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Lucky find in Bailey’s Bay

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Trina Davis Williams, right, with items found in a bottle on the beach with children, K’ah, left, and Kazai Seymour, doing his best pirate impression (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
K’ah and Kazai Seymour with mother Trina Davis Williams and items found in a bottle on the beach (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Message in a bottle (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
NOAA’s Albatross VI decommissioned in November 2008 (Photograph supplied)
Crew on the last voyage of Albatross VI in 2008. Orlando Thompson is in the second row, second from the left (Photograph supplied)

Therapist Trina Davis Williams always wanted to find a message in a bottle.

“Every time I go to the beach I keep an eye out for one,” the Hamilton Parish woman said. “I am always on the look out for treasures.”

On December 12 she found one.

“On our way back from a walk in the neighbourhood, we stopped at the little beach on the roadside of Bay Corner, opposite Fractious Street,” she said. “Once getting to the beach I was amazed at the amount of garbage that had floated in with the seaweed.

“While I was taking pictures of the trash-filled seaweed, I noticed the bottle sitting there. I jokingly said, ’I wonder if it’s a letter in there’. As a geocaching enthusiast, I am always looking for that ‘special find’. Today was our lucky day.”

When she first saw the bottle she was a little doubtful.

“I honestly thought, ’what were the odds’,” she said. “When I picked the bottle up and noticed it was a sealed bottle with a note in it, I was ecstatic! The children were looking at me with confused faces.”

Her daughter K’ah, 7, and son Kazai, 4, had differing reactions. Kazai, a pirate enthusiast, was thrilled. K’ah was more cautious.

Ms Davis Williams said: “My daughter said mummy, should we pick that up? What about coronavirus?”

She assured her daughter that given that it had clearly been in the water a while, it was probably fine.

Their next challenge was to get it open.

“When I tried to get the cork out it just splintered,” she said.

After breaking the bottle in half, a letter, a photograph, a postcard and a set of ear plugs were revealed. The photograph was of a ship’s crew. The post card was of a ship Albatross VI. The letter was a little damp on the left side of the page and some words were too faded to read, but the gist of the letter was clear.

The letter was from Orlando A Thompson, an engineer on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s vessel Albatross VI. It was “posted” on November 3, 2008. In the letter Mr Thompson wrote: “This is our last time with the Albatross VI. Scientists and crew on the ship had become like family.

“We have had lots of good times. I will always talk about my engineering family. I will miss you all coming aboard the Albatross VI. It has been a lot of fun and not too …”

There were coordinates included in the letter.

“The coordinates were close to ours,” she said. “They were latitude 40-56N and longitude 66-56W. That was just off of Rhode Island. He didn’t say where he was headed to, but they were out of Massachusetts.”

The Albatross VI was a commercial fisheries research ship based at the NOAA fisheries lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It sailed for 46 years before being decommissioned on November 20, 2008, at the end of Mr Thompson’s voyage. Sailing between Massachusetts and North Carolina it collected data on fish, marine mammals, plankton and other species.

Mr Thompson included an address and telephone number in Woods Hole, but by the time Ms Davis Williams found the bottle, he had moved. Ms Davis Williams reached out to NOAA, but they were unable to locate Mr Thompson.

When Ms Davis Williams contacted The Royal Gazette, we were able to work a little research magic. The Royal Gazette found Mr Thompson living in East Falmouth, Massachusetts not far from Woods Hole. The two were finally able to chat a few days before Christmas.

“He told me the ship was being decommissioned and all of the old crew threw a bottle over,” Ms Davis Williams said.

In return she told him that she was getting married in the summer, and that the theme was a nautical one. Long before finding the bottle on the beach, she had planned to send her invitations out in little bottles.

“I told him about the wedding and that his bottle will be apart of the decor,” she said. “He said he will try and come down in July for my wedding.”

She and her children are putting together post cards, a photo of the spot where the bottle was found, and other Bermuda goodies, to send to Mr Thompson.

“We are going to send a bottle of the beach sand (prepackaged of course), Outerbridge’s Sherry pepper sauce, and I also hope to find one of the chopping boards with Bermuda Fish Chowder recipe,” she said. “I also want to send rum swizzle, so I’m thinking Simons Rum Swizzle that now comes in a can, may work.”

Mr Thompson was very surprised when he got a call from Bermuda.

He told The Royal Gazette the message in the bottle was part of a little ceremony among himself and 50 other crew members who were ending their careers with the Albatross VI.

“It was a scientific research vessel,” Mr Thompson said. “We did fisheries research. I retired with the rest of the crew. We all brought a bottle on board to throw. It was one of those good wish things. We bottled our name and put it in there and wherever it goes, it goes.”

He put ear plugs in his bottle because engineers often have to protect their hearing while working around noisy ship’s engines.

So far he is the only one, he knows of, that has gotten a response back in the 12 years since then.

“Sure there may be more bottles out there,” he said. “To have the bottle travel to Bermuda, that was the best kind of luck.”.

The 65 year old never came to Bermuda with the Albatross VI, but he did come several times during his time with the US Navy.

“We sailed over there on the USS Moinester,” he said. “We were stationed there for several weeks.”

The frigate was doing surveillance work in the Atlantic in the 1980s.

He then worked for the US Department of Commerce which overseas NOAA, for 18 years.

“My career was just as normal as any other engineer on one of the ships,” he said. “I enjoyed doing it over the years.”

He is retired now.

Ms Davis Williams has now laminated the letter to preserve what is left of it. The broken bottle also has pride of place in her house, out of reach of her children. It will also be on display at her wedding on July 3.

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Published December 31, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 30, 2020 at 5:55 pm)

Lucky find in Bailey’s Bay

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