Unlikely return of message in a bottle

By Alisa Yong -
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DRIFTED ASHORE: A message in a bottle dropped into the ocean from a Cook Strait ferry in 1996 has returned home to Masterton almost two decades later. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK
DRIFTED ASHORE: A message in a bottle dropped into the ocean from a Cook Strait ferry in 1996 has returned home to Masterton almost two decades later. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK

A strange set of coincidences has brought a message in a bottle home to Masterton after almost two decades.

The bottle, containing a message from former Fernridge School pupil Natalie Price, was thrown into Cook Strait in 1996 as part of a school project.

In an unlikely turn of events, the bottle was found at Cape Turnagain by a Masterton man, Campbell Gillam, who has a bach at Cape Turnagain but lives just streets away from Ms Price's family home. Her mother, Paula Price, said she was astonished when Mr Gillam got in touch with the message, almost 19 years later to the day.

She immediately contacted her daughter, who is now a doctor in Adelaide, to confirm the details.

"When he first phoned me I was a bit disbelieving and I phoned my daughter to verify it.

"I was scratching my head when I was talking to him, wondering when did she have an opportunity to let go a bottle in Cook Strait?"

Her daughter was amazed the message she wrote when she was 10 years old, which included a description of Masterton and a self-addressed envelope, had been found intact so many years later, and told her mother the bottle had been thrown overboard by the father of a Fernridge pupil who worked on an Inter-Island ferry.

What made it even stranger was how close Mr Gillam lived, Mrs Price said.

"He was quite amazed that he actually found this and that the address was just around the corner from us.

"I don't know what the odds would have been ... it's a strange set of coincidences."

It was unclear where the bottle had been on its 19-year journey, but it was possible it had come to shore years ago and had then been pushed back out to sea by recent bad weather, as it was quite clean and had no barnacles attached to it when it was found on the beach, Mrs Price said.

"I just thought it was very nice of him to get in touch with us and bring it around rather than just throwing it into the rubbish bin."

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