Through a Dutch Google search I’ve come across an article published by trouw.nl about Cor Ellen one Texel’s oldest, most respected, beach combers.
Image courtesy of Lab Partners
Beachcomber Cor Ellen found over 400 messages in bottles.
Cor Ellen has a short white beard, bright blue eyes and two thick grey-white eyebrows, (one sticking up!) The 77-year old has been wandering the beaches of Texel for over 65 years and Ellen's house is decorated with things that the waves brought to the island.
His beachcombing life began at twelve in 1938. During the war the beach was a good source of firewood. " I was surprised by the different things that have been washed ashore on islands.''
With all the surprises from the sea there have been hundreds of messages in bottles. “I normally smash the bottles open where I find them, because I'm so curious. If the letter is wet, I put it on my head in my hat and then take it home to dry. The bottles make me so happy, I imagine that that person wants to know me and that I look forward to getting to know them.” If there is an address Ellen sends a ‘greetings from Texel’ postcard.
Ellen has collected a total of four hundred and twenty three letters, all carefully preserved in a special box. "I like to see them, so they must always be within reach. In recent years I have realised that the letters are vulnerable so I have started to keep them in plastic sleeves, some are on display. Over half the messages are written in Dutch. The rest are in German and English, Norwegian, French and some times Spanish, one letter came all the way from distant Venezuela.
He found his first bottle in 1936. “It was a postcard in English, so I couldn’t read it.” Ellen’s replies were with another bottle, promising the finder a bag of Texel cake. But the finder was a Texel fisherman. “That was a disappointment” said Ellen.
The second bottle Ellen found wasn’t until 1950 because of the war. “There was a lot of trouble and people apparently had no need to send a bottle.''
Ellen goes to England at regular intervals to visit June Goodwin from Leicester. He met her through a bottle he found in 1956 and contacted her though the local English newspaper. He has also been in contact with a sea Captain from Rotterdam, who threw a bottle overboard in the North Sea. “Suddenly I stood at his door in shorts with bare legs! We got along so well. He is a wonderful guy. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.”
Out of the 400 times that Ellen contacted a bottle thrower half have replied. Normally by post but twice the reply has been by bottle addressed to Cor Ellen that have been washed up on the beach at Texel.
Asked why he thinks people send messages in bottles Ellen replies, “Out of solitude, boredom or drunkenness? Sometimes the message is on the payroll of a deep-sea boat. Other times they are children who have signed a treasure map, and some times it’s a drunk man who want to find a sex star!”