British Columbia

A teenager threw a message in a bottle into the Pacific Ocean. 9 years later, a B.C. cleanup crew found it

Brittney Amundsen wrote the message in 2012, when she was 17. Layers of luck and coincidence are wrapped up in the find.

U.S. woman ‘can’t believe’ her long-lost message in a bottle reached someone after all that time

A cleanup crew working on a remote section of beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island found this note rolled up in a plastic water bottle on the shore, hidden among other debris. (Greg Rasmussen/CBC)

Texting and Twitter aren't the only ways to communicate with the world, especially if you have a lot of patience.

A 26-year-old from Washington state proved that after a long-lost message in a bottle she tossed into the Pacific Ocean nine years ago showed up on a remote section of B.C. shoreline.

Layers of luck and coincidence are wrapped up in the find and its connection back to Brittney Amundsen in Washington state.

In late June, a cleanup crew was working on a seldom-travelled section of coast near Estevan Point on Vancouver Island's west coast, north of Tofino.

They were there as part of a program funded by the provincial government to remove the huge amounts of plastic waste washing up on the coastline.

A CBC News crew was on hand to film the project.

WATCH | Message-in-bottle writer learns of find:

A message in a bottle washed up on a remote B.C. shoreline

2 months ago
2:00
A cleanup crew working on Vancouver Island's west coast found a message in a bottle. In it was a note dating back to 2012 that was written by a teenager living in Washington state. The CBC's Greg Rasmussen called her number -- and it still worked. 2:00

One of the workers, Jeff Ignace, found the plastic water bottle in a tangle of logs and other debris.

He held it up to the light, revealing the paper inside.

'Let's open it up'

"Let's open it up and see if it says something," he said as others gathered around.

Ignace tapped on the bottle and the note came out. The paper had been further sealed in kitchen plastic wrap, and it took some time to separate the note from the wrapping.

Unfortunately it was soaking wet, rolled tight, and it appeared that no one would ever learn what had been written on it.

But another member of the crew patiently picked away at the paper with a knife, unrolling it millimetre by millimetre onto a dry piece of driftwood.

A member of the B.C. coastal cleanup crew used a knife to carefully unroll the waterlogged message, which dated back to 2012. (Greg Rasmussen/CBC)

Inside was a note from Brittney Amundsen, who was 17 when she wrote it.

The message, which was dated March 17, 2012, was short and simple. In faded ink, it explained where she was and asked anyone who found it to get in touch. 

(CBC)

There happened to be a tiny amount of cell phone service on the isolated beach, so we called.

Nine years later, Amundsen still had the same number.

'I couldn't believe it!'

"I can't even believe someone got that and I have the same phone number!" she said when she learned about the discovery.

"One day I was, 'Hey, let's write a message in a bottle and see if anyone gets it.'"

She said after carefully wrapping it up, she tossed it into the water not far from her father's beach house near Grayland, Wash., southwest of Seattle.

The message was written by Brittney Amundsen of Washington state, who is shown here with her brother Bradyen when she was 17, back when she wrote the note. (Submitted by Brittney Amundsen)

In a later email she added more details.

"Over the nine years I've always thought about it periodically," Amundsen wrote.

"I couldn't believe it! I was so excited that someone had actually found it and that the message was somewhat intact. Everybody I have told the story to is also so shocked that I still have the same phone number from nine years ago and that the letter was still somewhat intact."

On the beach, the crew members who had spent weeks cleaning the coast, collecting plastic debris by the tonne, said it was the first time they had ever found a message in a bottle.

A lot has changed since Amundsen sent the note. She graduated high school, became a dental hygienist and has two children with her fiancé, but she still lives in Washington state.

Amundsen, now a 26-year-old mother of two, was excited to hear her long-lost message in a bottle had been discovered. 'I can't even believe someone got that and I have the same phone number!' she said in an email. (Submitted by Brittney Amundsen)

Despite the long time lag from sending it out to hearing a reply, Amundsen says she might pick up a pen and notepad again.

"It definitely makes me want to write another message in a bottle," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg Rasmussen

National Reporter

Greg Rasmussen is a National Reporter for CBC news based in Vancouver. He's covered news stories across Canada and around the world for more than two decades. Follow him @CBCGreg on twitter.

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