The first dispatch in nearly 4 years

It’s a just a little one… I won’t make too many words. I have written about this bottle already in some length here in this blogpost.

Like usual when we are going to visit family in Germany, we take the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam. There are two sister ships going: the Pride of Rotterdam and the Pride of Hull. This time we were on board the Pride of Rotterdam. Because I prefer going to bed early over sleeping for long, and because there was still the trip back for backup, I decided to go to sleep in the evening, and rely on waking early enough to drop the bottle off. It might have been nice to wake myself at 1am and drop it straight in the middle of the way there. But there are four sleeping in one tiny cabin, and I didn’t want to disturb the others more than necessary.

As I hoped, I woke fairly early (5 am English time), and made my way through deserted corridors to the “sun deck” which doesn’t get much sun at that time of the day. There were signs on the doors, advising not to step outside, due to high winds. But it was bearably outside, and the waves were less high than I anticipated.

After a last glimpse on the bottle, I threw it in at 6:32am European time, still about 3 hours from the port. – May your finder get joy out of you, and travel well, bottle number 122.


Bottle No. 120 “The Thief” was found

It was April 15th, and I was just in my lunchbreak when my phone sent me a notification about a messaging attempt. Naturally I opened it up:

I was very excited when I learned that message number 120 was found. This message was part of my Summer Dispatch 2019 on the West Coast. Is is, as of yet, the longest time between a message being dispatched and me being notified.

Chester and Talacre Beach

Looking up the locations, you can see that Chester is in the North of England (just north of the Midlands), close to the Border with Wales, and the Bottle was found on a Welsh beach. The bottle travelled mostly in a straight line, however, did overcome some substantial curves, too:

mostly straight way from dispatch to finding location, but some substantial curves just after the bridge where I dropped it in

Measuring gives a distance of a little bit more than 35km. It could have and probably did travel several times back and forth with the tides, though, so how many kilometers it spent floating is not so clear. The sparse information I had seemed to indicate that the contents were rather readable, and so I already suspected it might have been found a good amount of time before they notified me. And indeed it turned out the bottle was already found in November 2019, so about 3 months after I dropped it in.

The reason why I didn’t hear before was, that they didn’t open it. It was an elderly couple who discovered the message and thought it must be very old and didn’t dare open the bottle, lest they destroyed it. Their daughter then opened it for them and notified me. – I was offered the return of the bottle to the waters.

I know that this offer is well intentioned. I get it often, and I always read a certain disappointment from it. I might be wrong with that, but it seems to me that people would only offer to put it in again if they think the bottle’s journey is not complete yet. From which I read that they think either someone else might appreciate it more than they did, or in this case, that it should have travelled for longer, that it is rather disappointing to find a message that’s merely weeks old.

I am never disappointed by a found bottle, even if it is found only minutes later. A bottle found is a bottle found. It’s not my intention to have to travel a certain time or distance – although of course, any records are always interesting 🙂

I didn’t learn more from the finding itself. But I hope they enjoyed it despite it being younger than they hope or expected. Like always after a find, I show you the contents, too:

The bottle before the dispatch

As you can see, the bottle contains two rolled up pieces of paper. One contains my letter, in which I talk about the project and how to contact me. The other had a very short story:

The Thief

They were sitting on a bench in front of the small shop, watching the workmen who would be taking out the large display windows, bricking them half way up, putting in smaller ones.

“It’s sad to see your old shop torn down. It bears so many memories.” she said. He nodded, buried in his own thoughts.

“The place we met, and where I habitually stole from you.”

“You did? But we met in Uni.”

“I came in every Thursday, looking at the magazines, casting hidden glances at you, purchasing nothing. And on the way out, I took a lollipop with me, sat down on this very bench and licked it. I dreamed of you coming out one day, sitting down beside me, and telling me it was o.k.. In my fantasy you would say that, as you loved me, I could take as many and as often as I wanted.” She laughed, the way you do when you just told a heartfelt secret.

“Huh,” he answered, paying his shop more attention than her, while one of the workmen threw the first hefty blow against one of windows, the one with a large crack. “I used to offer the lollies to small kids that came in with their mothers, I never even noticed some went missing.”

