A Florida couple going through debris left by Hurricane Irma was shocked to discover a decades-old message in a bottle that originated an ocean away.
Ruth and Lee Huenniger made the incredible find as they walked through their homeowners’ park on Sept. 29, looking at damage left in the wake of the vicious storm that ravaged the area earlier that month.
The Fort Largo couple was picking up debris that had piled up along a fence, when they discovered a liter-sized plastic bottle that appeared frosted.
While examining the bottle, they noticed a corner of a piece of paper inside.
“We’ve always picked up bottles,” Lee Huenniger told InsideEdition.com. “We’ve beach-combed before even when we were kids… you always hear and read about a note in a bottle. Well, we always kind of check and this time there was a note in the bottle.”
The Huennigers, who have lived in the homeowners’ park for 20 years, were stunned. Lee Huenniger said there was no sea life on the bottle, like barnacles or greenery, leaving him to believe the note was only a few years old.
The note indicated that the bottle came from an elementary school in Scotland. It read:
“We are learning all about Pirates. We would like to see how far this message goes Please write and tell us where you found the bottle. We are
Lee Huenniger explained the undated note was small. He added that if the note hadn’t been laminated, it probably would not have made it as far as it did.
“It was amazing to see something that could really be from that far away,” Ruth Huenniger told InsideEdition.com.
Lee said the note traveled about 44,000 miles to where they found it, but judging by currents, it definitely traveled much further.
Ruth’s curiosity led her to write back to the school’s address, asking when the message in the bottle was originally sent.
It wasn’t until Nov. 2 that the Huennigers received a letter back from Fiona Cargill, a former teacher at the school whose class was behind the message.
In the letter, Cargill baffled the couple when she wrote, “We forgot to put a date on the letter but would you believe it, that bottle was set on its journey more than 30 years ago!!!”
“We had no idea it was really that old,” Ruth said.
Cargill also said in the note that the school, Chapelpark School, Forfar, had shut down in 2008 and is being renovated into apartments. She additionally sent Ruth a picture of her students from the time, dressed as pirates.
The new school in its place, Whitehills Primary, received the letter from the couple and reached out to Cargill, who retired a year ago.
Cargill let local news outlets know about the remarkable story and since then, three students have reached out to Ruth: Alisdair Moug, Scott Allen Shepherd and Laura Millar. However, none of them can recall which classmate wrote the message because they were all about 7-years-old at the time.
“I can remember having a dress up day to celebrate what we had been learning about pirates,” Millar, 39, told InsideEdition.com. “I can remember speaking about messages in bottles and that we had written one.”
Moug, 39, didn’t even recognize himself in the class photo holding up a sword, but his sister did.
“It’s such a strange thing to hear that something you did as a project in primary school as a 7-year-old has turned up 30 odd years later,” he told InsideEdition.com.
In the letter from Cargill, she told the couple where the bottles were sent from, “A fisherman from Arbroath (17 miles from Forfar) put it in the North Sea, off the coast, to give it a chance to be carried out to sea.”
For Ruth, “It feels really exciting to know somebody in Scotland, or several people in Scotland.”
Ruth and Lee have been informed that there were five bottles total that were sent to sea and another was found four to six weeks after they were sailed off.
Moug says the first bottle was found while they were still in class about 500 miles away from Forfar to the Faroe Islands.
“Who knows?” he said. “They could end up anywhere maybe on another 30 years someone will find another one.”
The couple is overjoyed about their discovery and so is Millar.
“It’s quite amazing to know that it was found after all that time,” she said. “I don’t think anyone can believe it.”
There are now three bottles remaining at sea from the class that sent them off in the 1980’s and Lee is on the hunt.
“We’ll be looking,” he joked.
Lee added that Ruth, his wife of 37 years, keeps asking when they are going to Scotland.