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Message in the Bottle

Updated on October 25, 2014

Thousands sent by one Man

Harold Hackett, of Prince Edward Island Canada has been sending messages in bottles since 1995! He estimates that by 2011 he had sent nearly 5,000 bottles with messages, hurling each one into the wind from the shore near his home. He has gotten thousands of replies, which he says was a whole lot more than he expected!

By asking the finder to reply in a letter, he is getting tons of well wishes from every side of the Atlantic (and then some! ). He gets Christmas cards, post cards, souvenirs, and sometimes people will share their own stories with him. It's a little bit romantic, I think, to put yourself out there like that, having no idea what type of response you might get. The Guardian News dubbed Harold's hobby as "A different kind of social networking". I'd say it's a little old fashioned nostagic romance - but not something we don't all ponder from time to times.

In the news and interviews covered so far, I have not seen any mention of romance for Harold, but you never know! Let's keep watching the story to see how it unfolds! (or, unrolls.... that is)

Photo by Mykl Roventine

Harold Tossing his Bottles with Messages
Harold Tossing his Bottles with Messages

Winds and Tide

How can his bottles go in so many directions?

People in France, Germany, the United States, and even Africa and Iceland have responded to Harold's bottles. He sends them from the same place, near his home in Newfoundland, at different times, but always with a westerly wind. He knows bottles thrown with the wind blowing in the wrong direction will just come right back home. But how do they reach so far away?

The great Mid-Atlantic Ridge runs through the Atlantic Ocean. The range runs underwater from Iceland down to 58ºS latitude. This range is what separates the Atlantic Ocean into two main basins. The Atlantic Ocean itself is 82 million square kilometers, and if you add the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean, Black, Baltic, North, Norwegian-Greenland, and Caribbean Seas, Baffin and Hudson Bay, it covers nearly one fifth of the Earth's surface!

The particular area that Harold throws his bottles from, Prince Edward Island, is prone to particularly high tides. This is partially due to Canada's higher rate of preciptiation, but is also affected by several other factors. The Labrador current is prominent in the area, and will generally send Harold's bottles in two directions. The colder currents will take the bottles into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with the rest joining with the Nova Scotia Current. The Nova Scotia current will pass through the Gulf of Maine and eventually join up with the coastal current.

But what about the ones that flow north and east?

Could it be that they get caught up in the super fast Gulf Stream after making it all the way down to the coastal current, then follow it back to the European side? That would be fascinating to find out! Maybe we could convince Harold to start putting tracking devices in his bottles!

Apparently the winds around the area are mystical indeed! In fact there is even a book of poetry about that very subject!

BAFFLES OF WIND AND TIDE: An Anthology of Newfoundland Poetry, Prose and Drama

This is Interesting!

As the tides come in, Nova Scotia actually tilts! The high tides in the Minas Basin bring in about 14 billion metric tonnes twice daily, causing this small province to bend a little under the immense weight of the water.

Recycled Notes!

"I got one (note) back with five different people finding it. They found it and let it go. It started in Cape Breton, went to Nova Scotia. It went to Newfoundland and then it went to St. Pierre-Miquelon and Florida, and then he wrote back to me," "There were five letters in my letter when I got it."

Original Song - Message in the Bottle

Police, and Sting made the concept popular!

Would you send a message in a bottle?

My message would say
My message would say

If you sent out a message in a bottle, what might it say?

See results

Yick! This one looks like it's been in the ocean for quite a while!

Yick!  This one looks like it's been in the ocean for quite a while!
Yick! This one looks like it's been in the ocean for quite a while!

The Guardian reports:

Local fishermen are accustomed

to seeing his bottles with neon

paper and reflector tape

bobbing in the water.

"The minute they see it,

they don't even have to look at

it. They just say, 'that's Harold Hackett,'

and they throw it back over."

The Guardian

Possible Bottle Route - It's just a guess

Bottle Route
Bottle Route

I am not a scientist or a geologist, but from what I've read about the ocean currents in the area, perhaps this is a route the bottles might take. It seems to include all of the places where they have been found.

The blue teardrop is where Harold throws his bottles from. Each Yellow circle is a place where one has been found, and the red line shows my best guess at a route.

Please Don't Do this at Home! - Our Oceans and Waterways Need Your Help!

Please Leave Only Your Footprints
Please Leave Only Your Footprints

While Harold's story is charming, he is pretty lucky that so many of his bottles are found! Most of the trash that gets thrown into the ocean stays there forever, unless someone picks it up. This, sadly is not happening enough, and our oceans are being polluted more every year.

There is plenty you can do to help! First of all, try to only use biodegradable plastic, if you use it at all. Secondly, use your own grocery bags. (Not Paper or Plastic), and thirdly, you can help by keeping the ocean in mind before you throw anything down on the beach or in the water. Here are some organizations working on this problem. Some have local resources where you can get involved.

Ocean Conservancy

Surfrider Foundation

Ocean & Coastal Resource Management

Floating in "Plastic Soup" - Story of the man who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Kirkus Reviews

"Capt. Moore, a lifelong seafarer, was spurred to activism when his catamaran stalled in a remote area of the northeast Pacific and he noticed a visible proliferation of plastic bits and other trash floating on the water's surface."

Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oce ans
Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oce ans

We do not pay enough attention to the mountains of plastic we throw away each day. Once it leaves our homes, we forget about it. Unfortunately, the environment does not forget. Some of this every day plastic winds up in this lonely part of the ocean - largely undisturbed, it collects in the water here and creates all kinds of problems for sea birds and other animals, fish, and pollutes the water itself.


Would you like to leave your thoughts? - I would love to read them!

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    • kateloving profile image

      Kate Loving Shenk 

      7 years ago from Lancaster PA

      This is an interesting story about Harold Hackett! He has a great imagination! ****Blessed****


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