Sheffield Drop Offs – Part 3

As you probably know by now I spent last week in Sheffield, mainly to work on my writing, but also with the aim to drop off a couple of bottles.

I wrote about my preparation in a first part here. There I showed you the four bottles I prepared, the four bottles that Peter sent me to dispatch for him, and I also mentioned that I packed two empty bottles for possible by-standers to fill.

In the second part I spoke about arriving in Sheffield and discovering that the Don where I put my bottles is full of little islands, had little water and current and in addition a lot of weirs. I dropped in both bottles nonetheless, and was able to observe Peter’s bottle getting stuck pretty much immediately, so probably now you want to know what happened next with it.

Peter’s Bottle No. 100

On the top of the blog you can see how I left Peter’s No. 100 behind on Tuesday the 9th. The place was just a 10 minute walk from my hotel, so the plan was of course to check the next day whether it was still there.

I was extremely lucky with the weather: The 10th was sunny and warm and felt more like a September than like an October day. When I came to the place at around noon, I was first pleased to see that the bottle was gone and apparently had moved on:

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Nothing to see – Yay!

The whole board against which the bottle was resting moved a few meters along the river (I think that old christmas tree in there remained stationary, so you can compare with that), and in the process it obviously gave the bottle free.
I continued to walk along the river (I had more bottles to dispatch after all, but more about that later) and spotted the bottle again, only 20 or 30m further downstream.

I believe you can click on the images to see them in enlarged (I hope so), in the second image I placed arrows where the bottle got stuck on the first and the second day. Of course I had to check again on my way back. The bottle had made a few more meters further downstream where it rested again with some other junk but still above the foot bridge located there.

The forecast for the next day (11th) predicted a day with showers moving through. I woke up to skies that looked somewhat threatening, and so I started early while it was still dry. The wind was blowing in gusts, but no rain. I first walked to the spot I last saw Peter’s bottle. It had moved again a couple of meters. I could see it moving very slowly, and then getting stuck once more between some floating grass and other plant material.
In the photo below just a little upstream of this cut through in the wall, that’s where I last spotted it. (The photo was taken a day earlier for the stone under the bridge, but that’s a story of its own. Anyway, that’s why the bottle can’t be seen in the photo.)

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As I said, that was the last time I saw it. I went to look for it again the same day, just a couple of hours later, and I was unable to see it anywhere. Which is somewhat of a mystery to me: Given the slow manner with which it was moving I can’t understand how it could have disappeared out of sight in just a few hours. The river downstream from there looked like it had fewer hurdles, but still, it was moving at no more than half a meter per second so how far could it go? It was floating on the right hand bank which has a tall wall as its border… But who knows, maybe someone has found it already. – I hope we’ll hear from it again.

 Other drop ins

This blog post is again getting very long, and I’ll try to cut me short. As mentioned before, the weather on the 10th was wonderful, and I walked slowly down the Don, putting in two bottles from the spider bridge,  visible in the photo above if you know what to look out for, and then I sat down and filled one of the empty bottles I brought with me. I had not arranged any meet-up, no-one I saw on my hike seemed interested, and so I just ripped a few pages from my notebook and filled them with a message on the spot. I didn’t give this bottle a number, as I don’t really regard it as part of this project. Well, maybe a little.
Below are photos taken on the 10th. If you click on them, you’ll be able to read some further comments on them if you like.

The next day, the 11th, I went out in the morning to first look for Peter’s bottle and while doing so, I spotted the entrance to Victoria Quays. So I decided to take a walk along the canal for a change. Because I had already spent the better of the day before hiking along the river I cut my visit relatively short and dropped my bottle just behind the entrance to the Quays. I wasn’t sure how Peter would feel about his bottle being put in a non-flowing body of water, and besides: it smelled awfully beneath the bridge where I placed it. For a bottle containing miniature kidney bowls seemed fitting but  beautiful bottle like Peter’s? – That felt just wrong. And so I held on to that one for a while longer.

