No More Whisky

Found August 1912, Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, western France.

In a bottle, on Prince Line headed notepaper:

Ship in distress. No more whisky on board. Please refill bottle and return it.

As gleefully recounted by Singapore’s Straits Times, this light-hearted message was “an example of real distress at sea” — just four months after the sinking of the Titanic. It was apparently found by a French bather at Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, near Saint-Nazaire, who summoned a gendarme, then the chief of police, and then the mayor, none of whom could translate it from English. The message was hurriedly carried, by the bather still in his swimming costume, to the mayor’s office, where a traveller’s phrase book failed to help. It was eventually translated by the British vice-consulate. The Prince Line was a major steamship company that had been founded in the north east of England.

[Straits Times, 18 September 1912]

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Have Sprung a Leak

Found 15 September 1896, Lescouet, Brittany, France.

In a bottle:

Should this be picked up, please make inquiries or send G. Sortel, Esq., 50 Sixth Avenue, Philadelphia. I, William Eden, of the sailing schooner Vedette, write this at the very last moment, expecting my ship to sink every minute. Have sprung a leak in latitude 8 north, longitude 28 west. May God spare us. W. EDEN. Captain of Vedette, Philadelphia.

No record was found of any vessel named Vedette out of Philadelphia. There was no such address as 50 Sixth Avenue, and no resident of Philadelphia named G Sortel.

[New York Times, 13 December 1896]

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