UK & World News
Message In A Bottle Reunited With Family
A message in a bottle found 76 years after it was thrown into the sea has been reunited with the family of the man who wrote it.
The bottle was found on a beach in New Zealand by Geoff Flood in November 2012, but had been set adrift in 1936.
Inside was a note, dated March 17, which said: "At sea. Would the finder of this bottle kindly forward this note, where found, date, to undermentioned address."
Underneath the note was written the name: "H E Hillbrick, 72, Richmond Street, Leederville, Western Australia".
The message had been written on headed paper bearing the mark of the shipping company P&O and the ship's name SS Strathnaver.
Mr Flood had been out for a walk on Ninety Mile Beach at the top end of New Zealand's North Island when he made the discovery.
He told local media he was astonished and quickly decided to find out how the bottle had got there.
He said: "As I picked it up and started looking, I could see it was an old envelope with P&O on it and I thought this might be something special.
"There was a bit of mad panic to carefully extract it. I carefully cut a couple of bits of wire and quietly wound it up with the bits of wire so we didn't damage it.
"[I thought] Who knows where it's been. How many times around the world, you just wouldn't know, would you?"
It took him a couple of months to find the sender, who turned out to be a man called Herbert Ernest Hillbrick.
Sadly, Mr Hillbrick had died in the 1940s, but further investigation led Mr Flood to Herbert's grandson Peter Hillbrick, who was living in Perth, Western Australia.
Peter Hillbrick, who was also amazed by the discovery, said: "For this one to be floating around in the ocean for 76 years and just all of a sudden pop up in New Zealand. Where has it been? What story is it going to tell?"
His only theory was that his grandfather had dropped it into the sea during a P&O cruise. His family still have photos that Herbert and his wife Ethel took on board the ship.
The SS Strathnaver was a British Royal Mail Ship that carried people between England and Australia, but which also travelled between ports Down Under at the time.
He said that because his grandfather had died so many years ago, he had never got to know him so was delighted another link had turned up.
"The only connection I have with Grandfather is now that bottle. That's about all. So, it's a fascinating story," he said.
Mr Hillbrick has decided to donate the bottle to a maritime museum in New Zealand.