The Sea is Offal Heavy

Found October 1892, Broadsea, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.

In a bottle:

Oct. 7th, 1892.–At Se.–Smack Prince Wales.–Dear Mother.–We R lying to in a horaken of wind of Orknes, and the sea is offal heavy. Harly posabel to us to live in it. If I never see you anie mor God will provid for you. The two other men is keeping up with a good harth; love to all from your son, CHARLES GILBERTSON.

Newspapers called this misspelled message a “characteristic letter”.

[Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 15 October 1892]

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All Well

Found 30 August 1868, San Buenaventura Beach, California.

In a water-tight bottle, written in the margins of a printed form, much mutilated:

[Printed text, in five languages:]

WHOEVER finds this paper is requested to forward it to the Secretary of the Admiralty, London, with a note of the time and place at which it was found; or, if more convenient, to deliver it for that purpose to the British Consul at the nearest Port.

[Written text:]

HMS Erebus and Terror. 28 of May 1847. Having wintered in 1846-47 at Beechey Island in Lat. 74* 43’ 23” N. Long. 91* 39’ 15” W. After having ascended Wellington Channel to Lat 77* and returned by the West side of Cornwallis Island. Sir John Franklin commanding the expedition. All well.

[Written at foot:]

Party consisting of 2 officers and 6 men left the ships on Monday, 24th May, 1847. G. M. GORE, Lieut. CHAS. F. DesVOUX, Mate.

[Written in margins:]

1848. H. M. ships Terror and Erebus were deserted on the 22nd April, five leagues N. N. W. of this, having been beset since Sept. 12, 1846. The officers and crews, consisting of 105 souls, under the command of Captain F. R. M. CROZIER, landed here – in lat. 69* 37’ 24”, lon. 98* 4’ 15”. A paper was found by Lieutenant IRVING under the cairn supposed to have been built by Sir JAMES ROSS in 1831, four miles to the northward, where it had been deposited by the late Commander GORE in June, 1847. Sir JAMES ROSS’ pillar has not, however, been found, and the paper has been transferred to this position, which is that in which Sir J. ROSS’s pillar was erected. Sir JOHN FRANKLIN died on the 11th of June, 1847, and the total loss by deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men. JAMES FITZJAMES, Captain H. M. S. Erebus. F. R. M. CROZIER, Captains and senior officer, and start on tomorrow, 26th, for Back’s Fish River.

Explorer Sir John Franklin’s fourth and final Arctic expedition set sail from Greenhithe, England, on 15 May 1845, with 24 officers and 110 men. Franklin was attempting to navigate the Northwest Passage, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific via the Arctic Ocean. The entire expedition was lost. The last recorded sighting was in late July 1845. The first traces of the expedition were found by search parties in 1850.

Numerous searches took place over the following decades, and the first note was found in 1859. Other Admiralty Forms were found, with duplicated updates scrawled in their margins, on land and at sea. It is thought that, with their ships icebound, the starving men set out onto the ice, where they were driven to cannibalism, before eventually succumbing to the elements.

[New York Times, 17 September 1869]

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Please Send This to My Aunt

Found 3 August 1881, Oak Beach, Long Island, New York.

In a bottle:

YACHT MARGARET, July 14, 1881. We were wrecked in a heavy north-east wind off Faulkner’s Island soon after the sloop Commerce left us; two of the crew were washed off while furling the jib topsail. Please send this to my aunt, and address Mrs. W. H. Parsons, Rye, N. Y.

[New York Times, 7 August 1881]

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Sixteen Days Without Water

Found March 1896, Waipu Cove Beach, Bream Bay, New Zealand.

In a bottle, written in pencil:

A lost and starving man’s request. – Should any person happen to find this bottle, will he be kind enough to make it known at some newspaper office that will report of what my fate has been. – i.e., lost at sea in an open boat off the coast of Australia. I am nearly exhausted for want of fresh water, and don’t know where I am. Sixteen days without water is awful. God forgive me. – ANTONY W. SHORT.

Bream Bay is in the Northland Region of New Zealand’s North Island, more than 1,200 miles from the coast of Australia.

[New Zealand Herald, 20 March 1896]

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Seen Whale

Found September 1894, River Carron, Scotland.

In a bottle:

11th August, 1894. — Seen whale. Boat capsized; drowning off Dunbar. To my wife, Jeanie Bryce. God help you. Forget and forgive. — D. Bryce, Bo’ness.

The River Carron runs into the Firth of Forth, at the mouth of which sits Dunbar. Borrowstounness, commonly known as Bo’ness, is also on the south bank of the Firth of Forth.

[Aberdeen Evening Express, 4 September 1894]

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