March 24, 2018

World's oldest-known 'message in a bottle' found off WA coast

07 March 2018, 11:47 | Kara Nash

The world's oldest message in a bottle

The world's oldest message in a bottle

A Perth woman has found the world's oldest message in a bottle, nearly 132 years after it was thrown into the ocean.

Tonya Illman found the 132-year-old gin bottle in the dunes near Wedge Island in January.

The memo was dated June 12, 1886 and was thrown into the sea by the German ship Paula, as part of an experiment conducted by the German Navigation Observatory studying the oceans and sea routes.

It took weeks of sleuthing using Google Translate, online research and archival digging before the unusual find was confirmed as an authentic bottle thrown from a German ship into the Indian Ocean. The Assistant Curator, Maritime Archeology at the WA Museum, Ross Anderson was contacted 2 days after the find and a day after that he sent through some good news, saying he had located a boat of that name listed in the Lloyds Register 1883 (there were no registers for 1884 -1886), but it's home port was listed as Marseille, France.

A walk on the beach led to an awesome discovery by one Australian woman - a 131-year old message in a bottle.

A report released by the Western Australia Museum details how the bottle was found and what its well-preserved message reveals about science and history.

"The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message".

Back in 2013, someone in British Columbia, Canada found a message in a bottle from 1906.

"Tonya saw a whole lot of rubbish on the ground, and thought she'd help pick up some rubbish", Mr Illman told the BBC.

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After opening it, she found a roll of paper printed in German and dated to 12 June 1886 - which was later authenticated by the Western Australian Museum.

The Illmans donated their find to the Western Australian Museum for two years.

Illman said that when the family took the note home to dry it out, they saw "very faint German handwriting on it".

Before there were computers and Global Positioning System beacons to track the ocean's whims, there were slips of paper and bottles. A bottle belonging to the same ship that cast this one was recovered in 1934. The name of the ship to which the message belonged to was called Paula.

It looked like a rolled-up cigarette, damp and covered in sand, nestling in an old bottle half buried on the beach.

The bottle will now be put on display at a museum.

"This has been the most remarkable event in my life", said Illman.

"To think that this bottle has not been touched for almost 132 years and is in ideal condition, despite the elements, beggars belief".

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