Message in a bottle: US soldier finds penpal after 13 years

A 13 year old message in a bottle that was found on Spike Island has been traced to its author, a young American soldier currently deployed in Afghanistan.

Thursday, 18 July 2013
12:00 AM GMT

It took 13 years for Zachary Tebo's message in a bottle to be found on the shores of Cork and less than three hours to track down the American author thanks to modern technology.

A handwritten note from eight year old Zachary Tebo, who lives in America, washed up on Spike Island on Monday evening, only to be found by a local tour guide with an avid interest in history.

John Flynn and his colleague came across the bottle as they were working on the island and John, who runs a Facebook page dedicated to the history of his local area, Cobh, posted a picture of the letter on his page. John's page is called Cobh Town History and More.

Within an hour, John Flynn was contacted through his Facebook page by an American woman who said she knew the boy who had written the letter as it was her son's best friend.

The woman, Maeve McCarthy Whelan told the Cobh man that Zach Tebo, as he is now known, is a private 1st class soldier, currently deployed by the US Army in Afghanistan.

John then managed to contact the American soldier who was over the moon that his message had been found.

Zach wrote: "I can't believe you found my message in a bottle from 13 years ago! I wrote that letter and gave it to a family friend who threw it in the ocean from Cork 13 years ago.

"Thank you so much for contacting me John Flynn, I hope to visit you all some day!"

Zach's letter read:

"Dear whoever catches this bottle. Write me a letter and tell me about you. My address is ...

P.S I am eight years old.

P.P.S. Throw back this letter back into the sea so others can write to me also.

Thank you."

John said he and his workmates often find interesting things on the island. "The same time as we found the bottle, there was a old badge with the letters FF stamped on it. We think it was an old soldiers badge.

"In the past we found an old bullet and a few months ago I found an old marmalade jug. It was marked and when I Googled it and I discovered it was a famous brand from years ago.

John said there is a gallery in the local cafe, where he and rest of the guides eat their lunch every day.

"There are a number of old photos of Spike Island on display and we have decided to make a cabinet to display all the things we find on the shore. That's where Zach's letter will be going," he added.

As a tour guide with a great passion for his home town, John invited Zach to come to Cobh for a tour of the town and to see where his letter was found. Zach was delighted to accept.

The young army man is due some time off in the coming months and hopes to visit Cobh during his holidays in December.

Zach told John he can't wait to visit Cork and see where his letter washed up after thirteen years at sea.

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