World’s Oldest Known Message In A Bottle Washes Ashore in Australia

An Australian family found a message-in-a-bottle 132 years after it was first dropped in the ocean by a German ship.

The message-in-a-bottle dated back to 1886 is considered the world’s oldest message-in-the-bottle ever found and was discovered on an Australian beach by a family and is now on display at a museum after it was verified as authentic.

The discovery happened completely by accident as some friends were walking on a beach on Wedge Island, 112 miles north of Perth.

“My friend Grace Ricciardo and I were walking across the dunes when I saw something sticking out of the sand so I went to take a closer look,” said Tonya Illman, in a statement released by the Western Australian Museum. “It just looked like a lovely old bottle so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase. My son’s girlfriend was the one who discovered the note when she went to tip the sand out.”

The bottle was dropped in the ocean in 1886 by the German ship called the Paula. It was part of an experiment by German scientists to study ocean currents.

“After much digging, we were able to make out the date, the coordinates, the ship’s name and direction of the voyage (Cardiff in Wales to Makassar in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia),” said Mr. Illman. “It was clearly very exciting but we needed a lot more information. We wanted to know if what we had found was historically significant or a very inventive hoax.”

They took the bottle to the Western Australian Museum, where experts confirmed that the bottle was a mid to late-19th-century Dutch gin bottle. The form was also found to be consistent with cheaply-made 19th-century paper, according to the museum.

“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,” explained Dr. Ross Anderson, assistant curator maritime archaeology at the Western Australian Museum, in the statement. “The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message.”

The rare bottle was recently revealed at the museum, where it will be on display to the public.