Sole Survivors

Found September 1903
On the beach at Fukave Island, Tonga

In a tightly-corked wine bottle:

Will the finder of this inform Messrs. Barkfoot & Co. of Port Said that their schooner, Ethel, foundered about 1,000 miles from Bombay? This note is written by the sole survivors, Capt. Lee and Seaman Thomas, who are in their last hopes.
Signed, J. T. Lee, Jan. 26 or 27, 1897.

The message was forwarded to the New Zealand Herald by a Captain Lombard of Tongatabu, and published without comment. Several months later, it was published in several US newspapers, with the added detail that the British schooner Ethel had disappeared while on route from Bombay to its home port of Port Said, Egypt. However, no reference to the Ethel, nor Barkfoot & Co, appeared in British newspapers.

[New Zealand Herald, 28 September 1903]

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Music from the Sea

Composer Clive Whitburn has written and recorded four pieces of music for soprano, baritone, harp and piano, based on Messages from the Sea.

The messages featured are Look after my boy (Thompson’s message), The body in a well (Charles Pilcher), Miss Charlesworth’s compliments (Miss Charlesworth Presents), and A pretty little boy (All is well).

The recordings feature soprano Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz, baritone Alex Roose, harpist Alexandra King and pianist Adam Swayne. You can listen to all four pieces below:

All four letters on which the music is based are included in the Messages from the Sea book.

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Messages from the Sea book

We’re pleased to announce the publication of a Messages from the Sea book. It’s a collection of some of our favourite letters and notes found floating in bottles and washed up on beaches across the world. Initially available as a special numbered limited edition hardback of just 100 copies, the book will be published on 19 September 2016.

The book contains 100 messages, including some website favourites and many previously unseen book exclusives, with accompanying notes and illustrations. Also included is an introductory essay on the history of the message in a bottle.

From the cover: “Messages from the Sea is a collection of letters and notes found washed ashore on beaches and bobbing in water, in corked bottles and wax-sealed boxes, carved onto wreckage and in the bellies of sharks. They tell of foundering ships, missing ocean liners and shipwrecked sailors, and contain moving farewells, romantic declarations and intriguing confessions. Some solve the mysteries of lost vessels and crews, while others create new mysteries yet to be solved. Dating from a lost era of seafaring, they demonstrate the brave, lonely and fragile nature of life on the ocean waves.”

Messages from the Sea

Special thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged Messages from the Sea over the past few months. This book would not have been possible without you. We hope you enjoy it.

Note: The limited edition hardback is sold out, but the standard edition is published on 19 September 2016. More details here.

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