Bottle No. 122. The Bottle that refused to be closed

On 18th March I made these miniature plateau sandals after seeing a miniature shoe tutorial online. Once I held them, of course I put them into a bottle, wrote a letter, and turned them into bottle no. 122. When I posted the picture on social media, I just briefly wrote: “Stay tuned for more soon”, fully expecting to post again the next day.

That’s because I had a little “trip” planned (what we call trips these days is in this case a little walk in a neighbouring part of our city), a big thing for me/us because we have been more or less shielding for most of the last 12 months. And so this was the first walk I was going to take with my husband in more than a year. We decided to visit the river Trent and I was going to take this little bottle and dispatch it there. Little did I know…

Yours truly with partner on our first “exercise” walk in more than a year

Next day the weather was very English: a faint drizzle that seems less like rain and more like fog, but it drenches you if you dare walking through it. But we still went, because, as the German saying goes, we are not made of sugar and don’t melt when we get wet. – Unfortunately, however, sans bottle. And that’s not due to me forgetting to take it, or not finding the time for the last finishing touches…

On the morning of our trip, I opened my box of message-in-a-bottle-utensils to pick a cork for it and had a hard time locating one. The last time I had made a bottle, it turns out, was almost 2 years ago, during the summer in which I held that workshop (oh the plans I had for that year and the following…), and it looked like we used up the corks then. – But then I found a last one: It was only half a cork. I had neatly cut off the bottom half, maybe to fit in a smaller bottle, or maybe to sculpt something with the material.

It turned out rather tricky, but I managed to somehow, with a lot of grease, fit the lower part of the cork into the opening of my bottle, and then tuned it over, and pressing it against the table, with the help of gravity and my body weight, pushed it in flush with the rim of the glass. Done!

I then melted some wax, and pressed my stamp on – and pushed the cork right into the glass.

So that was us setting off on our walk without the bottle.

In the meantime I ordered new corks, and started over again this morning. The corks were very long, so I cut off the lower part, inserted, and made sure this time, that the cork still was a bit higher than the glass rim.

There are a few different types of sealing wax around, some have more wax in them and remain very flexible and slightly sticky also after hardening (which is important when you want them to survive the postal system and it’s rollers and sorting machines), and some have more lacquer in them and are hard, shiny, and brittle once they are dry – which you need if you want to be able to “break” a seal. I used the latter for this trial.

I added the sealing wax to the top, placed the seal inside, and waited for it to dry.

Looking at it while waiting, I thought it looked a bit ugly and uneven, there at the sides. So I got a hot air gun out, heated it up, and smoothed it all out. – There, nice, smooth and shiny. It worried me a tiny bit that the stamp was now rather deeply embedded in the wax…

I waited some more to make sure it was really hard before pulling the seal off. And then:

I pulled the cork right out, together with the seal still firmly attached. When I tried to free the seal, the cork split in half.

Gosh, that wasn’t going so well, was it?

So, off to another try. This time I selected a sealing wax that had a higher wax content, and melted it over a flame to pour over the bottle.

wax poured over bottle

The wax just didn’t want to flow properly into the small channel where the glass and the cork meet. It has this V shape, and the wax would just flow over, not insert to the narrow tip of the V, and with the hot wax, heating up the air inside, it would then bubble out, leaving holes in the wax (as you can see there). I kept pouring…

In the photo above it looks awful and covered all in the wax, but it’s easy to cut off what’s too much. I whipped out my hot air blower again, and tried to give it a nice and neat appearance.

It wasn’t easy to know when to stop. When you melt too much, the top almost exposes again. If you don’t melt enough, you can get this hard cap that looks odd and ugly. But I did manage to get a result that might not be perfect, but reasonably nice looking and secure.

Now I only need a place and an opportunity to dispatch it. I never had much luck with the river Trent, to be fair. I think it’s because mudlarkers and collectors of flotsam head for the beaches which are never far when you live in England. And I am not sure whether and when we’ll dare venture out again.

Maybe any of you live close to a body of water where they want to dispatch it?

One and a half years

sheffield 42

My bottle No. 103, Peter’s No. 102 ready to dive in

The photo above was taken one and a half years ago, 11th October 2018, near a nature reserve in Sheffield. And the two bottles were dropped into the river Don. Since then I dispatched a bunch of other bottles. I even went to Sheffield again just a month ago, albeit didn’t manage to prepare bottles ahead and thus no new bottles were put into the Sheaf or Don. The failure to do so only partly stems from a lack of time. In part it was because I had given up on English rivers…

When I returned from Sheffield, the new corona virus already dominated the news. My children both count as vulnerable, and we decided to try our best to shield them (which is a little more restrictive than lock-down). And my head was mostly wrapped around home-schooling and fears of what this virus will bring.

