LITTLE GIRL’S MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE REMAINS A FLORIDA KEYS MYSTERY

The mysterious case of Olivia Brooks

Seeking: 22-year-old United Kingdom woman named Olivia Brooks, who vacationed in Marathon in September of 2003 as a little 4-year-old girl. That’s the mystery that Daniel Lonergan of Caribbean Kayaking wants to solve. 

“I found it in early September of 2020, floating at the junction of Whiskey Creek and Sisters Creek in Marathon,” said Lonergan. 

“It” is the Keys version of a unicorn — a legit message in a bottle. Lonergan found the bottle while he was working; he owns and operates a kayak and paddle tour company in the Middle Keys. As is his habit, he collects trash every chance he gets. Except this wasn’t trash. 

“I found it and then forgot about it because of the whole COVID-19 thing. But now I want to see if I can find her,” Lonergan said. 

“Hi my name is Olivia (Brooks). I am a little girl. I am 4 years old. I am in America on holiday. The day I sent this is 27 September 2003. Please send me a postcard to tell me you found it. I have enclosed 2 dollars for a stamp.”

The message was written in 2003 and has some compelling details — her full name, her address, her age, and the fact that she was staying at a now defunct resort, Crystal Bay (sic) Resort. Olivia (or her parents) gave all the necessary information, and she signed her name to the note that came out of the green bottle in childish script. The family even enclosed $2 for postage so the finder could send word that the bottle had been found. 

But 17 years have elapsed. Lonergan said he did a couple searches of the property — 47 The Uplands, Loughton, Essex, England — and found web advertising that suggests the house has since changed hands. Twice.“I’ve run out of clues,” said Lonergan. “I want to put this out there now. I hope I find her.”
He ends on a poetic note: “This message in a bottle has been just floating on the Marathon tides waiting to be found for 17 years.”

In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I of England created an official position, “Uncorker of Ocean Bottles.” Anyone in England finding a bottle with a message was to bring it directly to the crown. The English had figured out ocean currents enough to use them as a conveyance for messages from spies. “Uncorker of Ocean Bottles” is also the name of a children’s book by Michelle Cuevas, published in 2016.

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Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.