50 Year-Old NOAA Message in a Bottle

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Beachgoer Jim Duke with a “science” bottle he and wife Candy found along the shore

Candy Duke and her husband, Jim, spend most Saturdays strolling along Padre Island National Seashore near their home in Corpus Christi, Texas. Always arriving at the shore by sunrise, they spend the day relaxing while combing the beach for sea glass and other treasures. One Saturday last month, they found something unusual near mile marker 22. Among some washed up tree limbs was a glass bottle that contained a faded orange note which read “BREAK BOTTLE”.

bottle found along beach

The bottle is one of 7,863 bottles that were released in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico from February 1962 to December 1963 by scientists at the Galveston Laboratory of the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (now known as NOAA Fisheries). Each bottle contained a note instructing the finder to break the bottle and mail in the enclosed post card after filling out the date and location of the bottle to claim a .50 cent reward. The releases were part of a study to determine the role that water currents play in the movement of young shrimp from offshore spawning grounds to inshore nursery grounds.

Veteran beach combers Candy and Jim were thrilled with their discovery of the drifter bottle and even filmed a Facebook live video as they worked to retrieve the note without breaking the bottle it was sealed in. They plan to add the bottle to the their ever-growing collection of treasures from their Saturday beach strolls.