A message in a bottle thrown into the Atlantic ocean by an 11-year-old American girl three years ago has been discovered by a west Belfast couple at a Donegal beach.
Rita Simmonds and Ciaran Marron, who regularly enjoy exploring beaches around the north west, were walking along the sands of Magheraroarty beach on Wednesday when they found the glass bottle, which contained a note and two US dollar bills.
The piece of paper, which the pair dried carefully by the fire that night, was dated 2019 and contained details of Sasha, a little girl from over 5,000km away in the US, along with her phone number for the recipient of her correspondence to contact.
The moisture-riddled letter reads: “Hi, my name is Sasha and I am 11 and I have 1 brother and 1 sister. I live in Ocean City, Maryland. I love boogie boarding, fishing and much more. I love fish and crabs. I love riding bikes. I am a really active person. I have three buddies, Stone, Lisa [and] Wayne. Please pass it on.”
Rita, who is originally from New Zealand, and Belfast man Ciaran plan to call the number on the letter at a suitable time, given that there is a five-hour time difference between Maryland and Ireland.
“We're so excited about it. It’s so amazing really, to think that it made that long journey,” Rita told the Belfast Telegraph.
She said that if Sasha can’t be reached any longer via the given number, they will contact a Maryland newspaper to launch an appeal that will hopefully find the now-teenager that way.
“Ciaran, he does more walks than me and he's looked all his life for a message in a bottle,” Rita laughed, explaining that in the past they have also uncovered fascinating fossils and artistic stones.
“It was just sitting on top of the sand and there’s quite a lot of rubbish in that area of the [Dooey] peninsula from ships. That’s where we were looking in the high tide area, where the tide throws everything up. I would say it hadn’t arrived there long because it didn’t even have time for sand to build up over the top of it.
“I'm thinking that she might have been out on a boat or something, to get it that far away from the inshore currents. It’ll be fascinating to find out further how she did it.
“The funny thing is, my sister and I were travelling from New Zealand to Southampton in 1970, and we both threw bottles from over the side [of our ship,” Rita added.
“The girl that has done this bottle though, she’s obviously had adult help I’d say because she put cling-film on the inside lid, but she also glued it. So, somebody’s given her advice. At one point on the letter, it looks like there’s different handwriting where the phone number is written. It could be that it's a family effort.”
The enthusiasm for Ciaran and Rita’s newfound treasure didn’t just stop with them either.
The New Zealand native continued: “It’s just such a random event to happen in your life. I was telling the shopkeeper when we came into town, ‘oh we found a message in a bottle’, and everybody is so fascinated by it.
“It’s really peculiar because as we were walking along the beach after finding it, we came across another woman and I was so excited that I told her we’d found a message in a bottle… and she said, ‘I was wanting to talk to you’ and she showed us an amazing photo she had taken of us, looking through an old car tyre on the beach.
“And then we looked at the sky and we saw the crescent moon hanging above. It was like a day that was studded with amazing events”.
The Belfast couple confirmed they will keep this newspaper updated on their journey to find little Sasha too.