One and a half years

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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:

Hi,

[…] 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. […]

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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?

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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:

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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 🙂

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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.

Bottle No. 104 found!

A day after the dispatch in West Bridgeford, I was contacted by the finder of bottle No. 104.

It didn’t came far when compared to bottles dropped in the ocean, of course, but for a river bottle it didn’t fare too bad, it took two turns of the river after all:

bottle 104 map 01

I dropped the bottle in near the West Bridgeford Centre, and it was found neat the Water Sports Centre

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The way the bottle made is about 4km long.

It was a joy to read that my finder was excited about the find despite its short journey. Apparently he was walking his sister’s dog and spotted something different between the rocks on the river bank.

He didn’t seem to have any difficulties opening the bottle, and the message was still completely dry. But I must say, I would have been disappointed if it didn’t survive a day on the river.

bottle 104 from top

photo provided by the finder and used with his kind permission

It is customary for me to reveal some making of once a bottle gets found, but there’s not much to say about this one that you can’t already see: The “sea” is made from paper mache, and I painted it a bit with acrylics. The paper boat is indeed folded from a tiny piece of paper, and I then sprayed it with acrylic varnish to make it a little more resistant. And then I glued it to the “sea”.

The finder plans to add his own message and drop the bottle in after the next lock. We’ll see whether it travels further next time.

Many thanks to the finder for contacting me about the bottle. It is always so uplifing when I hear one of them gets found! This was the first of five bottles that I dropped into the river Trent of which I heard back. As some of my readers will know, I had already almost given up on the river. But maybe I’ll give it another go. For now:

Happy second leg of your travel, little paper boat!

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).

 

Bottle No. 92 found

On September 25th bottle No. 92 was found. I dispatched it on August 15th at the Maaraue during an awful thunderstorm. I threw it into the river Rhine from the banks, and that never really works well. And the bottle didn’t travel far. It got found just a couple meters downstream.

The interesting thing (for me) is that it got found by a member of the river police. They loved it, and it is now on display at their police station right there at the tip of that island where it was found.

When a bottle gets found, I usually share the making of story and a picture of its contents. In this case, the contents are not so very secret, but I included a close up above. The chocolate and the apple were made out of polymer clay. The pencil is the tip of a toothpick that I painted with some water colours.

With my small world bottles I experimented with hiding the accompaning letter behind or beneath the scenery. – It is hard to feature a scene inside the bottle on the one hand, and include the letter without disturbing the overall impression on the other hand. In this case, as you can see, I decided to mount the little scene on a thin piece of wood and hide the letter behind it.

London Bottle Found

No. 86 and 87 just before their drop

The photo on the left shows the two bottles that I tossed into the River Thames two weeks ago, April 12th to be precise. They were two fairly hastily made bottles, and I don’t have any photos of them in my studio. A few days before we left for London, M. said to me: “Don’t you want to drop some bottles while we are in London.” to which I replied truthfully: “Well, I’d have to make some first.”

But the time was lacking for anything fancy, and the fact that I didn’t have any ready made was due to a general frustration because my UK-river bottles didn’t fare well to date: not a single one was found!

But, as you know, I quickly made these two bottles on the evening before leaving. On April 12th they were dropped into the river Thames by my two helpers, and on April 18th an email reached me:

Hi Hilke,

 I wanted to let you know that I found your bottle with the bookmarks 
 in it, that you launched from Chelsea bridge on the Thames foreshore 
 near Barnes bridge yesterday.  I was looking for stone-aged tools when 
 I came across your bottle and it has indeed made me smile and also 
 confirmed that you always will find something unexpected on the banks 
 of the thames.
 What a lovely idea and an interesting project to do.

 I hope you have a great day and keep up the good art work.

 xx

What joy and excitement! Barnes bridge is It is such a small message, and being really busy at the moment, it took me some time until I managed to tell you about it, but it helped to raise my spirits so much. Since then I have been making 5 more bottles, but I’ll talk about them later.
According to google maps Barnes bridge is 2 bends upstream from Chelsea bridge. But of course the tides mess with the Thames’ currents and it might have gone to and fro for a while until it was found.

The green dot shows Chelsea Bridge (drop-off) the blue one Barney Bridge (where it was found).

As I said, this was hugely motivating. Maybe I’ll just have to drop them all into the Thames? And I made 5 more since I received this notice. But I’ll show you the new bottles in a new post. I am already writing it, so it will probably come up in the next days. I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Bottle Number 61 found

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Message Number 61 on 1st of August, minutes before being released into the water

 Hi,
I am a 12 year old boy, and from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. I found your message in a bottle, number 61, in the sea at Mablethorpe near the seal sanctuary, on August the 3rd 2015.
I was swimming in the sea with my Dad, I thought it looked like something interesting so I asked my Dad to swim out to it to get for me. I saw it, but it wasn’t obvious what it was straight away.

