As It Happens

Message in a bottle left in Alberta river found 44 years later

In July 1970, 13-year-old Dari Yates was vacationing on the banks of Alberta's Bow River with her family from Manitoba. The pig-tailed teenager walked down to the water's edge, and heaved a glass bottle into the river. Inside, she had put a hand-scribbled message, asking whoever found it to contact her. Well, someone did. But it took 44 years....
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In July 1970, 13-year-old Dari Yates was vacationing on the banks of Alberta's Bow River with her family from Manitoba. The pig-tailed teenager walked down to the water's edge, and heaved a glass bottle into the river. Inside, she had put a hand-scribbled message, asking whoever found it to contact her. Well, someone did. But it took 44 years.

Dari Yates is now Darilyn Keene, a hairdresser with three adult children, who lives on Vancouver Island in Cumberland, B.C.

"I just wrote, 'Hi, my name is Dari Yates,'" she recalls to As It Happens host Carol Off. "I believe the date 1970 is on the top of it and [I wrote] 'I'm camping with my friend Georgia and my parents,' and... if anyone ever finds this message in this bottle, could you please just try to find me."

Flash-forward to August 2014 and Jean-Francois Cianci enters the picture. Cianci was part of a river cleanup event at Lac Des Arcs, Alberta.

"I was done for the day and I was walking back to the parking lot and as I was walking back I thought there were a few bottles that we missed," he recalls. "So I started picking them up, one of them was a plastic bottle and the second one was a glass bottle with a message in it.

"The first thing I could see [was] July 7, 1970. Looking at the bottle I could see it was in both English and French, so I knew it was a Canadian bottle... The cap was well-tight... I had to wait until I got home to use tweezers to get the message out."

Cianci is part of a group of "geocatchers," a scavenger hunt competition that using GPS devices to find caches. Naturally, he enjoys searching and went to work on tracking down the message-in-a-bottle sender. (Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Cianci)

Armed with a name and home address, he was able to find Keene through newspaper archive searches and a bit of luck. Eventually, he was able to contact Keene via email, reaching out to the only "Darilyn" in Cumberland.

When Keene's husband told her about the email, she couldn't recall launching that bottle message.

"I was probably one of those children that were forever burying things and throwing bottles in the river -- I was an early polluter, I guess," she laughs.

"What an incredible amount of work he must have had to go through, and how I think many people might not have done the homework, and I just think that it's so amazing that he took time out of a busy life I'm sure and found me on Vancouver Island."

Cianci plans on visiting Vancouver Island next summer to give back the bottle and message to Keene.

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