Saturday, October 19, 2013

Messages in Bottles, Part 2

Sidonie Fery was born on 9/11 1991 and lived in Manhattan. The twin towers fell on her tenth birthday, adding to later harassment because of her Persian background and ancestry. She didn’t let it get to her. 

Later that year whilst visiting friends in Long Island, NY, she wrote some words on a piece of paper which she then sealed in a plastic ginger ale bottle and cast into the water. 

In 2010, aged 18 and attending boarding school in Switzerland, she died in a fall from a fall in a cliff. 

In December 2012, two years after Sidonie’s death, workers cleaning up beach debris at Patchogue after Superstorm Sandy found the bottle. Patchogue is a village on Long Island only a couple of kilometres from where the bottle was launched. The note contained a telephone number, enabling the bottle and note to be given to Sidonie’s mother, Mimi, who was still grieving the loss of her only child. 

The message on the note was a quote from Sidonie’s favourite movie at the time, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “Be excellent to yourself, dude.”

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Not every message in a bottle is discovered a lot later, after the sender has died.

In 2005 86 shipwrecked boat passengers, mainly teenagers from Ecuador and Peru, had been floating in their packed boat for 3 days off Costa Rica. The group was being smuggled to Guatemala from where they hoped to cross the border into Mexico. When the boat ran into difficulties the people smugglers abandoned the boat and the occupants, also stripping the boat of radio and communication equipment. Someone came up with idea of a message in a bottle. The note placed in the bottle simply said “Please help us.” It was found by a local fisherman, who alerted the local marine protection group who initiated searches which located the boat, saving all on board.

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Furthermore, not every message in a bottle is thrown into the ocean or waterways.

In 2009 workmen renovating a cellar near the Nazi concentration camp site of Auschwitz discovered a note rolled up and hidden in a bottle in a concrete wall. The note had been written in 1944 by seven Auschwitz prisoners, six from Poland and one from France, all aged between 18 and 20, and contained the names, camp numbers and hometowns of the prisoners. the prisoners had been reinforcing the walls of a basement of a school near the concentration camp so as to enable it to be used as an air raid shelter. The note was written on a scrap of cement bag

Two of the seven persons named in the note survived the camp. One of the survivors was Waclaw Sobczak, who was present in 2009 when the note was added to the collection of the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum. He said that he and his fellow inmates had no expectation of surviving. "I put the bottle in the wall. It was an attempt to leave a trace of our existence as we thought we were going to die. It was very risky and we had to be very careful putting it in the wall. We wanted at least our names and numbers to be left behind."

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In 1915 the ocean liner Lusitania was struck by a German U-boat torpedo whilst off the coast of Ireland. There had been no warning. There were two explosions, one from the torpedo and one from causes unknown. It has been speculated that the second explosion was because the Lusitania was transporting munitions. 

The ship sank in 18 minutes, 1,198 people died, 760 were rescued. The sinking caused public opinion to turn against Germany, although Germany refused to accept responsibility. It did, however, order German submarines to adopt a new policy of warning passenger ships before attacking them. The sinking played a major role in the United States entering the war two years later. Recruitment posters urged enlistment and to "Remember the Lusitania."

A message from one of the Lusitania’s passengers was later found in a bottle:

"Still on deck with a few people. The last boats have left. We are sinking fast. Some men near me are praying with a priest. The end is near. Maybe this note will..." 

The note then abruptly ended.

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In 1912 Jeremiah Burke, 19, from Glanmire in Cork and his cousin Nora Hegarty, 18, boarded the ocean liner Titanic to meet up with his sisters, who had settled in Boston a few years earlier. Burke intended to seek his fortune in the US; Hegarty intended to join an order of nuns there.

Before setting sail, Burke’s mother gave him a bottle of holy water. 

As the Titanic began sinking after striking the iceberg and with awareness of his imminent death, Burke wrote a message, "From Titanic, goodbye all, Burke of Glanmire, Cork," which he placed in the holy water bottle. He then cast it into the icy waters.

Burke and his cousin Nora perished in the disaster. Their bodies were never recovered.

The bottle was discovered 13 months later by someone walking his dog on a beach near Cork Harbour. It was only a few kilometres from the Burke family home.

Sadly Jeremiah Burke’s mother had died before the discovery of the note.

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