We opened the bottle back at my Grandma’s caravan, and my family and I were touched to see that someone had put loads of effort into making someone else feel happy!  The bottle is on my mantlepiece at home, and it gives me happy memories of my holidays.
Thank you for the great gift, and I was excited to find it!
This email that reached me two days ago (well, in fact it is two messages which I put together here). I am delighted to hear that another bottle has found a happy new owner.
The bottle has been floating for three or four days it seems, back and forth with the tide, and was found on the same beach quite close to where it was dispatched.
Message in a Bottle No. 61

No. 61 still at home

Vor zwei Tagen hat mich (in etwa) die folgende Email erreicht

Hallo,
ich bin ein 12 Jahre alter Junge aus Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Ich habe die Flaschenpost No. 61 am 3. August im Meer schwimmend bei Mablethorpe gefunden, in der Nähe der Seehundaufzuchtstation.

Ich war gerade mit meinem Papa im Wasser, und dachte, dass da etwas interessantes im schwimmt. Ich habe die Flasche gesehen, aber mit war nicht klar, was das sein würde. Ich habe meinen Papa gebeten, es für mich aus dem Wasser zu holen, und so ist er für mich rausgeschwommen.
Wir haben die Flasche mit in den Wohnwagen von meiner Oma genommen und dort aufgemacht. Ich und meine Familie waren sehr berührt davon, dass jemand sich so viel Mühe macht, anderen eine Freude zu machen! Die Flasche steht  auf meinem Kaminsims zu Hause und erinnert mich an meine schönen Ferien.
Ja, also wie du lesen kannst, Flasche nummer 61 ist also gefunden worden. Sie ist anscheinend 3 oder 4 Tage lang im Wasser getrieben und mit den Gezeiten hin- und hergeschwappt. Sie wurde so ziemlich and er gleichen Stelle gefunden, wo sie auch abgeworfen wurde.
Viele meiner Flaschen werden von 11-15 Jahre alten Jungs gefunden: Das sind anscheinend die aufmerksamsten Beobachter.
I heart U 007 kleiner

title page

Bottle number 61 is one of the five sister bottles with title “I (heart) you”. The five miniature books contained are not completely identical, but are all made making use of a couple of stamps which I cut from the erasers at the end of some pencils. – Andn then I also distributed the pencils among the bottles, of course. Additionally the bottle contained a letter explaining a little about the project and giving my contact details.
I showed off images of the bottles after bottle number 60 was found in the Saskatchewan river. I’ll include them here once again – and add one image showing off another of the inside pages as promised.
I heart U 008 kleiner

first spread

Flasche Nummer 61 ist eine von fünf Schwesterflaschen, die alle ein Minibuch mit dem Titel “I (heart) U” enthalten. Die Büchlein sind nicht 100% identisch, aber alle mit den gleichen Stempeln gemacht, die ich in die Radiergummis am Ende von einigen Bleistiften geschnitten habe. – Die habe ich dann natürlich auch auf die Flaschen verteilt.
I heart U 009 kleiner

second spread: “I ❤ U when you feel you have no-one”

Thanks to the finder who has shared his story with me and with us!

Danke nochmal an den Finder, der mich kontaktiert und seine Geschichte mit uns geteilt hat!

Bottle No. 71 found

Message in a Bottle No. 71Das oben ist Flasche nummer 71, noch zu Hause. M. hat sie für mich am Montag vom Strand aus (Westseite) in die East Fleet in Wells-next-the-Sea geworfen. Gestern (Sonntag) wurde sie von zwei Schwestern auf der Ostseite gefunden, laut ihrer Email am “East Hill” aber ich weiß nicht genau, wo das eigentlich ist, oder wie man da eigentlich hinkommt.

Ich vermute, die Flasche muss wohl in diesen Salzwasserströmen dort eine Weile hin und hergeschwommen sein, bevor sie gefunden wurde.

This is bottle number 71, still at home. M. tossed it for me into the East Fleet in Wells-next-the-Sea on Monday, standing at the beach (West side). It was found yesterday (Sunday) on the East side, at East Hill by two sisters from Cambridge who were on a weekend trip in Wells. I am not sure where exactly that is – or how to get there!

I guess the bottle most have travelled up and down the fleet for a while with the tides before it was found.

flaschenpost no 071-01 kleinerThis is a picture taken before sealing the bottle. It contained: the lino print which was also visible from the outside, a shell, a scroll with my usual greeting letter and contact data, and a piece of parchment, where I am rambling about libraries and beaches and how they are so similar.

To my delight the sisters like the print and said they found the experience of finding and opening the bottle very exciting. – Perfect!

Das ist ein Bild vor dem Verschließen der Flasche. Sie enthielt: den Linolschnitt, der auch von außen zu sehen war, eine Muschel, eine Rolle mit meinem üblichen Gruß und Kontaktdaten, und ein Stück Pergament, auf dem ich darüber rede, wie sehr sich Bibliotheken und Strände doch irgendwie ähneln.