And then, last week, an email reached my inbox:


[…] we have found your bottle, no. 103. It washed up in a spring tide last week, well I found it on Friday, clearing up the grass on the riverbank where the spring tide recently deposited reeds, rubbish and drift wood. I collected 2 black sacks of rubbish, 2 black sacks of plastic to recycle and your bottle! It was truly amazing to find and we had to dry it out first, because a little water had got in. The miniature book was incredible, we dried it out with bits of baking paper in between each page to stop them sticking together. We enjoyed looking though such incredible detail. It is undergoing some running repairs/cleaning, then we shall rebuild it and keep it on our mantelpiece. […]


It was so great to be woken from our isolation stupor and think of the world outside. How wonderful to be connected this way to strangers, when we have hardly seen anyone in the past weeks! A back and forth of emails started right away.


The finder apparently was really gentle with the tiny, soaked book, and managed to retrieve most, if not all pages.


By now it is all dried, and I received another photo of it on it’s current place on the mantle:


After more than a year who would have thought! And it made so many turns and went further down the river than I would have thought possible. Let me show you on a map…

The above is a map showing all the dispatches in Sheffield (the pointers on the lower left), and (in pink) the place where bottle No. 103 was found. Let me show this on a larger scale map for those who don’t know England so well:

The river Don is not that wide, and has a lot (a lot!) of locks and weirs, and makes many turns. I am so amazed that the bottle made it into the Ouse, I still hardly can believe it. In the map above I marked out a rough (smoothened out) path the Don makes. the line I drew there measures 78km. So not the bottle which travelled furthest along a river. Yet… let me blog up that map once again for you, to show you a stretch of Don rather close to Sheffield:

It’s just absolutely incredible to me, how it couldn’t have made it’s way through almost 80 km of path like that! Once it made it into the Ouse, it’s path was easier. The Ouse doesn’t exaclty feel like a river, more like a stretch of Ocean pressing in onto the land. It is subject to the tides a fair way into the land and definitely where the bottle was found. It is wide, and has sandy shores.

Well, thank you so much for contacting me about the finding of this bottle. It meant so much to me. While I was locked in a mental bubble that consisted of improvised home schooling and turning our lawn into something that might feed us in the coming year, and a very real bubble that came from our quarantine (M. had a fever that turned out to be something different) morphing right into lock-down and shielding of our kids (see above), this was a welcome reminder that the world out there still exists and is full of interesting people we still can connect with.

From Kingston-Upon-Hull, England to Kaurö, a Swedish Island

flaschenpost no 107-03 klein

message no. 107 in my garden at home well before its dispatch

Do you remember happy mailbox days? I remember waiting for my parents to empty the letter box (only they were entitled to), and usually it only contained letters for them. – I was always envious. Even when my Dad explained with a sigh that they were mainly invoices, I still imagined how nice it would be when I am grown up and find an invoice in my mailbox every other day.
But as a child I did receive post occasionally: Letters from friends, postcards from grandparents, and I was subscriped to a children’s journal that reached me once a month.

When I moved out of my parents’ house to study, the internet of course existed (we are bang right in the 90’s here), but people at home accessing the internet was still not a very common thing. I got my first email address a year later, and I was able to check it when I logged in at a computer at the maths institute. I didn’t get a dial-in-modem to use at home for several years. Nevertheless, the mailbox remained empty on most days. I stayed in touch with friends from school over the phone; we also occasionally sent letters. – But not as many as one might think.

Nowadays I do receive mail on most days, but like for my parents back then, they are usually do not make me particularly happy. I am not regularly staying in touch with anyone via paper mail. And when I think of letterboxes, I think of being a child, holding my breath while watching my father turn the key.

