It’s not every day you come across a message in a bottle floating around the Pacific Ocean, but that’s exactly what a team of researchers from the Vancouver Aquarium stumbled upon a few weeks ago.

Whale counting in BC

The Skana out on the water counting whale populations

On Saturday July 12 Carla Crossman, a marine mammal research biologist, and Lance Barrett-Lennard, head of the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Vancouver Aquarium, came across a bottle floating a few miles west of Porcher Island in Hecate Strait. The research team was conducting a cetacean survey along the central and north coasts of British Columbia looking and listening for various cetacean species and recording their distribution and behaviours. This work contributes to long term collaborative studies of wild killer and humpback whales aimed at understanding their use of different coastal areas, and changes in their distribution patterns.

Message in a bottle

Carla holds up the mystery bottle.

The glass wine bottle was found bobbing on the surface so Carla reached down to scoop it up. The bottle’s cork was covered in gooseneck barnacles  similar to much of the Japanese tsunami debris that has washed ashore along our coast. In addition to the standard rolled up letter, the bottle contained a USB stick which had a digital copy of the letter, the author’s contact details and links to a few of his favourite YouTube videos. The letter inside was written in English, Mandarin and Spanish and included the following short message, “We don’t know each other, but we are now connected. We should like to know about you – you life, your thoughts, your feelings about this world.”

Carla has since reached out to the owner of the bottle and learned it was one of 39 bottles set out to sea by a couple in Hong Kong while they were on a container ship travelling from Vancouver to Hawaii. Carla now has virtual pen pals from Hong Kong and will be keeping a keen eye out for other bottles on future research trips.

With thousands of kilometers of coast line to survey every year, the Vancouver Aquarium relies on public support through our B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network. If you see a whale, dolphin, porpoise or sea turtle you can call the Sightings Network at 1-866-I-SAW-ONE or send in your details online.

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