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Nantucket message in a bottle found 19 years later

A college student studying marine science in the West Indies has found a message in a glass bottle tossed overboard by a Nantucket fisherman 19 years ago.

Cassidy Beach, a senior at the University of Michigan, was studying on the island of South Caicos in April when she decided to visit the windward side of the island, a place not many of her fellow students had gone. She borrowed a bicycle from a friend and headed to the spot where trash typically washes up.

“I was looking through all the marine debris and I found this bottle,” Beach told CAI. “And I could see clearly that there was a note in it. And I could see the date, too. It was September 30, 2004. I was just like, ‘This is not real. This can’t be.’”

She cycled back to the house where she and the other students in the program were living, getting a flat tire on the way back.

“I ended up walking my bike,” she said.

The other students crowded around her as she tried to open the bottle, but the cork wouldn’t come free. She went outside to break the bottle and came back with the letter, which she read aloud.

“Everybody was so fascinated by it, including myself,” she said.

Beach already knew that she had secured an internship at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Woods Hole.

She wrote to the message-in-a-bottle writers — Pennel and Sharon Ames of Nantucket — explaining that she would be nearby in a few months.

“In his letter back, he said, ‘Oh my gosh, we would love to have you on the island,’” Beach said.

Last weekend, they treated Beach and a friend to a two-day stay on Nantucket.

She learned the Ames family had tossed hundreds of messages in a bottle into the ocean off Nantucket over a six-year period when Pennel was working in the fishing industry.

“They had really gotten it down to a science with synthetic corks, getting their own corking machine,” Beach said.

The family had received dozens of responses, most of them along the European coast. The letter Beach found in South Caicos might be the oldest one that’s come back, the Ames family told her, and one of the farthest.

In two weeks, Beach’s internship at NOAA will be done and she’ll go back home to Presque Isle, Michigan.

And the letter?

“I guess I’m just going to frame it and put it in my room,” she said. “Cool memory.”

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