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Issue 678

02/06/2014 at 3:32pm

Message in a bottleMessage in a Bottle Mystery:
Who Is Harrison?

Every day, thousands of people stroll along beaches all over the world, some of them looking for shells, some of them looking for solace and some not looking for much of anything. We're willing to bet few of them expect to find what Texas resident Richard Todd found one day last month as he as strolling along a deserted beach in the Dry Tortugas National Park - a message in a bottle that turned out to have originated on Fort Myers Beach.

"I took a trip to visit some friends in Key West, and decided I wanted to scuba dive around Fort Jefferson since the Tortugas are so inaccessible,” Todd, who is an underwater photographer, told us. "So we flew there in a sea plane, and while we were walking on the beach on one of the keys, we found this bottle and could see there was a note in it.”

The bottle was a 'Blue Moon' beer bottle and was encrusted with Bryozoans and coral. Despite having the appearance of having been in the water for some time, Todd was surprised to find out that the interior had remained dry and the note intact.

"We used a church key to pry it off, and inside was this note that looked like it had been written by a kid,” he said.

Here's where the story gets interesting - the note was written on a piece of paper emblazoned with VIP Realty's address and phone number. Handwritten in pencil in both English and Spanish, the note simply read:

"ENGLISH Hello, my name is Harrison from Birmingham, Michigan, USA. ESPANOL Hola me llamo Harrison Birmingham Michigan USA”

Todd, who told us he has never been to Fort Myers Beach, immediately contacted VIP's office and spoke with Realtor Barbara Falduto.

"He told me that he and his wife were in the Tortugas and they found this note,” Falduto said. "He wanted our help in finding out who Harrison is.”

Barbara told us that the only place that type of stationary exists is in their office, and they have only been using it for a year.

"We would love to find out who Harrison is,” she said. "We think that - since the note was written in Spanish and English, he probably figured it would end up in Mexico.”

The Dry Tortugas National Park is 138 miles south and a little west of Fort Myers Beach. The Tortugas are 70 miles due west of Key West and encompass seven small uninhabited islands and the Fort Jefferson museum. A small group of folks live at the fort to take care of the park and do research, and the area is popular with divers and snorkelers, who either fly in or take a four-hour ferry from Key West to enjoy its pristine and remote waters.

People have been tossing messages into the sea for centuries, with the earliest on record being the Greek philosopher Theophrastus who, in around 310 BC, threw sealed bottles into the Mediterranean to prove that the inland body of water was formed by the inflow of the Atlantic. Stories abound over the years of attempts to communicate in this fashion. Trapped in a storm he believed he would not survive, Christopher Columbus dropped a sealed cask over the side of the Nina, asking the finder to notify the Spanish Queen and tell her of his demise. The bottle was found more than 300 years later. In 1714 a Japanese captain and his crew of 44 men were shipwrecked on a small island in the South Pacific Ocean. A message was scratched on a piece of wood, sealed inside a bottle, and set adrift. It was found 150 years later on a Japanese beach.

There is even a museum dedicated to such finds on Grand Turk Island in the Caribbean, which houses Nils and Grethe Seim's collection of bottle-borne messages sent from places such as New York (travel time 6 years), Canary islands (14 months), Bermuda (2 months), Lisbon (16 months), and Miami (2 weeks).

Last April, one of a series of bottles launched by elementary students into the Gulf from southern Alabama was found on a beach in the south of France, nearly 5,000 miles away. The message was dated September 20, 2007. Maps of Gulf current patterns show the Gulf Loop Current flowing south off Florida's west coast down to just below the Tortugas where it joins the Gulf Stream.

Richard Todd told us he's just amazed Harrison's bottle was found at all and would love to find out who he is.

"Think about all the junk that washes onshore - for us to find that in such a remote area is remarkable,” he said. "I'd also like to know how he or his dad managed to seal it to keep it watertight - that was pretty amazing!”

Any of our readers who can help us find young Harrison from Birmingham, Michigan please call the Sand Paper office at 239-463-4461.

Help us solve this 'Message in a Bottle' mystery!

Keri Hendry Weeg