On July 12, 2014, a day that started out as a normal workday, my concept of the term “connected” changed forever. The day started out like any other on the Vancouver Aquarium research boat: wake up, tend to the chores, and look for whales. Days working on a research boat are long and sometimes tedious but idle chatter helps to keep things interesting.
The morning’s topic of conversation was around messages in a bottle. I had been asking my co-worker, Lance Barrett- Lennard, if he ever found a message in a bottle. Surprisingly, he had found a bottle once, but it just had a one line, slightly inappropriate, message. It contained no contact information and it had not come from very far away. Coincidence struck later in the day, when I spotted a bottle floating in a bed of kelp. It too had a message inside!
Fast forward three months later and I’m standing in the Aquarium meeting the couple who had cast the bottle and 31 others, into the sea while passengers on a container ship travelling from Hong Kong to Colombia. Ka Tai and Rebecca flew from Hong Kong to Vancouver to meet me, the first recipient of one of their messages. Their trip was exactly one year since their long, message in a bottle journey had begun and also coincided with their wedding anniversary.
We live completely different lives, on completely opposite sides of the ocean. We are people with different pasts, different interests and different ways of life, but we are now connected.
Ka Tai and Rebecca visited me at work at the Vancouver Aquarium for a face-to-face introduction. I showed them the bottle, the messages and the USB key. I took them on a tour and tried to give them an idea of what my life is like and who I am as a person. They shared details of their lives and their journey. We watched a video of Rebecca’s ritual of selecting a bottle, sealing a message inside and casting it off to sea. Every bottle brought with it hope yet little expectations of results.
Ka Tai, a semi-retired photographer is currently preparing an exhibition that will feature photos and videos from their journey, messages from participants, and now photos and interviews with me – the only person to-date to find a bottle.
The 32 bottles were filled with unique messages from 32 of their close friends. The challenge Ka Tai and Rebecca had originally laid out was a seemingly simple task that makes you contemplate your outlook on life. “What would you say to somebody you have never met, of whom you know nothing about, and who may never receive the message?”
Blog post by Carla Crossman, marine mammal research biologist at the Vancouver Aquarium.