In 1886, an important message locked inside a glass bottle was flung from a German ship as it cruised across the Indian Ocean.
The antique bottle found its way onto an Australian beach 131 years later and was picked up by a woman who noticed the discolored glass poking through the sandy beach and decided to see what was inside the bottle. What she discovered written in the message was truly amazing and left the woman speechless.
A Bottle Discovered on Australian Beach
For the woman whose name is Tonya Illman, it was like stumbling upon a token from another era as she took a leisurely stroll on a Wedge Island beach in Western Australia.
Illman has always liked to walk on the sandy beach close to her home before dark, but on this particular day, she noticed that the beach was littered with rubbish. Her first response was to pick up some of the trash and take it home to throw out with the rest of the garbage.
She started with the old, discolored bottle at her feet, and as she picked it up with the intention of putting it somewhere in her home, she didn’t even think twice about the important message hidden in the bottle.
Strange Message Inside the Bottle
Illman told the ABC news agency that when she recovered the bottle from the sand, it didn’t have a cork stopper inside it. Apparently, the recent storm has flung it around, leaving it uncovered and almost half-buried inside the sand.
At first, she didn’t notice the message inside the bottle since the glass had a dark tint to. All she thought was that it would make a nice addition to her home decoration. It was only after she showed the bottle to her son upon returning home from the walk that the message inside was revealed, slightly wet from the dampness of the sea but still held together in a roll with a piece of string.
Curious to see what was written on the piece of old paper, Illman took off the string and opened the scroll. The handwriting was slightly faded which made it hard to read what the message said but once Illman was able to decipher the German scribbling, she quickly realized the significance of her discovery.
The scroll was taken to the Western Australian Museum which verified the authenticity of it and told Illman that the message was indeed written in the 19th century!
World’s Oldest Message
After talking to German and Dutch experts, the Australian Museum was able to understand exactly when and how the message was written and dropped in the sea almost 131 years ago, making it the oldest message in the history.
Apparently, it was a German ship called Paula where the message had originated and thrown overboard as the vessel sailed from Wales to Indonesia. The date and exact coordinates of the ship when the event occurred were also scribbled on the scroll, making it easier for experts to determine which ship was responsible for it.
Researchers had also found a reference to the bottle in the captain’s personal diary as well as in the vessel’s Meteorological Journal on the exact date the letter was drooped in the sea. The handwriting on the scroll and the captain’s personal entry in the Journal proved that the two had indeed been written by the same person.
An Old German Experiment
The incident had occurred during the year when industrial revolutions was beginning to take over the world and United States was under the presidency of Grover Cleveland. The bottle had been dropped in the Indian ocean by the German researchers as a part of the Naval Observatory’s experiment to observe currents in the ocean – unfortunately, the bottle was not found again until today.
In the period between 1860 and 1930, German vessels dropped thousands of glass bottles, identical to the one found by Illman, each of which held customized messages with the date, location and the ship name. After each bottle was discovered, it was sent to the Naval Observatory to add to the database of the research. However, the last time a bottle was reported was back in 1934.
Illman is anxiously waiting for an affirmation from the Guinness World Records that the recently-discovered scroll is indeed the oldest message ever written – beating the previously held record of 108 years.