Palmer police officer's message lands across the Atlantic ocean

 Photo courtesy of Laura Sanchez
Photo courtesy of Laura Sanchez (KTUU)
Published: Aug. 26, 2019 at 5:42 PM AKDT
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Keith Barkwood didn’t think much when he tossed a few bottles in the ocean on his way back to the East Coast on December 14, 2009.

At the time, Barkwood was a freewheelin’ 30-something-year-old teaching celestial navigation and maritime history on a tall ship - a traditionally rigged sailing vessel - off the Atlantic Coast and Carribean Islands. He and the rest of the crew decided to send a few messages into the Gulf Stream as an impetuous gesture of defiance after their next scheduled voyage had been cancelled due to the 2008 economic crisis as they made their way home from the Caribbean island of St. Thomas.

Keith Barkwood at the wheel (Photo courtesy of Bill Kund)

Shortly thereafter, he and his then-girlfriend, now his wife, headed back up to Alaska to find better-paying work, first with his old employer in Valdez, and later as a police officer in Palmer.

That’s where he was working when he opened his email and was hit with a blast from the past.

“There was this message that looked like junk about a message in a bottle from Schooner Virginia, and I thought, ‘wow, this is way too specific to be junk!’” he said.

The message was from a woman in Spain with photos attached. One of them was an old wine bottle he recognized, despite it being covered in mussels.

“I was like, ‘Holy cow,’ I can’t believe it made it all that way,” he said.

While another bottle that the crew had tossed floated straight to South Carolina, where it was found, this one apparently circled the oceans for a decade.

“I think that was the one we tossed out in the middle of the Gulf Stream. It must have got caught in an eddy and floated in circles for ten years,” said Barkwood.

The woman who wrote the email, Laura Sanchez, had found Barkwood even though his 2008 email was out of commission. She tracked him down through his work at the Palmer Police Department and sent him a message.

Photo courtesy of Laura Sanchez

Attached were a number of photos of Sanchez’s children and the beach where the bottle was found.

“It’s so incredible that of all the places it could have landed it landed on a sandy beach. It could have easily landed on a rocky beach and been smashed against the rocks,” he said.

Sanchez said it was her 7-year-old daughter Martina, who found the bottle while the family was vacationing on the northwest coast of Spain in O Vicedo.

Photo courtesy of Bill Kund.

Sanchez and Barkwood exchanged emails, and Sanchez eventually invited them to visit her house in Spain.

“I was telling everybody I met - just random people - about this story. I just thought it was so cool,” he said.

From left to right: Martina (7) who found the bottle, Lucía (7), Nicolás (10), Pablo (14), Samuel (10) and Hugo (11). Photo courtesy of Laura Sanchez.
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