left, which will keep the rest alive about one day. This is our only way of calling for help. We hope this will be picked up and will bring aid.
– Captain H, W. Dodge, per second mate J.B. Bulton, Chicago, Ill. Vessel the Hepigon.

A further message suggested that the Hepigon had been shelled and sunk by a German raider on 14 July 1915, 24 miles southeast of Norfolk, Virginia. 47 people were killed in the attack, and the remaining 21 passengers and 35 crew had escaped into seven lifeboats, in rough seas, rain and fog. However, no record could be found of the Hepigon (or Nepigon), and it was concluded that the message was “probably deposited in the waters of New York bay by someone with a twisted sense of humour”.

[Sun and New York Herald, 19 September 1920]

All the Boys Merry

Found 5 November 1914, Brightstone, Isle of Wight.

In a bottle, on two sides of a piece of paper:

Sunday, September 10th.
From some boys of the Warwicks off for the final at Berlin. Signed T.H. Rafferty, J.H. Scott, S. Rollins, S.W. Owen, T.C.L. Rosser, T. Hubball, and B. Rawlins.
All the boys merry under strenuous conditions. Hope the finder is O.K. Write to wife and baby.
Mrs Rafferty, 8, Hailliley Street, Handsworth.

The 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment sailed from Southampton to Boulogne on board the SS Caledonia on 22 September 1914. Thomas Henry Rafferty, the writer of this message, was a tramway worker from Handsworth, Birmingham. He was married with a daughter. He was killed in action at Ypres on 25 April 1915. His body was never found.

[Birmingham Mail, 21 November 1914]

The Walrus is Sinking

Found 27 June 1911, on the beach west of Pointgarry, North Berwick.

In a bottle, legibly written on a piece of paper:

Will the finder of this message communicate with 25 Kirkgate, Leith? The Walrus is sinking, Good-bye.
J. Flint.

According to the Scotsman newspaper, enquiries made in Leith “failed to throw any light on the message”.

[Scotsman, 28, 29 June 1911]

Down Under (or Drowned)

Found August 1917 on southern shore of the Isle of Man.

A document, much damaged by seawater, in a bottle:

“Will finder kindly communicate with friends of N. Mooney and J. Finegan (of Tring). They are down under (or drowned) between Pembrey and Fishguard.
R.P.”

The two names were “much-blurred” and difficult to decipher. “R.P.” was perhaps “R.I.P.” The message was passed to police.

[Lincolnshire Echo, 231 August 1917]

I Was Shot Last Night

Found 25 April 1897, floating in Snake River at Weiser, Idaho.

In a bottle:

April 10, 1897.
I was shot last night by an unknown party. I am mining on Snake river at Big Bend. I am dying.
Yours, W. C. Cook.

Snake River’s gold deposits attracted many placer miners, most of whom who lived and worked alone along the river. “Ten days ago an attempt to murder one of these miners was made at another point in the river,” reported the Ravalli Republican. “In this instance, the victim was left for dead but survived. The motive was robbery, and if there is anything in this story told by the bottle, it is probably another case in which a lone miner has been attacked for the gold which he has accumulated.”

[Ravalli Republican, 28 April 1897]

Accident to Plane

Found May 1919, three miles south of Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island.

In a bottle:

“May 19, 1919. 1:34 a. m.–Accident to plane and I am drifting in a collapsed boat, latitude 51 degrees 36 minutes north, longitude 15 degrees 30 minutes east.
HAWKER”

Harry Hawker was a famous Australian aviator who was known to be attempting, with navigator Kenneth Mackenzie Grieve, to complete the first transatlantic flight in his experimental Sopwith Atlantic plane. The first pilot to cross the Atlantic within 72 hours stood to win a prize put forward by the Daily Mail of £10,000.

Hawker left Newfoundland on 18 May 1919. On the following day, the plane’s engine overheated, and Hawker diverted his course towards the shipping lanes, where he and Grieve were picked up by Danish freighter the Mary.

The Mary did not have a radio, so the world did not know what had happened to Hawker until after he reached Scotland around 26 May. In the meantime, Hawker’s message was considered to be of “very doubtful origin”. Hawker’s plane did carry a lifeboat, but Hawker did not publicly mention sending a message in a bottle.

Hawker was subsequently awarded a £5,000 consolation prize from the Daily Mail, and went on to name his daughter Mary after the ship that rescued him. He died in an aircrash in 1921, aged 32.

[Washington Times, 25 May 1919]