The Bottleman preparing to release more messages

Eric McCarthy
Published on January 29, 2014

The Bottleman, Harold Hackett, displays some of the letters he has received in response to the thousands of messages he has set adrift in bottles since 1996. He has even received letters in some rather unconventional mailing containers.

TIGNISH --Harold “The Bottleman” Hackett already has some Ocean Spray bottles loaded and ready to go. 

Hackett, 60, who has been setting messages afloat in bottles off North Cape since 1996, says his first bottles of 2014 will be getting an initial lift on departing sea ice before travelling to wherever the current takes them. Subsequent bottles will be released into the west or sou’west wind on falling tides throughout the year.

He’s been keeping track. Since launching his unique hobby, the Tignish resident has released 6,565 bottled messages. Incredibly, he said he has received replies, through conventional mail, from 3,351 people who found his bottles. “I’ve got an awful lot from Ireland,” he reported.

His messages have been picked up in numerous countries, including Morocco, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Iceland and Scotland. They’ve made their way to Newfoundland, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Hawaii, South America and around the Maritimes.

One writer indicated he was the sixth person to find one of Hackett’s bottles. The first finder added his name to the note, resealed the bottle and set it afloat again, and so on and so on.

One beachcomber found three of Hackett’s bottles, They had been released in March and May of 2011 and January, 2013.

He receives many photos, as well as souvenirs, of the places where bottles were found.

The second bottle he ever released turned up just last summer. Although it was missing for 17 years, it hadn’t travelled far; it was found near Northport, P.E.I.

Hackett admits he finds enjoyment in sending off the bottles and in waiting for replies. He responds, by conventional means, to all the letters he receives, and estimates he spends about two hours every day tending to his hobby or reviewing replies he receives.

He is also enjoying the attention his hobby brings him as many media outlets around the world have interviewed him about his hobby.

Indeed, he is awaiting a visit this spring from a writer in Derby England who wants to do a documentary about his message-in-a-bottle communications. The writer has been communicating with him in a rather unique way, too. Although she utilizes conventional mail, her envelopes are anything but conventional. Her most recent communication was stuffed inside a Christmas tree piñata. He’s received letters from her inside such containers as a Campbell’s Soup tin, a plastic fish, a birdhouse, and a watering can. Writing pad and regular envelopes account for his responses.

He gets so much enjoyment from his hobby that Hackett says as long as his feet keep taking him towards the ocean he will continue his message-in-a-bottle hobby.