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A tiny glass vial with a rolled up piece of paper in it lies half buried in sand
Photograph: Maya SkidmoreThe message in a bottle I found at Chowder Bay

I found a message in a bottle. Now I want to find who wrote it

Internet love wizards: this is your moment

Written by
Maya Skidmore
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Finding a message in a bottle is the stuff of myth and legend. So, when it recently happened to me at Chowder Bay, a tiny beach in the middle of Sydney Harbour, it felt like I had wandered into a dreamlike dimension. Now, I want to take this fairytale to the internet, and see if I can find the person who wrote it. Somebody call Hollywood. 

Everything began on July 23, 2022, when my friends and I were eating hot chips at Chowder Bay at about 2pm (Eastern Standard Time) when we stumbled across a pretty incredible find.

Lying just off the edge of the beach was a tiny glass vial with a small and colourful piece of twine wrapped around its firmly corked neck. The teeny glass tube was blemish-free, but the twine was bedraggled and salty, seemingly having just emerged from the water. After closer inspection, we saw a small brown scroll of paper inside it, rolled up very thin and secured with an equally tiny metal clasp. 

A tiny glass vial with a rolled up piece of paper in it lies half buried in sand
Photograph: Maya SkidmoreThe message in a bottle I found at Chowder Bay

The ridiculously minuscule cork was extremely stubborn, but after several minutes of cork-meets-house-key warfare, it gave way. With bated breath and trembling fingers, I shook the scroll out, prised off the metal clasp, and unfurled a tiny sheet of brown paper.

On it, in clear and beautifully formed handwriting, we read the following: 

2022-05-05 

The day when our relationship started. I love this boy so much and he also love me. I don’t know when and who will get this but just want to write that I love you so so so much jyaan. 

Tatu :) 

A small piece of brown paper with the handwritten words: The day when our relationship started. I love this boy so much and he also love me. I don't know when and who will get this but just want to write
Photograph: Maya SkidmoreFront of the note found in the bottle
A small piece of brown paper with the handwritten words: that I love you so so so much jyaan
Photograph: Maya SkidmoreThe back of the note found in the bottle

Be still my beating heart. 

Finding a message in a bottle is an extraordinary thing. The likelihood of a tiny note finding its way back into human hands after having been released into the high seas is extremely low.

Compound that with the note being a love message, and you have yourself a bona fide miracle. 

In the past, when people have stumbled across a message in a bottle, truly amazing stories emerge that would have otherwise been left forever untold. Just look at this heartwarming (and yet poignantly sad) story of a 14-year-old boy from Michigan, whose message that he threw off a fishing boat in 2019 was discovered in 2022, by a couple walking on a beach in Donegal, northwestern Ireland. Or, this wild tale of a family from Perth, who stumbled across the oldest message in a bottle ever found, while exploring a deserted beach in Western Australia in 2018. 

Going off these message-in-a-bottle success stories, I too wanted to try my luck at cracking the meet-cute Morse code, and, as such, if at all possible, finding the two strangers involved in the creation of this very mysterious love note. 

To kick off my sea detective process, I contacted the big guns.

Professor Iain Suthers is a biological oceanographer and marine scientist, who is a professor at the University of New South Wales’  School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and also a scientist based at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, whose HQ is amazingly located at none other than Chowder Bay – the very same location of where said message in a bottle was found. 

Gasp! Kismet! 

According to Suthers, after taking into account the tide movements and weather patterns of the May to July period in Sydney Harbour, the origin of this bottle is likely to have been fairly close to where it was found. 

“A drifting bottle in an estuary is more subject to the winds than the tides and could have come from anywhere.” Suthers said. 

“There is a tiny percentage chance it was swept in through the heads. With winter westerlies and all your stormy weather from the south, it’s either from the eastern suburbs or from Bradley’s Head, Cremorne Point, or west of the bridge.”

In science, there are no absolutes – but this information is a good springboard to the full truth. Judging by this expert opinion, and the fact that the note in question was dated as being from May 5,  2022 – just two months before my discovery of it – we can deduce that the bottle probably didn’t travel to us from an isolated icy outcrop off Greenland.

Additionally, using my own meagre detective skills, I have deduced from the way the date is formatted: year/month/day that the writer possibly hails from international waters. According to the internet, this way of writing the date is the international standard, rather than the Australian format of day/month/year. Unfortunately, this is hugely vague and doesn't really narrow anything down.  

Ah, just call me Sherlock.

Other details that I have tried to latch onto here are the listed names. After a swift Google, the name ‘Jyaan’ has been revealed as a male name of Indian and Tamil origin, meaning; ‘knowledge, conscience and knowing’. The signature, after much studying, reads to me as ‘Tatu’, a name that came up on the interweb as a girl’s name of both Finnish and Swahili origin, meaning ‘third child’. 

Ultimately however, when compounded with Suthers’ hypothesis, this doesn’t really reveal anything at all. The world is wide, the sea is big, and frankly, the mystery continues. And Tatu, whoever they may be, most probably isn't a third child. Sigh. 

At the end the day however, finding a message in a bottle on a tiny and oft-overlooked beach on an average Saturday afternoon was both awe-inspiring and deeply unexpected. Even if I can't find the lovebirds at the centre of this truly adorable ocean mystery, it was an excellent life moment and one that both I and my mates will probably cherish forever. 

A man grins while standing knee deep in water at Chowder Bay
Photograph: Christina PerkinsMy friend Chris at Chowder Bay, directly after finding the message in the bottle

That being said: if you wrote this, or you know who did, please don't hesitate to reach out via email.

Not to be dramatic, but if we do manage to get to the bottom of this romance, all our wildest dreams will come true and we will never ask for anything again.

That's a sea oath. 

Feeling a bit romantic after that one? How bout' taking your squeeze on one of these excellent free (and cheap) Sydney dates?

Want more weird and wonderful Sydney things? Check out our list of the craziest archeological discoveries that have been found beneath Sydney.

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