Message in a bottle or hoax in a newspaper?


Warning: Do not read if you’re a young girl who recently received a response to your message in a bottle.

Photo: (Flickr)

A recent feel good story in The Times Record in Maine reports that a 6-year-old girl and her father sent a message in a plastic bottle down the Kennebec River in Bath, Maine, two years ago.  The girl, Libbi Wallace, recently received a response letter, post-marked from Cleveland, from an anonymous kayaker who paddled upon the bottle.  The responder — who signed the letter only as “Surprised in Cleveland” — said he or she found the bottle while kayaking in Lake Erie.

Hmmmm …

A Times Record reporter browsed an atlas with the river-littering pair, and the father offered a possible route: St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.  While I didn’t go into journalism to make children cry, I have to point out a couple problems with pop’s reasoning:

  • First, the Kennebec River flows south through Maine emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, not north to the St. Lawrence River.
  • If the bottle did travel east in the ocean, it would have had to take a sharp northwestern turn to reach the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
  • If our persistent plastic friend somehow found the Gulf of St. Lawrence, it would then have to fight the eastward current of the St. Lawrence River for approximately 750 miles to reach Lake Ontario.
  • After such heroics, it would then have had to defy gravity at some pretty impressive falls in the Niagara River.  Alternatively it could have traveled the Welland Canal which also bridges Lake Erie and Ontario. But again, it would have to buck the outflow from Lake Erie.

(The Great Lakes Information Network has a primer on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence flow)

View Trace the bottle in a larger map

Although I agree with the father’s comment, “it’s amazing how the currents work,” the flows do usually follow the laws of physics.

Is the small town still giddy from the filming of “Message in a Bottle” there over a decade ago?  Did the bottle hitch a ride in some ship’s ballast water like a determined invasive?

Is “Surprised in Cleveland” really “Loving Father in Bath, Maine?”

But I’m willing to be convinced.

For the sake of aquatic pen pal seekers everywhere, please prove me wrong Echo readers.  Got another explanation for this impressive voyage?




One thought on “Message in a bottle or hoax in a newspaper?

  1. The only way the plastic bottle ended up in Lake Erie would have been by someone who found the original bottle while on the Atlantic coast and then decided to carry it to the Great Lakes. They may have read the note shortly after it was sent into the sea and thought they would take it to some greater distance, intending to do a good deed.. not considering the flow of currents. The girl’s bottle, had it arrived in the Atlantic, could have ended up in Iceland, Ireland, England or even further down the western coast of Europe. As an experienced sender of sea bottles in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, just northeast of Maine, I have received numerous replies from such European far away places.

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