After 132 years, message in a bottle contains a big surprise

World

After 132 years, message in a bottle contains a big surprise

It's the oldest one ever found, but researchers still manage to find who dropped it overboard

Jonathan Pearlman


The world’s oldest known message in a bottle — thrown off a German ship on June 12 1886 — has been found by a family on a remote beach in Australia.
The message was written in German on paper which was bound and tied with string and kept in a 19th-century Dutch gin bottle. It was thrown off the sailing barque Paula, about 1,000km off the coast of Western Australia.
Fast forward 132 years, when it was found by Tonya Illman, who spotted an object sticking out of the sand while walking with her family near Wedge Island, 170km north of Perth.
“It just looked like a lovely old bottle, so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase,” she said. “My son’s girlfriend ... discovered the note when she went to tip the sand out. We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it we saw it was a printed form ... with very faint German handwriting on it.”
Ross Anderson, a maritime archaeology expert at the Western Australian Museum, confirmed the bottle and paper were authentic while colleagues in Germany and the Netherlands tracked down handwriting samples from the captain’s entries in the ship’s journal.
“Incredibly, there was an entry for June 12 1886, made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard,” said Dr Anderson.
From the 1860s, the German Naval Observatory ran an experiment to examine ocean currents. Captains were urged to toss bottles containing a form with the ship’s co-ordinates overboard.
© The Daily Telegraph

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