The weather stayed surprisingly nice and dry that day, and for unknown reasons I struggled to get any good work done sitting in my hotel room. And so I decided to walk to the Don once more in the afternoon. I probably should have walked upstream for a change. But I was too curious to see whether and which of the dropped off bottles I might spot. Because I didn’t feel like dropping a bottle from a bridge where I already had been, I walked further than before, right into a nature reserve that made it almost feel like I had left the city. There I dropped then my last bottle, the No. 103 into the Don, and Peter’s 102.

On my walk to there I spotted two of my bottles: the unnumbered one above the weir at Norfolk bridge where I dropped it in, and one of my small bottles below the weir. I am not sure which of the two it was as the sun was reflecting so much that it was hard to see what was inside, but looking at the photos now, I am pretty sure it was the 102 that I put in from spider bridge the day before.

While walking along the river, the canal and through the city I made many more pictures with little and big things I spotted, street art and loving little details, imagining showing them to you. But my report is taking way too much time and space already, and I don’t want to bore anyone. Many thanks for your interest, dear reader, who has read until here. I’ll just let that guy below that I spotted on one of my excursion wave you good bye.

Like always, I wish all my bottles a good and far travel and happy finders.  – Next up will be the dispatch of Peter’s bottle No. 103 from Trent Bridge in West Bridgeford. Stay Tuned!

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Sheffield: Part 2 – Day 1, Twice the No. 100

From 9th – 12th October I spent a couple of days in Sheffield. They were my personal writer’s retreat: I booked myself into a hotel and spent my days there to write. BUT of course I carried a couple of bottles to dispatch, too. I had a really good time, with walks along the river and canal, discovering little and big things on my excursions, with new ideas and trying marmite for the first time – and got a lot of writing done.

Unfortunately because I was writing anyway, I failed to write here on this blog while things were happening, which I now realise was a mistake: Packing everything I want to tell and show you into one big blogpost is just too much. So I decided to split it into three (or maybe it will turn out four) parts. You can find the first part here, in which I show you a bit behind the scenes bottle making.

Here’s a map of the dispatches, as some kind of preview for those who are just too curious just now (and also in case a bottle is being found already). You’ll notice that there are three kinds of markers in there: the blue ones are where I dropped off my bottles, the red ones are sightings, and the green ones are where I dropped off Peter’s bottles.

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Lady’s Bridge in Sheffield

Day 1 – Upper Don Walk

I arrived in Sheffield later than expected on Tuesday, due to a derailed train at Sheffield train station. I had planned to first visit the river and then check in, but now I decided to first go to the hotel. Which turned out to be a good decision since Sheffield is much more hilly than expected, and with that I mean steap streets, steep, – mountaineous! Well, maybe it wasn’t quite as bad, but the constant sloping makes walking with a pull along suitcase full of books and paper (I was there to write after all) a bit of a hassle. Wikipedia agrees that my feeling that Sheffield is exceptionally steep is justified:

Sheffield is a geographically diverse city. The city nestles in the eastern foothills of the Pennines, and a natural amphitheatre created by several hills and the confluence of five rivers: Don, Sheaf, Rivelin, Loxley and Porter. As such, much of the city is built on hillsides with views into the city centre or out to the countryside. Blake Street, in the S6 postcode area, is the third steepest residential street in England, with a gradient of 16.6°. The city’s lowest point is just 29 metres (95 ft) above sea level near Blackburn Meadows, while some parts of the city are at over 500 metres (1,640 ft); the highest point being 548 metres (1,798 ft) at High Stones, near Margery Hill. However, 79% of the housing in the city is between 100 and 200 metres (330 and 660 ft) above sea level.

Well, I arrived on a lovely sunny and warm autumn day, and right after checking in to my hotel, I packed my backpack with some bottles, and started to walk to find the river Don. When I came closer to Lady’s Bridge (the oldest bridge in Sheffield), I discovered this:

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Well, if that’s not inviting, then I don’t know what is. I went through the arch and immediately reached the Don:

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When you look in the photo with the arch above, you’ll see that the path through the arch brought me onto a foot path along the river. From the entrance it looks like you could walk up or downstream, however the downstream path was blocked by a building next to Lady’s Bridge. The photo right above here shows the view looking left, upstream, onto the bridge from where I would shortly after dispatch my first bottle in Sheffield. Looking to the right revealed the sight of the Lady’s Bridge as you can see it in the photo further above.

