Strangers Connect by Message in a Bottle, Five Years and Thousands of Miles Apart

By Tina Chen

May 22, 2014 4:11pm

A California man has managed to maintain a perfect score in his experiments with the slowest, and riskiest, form of snail mail — messages in a bottle.

Five years after John Buckel, 79, of Cupertino, put a message in a bottle and threw it into the ocean off the coast of Portugal, he miraculously got a response this week.

Clint Buffington, 29, of Salt Lake City, found the bottle washed up ashore on an island in the British West Indies in May 2011. It read, “7, May 2009. Please return this note to John Buckel,” with an address attached and the words “for a reward” added on at the end.

Buffington said he found the bottle on the beach during an outing with family and friends. It started to rain and as Buffington was running back to the car, he spotted a wine bottle with a note in it. “There is nothing that stops me dead in my tracks than a bottle with paper inside it,” Buffington told ABC News.

Buckel, a retired engineer and former Merchant Marine, said he has thrown three bottles into the ocean. “So far I’ve had three successes,” Buckel told ABC Utah affiliate KTVX.

“The first one was a lady in Hawaii, the second one was a fisherman on the Mississippi and third one I understand is a professional bottle collector,” Buckel said.

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Clint Buffington, photographed here with bottles he found over the course of two weeks in the British West Indies back in 2013. (Messageinabottlehunter.wordpress.com)

Buffington is a community college writing professor, farmer, musician and an enthusiast of messages in bottles. He has collected 60 of them over the course of seven years, he said, and his goal is always to reach out and to learn the story of the sender.

“It’s a free pass to meet people,” Buffington said of finding messages in bottles.

Buffington finally connected with Buckel by phone on Wednesday.

“I’m just so happy to finally make contact with you,” Buffington recalled telling Buckel over the phone. “I’ve been looking for you for like three years now.”

“Now we meet people either through work, friends and mutual friends,” Buffington said. “This is the only opportunity for me to meet people outside of those realms.”

“It makes me feel connected to people to whom I have no other connection,” he added. “I never plan to stop looking.”

Buffington has now enlisted his girlfriend on the search for treasures lost at sea. The British West Indies have been a hotspot for such bottles, he said. “We need to figure out when we can go back, so she can have a shot.”

 

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