Zu meiner Freude, scheinen die beiden Schwestern den Druck zu mögen, und schreiben, dass Finden und Öffnen der Flasche sei sehr aufregend gewesen. – Perfekt!

Last Week’s Result: 6 Dispatched, 1 Found

wells flaschenpost

bottle floating in the sea near Wells-next-the-Sea

We had a big celebration here on Saturday in our house will all our family from Germany visiting, but had arranged everything to go on a brief vacation with my sister and her family for a couple of days, leaving on Sunday. As you might expect, the Saturday and Sunday morning were full of activity and running around. I sat down in the car beside DH, kids in the back, excited to go on a beach vacation with their cousins, heaved a big sigh of relief, and felt ready for vacation indeed. Luckily the drive was not far, a little less than three hours to Wells-Next-The-Sea in North Norfolk.

The beach in Wells is magnificent. There are dunes along the shore, some permanently outside the water, some forming islands while the water is retreating. During low tide, we did not manage to actually walk to the shore line, because our kids would have had to be carried the whole way. Here is a satellite image of the coast (thanks to google):

sat img wells

satellite image of the coast near Wells-next-the-Sea (via google maps)

Can you see that brighter yellow strip near the pine forrest there, this is the part of the beach that usually stays dry during high tide. The whole rest is covered in water. The water then retreats fast, but there is a stream that remains full of water also during low tide. I am not sure whether this is a river in the sense that it carries sweet water. But there are several springs in and around wells (hence the name) and it might be that it is a “real” river. However, looking at google maps it seems to be connected to the sea at several points, and the tide definitely pushes in mightilty. So I am not sure.

On Monday I unfortunately couldn’t leave the bed (full story on my other blog), but M. and my sister put in a bottle for me. The tide was already fairly low, and with more small children at the beach than adults, it was not possible for them to reach the actual sea. So they tossed two bottles in this stream:

Here goes the bottle with number 69

Here goes the bottle with number 69

and number 71 right after.

and number 71 right after.

It is funny how fast bottles goe seperate ways after having been tossed in at essentially the same time and the same spot. Bottle number 69 was found right after being put into the water. I have not heard anything about the other one.

Two days later. I went to the beach myself. This time the water just started to retreat – ideal conditions.

wells no 62

I make one photo of the number before putting in bottles to know later which bottle relates to which image.

My sister and I took turns throwing in bottles which were caught by the falling tide and the current that would later be the river and drifted quickly out to sea. You can see the buoys in the photos, marking the waterway to Wells harbour for ships.

Bottle number 66

Bottle number 66

throwing in bottle number 70

throwing in bottle number 70

Bottle number 68

Bottle number 68

Although the bottles drifted away quickly, we could follow them with our eyes for a while, drifting past two smaller boats. The beach was well visited and I feared someone might take the bottles out right after me tossing it in. But at least those four could only have been retrieved from the beach at hight risk, given the speed with which they drifted out to sea. We looked for a less visited corner, and indeed it looked like no-one watched us throwing. And also the people on the boat didn’t seem to notice the floating bottles.

On our way home on Thursday, we took a break to look at King’s Lynn, where the river Ouse flows into the sea. Unfortunately I didn’t have any more bottles on me. M. was surprised that I put in 4 bottles on Wednesday, but my sister and I had just too much fun tossing the bottles to not to. I wish I had brough more.

When I came home, I found a surprise in my mailbox. A boy aged 11 send me the following message:

I found your little message in the bottle at Wells-next-to-sea’s beach on Monday the 17th of August 2015. I was really surprised to find it floating around in the sea. I was just wondering where did you drop the message in from? my number for the bottle is 69.

Of course I already wrote back, gave him some details and asked for more. How did he find it? Was it hard to spot? Easy to open? Everything dry? And who is he? Was he on a vacation? Where is he from? – I hope he’ll answer my email. If he does, I’ll let you know of course.

This is a picture of the bottle still at home:

Message in a Bottle No. 69

Message in a Bottle No. 69, still at home

I named bottle number 69 “jumpping fish”, and as usual for these bottles, I cut the stamp for the fish by hand, and put the stamp in as a gift.

the cover image and the stamp on my worktable

the cover image and the stamp on my worktable

When I point my computer’s camera down, you can see that I curently have six more bottles here waiting for their release. I would like to put at least some of the small worlds into the river Thames. That is because I hope that even wild as it is, the river would be more gentle to the bottles than the open sea, and I know that there is at least one message collector on the Thames shores. Well, I’ll see. And of course I’ll let you know as soon as I can. (Unfortunately that sometimes means after I already put the bottles in. If you are interested in meeting up, taking a look at the bottles before I toss them, or just to join up for a joint tossing event, let me know now so that I we can be in touch closer to the actual event.)

at homeP.S.: I just noticed that for all summer dispatches, on all the photos I was wearing the same pair of pants. I maybe should mention that I do have others, and I also wear them…