I followed the path upstream and crossed the next bridge, the foot bridge you can see in the photo above, and then the walk continued on the other bank. Without much hesitation I decided to throw in my first botte, the 100th message in a bottle in this project:

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The view from the bridge, a last look at the bottle, and then the farewell

My bottle drew the attention of some ducks which, although they seemed disappointed that the object that had fallen from the bridge didn’t seem edible, swam around and with it. Lazily the bottle bobbed in the water and moved very slowly. It was easy to cross the bridge, and then follow it on the Upper Don Walk until I reached came closer to the Lady’s Bridge and had to walk around a building which meant I briefly lost sight of the bottle. Up on the bridge I expected to see it again. I wanted to check whether it made it down the weir. But the glaring sun and its many reflections on the water made it hard to spot the little bottle. I have a series of photos which I shot in the believe they had the bottle on it. But upon close inspection on my computer, it looks just like waves and leaves and stones.

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Upstream view of the Don from Lady’s Bridge in Sheffield

I mentioned before, that I was carrying not only my 4 bottles to Nottingham, but also Peter‘s. And as fate would have it, his bottles carry the same serial numbers as mine did. So I had another No. 100 in my backpack that wanted to be set free.
According to his blogpost he had read up on the river Don and knew to expect weirs. I was blissfully unaware of them until I saw them. I had dropped in mine without hesitation, but seeing its slow trundle along the lazy river, and also because it was rather big, I figured I’d rather drop it in from lady’s bridge, below the weir.

But, upon crossing the street and looking down the bridge, I had to realise that there was a little island just behind the bridge, blocking the free flow of the river.

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Lady’s Bridge from below the weir

I later learned, that these islands in the Don are due to the weirs. The rushing water washes up sediment, and with the water quality rising in the river, they are home to wildlife and are cherished and cared for.

Just downstream of Lady’s Bridge, the Upper Don Walk ends, and the Five Weir Walk starts. Ah, well, so there were more weirs to be expected.
From where I stood I could see the next bridge, and hoped to find a better place there to dispatch Peter’s centennial bottle. No such luck: Another island was waiting for it there. By that time, however, I was beginning to feel eager to return to me “real” work, and figured, I’d have more time tomorrow to explore more of the river, and after all, I had six more bottles to dispatch. So in it went. I took great care to find the best spot where the bottle would hopefully avoid the island. I watched it float downstream, happy that I seemed to have chosen well:

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It went swiftly past the island, but then floated toward the right – and got stuck on a piece of driftwood. I watched it struggle for a while. The current and gusts of strong wind seemed to help it move on – almost. After a couple of minutes I gave up for the day, determined to come back the next day.

 

Sheffield – Part 1: Preparations

From 9th – 12th October I spent a couple of days in Sheffield. They were my personal writer’s retreat: I booked myself into a hotel and spent my days there to write. BUT of course I carried a couple of bottles to dispatch there. I had a really good time, with walks along the river and canal, discovering little and big things on my excursions, with new ideas and trying marmite for the first time – and got a lot of writing done.

Unfortunately because I was writing anyway, I failed to write here on this blog while things were happening, which I now realise was a mistake: Packing everything I want to tell and show you into one big blogpost is just too much. So I’ll split it into two or three parts and will publish them over the next couple of days. I hope you’ll enjoy them and stick with me!

Here’s a map of the dispatches, as some kind of preview for those who are just too curious just now (and also in case a bottle is being found already). You’ll see this map again in future posts. You’ll notice that there are three kinds of markers in there: the blue ones are where I dropped off my bottles, the red ones are sightings, and the green ones are where I dropped off Peter’s bottles.

