Manitoba man finds message in a bottle from 1985, spends 9 years tracking down messenger
Sender has placed more than 30,000 messages in bottles around the world
Dennis Anderson was understandably excited when he found a message in a bottle while out on a boat in a massive marsh near where he grew up in Libau, Man., in 2011.
Especially when the discoloured note inside asked the finder to contact the sender by sending a letter to a post office box in Yonkers, New York.
"I'd been lucky, even as a kid, with finding things," he said. "I've always had that sort of luck or curiosity ... it piqued my curiosity."
Anderson, now 77, sent a letter, but it was returned to him. That led to the academic and avid researcher to spend nearly a decade scouring radio stations, telephone services and libraries for the person who released that bottle into Manitoba's waterways.
From his home in Arizona, with the help of librarians, Anderson successfully tracked down the messenger in December by matching the name on the note to the author of a book about clarinets.
"It took me nine years to find the fellow who sent it," he said.
That note located by Anderson was the 9,460th message in a bottle the messenger had written up and tossed into the water since 1972.
"I think it's great," Anderson said. "I call him the intrepid bottle-note releaser."
Finder finally finds sender
Tom Heimer said he was shocked to hear from the man who found the bottle he released in 1985.
"I couldn't believe it," he said.
Born in New York state, Heimer resided in northern Manitoba, mostly in the Thompson area, from 1977 until 2005.
Although it was not the first time he had heard from a finder, it was the longest period of time between the release of the bottle and its finding.
He has kept a detailed record of the release locations and the people who found them.
To date, 1,919 finders of messages in bottles have reached out to him, he said.
Tens of thousands of bottle notes
When he was 18 years old, Heimer tossed his first bottle into the Delaware River at 1:23 a.m.
Exactly 30,900 bottle notes later, he said he has left his mark in every Canadian province and territory, as well as Europe, Asia, Caribbean, Eastern Europe and every U.S. state, except Hawaii.
The one thing that has changed in the messaging over time is that now it contains only his email address on it. Heimer no longer marks down his physical address.
"You can't reach me anymore unless you do ... a lot of research."
Heimer said the best part about his practice is meeting new people and hearing their stories of discovery.
"We're miles and miles apart," he said.
"I suppose [we] can keep in touch and see what happens."
With files from Wendy Parker