One hundred and thirty-two years after it was thrown from a German ship in the Indian Ocean, the Oldest message in a bottle has been discovered washed-up on a remote beach in Western Australia.
Perth-resident Tonya Illman found the bottle after deciding to pick up some rubbish while on a walk with her family along the beach, thinking at first it would make a nice ornament for her house.
However, once she showed it to her son’s girlfriend, who tipped out the sand that had become lodged inside the bottle, they uncovered what looked like a "rolled-up cigarette."
A closer look revealed that it was a piece of paper, but it was too fragile and wet to unravel straight away so the family took it home and dried it in the oven for a few minutes revealing the date, 12 June 1886.
Speaking to the BBC, Tonya’s husband Kym said: "Then we unrolled it and saw printed writing. We could see the hand-written ink at that point, but saw a printed message that asked the reader to contact the German consulate when they found the note."
The printed note included the date, coordinates (32.49 South, 105.25 East), ship/captain details and departure and arrival port written in ink. It was written by the Deutsche Seewarte in Hamburg, asked the finder to send the note to them or the nearest German embassy noting the time and place of the find.
The bottle was later given to Dr Ross Anderson, Assistant Curator Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australian Museum, to research. After consulting with experts from Germany and the Netherlands, he found the message to be authentic.
"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 bottle was jettisoned in the south-eastern Indian Ocean, and probably washed up on the Australian coast within 12 months, where it was buried under the sand."
It was dropped off the German ship Paula, as part of a research project into ocean and shipping routes by the German Naval Observatory.
The bottle is one of thousands that were jettisoned during the 69-year experiment, but so far only 662 messages, and no bottles, have been returned.
"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," reported Dr Anderson.
Prior to this, the oldest message in a bottle was 108-years-old.