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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A Pretty Little Boy

Found May 1873, off Scottish coast, near Dundee.

In a soda-water bottle, corked and sealed with wax, inside an 11ft shark:

On board the Beautiful Star, Sunday, 1st September, 1872.
We have cross’d the line, and all’s well. Last night the Captain’s lady had a pretty little boy.
“Heaven bless the little stranger,
Rock’d on the cradle of the deep;
Save it, Lord, from every danger,
The angels bright their watch will keep.
Oh, gently soothe its tender years,
And so allay a parent’s fears—
A father’s love, a mother’s joy;
May all that’s good attend their boy.”

The 11ft shark was one of three caught within the space of a few weeks by Scottish fisherman. The shark’s carcass was presented to the Dundee Museum, and opened in front of a large crowd. Inside were found parts of cod, dogfish and seal, a man’s bonnet, and a soda-bottle containing a note written “in a lady’s neat hand”. The bottle was smashed open, and the note was read aloud to the spectators, who took pieces of the broken bottle as souvenirs.

The Beautiful Star was an Aberdeen-built clipper that sailed between Britain and Australasia. Enquiries found the ship in Lyttelton, New Zealand, where a Captain Bilton confirmed that the captain in command in 1872 had his wife on board, and “she was confined as stated”.

[Huddersfield Chronicle, 21 February 1873]

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Death Stares Us In

Found 22 March 1892, Dog Island, near Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Picked up by fishing boat captain Samuel Chance, in a moss-grown, long-necked and tightly-corked bottle, hastily scrawled on a piece of wrapping paper, with $15 in paper money:

The finder, whosoever it may be, will use this money as his own. We are sinking. Death stares us in —

“Here the note breaks off, and there is no signature, neither is the name of the vessel given,” reported the New York Times. The bottle appeared to have been in the water for a “very long time”.

[New York Times, 24 March 1892]

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Cold Ocean

Found 15 July 1896, on the shore near Hoylake, Merseyside.

In a bottle, on a scrap of paper:

Struck iceberg — sinking fast in cold ocean — Naronic — Young.

The White Star Line cargo steamship Naronic left Liverpool for New York on 11 February 1893. On board were 50 crew, 14 cattlemen, ten horsemen, and a cargo of livestock. The ship called at Point Lynas, Anglesey, but was never seen again. In March, the steamer Coventry spotted two of the Naronic’s empty lifeboats in an area with large quantities of ice, close to where the Titanic would later be sunk. Four other messages in bottles relating to the Naronic were found, but none could be proven to be genuine, and the ultimate fate of the vessel remains a mystery.

[Dundee Courier, 16 July 1896]

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Ready to Meet My God

Found November 1874, off Key West, Florida.

A slip of paper picked up by fishermen:

The schooner Lucie shipped from the coast of Georgia in August, loaded with lumber, and bound for Rio de Janeiro, (owned by Major Pollard, of St. Louis, and commanded by Capt. Hicks, of Boston) with Henry Mitchell, Mike Conely, John Meninger, and David Clark, of New-York, and four colored men. Was struck by a severe gale on the night of 27th September, some 330 miles off Rio de Janeiro, and had her mainmast and foremast carried away. She dipped and broke her bowsprit, and sprung a leak. All hands went to work to pump her out, and managed to keep her up until about nine o’clock the next morning, when she was dashed against a rock and went down. We made a raft with the boards and put on some provisions but they were washed off during the day. Worn out with fatigue, Capt. Hicks and Mr. Meninger and one colored man got sick. We saw no vessel at all, nor an island near us. The poor sick men died the second day. Mitchell jumped off our little raft, and Conely was washed off. The negroes and myself are still alive, though weak, and the rough waves seem to toss us so I fear we shall not last long.
My dear wife Mary, and little babe live in New-York; may God bless them and take care of them. The Lucie was a 400-ton vessel, with three masts, but she is gone, and some of her gallant men with her, and we who yet live will, I fear, soon follow. I am ready to meet my God.

The Lucie had loaded with lumber at a sawmill near Brunswick, Georgia.

[Savannah Advertiser, 10 November 1874, and New York Times, 15 November 1874]

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