Navy pilot of 17 years and avid ocean swimmer Scott Gutterson regularly picks up rubbish in the waters along the NSW South Coast.
Over the years items have included a fishing rod/Christmas present, a chewable toy his dog Raven “absolutely loves”, many hats, a lucky $5 note, up to 40 golf balls (not to mention a golf club), and last but not least, a “gorgeous umbrella” from the Sistine Chapel gift shop in Italy.
But nothing could prepare him for what he found on a recent swim at Murray’s Beach in Jervis Bay.
“I was doing one of my favourite swims to see a friendly blue groper and octopus and … noticed an object bobbing in the water,” he said.
“I thought it was a log with a heap of small mussels attached to the underside, but as I got closer I noticed it was a small glass bottle and, to my surprise, it had a folded up message inside.”
It’s the sort of thing you’d only expect to come across in a Swiss Family Robinson fantasy but Scott resisted the urge to open it immediately and put it aside until his wife and kids were home later that evening.
“I wanted to give my family the same amount of surprise and excitement that I experienced, so I waited eight hours for my wife to finish work and the kids to come home from school,” he said.
Wife Kellie and children Lilly and Seth played a brief guessing game about where the message may have come from (Queensland, New Zealand and Murray’s Beach all came up as possibilities), before Scott finally cracked open the lid.
“To our surprise it was from Newcastle, north of Sydney, and from a 10-year-old girl. It was so cute.”
Here’s what the note said:
“Hi, my name is Vicky. I live in Australia and my address is … in Wamboin, 2620, and my phone number is … I would love if you wrote back to me. I live on a farm at Wamboin and my Dad is in the Navy and he put this letter in the sea. I am 10 years old and today’s date is 4 December, 2020, the day before my dad’s birthday and my birthday is 30 September, 2010. Thank you.”
Wamboin is a rural area located just to the east of the ACT, near Queanbeyan. Scott rang the listed mobile number to get a “surprised and super excited” Vicky on the other end, now aged 13.
The plot thickened when her father, Ted, found out. At Vicky’s request, Ted had thrown the bottle into the ocean near Newcastle while on board a Royal Australian Navy ship.
“We both understood the likelihood of the message making it to shore was very slim,” Scott said.
“The fact it went from one Navy man to another is incredible, as is the fact that his parents live in my home town.”
It also turns out both Ted’s parents and Scott live in the same South Coast town of Gerringong, about a 10-minute drive south of Kiama. Which means that after bobbing aimlessly in the ocean for 808 days and at least 300 km, the note will be back in Vicky’s hands soon.
“Her dad is going to come to Gerringong over the Easter holidays and I am going to meet them both and return the gorgeous letter to Vicky,” Scott said.
“The ocean always gives me incredible surprises but this was next level that I will not forget.”