Kentucky Man Spends Free Time Hunting for Messages in Bottles

Some people look for seashells in the sand. Other scavenge for precious metals.

But Clint Buffington, a University of Kentucky writing instructor has traveled to Turks and Caicos about a dozen times in the past few years, searching its beaches for washed up messages in bottles.

“I think I always wanted to find a message in a bottle, from the time I was a kid onward,” said Buffington, a self-proclaimed "Message in a Bottle Hunter."

In 2007, it happened. On a visit with his father, he stumbled upon a blue glass bottle with a note and two U.S dollar bills. He was stunned.

“It was like a near-heart-attack sort of moment,” he said. “If I can find one of these things, there must be others. There must be a way to do this,” he said he remembered thinking at the time.

Since then, he’s found about 40 bottles, and he’s made contact with 11 of the senders, three of them in person. Some of the bottles came from Europe and Puerto Rico.

Janet Rockware tossed her bottle in the Delaware River in New Hope, Pa., in 1981.

“I was getting married and thought it would be a unique way to put my hopes on paper and share them with whoever might be the finder,” Rockware said in an e-mail to

After 27 years, she had forgotten about it -- that is until she got a call from Buffington.

In spring 2008, he found her bottle in Turks and Caicos and tracked her down through a reporter at the Intelligencer newspaper in Doylestown, Pa. He called Rockware and read her the message she left in the bottle.

“It was so me on that piece of paper. I started to cry,” she added.

Buffington later traveled to New Hope to connect with Rockware, and they visited the bridge where she tossed her bottle and message.

Another memorable discovery of Huffington’s is the bottle of Washington, D.C., couple Ed and Carol Meyers.

In 1999, they were celebrating their first wedding anniversary in Duck, N.C. They tossed a bottle in the Atlantic Ocean with a note and small pieces of their leftover wedding cake.

“It seemed like a good thing to do. A message in a bottle – an expression of how excited we were about our first anniversary,” Carol Meyers said.

Eight years later, Buffington found it, but he struggled to find their contact information. In 2008, a reporter for the Free Lance-Star newspaper in Fredericksburg, Va., wrote about his story. A friend of the Meyers’ happened to read it and called to tell them about the discovery.

“It was amazing. Especially when we thought it would show up again 50 yards away from where we tossed it in the ocean,” said Ed.

Buffington said an oceanographer at the University of Miami told him that that currents carried the Meyers’ bottle thousands of miles.

“The most likely thing is that, that bottle traveled north up the coast, then around the Atlantic, then around the islands, which would be about an 8,000-miles trip, I guess,” Buffington said.

The Meyers and Buffington have connected in Washington twice and have remained in close touch.

Carol Meyers told her experience has prompted her to start another “peace project.” She makes faux pearl necklaces and leaves them in a small box with a note, inviting strangers to pray with them – or pass them onto a friend.

Buffington also met in New York with Richard Kaplan, who tossed a bottle off a cruise ship with his business card enclosed in 2006. Buffington discovered the bottle ashore one year later.

It's these stories that keeps Buffington going.  He saves money so he can take other trips back to Turks and Caicos and trace the messages back to those who send the bottles -- experiences he records on his blog.

For the message-in-a-bottle seekers out there, Buffington said he has no secret to his success.

“The only advice I can give is that you have to be willing to walk. I mean that’s what I do,” he said.