I had my own experience with a message in a bottle. I find it is a rather profound event in life representative of so many thoughts and feelings.



101-year-old bottle message: Baltic find reveals my roots, says granddaughter

Berlin resident Angela Erdmann speaks of unknown grandfather who threw bottle but died six years before she was born
Richard Platz's message

Richard Platz’s message, which he threw into the sea in 1913, when he was 20 years old. Photograph: Uwe Paesler/EPA

Angela Erdmann never knew her grandfather. He died in 1946, six years before she was born. But on Tuesday she described the extraordinary moment when she received a message in a bottle 101 years after he had lobbed it into the Baltic Sea.

Thought to be the world’s oldest message in a bottle, it was presented to Erdmann by the museum that is now exhibiting it in Germany.

“It was very surprising,” Erdmann, 62, said, recalling how she found out about the bottle. “A man stood in front of my door and told me he had post from my grandfather. He then told me that a message in a bottle was found and that the name that was on the card was that of my grandfather.”

Her visitor was a genealogical researcher who had managed to track her down in Berlin after the letter was given to the International Maritime Museum in the northern port city of Hamburg.

The brown beer bottle, which had been in the water for 101 years, was found in the catch of Konrad Fischer, a fisherman, who had been out in the Baltic Sea off the northern city of Kiel last month.

Holger von Neuhoff, curator for ocean and science at the museum said this bottled message was the oldest he had come across. “There are documents that have been found without the bottle that are older and are in the museum,” he said. “But with the bottle and the document, this is certainly the oldest at the moment. It is in extremely good condition.”

Researchers believe Erdmann’s grandfather, Richard Platz, threw the bottle in the sea while on a hike with a nature appreciation group in 1913. He was 20 years old at the time.

Much of the postcard was indecipherable, although the address in Berlin on the front of the card was legible, as was the author’s polite request that the note be sent by the finder to his home address.

“He also included two stamps from that time that were also in the bottle, so the finder would not incur a cost,” Erdmann said. “But he had not thought it would take 101 years.”

She said she was moved by the arrival of the message, although she had not known her grandfather because he died, at the age of 54, six years before she was born.

“I knew very little about my grandfather, but I found out that he was a writer who was very open minded, believed in freedom and that everyone should respect each other,” she said. “He did a lot for the young and later travelled with his wife and two daughters. It was wonderful because I could see where my roots came from.”

Like her grandfather, Erdmann said, she also liked culture and travelling around the world. She described herself as open minded, too. “What he taught his two daughters, my mother taught me and I have then given to my sons,” she said.

Despite her joy at receiving the bottled message, she said, however, that she hoped others would not repeat what her grandfather had done and throw bottles with messages into the sea. “Today the sea is so full of so many bottles and rubbish, that more shouldn’t be thrown in there,” she said.

The message and the bottle will be on display at Hamburg’s maritime museum until the beginning of May after which experts will attempt to decipher the rest of the text. It is not clear what will then happen to the bottle, but Erdmann hopes it will stay at the museum.

“We want to make a few photos available to put with the bottle and give it a face, so visitors can see the young man who threw the bottle into the water,” she said.


When I write about sailing or photography it is, in the end about amusement. I could argue that photography helps raise social consciousness,(Jim Goldberg’s Raised by Wolves) but nothing can replace direct action. We react violently when we see pets dogs or cats treated poorly. Our heart strings are pulled when we hear of starving or deprived people in poor countries of the world. But we seem to avert our eyes when it comes to the poor in our own country. I don’t know if it is that we cannot bring ourselves to acknowledge that the “greatest country in the world” has a flaw. That the fear of admitting how many people in this country live poor; is just too much to bear. The remedy seems too overwhelming.

Medical Missionaries, Part One

Posted: May 07, 2012 11:39 PM EDT
Updated: May 07, 2012 11:59 PM EDT
By Karen Meyers – email

No doubt you’ve heard of Doctors Without Borders.

In Rhode Island there is a group with a similar mission of providing free health care. For the past 25 years the local doctors, nurses and other volunteers have traveled to Central America, on their own dime, to treat the needy.

This year, for the first time in their history, with the need so great in their own backyard, they decided to stay in the U.S.

“She always wore glasses. For driving. For reading,” Melanie says.

When she passed away, Millspaugh knew her mothers glasses could change lives.

“Not to throw them in the garbage but to see that someone else could make good use of them,” she explained.

She brought them to her optometrist who is part of the volunteer medical group Northeast VOSH.

Doctor Carl Sakovits, who practices in Bristol, heads up the group. He’s been on every single mission, twenty-five of them, to Central America; to third world countries where he and other volunteers are often the only doctors people ever see.

“You go down there and we’re talking about thousands of people who are in the same desperate situation,” says Dr. Sakovits, “the need is so immense and you’re the only one at that moment who can do anything to help them.”

He gives eye exams, dental and medical check-ups and even uses donated supplies like the glasses from Millspaugh back in Barrington.

They find extraordinary poverty, pain, and hope.

Such as Jorge in Honduras. His joints were fused at birth. Stuck at home with his parents in a one-room hut, he could not go to school.

“He was bright, he just had physical limitations,” said Dr. Sakovits.

The only way he got around was when people carried him in a wheel barrow or a burlap sack.

We were able to put him in a wheelchair,” says Dr. Sakovits, “we gave him dignity. We gave him the ability to sit up, interact, and attend school.”

Their success in Central America was inspiring. Then Doctor Sakovits began to notice a profound change right here in his own country.

“I started to hear my own patients talk about worries of layoffs, hours being reduced at work,” he said.

They often have to choose between health care and groceries.

“They’re struggling to pay the rent or pay their mortgage or struggling to feed their family,” he said. “As a group, we were feeling, it was really time.”

Broadening their mission, their focus was on an impoverished home.

So Northeast VOSH headed to Tennessee, teaming up with the group Remote Area Medical, or RAM. RAM holds free mobile clinics something that is allowed in only three states: Connecticut, Illinois, and Tennessee.

Here’s what awaited them:long lines. People camped out in tents and in their cars in the parking lot, on this cold 30-degree night in Bristol, Tennessee. Twenty-four hours before the gates open, desperate for care, fearful they will miss out.

If you’d like to donate, or volunteer to Northeast VOSH, contact them at