Monday, June 4, 2007

Flotsam and jetsam

After Ando Hiroshige`s ukiyoe print Whirlpool and Waves at Naruto (1855)

It seems these Japanese whisky bottles are bobbing all over the Pacific.

Following my shaggy dog story about the Suntory Old Whisky bottle in the Marshall Islands, I found another Pacific islander, Miss Laura, commenting on Island Life`s original photo:
"Hey! I have one of those Suntory bottles too! But I think mine is a more recent version... Sometimes they wash up on the beach over here along with lots of other junk. It must be very popular in Japan!"

Two Japanese whisky bottles in far flung parts might be dismissed as a coincidence, but in "Into a Desert Place: a 3000 mile walk around the coast of Baja California" Graham Mackintosh describes piles of flotsam washed up at Malarrimo:
"The scene was incredible. It was as if some terrible and destructive battle had taken place off the coast. The shore was littered with planks, buckets, tree trunks, helmets, hatch covers, bits and pieces of boats and planes and call kinds of military and medical equipment."

He finds everything from nerve gas antidote to a "missile with wires hanging from the back" and lots and lots of alcohol, but Mackintosh's beachcombing yarn reaches a climax after he finds a message in a bottle with a religious message and catches a fish:
"While searching for a campsite, I stubbed my toe against a bottle of very old, very excellent Japanese whisky. A reward for my faith! The mullet was delicious, the sunset and the stars seemed even more beautiful, and I was more than ever convinced that someone up there was watching over my little walk around Baja." (p.219)

And then there is Dean Littlepage's "Steller`s Island: Adventures of a pioneer naturalist in Alaska". The author describes an expedition to the remote Kayak Island off Alaska where he finds an amazing collection of flotsam on the shore:
"We spot colors not found in in nature - the fluorescent green of a plastic bottle, the baby-blue of a chunk of styrofoam - and a scattering of ship bumpers and buoys, sheets of plywood and insulation, and plastic laundry baskets. More exotic are a blue plastic case with red Korean characters, empty Japanese whiskey bottles and a striking red log with a delicious, musty scent lying back in the jumble of tree trunks on the storm berm. The log, a western red cedar, grows nowhere near here, the closest source is a good 500 miles to the South. Out toward the water, a computer monitor sits upright on the reef, the screen slightly scratched from its time in the surf but otherwise intact, as if you could sit down in front of it and log on." (p.34)

I don't know why so many people are happening on these Japanese whisky bottles. Perhaps they are just more charismatic than the boring old Bacardis and Bourbons. Or maybe Japanese drunks, tired of life, have a habit of hurling their empty whisky bottles on Japan's storm tossed Pacific shores. My own favourite theory is that Suntory has a secret high-tech installation up on Hokkaido pumping out these bottles to spread the word about their drink. Nice of them to send Mackintosh a full bottle, completely free.


Nonjatta said...

But it is that last image of Littlepage's - of a computer in the surf - that sticks with me. I'm getting thousands of people looking at this site - on one very atypical day I got more than 1,400 (!!!) - and I dare say many of my readers have never heard of Japanese single malt and had no intention of knowing out about it until my blog floated into their cove. I like to think that my little driftblog might just get a very small number of them intrigued enough to try this stuff one day.

Anonymous said...

Full whisky bottles do not float, this bit can't be right.