We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Message in a Bottle?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The expression "message in a bottle" literally comes from the practice of placing an important but untargeted letter inside a (usually) glass bottle, sealing it, and allowing ocean currents to carry it away. There are indications that ancient Greek scientists used the message in a bottle to study the general flow of oceans. Early militaries also used bottles to relay messages to distant troops, although this method did have a few tactical drawbacks. If the enemy discovered the message first, vital secrets might have been revealed. This predicament lead Queen Elizabeth I of England to appoint an official Opener of Ocean Bottles.

Many people associate a message in a bottle with shipwrecked souls living on a deserted island with little hope of discovery. The idea would be to create a detailed description of the survivors, their last known location and landmarks found on the island. Once the sealed bottle has been released, the ocean currents should eventually carry it to an inhabited coastline. The finder would discover the note and notify the proper authorities for a rescue attempt. Unfortunately, the bottle and its contents could just as easily become trapped in ocean debris or swamped by passing ships, or make landfall in an isolated area. Nevertheless, it does provide some form of hope for eventual rescue. Hundreds of messages in hundreds bottles, however, might be an even better tack to consider.

The truth is that it is far more likely for a message in a bottle to be sent purely as a social experiment. Some coastal citizens will place a personal greeting complete with contact information in a bottle and send it out to see how far it will go. Those who find such a messages are often urged to send back a detailed report on how and where it was discovered. Others may become pen pals with the original sender, or add their own messages and send the bottle back out into the water. An entire class of students could coordinate its own program and chart the results throughout the years.

Scientists also use a more sophisticated message in a bottle to study ocean currents and waves. These containers hold special cards asking finders to document location and time of discovery. Some high-tech systems may also contain a small Global Positioning transponder for remote location. Even if humans never discover these containers, the information can still be retrieved.

The term has recently changed from the literal to the figurative. It is often used to describe a business or social communication with no specific recipient. A computer software engineer in Iowa may send out a 'message in a bottle' aimed towards Microsoft executives, for example. It wouldn't be sent directly to Bill Gates in an envelope, but rather published as a general blog entry or on an open forum for software engineers. Another person might put out a message in a singles forum to attract potential romantic partners. The point of these exercises would be to allow the messages to circulate naturally, hoping that the right people will eventually find them and respond.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

Writer

As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.