Woman who sent a 'message in a bottle' in 1995 finally got a response
via CBC News / Twitter

Eight-year-old Nyima Mitchell was playing with his friends near the water behind his home in Nova Scotia last fall when he made an incredible discovery.

"It was lying under a pine tree," Nyima said according to Yahoo. "I thought it was just some bottle that washed up here, but then I saw it had the paper in it," Nyima told CTV. The boy grabbed a pair of pliers to pry the top off the bottle and found a wrinkled and torn letter inside.

He unrolled the letter and saw it was dated August 12, 1995.


The letter was sent by a then-14-year-old girl from Quebec named Nellie Nadeau who wrote the letter while vacationing in the Magdalen Islands that summer. The bottle took 25 years to travel roughly 60 miles through the Gulf of St. Lawrence before it was found by Nyima.

"Dear friend, me and my friends have decided to write someone," the letter reads.

"I thought, 'wow, it looks like a teenager wrote this," Britta Mitchell, Nyima's mother said. So the two went online to find Nellie and they ran across a description of a 39-year-old doctor in Alaska who loved the outdoors that seemed to fit.

"The description on it, I think it was the hospital website, it said she grew up in Quebec and she was very outdoorsy, and I thought, 'well, the age is right," Britta recalled.

Naima mailed her a hand-written letter that reads:

Hello Nellie,

I found a message in a bottle in Chéticamp that was maybe sent by you 25 years ago from the Magdalen Islands. Please let me know.

Nyima Mitchell

After the letter was sent, they never received a response because Nellie's letter didn't make it through the post. But eventually, they were able to make contact with each other online.

"She said it gave her the chills for a few days, like it was really something," Britta said of Nellie's response. "So now we're waiting for her next letter. We still didn't get it, but I think she's working on it."

Nellie is still shocked that anyone returned her message at all, let alone someone 25 years in the future.

"You sort of hope when you launch it [that someone will get it], but afterward realize that the probability of it ever making it intact to someone is really low," she said. "If it did, that person might not even be interested in writing you back."

The Mitchells say that even though they can contact Nellie through modern technology, they prefer to correspond to their new pen pal through the mail. That way it honors Nellie's original; intentions back in the summer of '95.

The newfound friends hope to see each other sometime soon.

"I think we both want to keep it that way," Britta said. "And she said she actually wants to come the next time she is in Eastern Canada and meet us, so that's super exciting."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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