More than 30 years ago, a class of children likely between the ages of 6 and 8 put a message in a bottle for a school project in their hometown of Forfar, Scotland. Their teacher gave it to a fisherman 17 miles away in the town of Arbroath and he threw it into the North Sea.
On Sept. 29 last year, Ruth and Lee Huenniger were walking down their street, Thumper Thoroughfare, off the ocean side of U.S. 1 near mile marker 106, inspecting street lamps in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Lying next to a chain link fence, about 500 feet from the ocean, Ruth saw a plastic bottle that was fogged up. She almost didn’t notice it, but inside was a note.
“We are learning all about pirates. We would like to see how far this message goes. Please write and tell us where you found this bottle.”
The note was signed by Class 2/3, Chapelpark School, Forfar, Angus, Scotland.
The Huennigers replied that they found the note and explained about the Sept. 10 hurricane.
“Your message was found in Key Largo, Florida, USA, on Sept. 29, 2017.” The Huennigers closed with, “Hope this was a fun experience for your class.”
On Oct. 23, Ruth and Lee received a letter from Scotland from Fiona Cargill, teacher of class 2/3. She explained that she is retired and her class had written the note some time in the 1980s.
“We forgot to put a date on the letter, but would you believe it, that bottle was sent on its journey more than 30 years ago,” Cargill wrote. “The pupils who took part in this will now be in their mid-thirties!”
Ruth said this week that she was very surprised to read how long ago the bottle was sent into the sea because at first, it didn’t look to be in bad shape.
“It looked too new to be 30 years old,” she said. “It looked like a Coke bottle, and it had no barnacles on it.”
Ruth kept the letter, but eventually threw the bottle away.
Cargill said she was amazed not only that the bottle was finally found, but when and where.
“The circumstances were incredible,” she wrote the Huennigers.
How the Huennigers’ response got to Cargill is also a story.
Chapelpark Primary School closed in 2008 and is now an apartment building. The postman who was given the Huennigers’ letter for his route knew this and delivered it to the town’s new school, Whitehills Primary.
“The staff did an investigation and discovered it was my class,” Cargill wrote. “I retired from there just over a year ago and was so, so excited about this wonderful true life story.”
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204