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Message in a bottle tossed and found

A Maryland student's note lands on an English beach and in the hands

September 13, 2009|Jacques Kelly

BALTIMORE — A Maryland student's note stuffed in a corked wine bottle spent five years bobbing across the Atlantic until it washed ashore this summer on an English beach, where it was picked up by a retired electrician walking his golden retriever.

For seven weeks, Tony Hoskings of Cornwall tried to find the note's author. He searched the Internet and sought the help of his local newspaper. He found him recently -- 19-year-old Daniel Knopp, a political science major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Knopp, then 14 and traveling with his parents, James and Grayson Knopp, and sister, Rachel, aboard a cruise ship, wrote the short note on June 21, 2004, inserted it in a discarded wine bottle, corked it and tossed it from his family's stateroom balcony.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship had just departed Freeport in the Bahamas.

"I never thought of it again," Knopp said. "I completely forgot about that day. I thought it would be unreal if it were ever to be found, but I figured it would be destroyed by the ocean environment."

But ocean currents carried the bottle 4,000 miles to the sandy Cornwall beach in southwest England. It washed up at Perranporth, where Hoskings found it July 18.

"There is a group of us who walk our dogs on the beach," he said. "I know the bottle washed in that day because the beach is swept clean every day by a machine."

Hoskings, who lives in the nearby village of Goonhavern, said he decided to make a family event out of his discovery and waited until his grandchildren came for a visit the next Thursday. When the note wouldn't come out easily, he took a glass cutter and opened the bottle's bottom.

The assembled family read the note: "Hello, my name is Daniel Knopp. I am on a cruise ship. I hope whoever reads this finds great joy. God bless. I live in the Baltimore/DC area."

The message piqued Hoskings' interest about the sender.

"It was quite a journey, and if you traveled all those thousands of miles, I think you would want your people to know you had made it safely," Hoskings said.

He said the green-glass bottle was encrusted with barnacles. It had lost its label, but its bar code remained.

"It was amazing how readable the message was," Hoskings said.

He turned to Facebook and found an entry but was not sure it was the right Knopp. He also contacted his local newspaper, the West Briton. A reporter there, Josie Purcell, contacted journalists at the Baltimore Sun.

Knopp, who had been a summer intern at Baltimore's City Hall on a mayoral fellowship and turned up on Internet searches, confirmed he was the author of the message in the bottle.

"It's a very novel story, truly romantic in the classic nautical sense," said Harrison Liu, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean International.

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Kelly writes for the Baltimore Sun.

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