I get a reminder of this feeling every time my computer tells me, that there’s mail in the mailbox labelled “flaschenpost”, and I catch myself holding my breath while opening the email.


photo of the finder

And yesterday was a mail day:

Dear Hilke!
I have found your bottle mail, yesterday February 28, in position 58°02.447’N, 011°28.539’E. That is an island called Kaurö, off the Swedish west coast.
I am an old retired seaman, now spending my days with beach cleaning on our coast. We have a real problem here, with most of the debris and floatsam from the entire English Channel and North Sea area landing right here. Volunteers, council work groups and entrepreneurs like myself try to get rid of at least the worst, by simply picking it up by hand. We bag it and bring the bags to the recycling centre or to garbage combustion. Thousands and thousands of bags…
Of course it it sometimes a heavy and dirty work, and it is sometimes hard to keep the good spirits up, when just more and more plastic garbage is rolling in. But on the other hand, we have the privilige of working on beautiful islands, with good people who all help out.
And sometimes, our work days are brightened up by finding bottle mail from near and far. Many of them unfortunately unreadable, but some are quite clear – like yours. A good move to use a pencil and to include the piece of chalk.
Let me know where you launched the bottle!

What a happy mail on so many levels. Of course it is great to hear about any bottle being found, but when a finder is so specific about where and how they found a bottle I am especially grateful.

And of course it is good to hear that my message was readable. Unfortuntately the artwork inside didn’t seem to have survived the journey. I rather liked the look of my papermaché houses in bottles here at home. But apparently they are only good at soaking up moisture and keeping it away from the letter, and are a failure as a piece of artwork. It’s the second bottle now that met this fate, so that is the end of paper mache in bottles for me. But I got some endorsement for using pencils, so I’ll keep that up!

Let’s see where and how the bottle travelled:

map 1

In direct line the bottle travelled a distance of about 860km

This must be the bottle that travelled furthest and longest so far. Looking at the map, the distance between where it probably hit the waters (bottle no. 107 was launched from the ferry Pride of Rotterdam going from Hull to Rotterdam in August last year) and the island where it was found is about 860km. And from being launched until being found, it took roughtly 6 months.

The bottle can’t have travelled in direct line, though. Obviously, since it goes over land, scraping off a slice off Denmark. So how could it have travelled?


North Sea Map derived from NASA satellite image. This image depicts the currents in the North Sea. Author SriMesh, distributed through Wikimedia with a CC license. – Thank you!

As you can see, mail (and debris) from Great Britan, travels in the North Sea roughly in a counter clockwise direction. So probably the bottle first followed the journey of the ferry approaching Dutch waters, and from there might have followed the coast, past Germany and Denmark. (My bottle no. 70 was found on Sylt just before crossing over to Denmark, obviously following the same path). From the top of Denmark, the bottle would then have been pushed by Atlantic waters to the island where it was found.

What is not so clear in the image is that many items will tour the North Sea maybe several times and go round and round the carousel until they land somewhere. I remember reading how long it takes to go round once, but I am not sure anymore how long it really was. I think it was something like 3 weeks, or was it 3 months? If someone reading this knows better, please do let me know.

Bottle no. 70 was found on Sylt after 3 months, bottle no. 107 a far bit further away after six months… Somehow I find it satisfying that these numbers seem to kind of match. Does this mean this bottle travelled past past England once more before landing? But if it takes three months to get to “the other side” of the North Sea, then it might be six month until it would be back at the English coast, and 9 month to return to Denmark and eventually Sweden? I am not sure. And then there also seems to be this mini-gyre between Sweden and Denmark… – As I said, if someone knows more, please enlighten me and us!
But in any case it could have gone there directly, of course, and then just wait there among the eye-popping amount of debris that gathers on that Island:


photo of the finding site

We all have to be grateful for people like the finder who get up again and again and clean up this mess. Being relatively far from the coast, it just seems incredible. I admire the willpower these people have to tackle this work that must seem like Sisyphus’ labour on many days. It is my pleasure if I can brighten up the work a bit. And I am relieved when I hear that my project is seen as such, and not as contributing to the problem! I suppose, seeing the sheer mass of debris, a little bottle like mine is not that much of a contribution. And I do try to be conscious about what I pack into my bottles, being very aware, that many will crash and break and spill their contents.

