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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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