A bottle dating from 1886 – 132 years ago – was found a few days ago half buried in the sand of a beach in Western Australia. Inside was a message.
A message wandering at sea for more than 132 years, found 950 kilometers from where it was once thrown into the sea. While walking on an Australian beach, Tonya Illman did not expect to make such a rare discovery. The jogger found in fact a few days ago, buried in the sand, a bottle of gin of the 19th century. “It looked like a pretty old bottle, so I picked it up and said it would fit in my library,” she told ABC News. It was not just a bottle of gin: a stringed message was contained inside, surprisingly unscathed – the cap of the bottle was missing.
“We brought it home, we dried it, and when we opened it, we discovered that it was a printed form in German with an erased handwriting, also in German. She explains. This was not a call to help a poor pariah abandoned on a desert island. The message, dated June 12, 1886, indicated that it had been thrown from the German “Paula” boat 950 km from the Australian coast. The message describes a German experiment that took place from 1864 to 1933 to trace the ocean currents. On the back of the message, the author asked to return the bottle and its contents to the Naval Observatory of Hamburg or the nearest German consulate, asking to specify where and when it was found.
Tonya Illman then decided to go to the State Museum of Western Australia where Ross Anderson, expert in maritime archeology and his colleagues were able to prove that the bottle of gin and the message really dated from the middle of the 19th century. The experts also found the logbook of the boat in which mention was made of this bottle. “The writing is the same, in terms of cursive style, tilt, font, spacing, accentuation of lines, capitalization and numbering style,” says the archaeologist.
Between 1864 and 1933, thousands of bottles containing messages were thrown away from German ships to better understand their trajectories and ocean currents. This one – the 663rd message found – is however the oldest ever discovered. The previous record was 108 years and 138 days.