Message in a bottle question

I’m not really sure if there is a GQ answer for this or not:

Is a bottle, thrown into the ocean, guaranteed to eventually wash up on shore somewhere? That is, if I dropped a bottle at the point in the Earth’s oceans furthest from any shore (side question: where is that?), would it eventually wash up somewhere? Or could it conceivably float forever without making landfall?

I’ll bet there’s a good chance that it’d get snagged in the Sargasso sea or someplace similar. It doesn’t HAVE to wash up on land. Or its seal could fail and it’s fill with water and sink, which is a lot more likely.

By the way – if you put a message in a bottle and heave it into the water, it won’t float cork-upmost (as it does in drawings and the movies) unless you ballast the bottom. Your garden-variety bottle floats bottom-uppermost, probably because that’s the biggest part, and it’s full of air. (We’ve done this ourselves). This increases the likelihood of seal failure.

Ah, OK, good points. That’s interesting about a bottle tending to float upside down, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Geez, are there any cartoon clichés that are actually true?

For the sake of argument, let’s forget the bottle and say it’s a surfboard, or something that infallibly floats. I guess your point about it getting snagged on some vegetation still stands.


When I was 14, we stuffed a bunch of notes into two wine bottles that had ceramic stoppers with rubber seals attached to the bottle, like Grolsch Beer. We took them out to the end of Huntington Beach Pier (600 yards from the beach) and heaved them into the ocean. That was almost forty years ago, and we never heard from anybody. Of course, within a decade, all our addresses and phone numbers had changed, so that is not very surprising. I still wonder what happened to them though.

The North Pacific sub-tropical gyre covers a large area of the Pacific in which the water circulates clockwise in a slow spiral. Winds are light. The currents tend to force any floating material into the low energy central area of the gyre. There are few islands on which the floating material can beach. So it stays there in the gyre, in astounding quantities estimated at six kilos of plastic for every kilo of naturally occurring plankton. The equivalent of an area the size of Texas swirling slowly around like a clock.”

Well, some little rubber ducks have apparently been drifting around the oceans for a decade or so.

Another link, this one actually talks about bottles too.

I remember reading something a few years ago about things lost at sea. The story was mainly about containers falling off of cargo ships. The story was saying that if you knew where something fell off the ship, there are accurate computer models that will tell you where and when the stuff will start washing ashore. I want to say that I read about this after a bunch of Nikes started washing up in, IIRC, Alaska.

This book sounds like it covers what I was thinking of.

That’s cool. I think I’ll put a message in a bottle in San Francisco, send it off, then come back to pick it up later.