As an 11ft shark was gutted infront of a huge crowd in Dundee, out fell the usual spoils of the ocean.
Cod, dogfish and bit of seal landed on the harbour floor - and even a man’s bonnet was set free, much to the delight of the gathered spectators.
But then a clink on the ground signalled a different sort of find. The cutter crouched to the ground to retrieve the item and emerged with a glass bottle. In it was a message written in a “lady’s neat hand”.
To much excitement, the message was read aloud to the jostling crowd.
It said: “On board the Beautiful Star, Sunday, 1st September, 1872.
“We have cross’d the line, and all’s well. Last night the Captain’s lady had a pretty little boy.”
The message was signed by Annette Gordon, and also contained a poem dedicated to the new-born baby.
The Beautiful Star was an Aberdeen-built clipper that sailed between Britain and Australasia, and the message was confirmed to be genuine.
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The shark tale is one of several stories of the messages in bottles found of Scotland’s coasts - found the Hebrides to Shetland to the Firth Forth - that are included in new book Messages from the Sea.
Dating from the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the messages tell of foundering ships, missing ocean liners and shipwrecked sailors, and contain moving farewells, romantic declarations and intriguing confessions.
Included among the 100 messages in the book, which have been collected from all over the world, are a clue to the fate of the missing White Star liner Naronic, an update from Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition, and a message from the deck of the sinking Titanic.
Author Paul Brown, from Seaham, County Durham, said: “I first stumbled upon these messages by accident, but quickly became fascinated by them. Each little message tells a different story, and they’re full of drama, mystery and romance. Many of the messages are incredibly moving, and they really do highlight the brave, lonely and fragile nature of life at sea.”
- Messages from the Sea: Letters and Notes from a Lost Era Found in Bottles and on Beaches Around the World is published by Superelastic Books and is available from Amazon priced £10 for paperback and £5 for eBook.