Message in a bottle mystery on the Rhine solved by Swiss fire brigade

Message in a bottle mystery on the Rhine solved by Swiss fire brigade

During a training exercise on the River Rhine, the Swiss fire brigade discovered a most unusual message in a bottle floating downstream. A bit of detective work revealed who had sent the message and resulted in a very special visit for one Swiss school.

Message in a bottle fished out near Basel in Switzerland

“Most of the time, we collect plastic bottles or other rubbish from the water that is floating down the Rhine,” noted fire brigade training manager Urban Grossholz. His team were carrying out nautical exercises when they found a strange message in a bottle floating down the river near Basel.

After fishing it out of the stream, the emergency services opened the bottle to find two dozen treasure maps. However, instead of leading to a stash of riches, a quick look at the maps revealed that the drawings were all made by children.

Basel emergency services send out call for treasure map owners

“We didn't expect that, it was pure coincidence,” said Grossholz. He explained that the bottle was already half full of water and only a few hours away from sinking, so they were lucky to find it before the drawings were lost forever in the stream. 

The police posted the find on Facebook, asking the public, “Dear Pirates, we have found your message in a bottle, with your treasure maps we were able to find the treasure and would like to pass it on to you.” After the post went viral in the Basel area, a message came through from a local kindergarten teacher.

Fire brigade in Basel planned a special treat for pirate kindergarten class

“We are currently dealing with the topic of pirates in class,” she explained, saying that the maps were drawn by the kids and then placed in the bottle to ceremonially float down the river. After getting in contact with the fire brigade to explain, she planned a special treat for the “pirates” that drew the maps.

One week after the Facebook post, a large fire engine pulled up outside the school, and members of the fire brigade gave the children special gifts and sweets, and let them climb into the car and wear firefighter clothing. "The kids were so excited. They were really happy about the visit,” the teacher said.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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