Does Courtenay man have oldest message in bottle in the world?

Courtenay resident Steve Thurber finds interesting items at the beach all the time but he's got something that may be a record-breaker.

COURTENAY RESIDENT STEVE Thurber believes this message in a bottle from 1906 could be the oldest in the world. He found the bottle Sept. 9 at Schooner Cove near Tofino.

COURTENAY RESIDENT STEVE Thurber believes this message in a bottle from 1906 could be the oldest in the world. He found the bottle Sept. 9 at Schooner Cove near Tofino.

Courtenay resident Steve Thurber finds interesting items at the beach all the time — but this time he’s got something that may be a world record-breaker.

While walking along Schooner Cove near Tofino, Thurber spied a bottle with a message in it, which is over 100 years old.

“I was almost going to pass this by,” says Thurber, who regularly finds things like old bottles on beach walks. Then, “I said, ‘Oh, there’s something in it,’ and I checked, and there was a note and it said ‘1906’ — like I just thought that was pretty neat. And now it might be a world record holder.”

As of Thursday, Thurber still had to contact the Guinness Book of World Records to see if his message in a bottle is the oldest in the world, be he did some research online and is fairly confident his find is the oldest.

“According to Guinness right now, the oldest one is almost 98 years old and that was from a guy that sent out 1,500 of them in 1914, and the last one was found last year,” he continues. “And this one’s about nine years older than that.”

Thurber drives a shuttle to Tofino twice per week for Comox Taxi, and on those days, he has hours to wait on the West Coast before it’s time for him to drive the shuttle back to the Valley.

“So I go wandering the beach,” says Thurber, adding he almost didn’t walk the beach that day but he’s glad he did. The area of the beach where he found the bottle was recently cleared of invasive plant species with an excavator, says Thurber.

“And just in one of the excavator tracks, the bottle was just sitting there — just laying there in the sand,” he recalls. “I think one of the excavators — because it was in one of the tracks — had run over it because it’s chipped up and stuff.”

Thurber hasn’t opened the bottle, but he could read some information on the message through the bottle: the name on it is Earl Willard, and it was written while aboard the steamer Rainier on Sept. 29, 1906, 76 hours into a journey from San Francisco to Bellingham. The address in the bottle is 1304 Commercial St., Bellingham, Washington, which Thurber says is now Bellingham Railway Museum.

Thurber is still researching Earl Willard to find out what his story was, but he says he doesn’t plan to open the bottle to see if there’s more information inside, something he says people have been upset about.

“People are outraged that I don’t want to open it,” he says.

“I mean it’s unique the way it is, you open it, it’s destroyed,” he continues when asked why he hasn’t opened it. “It’s been floating, been in the sand, whatever, for 107 years, I mean to open it would just ruin it, I think.”


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