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College student discovers and replies to a 20-year-old message in a bottle from a fisherman

He used to throw bottles with letters in the ocean in the early 2000s, hundreds of which were found by people who wrote back to him.

College student discovers and replies to a 20-year-old message in a bottle from a fisherman
Cover Image Source: Youtube | WCVB Channel 5 Boston

Letters are a lost art, but that isn't the case with this fisherman in Nantucket. Pennel Ames, a fisherman from Nantucket is locally famous as the "serial message-in-a-bottle thrower." As per the Nantucket Current, he and his wife Sharon have thrown hundreds of messages in bottles off the side of their fishing vessels over a six-year period starting in 2000, when Pennel was working as a commercial fisherman. Some of the bottles he threw washed up in England or France, while the others went to Bermuda or Cuba.

Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Snapwire
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Snapwire

Cassidy Beach, who is a senior at the University of Michigan, was on the remote island of South Caicos in April when she discovered the bottle. Apparently, the bottle had been tossed nearly 20 years ago in the water. She explained: "No one ever goes over there. There are random cliffs and I was walking through all the shrubs. I noticed a big pile of marine debris down on the ledge of one of the cliffs, so I climbed down there to sift through it. Sometimes I pick stuff up to make art or whatever. I saw a bottle, it was still corked and perfectly clean with no barnacles on it. And then I could see there was a letter in it."

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When she went back to her school on the other side of the island and smashed the bottle open, Beach and her classmates were pleasantly surprised. They found that inside the bottle was a letter dated September 30, 2004, signed by Pennel Ames. The bottle had been tossed into the Atlantic Ocean nearly 20 years ago and had been floating ever since with the letter safely in it. It had been floating in the ocean or stranded for almost as long as Beach had been alive.

She and her friends then started on their journey to find the man who sent the message. They, of course, immediately started Googling and scouring the internet to try to learn more about the man who wrote the letter, and they discovered what many on Nantucket already knew, he was famous and well-known for throwing letters in bottles in the ocean.


When she finally tracked down Ames, she did what the letter asked: she wrote back to the fisherman to tell him his message had been found. Call this fate, but right after that, Cassidy accepted an internship in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the summer. Ames replied to her letter with a phone number, and Beach immediately called back. Naturally, the Ameses invited her to come out to Nantucket for a visit. That is how Cassidy found herself on the island as a guest of the Ames family at their cottage in Surfside where she learned more about the island and Pennel’s unlikely hobby that led to their chance meeting. She also got to see his book full of letters he received from France!


Pennel Ames told Nantucket Current that despite having received plenty of responses, this was only the second time he was actually meeting a message recipient. When they did meet, Beach showed them the letter she found. It was apparently one of the oldest ones the couple had dropped into the ocean.

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