Throwing messages in bottles into ocean still top method of communication for Islanders

Throwing messages in bottles into ocean still top method of communication for Islanders

Tignish — It may be halfway through 2018, but on Prince Edward Island, the pace of life is notoriously slower. So while the most popular ways to communicate with friends on the mainland are texting, emailing, instant messaging, video-chatting — or in desperate situations even calling — these methods are still foreign to Islanders.

“I don’t have a phone, but I do have a pen and a notepad, and a lifetime supply of empty Pepsi bottles,” said Harry Harmon of Tignish. “If I need to talk to someone in my town I can just walk over to their place or holler out my window, but what if I wanna talk to my inlaws over in Europe? I just write my note, roll ‘er up into a bottle, seal it, and throw it in the sea. They should get it in a decade or so.

“It’s not like it’s some kind of emergency,” he added with a shrug. “Half the time I’m just askin’ if they plan on attending the family reunion that’s coming up in 2030.”

Environmentalists are beginning to frown upon the note-throwing practice, as they say plastic bottles clog up waterways and harm wildlife, and take ages to biodegrade. Glass bottles inevitably break, and cause similar damage.

“Without our handwritten notes shoved in old pop bottles, we’d have no way of communicating with anyone not on P.E.I. So I really hope the government doesn’t take this away from us,” said Renee Gallant of Borden-Carleton, who was recently visited by a conservation officer and asked to cease her bottle-tossing habit. “I send recipes, photos of the kids — whatever, really. My camera-phone takes really nice pictures. I can’t say I’ve ever tried to make a call on it. I don’t even know how that would work.”

Gallant and other Luddite-minded Islanders say that if lawmakers do indeed crack down on the handwritten messages, they have a backup plan.

“Carrier pigeons. But like, with seagulls. I have a few trained,” Gallant explained, showing our reporter a lobster trap where she’d confined six or seven of the birds. “You just write yer note, roll it up real tight, fasten it to the seagull’s leg, and set it free. Gets the job done.”

Gallant then demonstrated with one of her seagulls. We watched as the bird flew off into the distance, then promptly smashed into the Confederation Bridge, died, and plopped into the water below.

“Huh. Well, at least it got the note out there,” she said. “That’s all you can really hope for.”


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