Old bottles with rounded bottoms, called torpedoes or bombs, 1800's
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Friday November 24, 2017

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The National Institute of Culture and History was created by the Government of Belize in 2003 to bring together diverse government departments, which had historically worked to preserve and promote Belizean culture and to allow for the management of newer endeavors. We are committed to the preservation of Belize's ancient and historical era monuments and artifacts; the interpretation of Belize's documented, photographic and oral history; and the promotion of contemporary visual, literary and performing arts.
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Old bottles with rounded bottoms, called torpedoes or bombs, 1800's

Long before there was Bowen & Bowen and the mass production of various sodas, the bottles were shaped a bit differently. Called torpedoes or bombs, the rounded bottom was supposed to help prevent the cork from shrinking by keeping it in contact with the soda. A side advantage for the merchant was that the consumer had to finish the beverage before the bottle could be laid down. This bottle dates mostly from the 1870’s to the 1910’s, though some American examples date to as early as the 1840’s.

Jewels from the Pacific, 1981

by Jayson Forman

One of the ways I used to make allowance money when I was in my single digits would be to collect empty bottles of Caribbean Rum.

I’d get up before sunrise and would hit all the popular spots where I was sure to get a substantial amount of discarded bottles . Places like Fido’s, Captain Loco’s (Big Daddy’s), Central Park and swimming under the Tackle Box Bar bridge. It would usually net around $10-$20 each time I’d fill up an empty rice sack and haul them down the street to turn them in for a handsome payout. That’s quite a lot of money for a 7 year old.

But sometimes, when beach-combing up north past Paradise Hotel, you’d come across some real treasures that could easily get you $20 bucks each.

The mysterious glass floats and vintage blue bottles that would wash on shore after a recent storm.

Why mysterious?
Well, for one, they were from Japanese origins as could be seen on their engravings. The blue bottles would be found buried on the beach if not found floating nearby. If you found one, definitely there would be a few others nearby.

These large floating orbs were used by Japanese fishermen to keep their nets in place and were commonly found on the shores of Alaska after being taken off course from storms in the pacific rim, so to be found over 7,500 miles in the Caribbean was quite the surprise. I still can’t quite figure out what path it had to take to travel so many continents to then end up on our shores.

All I knew was that I could sell them at Polo’s gift shop no matter what conditions they were in. My cousin Shelly, from “The Hut” restaurant, would also buy the glass floats as well as the plastic floats no matter what size or colors we’d find them in.

As I got older, the sea treasures were not as common as they used to be but I’d still spot them hanging from some gift shops, bars and hotels.

The stories that those long distance travelers could tell…

Photographs courtesy NICH

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