A handwritten message in a bottle, tossed to sea by a 14-year-old Quebec girl, took a quarter century to travel nearly 60 miles to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. There, it was found by an 8-year-old boy who was delighted by the earnest message.
He wrote back.
Eight-year-old Nyima Mitchell found the glass bottle under a pine tree in his Chéticamp back yard while playing with friends and his brother, Mila, in October 2020.
“Nyima thought it was garbage and he picked it up to clean up our land,” the boys’ father, Kelly Mitchell, told The Epoch Times. “They usually play ‘Tom and Huck,’ which would have been great for a message in a bottle find, but [they] had friends over that day and were just climbing trees.”
The boys’ mother, Britta Mitchell, suspects the bottle washed into the nearby Petit Étang, a body of water connecting to the Atlantic Ocean, during a hurricane some years ago.
“I tried to open it up straight away but I couldn’t because the lid was on tight, so I asked my mom to try to open it, but she couldn’t either,” Nyima told Newsweek. “We had to use our can opener and pliers on our Swiss Army pocket knives to get the lid off.”
Twenty minutes later, the boy drew forth a wrinkled letter from inside the glass bottle. It was dated August 12, 1995. “Dear friend, me and my friends have decided to write someone … I have sent my bottle in the Magdalen Islands,” the letter read in both French and English. It was signed by Nellie Nadeau, who shared her ambition to find a “pen pal” who would respond.
The Mitchells went online and found Nellie’s name on a hospital website. On her profile, Nellie, now a family doctor, recounted growing up by the water in Eastern Canada. The Mitchells believed they’d found their letter-writer.
Nyima decided to write back to Nellie—who was no longer a teen but a 39-year-old wife and mom living in Wasilla, Alaska. That letter almost didn’t make it, though, for Nellie had changed jobs and home addresses since the Mitchells learned her identity.
“You sort of hope when you launch it [that someone will receive it], but afterward realize that the probability of it ever making it intact to someone is really low,” Nellie told CBC. “If it did, that person might not even be interested in writing you back.”
When a handwritten letter finally landed on her doormat in November, the memories came flooding back. “It gave me chills for several days,” Nellie said.
She and a friend had tossed two bottles into the sea at Havre-Aubert while on vacation as teens, one of which made its way across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to land in a little boy’s back yard. Delighted, Nellie replied to Nyima, but sadly her letter was returned to sender.
Meanwhile, the Mitchells were losing hope of making a connection. Fortunately, Nellie didn’t give up and turned to social media.
“At that point, the community got involved,” Kelly explained. “We are not on Facebook … It turned out that Nellie had addressed it correctly, so we don’t know why it was returned.”
When a local reporter caught wind of the amazing correspondence, 25 years in the making, Nyima and Nellie’s story made headlines. Nellie now plans to visit with the Mitchells on her next visit to Nova Scotia.
“I would like to meet up with Nellie,” Nyima told Newsweek. “We have a canoe and Nellie and I both like canoeing, so we might go canoeing.”
In the spirit of their epic communique, Nellie plans to correspond with Nyima the old-fashioned way.
“We’re keeping the whole thing in the non-electronic domain to maintain the spirit of the original letter,” said Kelly, hoping Nellie’s promised letter is “on the way, and hasn’t been returned!”