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Message in a bottle


Working at the North Atlantic site of the Titanic wreck, Phil Malone came up with his own emergency request for provisions: Twinkies and Cokes.

At the urging of friends, the Annapolis man scribbled the joking message onto a piece of paper, stuffed it into a bottle and tossed it into the frigid ocean on Aug. 16, 1998.

Good thing he found sustenance elsewhere. A woman living on the shores of a remote island near Ireland just let him know she'd found his bobbing bottle.

"I was amazed to receive anything back at all," said Mr. Malone, a self-employed programmer and Web designer.

He and 10 other programmers and historians were part of a research and recovery expedition crew at the site of the famed liner's remains. Part of their recovery work was filmed live by the Discovery Channel. The program aired August 1998.

Mr. Malone had been working on a software program for one of the remote-operated vehicles used to explore and salvage parts of the ship that sank in 1912.

Since the underwater vehicle required programming and maintenance, he was invited to participate in the three-week adventure.

He said he and the other project workers were midway through the job, and celebrating the crew's recovery of a large piece of the hull.

Mr. Malone said someone laughingly suggested sending a message in a bottle. He wrote up two similar notes telling a tall tale about hitting an iceberg and other odd occurrences.

"Some of the crew have been eaten by whales. We are running low on wine and beer, and we have no clean T-shirts or shorts," the letter indicated. "Please send cokes, Twinkies and popcorn (for the movies)."

He threw the bottled messages out to sea that night.

"I thought it would fill up with water and make it to the bottom of the sea. I did not think we would get any response, but I included an e-mail address just in case. I figured e-mail would be the easiest way to respond." He was pretty much wrong on all counts.

On Jan. 1, 1999, the message in a bottle washed ashore on Great Blasket Island southwest of Ireland and was found by resident Sue Redican.

But, it would take nearly a year and a half for Ms. Redican to respond to Mr. Malone's request.

A weaver and plant-dyer who did not have access to e-mail or electricity, she knew a friend on the mainland, John Holstead, who did have e-mail.

After finally contacting Mr. Holstead, he e-mailed Mr. Malone in May indicating that his message had been found.

In a recent letter, Ms. Redican recently responded to an e-mail sent to her through Mr. Holstead.

"I was delighted to get your e-mail," she wrote."It was a surprise to find out the bottle was really thrown off the site of the Titanic. I thought it was a joke."

After briefly communicating with Mr. Malone through Mr. Holstead's e-mail, Ms. Redican sent the original letter back via regular mail to Mr. Malone.

He plans to send Ms. Redican a copy of the letter, a copy of this story and a lump of coal recovered from the wreckage during a previous recovery venture.

He bought it at a Titanic gift shop.

Published 08/28/00, Copyright 2000 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

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