Well, not this one. My thanks once more to the finder for contacting me, and for allowing me to use his photos. – Until next time! 🙂


Events of the past 6 months, and plans for the next

Quite a lot has happened over the last 6 months, and I finally find the time to tell you. As you will recall (and scrolling down it is not so hard to find the relevant blogposts), I released a good number of bottles last summer:

M. snapped me while throwing in bottles from Llandudno Pier

11 bottles on a trip to the British West Coast (links here, here, and here):

  • two of my small ones, one larger one (also my making), and one of a participant of the bottle making workshop in Chester (August 1st)
  • one of mine, one of Peter’s, Wolf Schindler’s and a bottle of one of the participants of the bottle making workshop from the Mersey ferry in Liverpool (August 2nd)
  • two of my bottles and two of Peter’s from Llandudno Pier in Wales (August 3rd), plus one larger bottle into a small harbour on the same day

and 10 bottles were dispatched during a trip to Germany (links here, here, and here):

  • one of mine, and one of Peter’s on August 19th from aboard the ferry Hull-Rotterdam (North Sea)
  • one in Telgte, river Ems, on August 21st
  • 3 in Koblenz, river Rhine, on 23rd of August
  • 4 in Bonn, river Rhine, on 28th of August

And not long after, the first messages about findings came in.

The first bottle that was found was the message I dropped off in the small harbour. It was found the same day, and still was completely intact.

This battered and wet message was found on August 12.

The second message about a finding reached me on August 12. At first it was a bit of a mystery which bottle it might have been, but it turned out as message number 109, one of the bottles that I put in from the pier in Llandudno. That meant, it travelled about 110km in a week.

On October 10th then, the first for one of my German bottles reached me. The finder had first handwritten a letter, and then decided to take a photo of it and send it via email after all because she found that easier. In any case I thought it was a nice gesture, and tried to get into contact a little more. Unfortunately that already fell into the time when I was  feeling unwell, was hopelessly burried under work, and my response rates were very slow. Maybe that was the ultimate reason why she didn’t seem to get into contact further. Or maybe it was the language barrier. I did send her email in German and English, but she answered very dismissive only with “I am sorry” (in English). Not sure what to make of that because she seemed very friendly in her first message. – I strongly suspect I did something wrong, I just don’t know what. Or maybe I would have had to write in French, but her handwriting looks very German to me, and even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could write a letter in French these days. (5 years ago is nothing, it has been 30 years since I wrote French.) Anyway, here’s the message that reached me:

As you can see, unfortunately there’s not much in it about the finding of the bottle. she did send a photo of her bottle, therefore I know she found the one that my son threw into the river Rhine in Bonn on the 28th of August. But I have no idea where or when it was found.

Bottle number 119 gets dropped. I know it was found some time before October 10, but not when exactly or where.

Then, on the 26th of October, another message reached me.

today I was cleaning up the Rhine in Koblenz.
And I was really happy, as I found your bottle 🙂
I read on your homepage, that you threw it from the “Deutsches Eck”, so the bottle could only swim a few kilometers.

The bottle was hidden in brushwood 😉

He very kindly included GPS data of where he found the bottle. The red arrow shows the location where he found it, a bit to the south you see, marked with a blue thingie, the “Deutsches Eck” where it was put in.

I find it absolutely amazing how some people can spot a message in a bottle at a river bank. I am sure I would just walk right past it:

Fortunately he marked the photo for me/us:

Bottle number 116 is found!

Apparently the contents survived their (short) trip very well:

message number 116 – found

Many, many thanks for the feedback! – And my apologies again that it took me so long to write this post!

And then on 2nd of January this year, I heard from yet another find!

Thank you drawing from a 9 year old girl

I dispatched Tracey Kershaw‘s bottle in Chester, and her bottle was found just outside the city.

So from the 21 bottles I released this past summer, 5 were found. That’s about 1/4 which is not bad for such small bottles. We can also see that most bottles that are dispatched in rivers, land at the next river bend. Then again, we’ll never know, maybe another one will turn up, and those are just the bottles, that were found quickly 🙂 Fare well, all my other bottles.

And many thanks to everyone who send me message. Even though I wasn’t able to process the information and share it right away, it always makes my day, hearing about someone finding my bottle, and liking it enough to send me message about it 🙂

sheffield 26

The river Don in Sheffield.

Edit: I almost forgot to make good the promise of the title and talk about plans. This post is already too long, so let me make it quick: I currently don’t have any bottles prepared, but will think of one or two to take with me to Sheffield in March. For I booked myself into another self organized writer’s retreat, similar to the one I held for myself one and a half years ago. – If you would like to see your bottle hit the waters of the Don, let me know, and I can take it there for you.

