Here’s something to warm the cockles of your heart during these cold January days – a message in a bottle found 76 years after it was thrown into the sea from a P&O Cruises Australia ship has been reunited with the family of the man who wrote it.
The bottle was found on a beach in New Zealand by Geoff Flood in November 2012. Inside was a note dated March 17 which said: “At sea. Would the finder of this bottle kindly forward this note, where found, date, to undermentioned address.”
The message had been written on headed paper bearing the mark of the shipping company P&O and the ship’s name SS Strathnaver, with the following name and address: “H E Hillbrick, 72, Richmond Street, Leederville, Western Australia”.
The story started off in local NZ papers and has since gone global. On Tuesday P&O Cruises Australia put it on its Facebook page.
Mr Flood had been out for a walk on at the top end of New Zealand’s North Island when he made the discovery.
He told local media: “As I picked it up and started looking, I could see it was an old envelope with P&O on it and I thought this might be something special.
“[I thought] Who knows where it’s been. How many times around the world, you just wouldn’t know, would you?”
It took him a couple of months to find the sender, who turned out to be a man called Herbert Ernest Hillbrick.
Mr Hillbrick had died in the 1940s, but Mr Flood persevered and tracked down Herbert’s grandson Peter Hillbrick, who lives in Perth, Western Australia.
Peter Hillbrick told local newspapers: “For this one to be floating around in the ocean for 76 years and just all of a sudden pop up in New Zealand. Where has it been? What story is it going to tell?”
His theory was that his grandfather had dropped it into the sea during a P&O cruise. His family still have photos that Herbert and his wife Ethel took onboard the ship.
The SS Strathnaver was a British Royal Mail Ship that carried people between England and Australia, and which also travelled between ports Down Under at the time.
Mr Hillbrick has decided to donate the bottle to a maritime museum in New Zealand.
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