WOW: The Oldest Message in a Bottle Found

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For many years, most people’ link to the idea of a message in a bottle was The Police’ song Message in a Bottle. However, as you may have suggested by the content of the song, people did send messages in a bottle to each other in the past. In fact, the proof is in the pudding: the oldest message in a bottle known to man was found at in January 2018!

A Gin bottle was thrown overboard by a German ship in 1886, and somehow managed to wash up on an Australian beach over 130 years later. It was found by Tonya Illman, near the dunes at Wedge Island in January. Speaking to The Guardian in Australia, she thought at first it was nothing more than some rubbish.

Scott Van Hoy on Unsplash

So, Tonya picked it up and had a look at the bottle, noticing it had very distinctive lettering. Inside, she found a piece of paper that was dated 12th June 1886. Authenticated by the Western Australian Museum, the letter was printed in German.

It was apparently thrown overboard from the German sailing ship, Paula, in 1886 as it headed across the Indian Ocean. A whopping 950km from the Australian coast, the bottle certainly traveled a far distance!

At the time, though, the ship was actually conducting a message in a bottle experiment. They threw thousands of bottles into the sea, in a bid to try and track ocean currents. It turns out then that the researchers probably got a fair bit more than they bargained for.

The bottle, pictured here, is an 18th-century gin bottle. Image: Kym Illman

The messages were all full of ship co-ordinates, as well as the date and name of the ship itself. This is how they were able to verify that the letter was real, and the message is as old as was claimed. The previous record, for instance, was 108 years – so this beats it by not far off two decades.

Tonya’ husband, Kym, spoke about the process of trying to work out what it all said, adding that: “I have a basic understanding of German and it said 'could the finder please plot the coordinates it was found, and the date it was found, and send it back.'”

Cool, right? What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever come across lying around in public?

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