Nur ein Lebenszeichen – I am still alive

Hello world. I know I have been very silent. Several of the bottles dispatched last summer have been found, and I should have written about all that.

The last couple of months have been a little rough for me, if you want to know more, I wrote about it on my other website, and you can read a bit about it when you follow this link. Actually, “a bit” is maybe somewhat of an euphemism, because in fact it is quite a long blogpost 🙂

All that being said, I am slowly recovering and coming back on track, and I do hope to catch up with all that in the next weeks or months. Hopefully before the weather clears up – I feel eager to get started on some more bottles soon! And when I do, I’ll of course let you know.

German Summer Dispatches Part II: Koblenz and Bonn

Like every year, we did a trip to see family in Germany at the end of August. This year, like so many before, I took a selection of bottles with me. On part I I told you of the dispatches from the Hull ferry and the dispatch of one bottle into the almost empty river Ems. The next stop on our tour brought us to a bigger stream: the river Rhine which has carried quite a lot of my bottles. Before this summer, I have (at different locations) trusted it with 20 bottles of which six were found. This summer I put another 7 into its arms. We’ll see…

August 23rd

Deutsches Eck, the point where the river Mosel feeds into the river Rhine, seen from the cliffs on the other river bank, taken from one of the cabins of the cable tram

On the 23rd (Friday) we made a day trip to Koblenz which is located where the Mosel joins the river Rhine. There’s a aerial cable tramway going across the river to allow easy access to castle Ehrenbreitstein. We had a great day, riding the cable tram and seeing the castle. And to finish the day of I went with the kiddos to dispatch from bottles into the river Rhine, right from that joining point there.

from left to right these are bottles numbered 113, 116, and 117 getting ready for their release

and that’s me getting ready

Right after throwing the bottles in, a cruise ship approached. I stood and watched: would its bow wave catapult the bottles onto the concrete rwalls? Throw it off course? Or transport it further into the middle of the stream?

The boat and my bottle (marked a little thinly, slightly to the centre left of the photo

the bottle and the boat, zoomed in for more drama

In the photos I now could make out just the one bottle, but there were all three visible to us while we were standing there. The one that is in the pictures is the one that was swimming furthest ahead, I believe. The ship passed behind the bottle when it drove past first. It didn’t seem to impact too much on the bottle’s path, just rocked it a little. But then it decided to turn, and I lost track of where the bottles were. I believe the ship must have gone over it. And it wasn’t your measly little boat either:

when I took the photo, I believed I could see the bottles bobbing alongside it – but now I can’t spot them anywhere

But I trust they survived this early ordeal, and I hope they’ll find their way downstream into the hands of happy finders.

August 28, Bonn

After another family visit, we then made our way to Cologne and then to Bonn at the river Rhine. This is where the project all started. The very first seven bottles were released in to the river Rhine from a ferry very close to the Kennedy Bridge from where I decided to put in the last couple of bottles I carried with me.

From left to right these are bottles numbers 119, 121, 112, and 114 waiting for their dispatch

Once again the kids were very eager to help. And so they took turns throwing in my messages in bottles.





I am looking forward to the day when they start asking about making their own bottle. But for now, I just shall be waiting for messages from finders of these ones. – Travel well, my bottles!

German Summer Dispatches Part I: The Ferry and Telgte

Like every year, we did a trip to see family in Germany at the end of August. This year, like so many before, I took a selection of bottles with me:

August 19th North Sea

My bottle number 107 and Peter’s “Do not Open!” looking out of our cabin’s window to watch the English coast go by

On Monday August 19th we boarded the “Pride of Rotterdam”, the ferry that goes between Kingston upon Hull in England to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. In my luggage I brought 9 of my own little bottles, and one of Peter’s.

Our schedule on the ferry is pretty much the same every time we go: We arrive at between 5 and 6 on the ship and “move in” to our cabin. The kids are given a chance to explore the ship (every time delighted that it hasn’t changed from last time). Then we eat dinner on board. If they feel like it, the twins can watch some of the entertainment program targeted at kids. And then, because we are all sleeping in the one cabin, all go to bed at 8.

