A bottle dating from 1886 (132 years ago) has been found half buried in the sand on a beach in Western Australia. A message was found inside.
A message that has been roaming the seas for over 132 years, was found 950 kilometers from the place from which it was once sent. While walking on an Australian beach, Tonya Illman never expected to come across what she found. A few weeks ago, she in fact stumbled upon a 19th century gin bottle, that she found buried in the sand. “It looked like a fairly pretty old bottle, so I picked it up saying that it would go well in my collection”, she explained to ABC News. However, it turned out to be much more than a simple bottle of gin: it contained a note inside it, remarkably unscathed, even though there was no cork on the bottle.
“We brought it back home and dried it out, and when we opened it, we discovered that there was a message printed in German with some faded handwriting, also in German”, she explained. However, this wasn’t a call for help from some poor soul lost on a desert island. The message, dated the 12th June 1886, stated that it had been thrown overboard from German bark ship “Paula”, 950 km from the Australian coast. The message described a German experiment which was running from 1864 to 1933 to trace ocean currents. On the back of the message, the author requested that the bottle and its contents would be returned to the Naval Observatory in Hamburg, or to the nearest German embassy, requesting that the finder specified where and when they found it.
Tonya Illman thus decided to give it to the Western Australian Museum, where Ross Anderson, an expert in maritime archaeology, and his colleagues, managed to prove that the gin bottle and its message did indeed date from the mid 19th century. The experts also found the ship’s meteorological journal, in which the bottle mentioned. “A handwriting comparison of the bottle message signed by the captain and Paula’s Meteorological Journal, shows the handwriting is identical in terms of cursive style, slant, font, spacing, stroke emphasis, capitalisation and numbering style”, explains the archaeologist.
Between 1864 and 1933, thousands of bottles containing messages were thrown overboard from German ships in order to better understand their trajectories and the marine currents. This one -the 663rd message found -is however the oldest one yet discovered. Previously, the oldest was 108 years and 138 days old.