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B.C. couple gets Australian reply to message in bottle

A couple from the Okanagan are still amazed after receiving an e-mail message in exchange for a bottled message some 12,000 kilometres from where they tossed it in the ocean three years ago.

Brian and Joan Stewart of Naramata, north of Penticton, say they had all but forgotten about the bottle they launched off the deck of a cruise ship while passing Cape Horn during a cruise to South America in March, 2010.

But then a response came out of the blue, from a father and his 14-year-old daughter who last month discovered the wine bottle on a beach near Perth, Australia.

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Phil and Lili Hanley told them they were walking outdoors after a storm when the teen spotted the treasure resting amongst some seaweed on the country's west coast.

The couple say the bottle must have floated eastward from Cape Horn, crossing the South Atlantic and Indian oceans, before emerging near one of Australia's biggest cities.

The Stewarts have since exchanged several e-mails with the Australian family, who sent them a photo of the bottle and its still-dry contents. "They were so excited, they couldn't believe it," Joan Stewart said.

The couple had flung the bottle out to sea on March 22, 2010, as a way to mark their trip. The message included the date, their business card (with home and e-mail addresses) and two U.S. dollar bills for postage inside a sealable plastic bag.

Although Cape Horn is best known for its howling winds, the weather that day was calm and rainy when they dropped it into the water seven or eight decks below. "I really thought it was going to smash when it hit the water," Mr. Stewart said.

Instead, the couple watched in fascination as the corked bottle bobbed in the waves as the ship continued on its way.

Then, last month, the Stewarts received the unexpected e-mail from the family living in the Perth-area community of San Remo.

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"It was just absolutely an amazing thing," Ms. Stewart said. "It could have landed anywhere. It could have landed on a rocky beach, it could have landed on an abandoned beach. The cork could have popped and it could have filled with water and sank."

Mr. Stewart said the result has made the couple feel good. "It's just a nice, heart-warming story to find a message in a bottle," he said.

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