Man who threw out a message in a bottle 36 years ago finally gets a reply

June 22, 2017 5:42 pm Last Updated: June 22, 2017 5:42 pm

Douglas Stephens threw a bottle into the ocean off a Florida beach nearly 36 years ago with a simple message to the effect of “Hello, please write back.”

Thanks to the wonderful local beach community, Stephens finally got a reply.

On June 17, Ryan Burchett was out with his family on the beach of St. Simons Island, Georgia, looking for shells in the sand when he spotted the bottle.

“I picked it up and held it up to the sun and I could tell it had a ceramic top on it which was cool looking,” Burchett told ABC News. “And I could see… a message in it and I was like, ‘Holy smokes.’”

He found a hand-written note

“This bottle was set adrift off Fernandina Beach, Florida on the 10th of June 1981. To the finder, I would appreciate it if you would respond to where, when and found by whom. My permanent address is as follows on the back.

Thanks, Douglas H. Stephens.”

Burchett thought, “Yeah, I gotta reach out to this guy.”

On the back of the note was an address to Stephens’s childhood home in Chamblee, Georgia. But the house had been sold multiple times (Stephens’s parents sold it in 1986) and Burchett thought he was out of luck.

As it turned out, neither Stephens nor Burchett had a Facebook page. But a friend recommended Burchett reach out to eco-tour agency SouthEast Adventure Outfitters to spread the word.

In less than a day, the Little St. Simons community had tracked down Stephens.

Stephens got a call, and “a shock.” It was Burchett on the other line, replying to his message in a bottle.

“When you throw these things out, nine times out of 10 you’re never going to hear another thing. The length of time is what’s stunning—36 years—half the people I work with weren’t even born then. I was a 20-year-old college kid home from University of Texas.”

The bottle was found just about 40 miles away from where it was dropped.

The conversation brought back a flood of memories for Stephens—he’d vacationed in Little St. Simons and Amelia Island growing up. Burchett wanted to return the bottle, and the two will meet up later this summer in August.

The two also added that though they felt this was an incredible occurrence, you shouldn’t pollute the ocean by throwing things in.