Have you ever wanted to put a message in a bottle? Ever wondered who would find your message?
Well, the world’s oldest “message in a bottle” has been found washed up on a beach in Western Australia. The bottle was discovered by a beachgoer, Tonya Illman, and authenticated by Doctor Ross Anderson, Assistant Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australia Museum. The small bottle contained a message dated June 12, 1886 that was tossed overboard in the Indian Ocean 132 years ago! The previous Guinness World Record for oldest message in a bottle was 108 years, making this find the new record.
Tonya Illman came upon the small bottle while walking on a remote beach in Western Australia and later discovered a tiny roll of paper inside. The family dried out the paper in the oven and discovered a note written by the captain of a German ship called the Paula asking them to take it to the German consulate. The bottle was thrown overboard as part of an experiment conducted by the German Naval Observatory. Thousands of bottles were jettisoned during the experiment but only a rare few were ever found and returned.
The Illmans were shocked to read a letter dated 1886 and took the bottle to the Western Australia Museum to verify the far-fetched discovery. Dr. Anderson confirmed the letter’s authenticity by comparing the paper and handwriting to archival records in Germany and the Netherlands. He suspects that the bottle washed up in Australia after approximately twelve months at sea but was buried by shifting sands for over 100 years!
The family was thrilled to learn that they had smashed the previous world record and happy to loan the exciting nautical find to the WA Museum for the next two years.