What sounds awfully early from an adult perspective usually suits me quite well. We have to get up at 6 o’clock local time (i.e. 5 o’clock English time) for our breakfast the next day, so getting to bed early is a good idea anyway. And after several weeks of summer holidays and a day of packing, I am usually tired enough to fall to sleep immediately. The ship, however, doesn’t leave the harbour before 8.30 pm; something I often notice vaguely on the brink of sleep.

ferry route from Hull to Rotterdam

This time, I decided, I’d stay awake a little longer, and put the bottles into the North Sea. Since Peter’s bottle made its way from Germany to me, it made sense to put it in closer to the English coast.

So when Matthias and the kids all slipped into their beds I packed a book, the bottles, and a camera and headed out to find a place where I could wait. As you might imagine, the “board entertainment” was in full swing by then. Music and shows everywhere I went, and I found it hard to concentrate on my book. – And I got more tired by the minute.

last glimpse at the bottles before letting them go

I managed to hold out until shortly after 9. At least the ship was moving. The coast was still visible, but maybe we’d be lucky, I figured.
It was already dark, and taking photos was difficult. I thought had taken more images, but when I returned inside (without the bottles) it turned out I only had the one on the left. – Sorry!

Asking the ever wise internet, I read:

On Monday, 19th of August of 2019, the sun rose in Hull at 5:47 h and sunset was at 20:21 h. In the high tide and low tide chart, we can see that the first low tide was at 3:23 h and the next low tide at 15:48 h. The first high tide was at 9:04 h and the next high tide at 21:40 h.

We had 14 hours and 34 minutes of sun. The solar transit was at 13:04 h.

So apparently the water was still rushing toward the coast when I threw the two bottles overboard at about 9:10 pm. So far I have not heard anything from them. I hope their happy finders wait for them!

August 21st Telgte, Ems

Cardinal von Galen Platz, the plaza in front of the Clemens Church in Telgte

I have already dispatched a couple of bottles in Telgte, the famous little town near Münster in Westfalia. It has a proud past and a couple of proud buildings in its neat little old town centre. Apparentlz in recent years there has been a noticable rise in tourism there, and I was surprised to find the old market square lively and full of people in restaurants and outside seating areas.

I went to the river in the morning of the 21st (Wednesday). In the photo above you can see the plaza in front of Clemens Church, the big church where the mass related to the pilgrimage is held (although the goal of the processions is the chapel just beside it, and not visible in the photo). Just behind the cars you might be able to guess at a foot bridge across the Ems.

Bridge across the Ems

This is the bridge. At this location the Ems splits into two branches with a large island in the middle from where I put in my bottle – like I did on previous occasions.

See that little plaza there? Just imagine me standing there right in the corner to throw in the bottle. I compiled a little map for you to scroll in and out if you wish to have an idea where this is:

non-flowing river

I don’t remember seeing the river quite as empty. The weir was shut, and the river was not actually flowing (much). Just compare that to the images I took in 2014.

Well, one last look at the bottle, and then it went in. I figured, if it gets found right there, nothing is lost. If it stays there for a couple of weeks until it goes on – it doesn’t matter either.

That mentioned, it has to be said that I was not lucky with any bottles I left there. Over the years I put in 6 bottles, and never heard back from a single one.

there the bottle floats, right on top of a sunken bike

Looking downstream: the river is beautiful here, the shores overgrown and almost inaccessible. The best chance to find the bottle is probably from one of the paddling boats that can be seen quite often here

The view above is from that footbridge mentioned above, and when you look the other way…
This is one of Christel Lechner’s Alltagsmenschen (everyday people), part of an art installation. I must admit that I briefly startled when I saw it from the corner of my eye.

I returned tot he river by night. The photo was taken from the other shore, looking upon the dispatch location. It was too dark to actually spot the bottle, I suppose. In any case I couldn’t see it. The place from where I took this photo, by the way, would usually be on the river bed.


West Coast Finds

A disclaimer right at this front: I am sooo far behind with reporting all that happened to my bottles and messages over the summer months. Somehow, with the kids at home, travels to plan, and bottles to dispatch, it was very hard finding the time to also write about what was happening. So this is a post about things that happened already almost a month ago…

The bottle above is the one I left in a small harbour in Rhos-on-Sea, Saturday 3rd August. I stopped near what looked like the centre of the village, I dropped in the bottle from the wall you can see in the photo, and then we went to get ice cream cones for the kids. When we came back to the car, the bottle had vanished from sight. I found this slightly surprising because, tidal-wise, it had not been the best moment to leave it. The water was still retreating and would be for the next hours, but high tide was already 3 hours or such ago, and it landed in shallow water in what looked like an almost natural harbour. So I figured already back then that it might have been found.

