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Man Finds 40-Year-Old Message In A Bottle - Tries To Respond

For decades people have been putting messages in bottles and throwing them into the ocean just to see if they ever get a response. Sometimes that response is a long time coming, but better late than never. One man makes it his mission to find those stray messages.

Cliff Buffington has an unusual hobby. In fact, it may be one of a kind: hunting for messages in bottles. While some people hit the beach for a tan, or water sports, Buffington searches remote beaches high and low in an effort to find a message someone may have sent off years ago.

It's not a glamorous hobby all the time. Sometimes Buffington has to sift through piles of garbage. Sometimes he has to open up bottles, only to find them empty, or full of something gross.

He tries to approach it scientifically. He studies currents in order to pinpoint places that debris is most likely to land. But even with all that, he's only found a few messages after 30 years of hunting.

Once he finds a message, the excitement begins. He tries to make it out - some get blurry. If the person left a name, address or phone number, and occasionally, on newer messages, he finds email addresses.

He tries to track down the message sender and contacts them on social media.

His prize message was found and turned out to have been written more than 40 years ago. “(I found) this coke bottle half buried in the sand - looked like it had been there since the beginning of time,” Buffington said.

There was a connection to the message and a 'Beachcomber Motel' in the U.S. so Buffington tried to look up the establishment to get a lead on who may have sent it. “On the paper, there was something written in pencil - like handwriting - it said, ‘Look inside.’”

To Buffington's dismay, there are hundreds of motels in American called 'Beachcomber'. But he didn't give up - he got a reporter to help him find the right motel. They also managed to track down the former owner, Paula Pierce. That's when an amazing story unfolded.

Pierce's father had written the note as a joke in the 1960s and cast it into the sea. He had purchased the Hampton, New Hampshire hotel on a whim and the family was struggling with it.

He wrote on the note that if someone brought the message back to Pierce's mother, they'd get a $150 reward.

Pierce's parents are both gone, and the Beachcomber was sold a few years back. The woman was stunned when Buffington flew to meet her and deliver the message.

“This is special because it brings back a piece of him, a piece of her, a piece of my childhood, a piece of the Beachcomber,” Pierce said. “All of these things are very hard to lose.”

Pierce also insisted on giving Buffington $150 for returning the note. He refused, but she insisted that he take it. It's a small price to pay for such a great treasure.

“The significance of the message in the bottle was not lost on him. It took him to find it, and it took him to come across the country and bring it to me,” Pierce said.

Source: Salon
Photos: Clint Buffington, WMUR

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