Irish message-in-a-bottle mystery solved in Montreal

A letter in a pop bottle that spent eight years drifting across the Atlantic has thrust three strangers into an unlikely spotlight on both sides of the pond.

Two 12-year-old friends tossed the message, handwritten in French and jammed into a pop bottle, into the ocean while on vacation in Grande Vallée, Que., in June 2004.

This week, a nine-year-old boy in Passage East, a small town on the south coast of Ireland, found the wayward message while he was out exploring the aftermath of flooding in his village with some friends.

"I thought it was just rubbish. So I picked it up, looked in the bottle and then I opened it," Oisin Millea told CBC Montreal.

At first, understanding the message was a bit of a challenge for him. "I tried to read it and I thought it was in Spanish, and then I found out it was in French."

After finding out that neither of his parents could speak French, Millea eventually turned to his grandfather for help.

"I showed it to my granddad and he told me a little bit of what it said."

In the end, Oisin was able to decode the message using Google translator.

Girls, now 20, act on newspaper coverage

The message said the girls were from Montreal and were on vacation in the Gaspé region. They got the idea from a TV show.

They included their first names and an email address along with a plea to contact them if the bottle were ever found.

Oisin and his family tried to do just that, but the email address was no longer active. They took their mysterious letter to a local newspaper and the story spread from there. Armed with only the first names of the senders, the Milleas weren't sure they'd be able to locate the girls.

But on Tuesday, the women, now 20, saw the coverage of the story in a Montreal newspaper and set up a meeting with Oisin over Skype.

Tourism Ireland took note of the story and offered the women a free weeklong trip to the Emerald Isle. A spokesperson from the tourist bureau said the women will travel to the small town to meet the recipient of their message and retrieve their bottle next year.

Oisin said he was surprised that one message stuffed into a two-litre plastic 7Up bottle was able to travel so far. And he's amazed that it made it to his village.

"I'd read it in a lot of stories before," he said. "Sometimes we just go down looking for them, but we never find them."

Now he has plans to toss his own message into the deep, and then wait to see where it lands.