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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Oldest message in a bottle

A Western Australian family picked up a bottle after getting bogged down on the beach, and took it home as an ornament.  Then it was noticed that there was something that looked like a rolled up cigarette inside.  Dropped out, and dried briefly in the oven, it turned out to be a message.

The BBC reports that experts have confirmed it is an authentic message from a German ship.
The note in the bottle, which was dated 12 June 1886, was jettisoned from the German ship Paula, as part of an experiment into ocean and shipping routes by the German Naval Observatory.
Previously, the Guinness world record for the oldest message in a bottle was 108 years, between it being sent and found.  This one was dropped into the sea almost 132 years ago.
Dr Ross Anderson, Assistant Curator Maritime Archaeology at the WA Museum, confirmed the find was authentic after consulting with colleagues from Germany and the Netherlands.
"Incredibly, an archival search in Germany found Paula's original Meteorological Journal and there was an entry for 12 June 1886 made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard. The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message," Dr Anderson said.

The handwriting on the journal, and the message in the bottle, also matched, he added.
Thousands of bottles were thrown overboard during the 69-year German experiment but to date only 662 messages - and no bottles - had been returned. The last bottle with a note to be found was in Denmark in 1934.
The bottle found on Wedge Island was found "mostly exposed without any form of cork or closure, and was about a quarter full of damp sand", and the bottle appeared to have lain "buried or mostly buried", partially filled with damp sand, Dr Anderson added.
Sand dunes in the area are quite mobile during storm events and heavy rain, so the bottle could have been subject to "cyclical periods of exposure" which could have led to the cork in the bottle drying out and becoming dislodged, "while the tightly rolled paper along with a quantity of sand remained inside preserved".

"The narrow 7mm bore of the bottle opening and thick glass would have assisted to buffer and preserve the paper from the effects of full exposure to the elements, providing a protective microenvironment favourable to the paper's long-term preservation," the report added.
The Illman family have loaned the find to the Western Australian Museum for the next two years, and it will be on display to the public from Wednesday.
WA Minister for Culture and the Arts David Templeman said he was "delighted" with the loan, adding: "It is truly an impressive find and thanks to the wonderful international and interdisciplinary cooperation of science and research, it can now also be shared with the world."
"To think that this bottle has not been touched for nearly 132 years and is in perfect condition, despite the elements, beggars belief. I'm still shaking."
Reporting by the BBC's Helier Cheung.
You can read a pdf of  the complete scientific report  HERE


Anonymous said...

What did the note say?

Joan Druett said...

It asked the finder to contact the German embassy. Presumably, this was so the German administration would know the position of the vessel on a certain date.