Messages in bottles may not be the fastest form of communication, but they have been around for a very long time. One of the first known messages in a bottle was released by Greek philosopher Theophrastus in 310 B.C. It is thought that Theophrastus was conducting an experiment using water currents to prove that the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the Atlantic Ocean.

Messages in bottles have been used in more recent times, too. In 2005, a group of migrants shipwrecked off the coast of Costa Rica sent a cry for help by enclosing a message in a bottle. They managed to tie the bottle to a long line on a fishing boat as it passed. The bottle was received, and the people were rescued.

So why do people send messages in bottles? Glass may be very fragile, but bottles do well at sea.

They are buoyant, which means they don’t sink. They can bob on the surface of the ocean for years and years. Also, even if immersed in water, glass does not tend to biodegrade or weather like other materials might.

In order to give you an idea of how well glass bottles can survive at sea, let’s talk about the Titanic. Wine and champagne bottles have been recovered from the wreckage of the ship, which sunk in 1912. Although the Titanic sunk nearly a century ago, not only did the bottles survive, but rumor has it some of the bottles still have bits of wine and champagne inside.

So, if you find yourself stranded on an island, is a message in a bottle the way to go? There is no way to predict where a message in a bottle will end up or how long it will take to get there.

A bottle’s course relies on the ocean currents. It can’t hurt to launch your message in a bottle and hope for the best, but in the end, you may be in for a very long wait.


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    • Hi, Kailee! We might write something like this:

      “Greetings from Wonderopolis! We really enjoy getting messages from our Wonder Friends each day, so we thought we would send a message to YOU in this bottle! If you find this message, please come visit us at and leave us a comment!” :-)

    • We think it would be fun to find a real message in a bottle, too, Jourdan! We wonder what the message might say? Maybe it would be a treasure map! Maybe it would be someone wanting a pen pal! It’s fun to WONDER about what message might be in the bottle, isn’t it? :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How do people who live in remote areas of the world communicate with others?
  • How do modern-day rescue crews find people lost at sea or in the woods?
  • What information do rescuers find most helpful when searching for lost people?

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Try It Out

Nine days ago, you set out to sea with a friendly group of Wonderopolis pirates in search of missing wonders. Unfortunately, your captain forgot to check the weather report, and a sudden storm left your crew stranded on a deserted island.

The good news? Everyone survived the storm. The bad news? Nobody knows where you are!

Unfortunately, there is no cell phone signal, so you can’t call for help. It looks like you’re going to be here a while. Luckily, you do happen to have paper, a pen and an empty bottle.

The only way you can communicate with the outside world is to send a message in a bottle and hope that someone back in Wonderopolis will discover it and send a rescue party to find you. The more information you provide in your letter, the more likely the chance of rescue.

As you write your letter, consider what things a rescue team might need to know. Where were you when the storm hit? What direction were you traveling? What was your destination? How many people are with you on the island? Who are they? What is the weather like on the island? Have you seen any plants or animals? What are you eating? How are you entertaining yourself on the island?

You will also want to include a map of your island in the bottle. Grab your art supplies and get to work! Be sure to include any special features or landmarks, such as mountains, lakes or peninsulas that might help rescuers know they have found the right spot.

When you’re finished, ask your parents to help you email it to or send a copy of your letter and map to Wonderopolis:

Wonderopolis HQ
325 West Main Street, Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40202-4237

We’d love to know where you’re stranded so we can send out a rescue team.


Still Wondering

After a shipwreck and a daring rescue, some pirates may have had their fill of the sea. Wonderopolis pirates, though, are a hearty bunch.

  • If your pirates are still adventurous as ever, sail on over to this National Geographic Xpeditions lesson plan to find out what we can learn from maps!
  • Need to know more about pirates — what they wore, where they worked and how they lived?  Explore A Pirate’s Life at


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