Preparations – The Bottles

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From left to right bottles numbered 102, 100, 103, 101

When I announced on facebook, and shortly after here on this blog, that I would be dispatching bottles in Sheffield, I had made 99 bottles to date, and all had been set free, none was with me in my studio to take along with me. That was because I was slightly haunted by the idea that bottle No. 100 should be somehow special, and thus had postponed actually making one for a while.

The reason why I booked my stay in Sheffield was that I was (and am) awfully clogged with work at the moment. I have so much work to do, I find no time to work! (It sounds funny but it really isn’t. I will have to seriously think about how to solve the problem, but that’s a different story.) So maybe it’s no surprise that for a good while I didn’t do anything about the lack of bottles.

Then James Ismael Kuck, also known online as Peter S. or Peter Stein send me a message, asking whether he could send me some bottles for the Sheffield dispatch. “Sure”, was my answer, “it will be a pleasure!” And I was delighted that anyone had taken notice in my plans and was happy to participate. And it put the necessary pressure on to really get going and make some bottles. (If you don’t know his blog, click on the link, and you’ll find a wonderful mix of stories about messages and bottles, ocean currents, and people who collect or make messages in bottles; most of the posts are in German but a fair bit have English summaries or translations.)

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First steps in making a rounded bathroom sink and cabinet

There are two major things I try to continuously improve for my bottles, and have not found a universal (i.e. the best) solution for: a) where and how to place my actual message and b) how to best make use of the little space I have in the bottle.

To this end, I decided to try and make a curved piece of furniture this time. I first put some polymer clay into a bottle and baked it inside. Then I took it out, it kept its shape, so that I had a bit of “wall” to work with for my model. Of course the opening on top is smaller than the curve on the inside, but I thought I took care of that and set to work. Unfortunately it turned out that the cabinet was few millimeters too wide to fit in. – I had forgotten to take the thickness of the board properly into account.

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Doesn’t fit in by a fraction of a millimeter

So I started over and made a second cabinet, just a bit smaller.

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New cabinet at the bottom is a little bit smaller

It turned out that with just a millimeter smaller, it was really hard to fit the sink in, for which I used piece of a blister pack that did not magically shrink a bit just by my willing it to. But I managed somehow, painted it, put on some decorative paper, and added a few details:

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Front view of cabinet with a sink, a toothbrush, a cup and some toilet paper at the bottom

Below is another view of it, from the back: By puttin some paper over the back, I am hiding that I had to score the board to make it fit as a round. The photo also has a matchstick (and the old cabinet) in it for size comparison. Also, the grid on my worktable is a 10mm grid.

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cabinet from top/back.

With so much work poured into that bottle, I decided that this had to be my number 100, and it is the bottle for which I wrote the accompaning letter (to be rolled up and placed beside the toilet paper) first. But I actually started the bottle No. 101 with the disinfectant bottle first.

Well, you can see by now that I have a bathroom / hospital / sanitary thing going with these bottles. That’s because I am still in the finishing steps for my artist book “346” involved. But that, too, is another story to be told at a different time and place.

closure

pencil loop closure work like this: There are two loops attached to the front over of the book, and one in the middle between the two on the back cover flap. You close the book, and the loops line up, then you push a pencil through and they all stay in place. Pull the pencil out, and you can open the book – and you have a pencil ready to write, too!

I then tought, it was time to make a miniature book again for a bottle. And I was going to pay more attention to the closure (of the book) this time. So I managed to make a teeny tiny pencil loop closure. I explained what that is above as a caption to the image. Obviously, with a book as tiny as this, I can’t put in an ordinary pencil. Instead this is a tapered and clipped toothpick, with some black painted on. I experimented with making it a real pencil that would write, but didn’t really like the result. You can see the real pencil in the picture below.

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The book is filled with images and text on (almost) all pages

I then put the book on what I thought could look like a hospital blanket and pillow, but probably it doesn’t, and put all this onto a hollow pedestal into which I put the accompaning letter. Unfortunately, as you can see in the group image above and maybe below, that placed the book and miniature scene rather close to the cork.

