12 December 2003
SYDNEY – If Peter Tebainea had wanted a quick response, he chose the wrong way to get his message across.
He was a court clerk struggling with his law studies on the tiny Pacific island of Butaritari when he stuffed a plea for help in a bottle and threw it into the sea.
More than three years and several thousand miles later, the bottle finally turned up – on a beach in Cadiz, southern Spain, the Guardian newspaper reported Friday.
His request for help and the reward on offer were still legible.
Tebainea had written in broken English on a piece of paper: “If you are interested with my request please write to me to the above address.
“My reward to you I will allow you to having holiday with my family in Butaritari beautiful island, and also tour around uninhabited small islet around and having photos with those islands.”
How the bottle got from the island, 200 miles north of the republic of Kiribati’s main island, Tarawa, is anyone’s guess.
One possible route would have taken it on a current known as the South Equatorial – away from Indonesia and across the Indian Ocean. Rounding the Cape of Good Hope, it could have been picked up by south Atlantic currents, which would have taken it towards the Caribbean. From there, the Gulf stream would have delivered it on to a beach in Cadiz.
Or could it have hitched a lift on the Antarctic circumpolar eastwards, past Cape Horn and into the south Atlantic?
Earlier this year, oceanographers were stunned to discover that a floating flock of 29,000 rubber ducks, turtles, beavers and frogs – cast overboard 11 years ago from a container ship en route from China to Seattle – had begun to arrive on the New England coast.
They had got there through the Bering Strait.
All this was of little concern to the Spanish beachcomber who wanted to know what had become of the poor South Pacific court clerk.
The search went though Jane Resture, an editor of a website about the South Pacific in Queensland.
Resture, quoting acquaintances of Tebainea, said he was last heard of working on a ship. He, like his bottle, had gone to sea.
Before now, Butaritari’s main claim to fame had been that it was visited by Robert Louis Stevenson for three months in 1889.
Subject: Spanish news