It's a classic story which seems all too similar to the Kevin Costner movie 'Message in a Bottle', but this time the story is 100 per cent fact.
Fourteen-year-old Lilly Hanley was walking along the beach with her dad near their home south of Perth when something caught her eye. It was a bottle laying partly in seaweed.
"It just looked like one of those bottles in the movies so I picked it up and I held it up to the sun. I could slightly see the American dollar," Lilly said.More stories from Today Tonight
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Not wanting to smash the bottle, Lilly and her dad got a corkscrew to pop the cork out."I got the tweezers and pulled the message out and there it was," Lilly said of the message in a bottle.
Inside the bottle, wrapped in a plastic bag, were two US dollar notes and a card from the senders, Joan and Brian Stewart from Vancouver, Canada. The card read 'please contact when found,' and was dated 22 March, 2010.More stories from reporter Graeme Butler
Lilly's mum Jen decided to try and contact Joan and Brian via email. "I basically wrote 'Hello Joan and Brian, I have found your message in a bottle, from Jen, Australia'," she said.
The next day an email confirmed the amazing story and explained that the little bottle had been on quite a journey, having travelled around 12,000 kilometres.
Joan and Brian had been on a cruise when they tossed the bottle overboard off the coast of Chile in South America.
"We just dropped it over the side and watched it float away. We never even thought about it again, until Jen's email," they said.
Meanwhile the bottle floated south-east, circling Antarctica, past South Africa, across the Indian Ocean and chancing a rare northerly current up the coast toward Perth.It finally washed ashore at San Remo near Mandurah, where it was it was picked up by Lilly, three years after its journey began.
Thanks to the technology of Skype, Joan and Brian have been re-united with their bottle again and were able to meet the Australian family who found it.
The story is all the more remarkable as the Canadian couple first met and fell in love in Sydney, back in the 1970s.
"I'm absolutely amazed that the cork didn't come out. It could have sunk to the bottom of the ocean or landed on a rocky shore or anywhere on the west coast of Australia where nobody would have found it," they said.
Graham Symonds is an Oceanographer with the CSIRO and says that southern ocean currents can move extremely fast."If you throw a bottle into the ocean it could end up almost anywhere," said Symonds. "The bottle probably travelled about half a meter per second," he adds.
The Hanleys can't believe how a walk along their local beach in Australia ended up forging a friendship with strangers on the other side of the world.
"I can't really get over it," said Lilly. "I will definitely remember this for the rest of my life. It's not every day you find one."
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