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Book on its bed, ready to go in the bottle

At that point I had spent the better of two days on making the bottles. I was waiting for 4 bottles from Peter, one for each day I’d spend in Sheffield. So I made the last one rather quickly, I must admit, and filled it with miniature kidney bowls.

Peter’s bottles reached me just in time the afternoon before I left. Below is the array of bottles I packed, including two empty ones for bystanders to make their own. – I am always hoping someone might join me, but unfortunately this rarely happens. More about that in my next blogpost about my Sheffield dispatches!
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Found in the River Thames

going on shout

On Wednesday, 12th September 2018 I received a short Email with the following content:

“hi , while operating a rescue boat we came across this message in a bottle . we were in the area of the river Thames in the Richmond area .

attached are the images of the message and bottle.”

And indeed with this message several images reached me. The one above, obviously showing the crew of the rescue boat, and this image of the bottle itself:

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Now this image clearly identifies this as bottle number 86 which my daughter released into the river Thames in London almost exactly 17 months earlier. Uncharacteristically, it was indeed dispatched in a big bottle like this. I am delighted and a bit surprised that everything seems to be completely dry.

I remember making this bottles somewhat hastily: We were going to stay in London for a couple of days, and I didn’t have (enough) bottles ready to take with me. This print, on the other hand, was already in my stash of things to maybe put into a bottle. It turned out a little too big to fit into my tiny bottles, thought, and thus I took one of the lemonade bottles that I am already stashing for when my milk bottles run out.

Initially I thought, that this must be a secondary bottle. Assuming that someone else had found the bottle first, rebottles and resealed it, and then released it once again. That would explain why it was still completely dry. And also the bottle and cork seemed unfamiliar to me at first. I tried to contact the finders and ask them about any signs of another finder, but never received an answer to my emails. (Which is the reason, by the way, why this article comes so late.)

But while writing this, and comparing images once again, I begin to think that probably, this is the original bottle after all, and the cork just looks different because the wax came off. Probably, however, it was just the finders removing it. I don’t clearly remember but it looks in the dispatch photo, like I tied down the cork and then covered it in sealing wax. That must have formed a good seal after all.

London bottle 86

In the 17 months the bottle was afloat, it didn’t come awfully far: about 15 km. But it made its way along several turns, and maybe more than once, as the river in that part is tidal. The area where it was found has several islands, too. But I don’t know whether it was found tangled in woods or other things, or freely floating in the river, or maybe washed ashore somewhere.

This latest found raises the percentage of bottles found in the river Thames to 100% (2 dispatched, 2 found).

 

First Pacific dispatch

In early July, I spent a week in Taipei for a conference. Of course I sampled the local cuisine (the night market foods especially are wonderful) as well as the things I don’t get in England as often as I like:IMG_20180705_081706409_LLThey did have fairly good Laugenbrötchen. And they were on the way from my hotel to the conference venue (20 minutes walk, about as much as I could manage in the heat without stopping for a bubble tea somewhere).

The Flaschentiger had given me two bottles, so I had to find a place to throw them into moving water. Taipei offers the Tamsui river (淡水河, “freshwater river”) so I took the MRT to Longshan Temple and walked from there. IMG_20180707_102831280_HDR

Walking westwards, I ended up not on the river, but separated from it by some green that apparently protects geese.

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I walked northeast for a while until I finally came to the (quite slow) river.

I had brought with me bottles 98 and 99.

They went into the Danshui River on 7/7 (solar calendar, not Double Seventh Festival. There was no bridge of birds, but several bridges made of concrete and steel nearby). The river was quite slow, but soon after all of the plain was probably flooded (there are six meter high flood barriers all around, and the floodgates were all closed and secured on 9 July) because Typhoon Maria was approaching. I managed to leave Taiwan on 10 July just before the typhoon was expected to hit. In the end, it did not make landfall in Taiwan, but the rain will still have been massive, so I expect the bottles either were smashed in heavy water or made it out into the open Pacific. I really hope they’ll be found and can’t wait to hear where they will turn up!

