While clearing trash from a beach, a conservationist working on the remote Conflict Islands of Papua New Guinea made an amazing discovery. He discovered a sealed glass bottle half-buried in the sand, filled with grains of rice, seashells … and a handwritten message.
The finder, Steve Amos, who has worked in Hawksbill sea turtle conservation and plastic collection for four years, uncurled the note. It read, “I suppose if you are reading this, it means that this bottle has survived its long journey and managed to safely land in your hands.”
It turns out, almost two years earlier, an American teen, named Niki, had thrown the bottle overboard while crossing the equator on a sailboat, hoping it would reach someone, somewhere.
Niki added that she hoped to find out where, and with whom, the bottle ended up.
The Epoch Times contacted Niki and learned from her how that message-in-a-bottle’s journey began. “On Jan. 8, 2019, my family, our crew member, and I were on a 10-day transit from the country of Vanuatu to the Marshall Islands,” Niki, now 19, shared via email.
The team was returning from a six-year mission providing safe maritime transportation with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
“Myself and our crew member … each threw a message in a bottle overboard as a way to leave a memory bobbing around in the Pacific,” Niki explained.
Hers eventually washed up on Panasesa Island, some 2,500 miles from its original location.
With help from his colleagues at Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative (CICI), Amos even managed to locate the letter writer. “We are calling on the power of the almighty social media to track down the sender of our #messageinabottle!” CICI wrote on Facebook on Dec. 2, 2020.
Someone who knew Niki saw the post and sent her an email. “I was actually just sitting on my couch working on homework for college,” Niki told ABC. “I was shocked, I ran upstairs, I immediately started telling my parents.”
Niki took to Facebook and hailed the reemergence of her letter as “incredibly amazing.”
Amos told The Guardian that he was too excited to sleep before meeting Niki on a Zoom call, organized by ABC. After swapping stories, Amos invited his new friend to visit the Conflict Islands when travel restrictions owing to the pandemic subside.
Niki and her family had worked together in Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Torres Strait Australia, and Vanuatu. “We have witnessed first-hand through the years that the need for safe maritime transportation is still vast,” she told The Epoch Times.
Back in the United States, Niki is attending college while her older brother joined the U.S. Coast Guard. With a new motorized twin-hulled aluminum catamaran, Niki’s parents plan to “go back and continue the work that God has called us to do.”
Meanwhile, the Conflict Islands are a prime nesting ground for turtles. Plastic collection, says Amos, is vital if vulnerable turtles are to be encouraged to the shores to lay their eggs. “We ensure turtles are relocated during nesting season from outer islands to where it’s safer, and release them later,” he told The Guardian.
CICI marine biologist and zoologist Hayley Versace revealed that 900 female nesting sea turtles have been tagged since 2017. Yet, only three have returned to the Conflict Islands.
“[T]he turtles actually go back to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to feed and forage, and only use the islands as a nesting ground,” she said.
Niki even hopes that her family can partner with CICI, possibly affording the chance to meet Amos in person, to assist with their conservation work in the future.
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