Family trip to a Virginia beach leads to an exciting “Message in a Bottle” discovery

YORKTOWN, Va. (WRIC) — Twelve-year-old Austin Webb was playing on some rocks when he spotted something that caught his eye.

“I found this little water bottle wedged in the rock and it looked like there was something in it,” explains Austin.

He couldn’t open the bottle because the top was on too tight. So Austin asked a relative to cut open the dirty, plastic bottle. Inside, he made a remarkable find.

“Congratulations, you have found a message in a bottle,” read a note tucked inside.

It was a message launched 17 years earlier by a first grader at Saint Michael’s Episcopal School in Bon Air.

The message in the bottle part of a science experiment back in 1998.


On Friday, that experiment evolved into a history lesson for the current first grade class at Saint Michaels.

Those children looked on as Austin and his family brought the message back home.

After nearly two decades in the water, it only took a few days on social media to learn the history of the bottle.

Austin’s mom, Elizabeth Webb went online to find its owner.

“We’ll put it on Facebook to see if we can get it shared,” she said, “to find out if someone can help us make connections and it just blew up from there.”

One person who learned of the discovery was Gayle Augst, the teacher of that first grade class back in 1998.

“It is exciting. I even got messages as far away as people in Texas were calling me that they had seen on Facebook, the message and they were calling to let me know about it,” she said.

Philip Tickle was one of her students. He now teaches at the school.

“It was just amazing to think that 17 years later our class was being remembered with something this fun that we had dropped in the ocean,” added Tickle.

As for Sarah Kate Hamlet, the little girl who wrote the note, her mom says she doesn’t even remember the experiment.

“She was like really? Where, where did they find it? Where did we drop it off at? Where did it end up?,” said Catherine Hamlet.

The message will stay at Saint Michael, but Austin Webb takes with him a story he will never forget.

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