Message in a bottle sparks friendship

2012-05-14 19:38

Pietermaritzburg - It's like a story you’d watch on the big screen, a bit bizarre for real life.

In March 2009, Australian teacher Anne O'Sullivan wrote a message and enclosed it in a bottle with her contact details. Then she tossed it overboard from a cruise ship off the Indonesian island of Komodo.

"We’re sitting in our balcony pondering. Is it better to love or be loved? Your answer will be appreciated. Call us or write to us," the message read.

Fifteen months later, in May 2010, Creighton resident Fiona Marlton discovered the bottle along the Mozambican shoreline.

“I found your bottle … It’s better to be loved. But to be loved you must love,” these were Marlton’s first words when she telephoned O’Sullivan.

Both strangers screamed and laughed with excitement over the phone.


And this was a start of a two-year-old friendship.

O’Sullivan admitted that she never expected a response.

The pair started chatting via e-mails about life and love and exchanged pictures and more.

The schoolteacher has since travelled from a small seaside town south of Sydney to meet her friend.

Sitting on the veranda at a quiet farm house in Creighton in KwaZulu-Natal, the two women’s faces beam with joy.

“It’s amazing. It feels like we’ve known each other for years,” they said.

O’Sullivan said it was all tears and hugs at the airport on Friday when they saw each other.

“It was like meeting an old friend. It’s still feels surreal,” O’Sullivan said.

Marlton said they have lot in common. They were both born and bred on dairy farms, both are Aquarius, have sisters named Trish and their daughters both recently got married.

The pair said they can talk about anything.


Marlton said when she made this astounding discovery in Mozambique, a close friend had been supposed to join her but fell sick. She died three weeks later.

“I lost a good friend but when I found this bottle I gained another friend,” she said.

O’Sullivan, joined by her husband, will be touring southern and eastern Africa.

They’ll travel to the Kruger National Park, on to Mozambique where Marlton discovered the bottle and to Kenya and Botswana.

On Monday she will visit a school at Ixopo.

“What I love about Anne is her bubbliness, her spontaneity and lust for life,” said Marlton.

On the other hand, O’Sullivan said Marlton is trustworthy and organised.

“Fate brought the bottle to her. Being here feels like I’ve gone back to my childhood and roots.

“There’s so much peace and love. I’m being treated like royalty,” the Australian said as she gazed at the hills and green pastures of Creighton.

Marlton said she hopes to save enough money to visit Australia in 2014.

  • Gerda Malherbe - 2012-05-14 20:02

    What a beautiful story, nice to have some good news!

      William - 2012-05-15 09:55

      Yes, but Gerda, we can't condone these litterbugs! ;)

      Christopher - 2012-05-15 14:40

      hahahahaa...litterbugs! cool story though!

      tiaan.fourie - 2012-05-15 14:56

      Yeah definitely Gerda, nice to see a happy story. Can't believe people are giving PhilMemon "thumbs down". Goodness people need to get a sense of humor.

  • Monyamana Joyce - 2012-05-14 20:17

    That's sweet. Shows that friendship knows no boundaries. Wish the two an everlasting friendship.

  • Sonja - 2012-05-14 20:26

    Glad it didnt wash ashore in South Africa. ANC would find a new tax for that !!

      Vernon - 2012-05-15 00:36


      Robi - 2012-05-15 14:06

      Sonja, what r u smoking???

      Thato - 2012-05-15 21:50

      @ Sonja, Go eat grass

  • Lynda - 2012-05-14 20:38

    Cool story.......makes a change

  • Lauden Kirk - 2012-05-14 21:42

    Thank god. For love

      Fredster - 2012-05-15 07:14

      God is Love

  • Nerina Truter Smith - 2012-05-14 21:49

    @kensong.... I totally agree with you. Why do people always had to bring politics into a discussion? Further more, I believe in love, the unconditional love of Jesus who died on the cross for us.

  • Thato - 2012-05-14 22:58

    Fiona Marlton, this story is almost a miracle and I thank you ladies for sharing this with the rest of us- comes 2014 and the money you've saved is not enough to visit Australia_ I will carry you there myself to complete the circle of love and friendship... I wouldn't mind to shed both arms and a leg to get you there... and for the record- well said Fiona "It’s better to be loved. But to be loved you must love"...*wishing your miracle friendship many many more years of happiness*

      Peter - 2012-05-15 10:55

      How are you going to "carry you there" if you "shed both arms", but I agree with "wishing your miracle friendship many many more years of happiness".

      Thato - 2012-05-15 21:49

      with my visa card***

  • porshe.vrebec - 2012-05-15 01:39

    wow!!! for are change news24 publish are wonderful storie. atleast today some people will be off on pill popping, just by hear good news like this.

  • drishworth - 2012-05-15 09:54

    Beautiful, heart warming story. To love or be loved?............ I guess both must be present to be totalling fulfilling.

  • roodbol - 2012-05-15 09:58

    So original. At least the bottle was not tossed in the rubbish bin. Trust a woman to investigate a foggy bottle and follow-up the 'clue'. Good for you both! A new friend in your adult life can be very enriching.

  • Odicito - 2012-05-15 10:03

    Story is nice - but throwing bottles in the ocean is NOT.

      Alan - 2012-05-15 11:00

      When just about every ship on the ocean (apart from the eco-friendly cruise liners) dump every single bit of rubbish on board into the sea, we don't need to be too concerned about a bottle.

      Robi - 2012-05-15 14:10

      gr8 it didn't land in the hand of a Somali pirate...

      Odicito - 2012-05-15 15:52

      Alan, so because vendors in the middle of Johannesburg throw trash all over the place, others can throw stuff too? Remember 99 is NOT 100. The logic...

  • Sattva - 2012-05-15 10:14

    Fabulous !

  • Danie - 2012-05-15 10:39

    Imagine a newspaper with good news in SA, hopefully one day one with only good news

  • Ina - 2012-05-15 12:22

    What a lovely story! Makes one feel all warm inside. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Thandism - 2012-05-15 12:32

    message in the bottle 2 or a sequel to meassge in the bottle

  • Michael - 2012-05-15 12:57

    Yeah nice to see this...but the story is racist as their are no blacks in the story....hmmmm

      MoAfrika - 2012-05-15 14:03


  • Robi - 2012-05-15 14:13

    finally a living proof that Australia & South Africa are meant for each other...

  • Flynn - 2012-05-15 15:43

    Strange ways how people meet in life

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