After a careful review of the historic evidence, Guinness World Records has just confirmed that a mysterious postcard found on the shores of Amrum Island, Germany is the Oldest message in a bottle ever.
The glass bottle spent an incredible 108 years and 138 days at sea between its release in the North Sea by the Marine Biological Association (UK) on 30 November 1906 and its eventual discovery by retired Marianne Winkler while she was on holiday in 2015.
Marianne followed the visible instructions to ‘BREAK THE BOTTLE’ and found it contained a postcard asking the finder to send the card back to the MBA, stating where it was found, in return for a one shilling reward.
She duly returned the card inside and the MBA kept their end of the bargain by sending her a shilling (that they found on eBay).
Communications Officer at Marine Biological Association, Guy Baker filled out a record application form and explained the reason behind the message to Guinness World Records:
“The postcard asked the finder to fill out information about where the bottle was found, if it was trawled up, what the boat name was etc. and asked once the postcard was completed for it to be returned to a George Parker Bidder in Plymouth for a reward of one shilling. Mr. Bidder was a President at the Marine Biological Association from 1939-1945, so our receptionist was somewhat confused!"
“Mr Bidder was remembered for his scientific research on the hydraulics of sponges, and was also the inventor of the bottom-trailer - a bottle adjusted to trail a wire so as to float with the current two feet above the sea bed, and to be caught in trawl nets. Once we received this postcard we delved into the incredible archives at the MBA and discovered everything we needed to know about Mr Bidder's research. In the archives we found out about Bidder’s ‘bottom bottles’ which were bottles released into the sea as a powerful tool for the study of bottom water movement and the migration of plaice!"
Modern day research of the same nature is done by installing tiny electronic tags on fish which keep data on where they have been.
Baker continued: “Bidder released a total of 1020 bottles between 1904 and 1906 and he reported that his bottles were trawled up by the fishermen at the rate of 55% per annum. Some bottles were never returned, assumed to be lost in the open ocean forever. The bottle discovered in Germany was from a set of trails released on the November 30th 1906.”
Previously, the oldest message in a bottle spent 99 years and 43 days at sea and was part of a similar science experiment.