A dry approach to Messages in Bottles

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Bonn, the very first dispatch

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I used to live in Bonn. The river Rhine goes through Bonn and we lived just a short walk away from the shore and a large bridge from where it was easy to drop in bottles. Some only made it to the next bend, others made it further, one almost reached the Netherlands. But the most remarkable thing was a high rate of responses. I don’t really want to count the first 7 bottles which I dropped in without a cork (just a waxed cloth over the opening). That makes 5 bottles put in, 3 found – a response rate of 60%. Even if I count the first 7 – one of those got found – AND for good measure all the bottles I put in over the year a little further upstream at my parent’s at law in Mainz, that still makes a response rate of 6 out of 19 or 30%. Response rates for my bottles overall is 24 out of 99. (Maybe we should make this 24 out of 93, because I entered 5 bottles into an exhibition at the MCBA under the promise of them being tossed into the Mississippi but that never happened as far as I know, and one into an exhibtion in Swansea which suffered the same fate).

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Yours truely, tossing a bottle into the river Trent

So on average I have a response rate of 25%, in the Rhine about 30% and in all English rivers combined this number is slightly above average with 3 to out of 11 if I count two bottles that were dropped in so close to the coast that they were actually found on a beach. If I don’t that brings that figure down to 1 out of 9, and not one of the 6 bottles I dropped into the river Trent were found.

That got me a little frustrated with tossing bottles in here in Nottingham, which in turn results in bottles mainly being tossed in either from English beaches, or when I or Matthias are travelling somewhere.

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Hiding a bottle in a library

Not long ago, I hid some bottles in libraries here, which was good fun and had a surprising result and find, too. (Read more here).

But I just love hiding and leaving out things for people to find. More recently I started to hide painted pebbles around Wollaton, where I live. I don’t post photos of all the pepples, but if you are interested, you’ll find some in my instagram stream. And I still find the idea of hiding messages in libraries brilliant. The problem is that my previous experiences showed that although dispatching them in a dry environment, I would have to make them waterproof nonetheless because the finder is likely to put them in the water.

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new project: eggs and pods

And so I now embark on a new series of messages in, erm, eggs/nests/pods that probably won’t be tossed into the water. I am not turning away from messages in bottles and from this project, I will continue to make these. And the new messages are different in many ways. Actually in most ways:

  • the message inside is always essentially the same.
  • the thing itself is the artwork, kind of, no additional art is included, just the message
  • most of them have no reference to me, no explanation of any kind, some have initials, some have my name. None ask for contact
  • I am not sure people will understand that there is a message somewhere

I am not going to post more about this new project in this space. If you would like to follow it, you could follow me on instagram where I will probably put the odd picture. But there will be no real documentation. While this project is all about the connection with a stranger, this new thing is not. And I feel it therefore doesn’t need documentation. I am still curious to see whether I will ever get contacted about it. And I do feel it is a direct continuation of what began here with this project.

It follows the same idea that I want to spread joy with and about art, and want to share something with people who might not otherwise go in a gallery to see or even buy works of art.

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P.S.: I must admid, now that I went through the figures – I might actually try some rivers again, too 🙂

Toulouse dispatch

I went on a short trip to Toulouse, and Hilke gave me a bottle to take with me. Toulouse has water connections both to the Mediterranean and to the Atlantic, but as the connection to the Mediterranean is a canal (the Canal du Midi), I opted for the river Garonne instead. Pont Neuf, one of the older bridges (hence the name) seemed like a good place.

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Pont Neuf, Toulouse

Here’s one of the miniature bottles on Pont Neuf, ready to go in.

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A book in the shower?

I have not recorded the number, but perhaps the Flaschentiger herself can enlighten us.

On the morning of Tuesday 12 June, the bottle went into the Garonne. I checked that it was not caught in the nets close to La Daurade (I might have been able to retrieve it from there to try again), but then quickly lost it. Has it made it all the way downstream to Bordeaux and the Atlantic? Let’s hope it is found so we find out!