An SOS it wasn't.
A message in a glass wine bottle found on a Sugarloaf Key beach on New Year's Day turned out to be a science experiment, with a cryptic note containing an illegible email address, and signed "Sloth."
Pebbles used as ballast lined the bottom of the bottle.
"Aw, man, I wish that it said 'To Dad -- it's Juan. Send money,'" said Venture Out resident Don Sattley as he fished the note from the bottle with a piece of wire.
"The bottle looks pretty old, and that cork is also kind of funky."
In fact, the note appears to be dated "12-29-12," though the smudged ink and poor penmanship makes that more of a speculation than anything else. Sattley, who works as an Army contractor for Joint Interagency Task Force-South, found the bottle about 50 feet from the water on the Atlantic side of the island, as he was searching for "treasures, like a square grouper."
The concept of placing messages in bottles dates back to 310 BC, when Ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus sent one out to test his theory that the Mediterranean Sea was fed by the Atlantic Ocean.
As recently as 2005, a group of nearly 100 shipwrecked migrants off the coast of Costa Rica were saved after tying a bottle holding an SOS to a long fishing line of a passing boat.
The record for the longest time a message in a bottle spent at sea was 92 years, and 229 days, according to Wikipedia. The bottle was launched on April 25, 1914, halfway between Aberdeen, Scotland, and the coast of Denmark, and recovered by a British fisherman near Shetland, United Kingdom, on Dec. 10, 2006.
In the Keys, the most famous discovery of a message in a bottle was reported in the May 16, 1930, edition of the Key West Citizen.
A couple fishing just off the submarine base, where the Navy Mole Pier is today, discovered an SOS in a "tightly stoppered half-pint whiskey bottle."
The message appeared to have been written under duress, and requested that the finder alert family members to the deaths at sea of the sender and his companions, one of whom, the sender claimed, was killed by a shark.
Associated Press reporters looking into the find were unable to locate the family members at the Tampa address mentioned in the note. Also, no record of the alleged stricken vessel, the Sannawita, could be found.
Most recently, watertight capsules sent out to test tidal flows in the event of an oil spill were sent out by the Cuban government as it began considering drilling for oil two years ago, according to Monroe County historian Tom Hambright.
Though Sattley was disappointed that opening his find ended up being a bit of an "Al Capone's vault" situation, but he's still hoping to solve the mystery by hearing from the sender.
"They can reach me at email@example.com," he said. "I'm very curious to find out when it was sent and why."