On August 5th, a message about its find indeed reached me. Unfortunately the finder didn’t answer any of my subsequent messages, so I don’t know much. All I got was this photo together with the short message:

Found your message in bottle Rhos on sea north Wales 
Saturday 3rd August 2019

The decorated papermache “rod” looks slightly worse for wear but the paper is mostly dry, which supports my guess that it was found just moments after I put it in the water. For finders this is often disappointing, but I am excited about every bottle that reaches the hands of someone I didn’t know before!
So thank you for informing me about the find, it really made my day! And maybe it serves as some kind of consolidation, that apparently there are finders and openers of bottles out there, people that just seem to have a knock for finding them. Maybe you are one of them, and this is just the first of many messages in bottles you’ll find 🙂

As you can read in the letter above, this is one of the bottles that I made during the message in a bottle workshop here in Nottingham. Maybe not the most inventive of bottles. It always seems like that, that bottles that were made maybe a little less lovingly are found first. On that evening I was so busy with overseeing what the others were doing and telling them stories about messages in bottles that I found it hard to find the time to write and make much myself.

A collections of bottles made this summer. The one found in Rhos-on-Sea on the very left. In the front, with a wooden mother wearing a blue-and-white skirt (sort of) is Tracey’s bottle.

On August 12 another email reached me:


We are currently in the Lake District and have found one of
your message in a bottles. Water had got to it and made it 
hard to read and the Art is a piece of cloth with a piece 
of wood that was possibly attached to it. We found it at a 
beach near bootle station.

That got me thoroughly excited. The big question was: Which bottle was it that they found?

The only bottle that I dispatched this summer with wood and cloth would have been Tracey’s bottle. She glued a blue-and-white cloth to a wooden pin to create a human figure from it. – But did she include my contact data rather than her own?

Could one of Peter’s bottles have contained wood and fabric?

bottle number 41 went into the River Mercey 5 years ago

Or maybe it was an older bottle altogether? The bottle that I put into the river Mersey in Liverpool five years ago did have fabric in it, albeit not wood. The Glasgow bottle from five years ago had neither.

All other dispatches into the Atlantic ocean would have a faint chance of being swept up where it was found but that seemed very, very unlikely. I couldn’t recall making any bottle with fabric AND wood. And so it seemed it would have to be one of the bottles I put in for other folk. However, Tracey told me that although she agreed it sounded like it could be her bottle, however she indeed did not include my contact data.

But, we needn’t have worried. The finder was actually very responsive, and told me more about the finding and provided some photos when I asked him:

We had been out for the day and on the way back to the 
caravan site we decided to stop at the beach to let our 
dogs have a run. We were walking along the beach and I saw 
the bottle amongst some stones and could see the red wax on 
top so knew it wasn’t rubbish. The is a green piece of 
cloth with like a yellow leaf or something. There was also 
a small piece of white painted wood possibly in the shape 
of a house?
(54.3051411, -3.4153905) this is the coordinates of where 
I found it.

Now this definitely is one of my bottles, and easily identified, too. It is message number 109, one of the bottles that I put in from the pier in Llandudno. That would mean it travelled about 110km in a week.

Since the water sloshes back and forth with the tides there, it might have doubled up on its way several times. I am mighty impressed with this little bottle! And so glad it was found by this man and his dog!

I am not so very pleased about that it drew in water in just a week. (That gives dire expectations for bottles which have been out longer than that.) I always try to learn from news like that, so I made sure that the rest of the bottles for this summer all have their cork properly and thoroughly covered in (sealing) wax. The red cap obviously served its purpose, though. And although the message was wet, it obviously was readable enough for to find out my contact data.

What he took for wood was actually papier mache which seemed to have kept up well enough. Here’s a picture of the bottle when it was still dry and in my hands:

miniature and message in a bottle

message no. 109 – still at home

It remains to be seen whether we’ll hear ever again of the other three bottles I also dispatched from the same point. It is so fascinating to me that bottles that I throw in almost at the same time at the same spot end up at different locations, and sometimes some of them seem lost, while others are found immediately. I am really looking forward to hearing more of those!