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Man builds social network using Atlantic Ocean

Canadian Harold Hackett has created his own social network of over 3,000 friends using bottled messages and tides.

Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Harold Hackett has thousands of friends all over the world, and he didn't get them through social media.

The Canadian has spent the last 15 years using the Atlantic Ocean as his very own Facebook by casting bottled messages on the waves.

A resident of Tignish, a fishing village on Prince Edward Island, Hackett has received over 3,100 replies to more than 4,800 messages he has sent out, a 64 percent response rate.

Hackett, interviewed on BBC News Magazine, tossed out his first message in May 1996. He has received replies from Canada and the U.S., Iceland, Europe, and as far away as Africa, Russia, and South America.

The 59-year-old hobbyist uses juice bottles with their launch date inscribed in permanent marker. He encloses photocopied messages asking those who find the bottles to write to him--via snail mail.

Hackett often sets bottles adrift on his birthday, August 23, and waits.

Some bottles have taken more than a decade to be discovered. Some have been opened and then returned to the waves, only to be found by someone elsewhere.

"I got one (note) back with five different people finding it," Hackett was quoted as saying by The Guardian of Charlottetown, capital of the island province.

"They found it and let it go. It started in Cape Breton, went to Nova Scotia. It went to Newfoundland and then it went to St. Pierre-Miquelon and Florida, and then he wrote back to me," Hackett said. "There were five letters in my letter when I got it."

He doesn't include his phone number because he wants a tangible reply. "Evey letter has its own story," he says. He has formed many pen-pal relationships and usually gets 150 Christmas cards.

Known as "Harold the bottle man," Hackett has gone through over 4,800 plastic bottles, 680 rolls of black tape for securing the caps, hundreds of pens, and dozens of permanent markers. And he's still going strong.

"I don't think I want to quit until I shut my eyes for good," he told the BBC. "I'm going to go as long as I can. I'll keep doing it."