Oldest Message in a Bottle Found on Australian Beach

Oldest Message in a Bottle Found on Australian Beach

Wednesday, 7 March, 2018 - 07:45
AFP file photo of ocean waves.
Asharq Al-Awsat
A message in a bottle written 132 years and thrown from a ship was found on an Australian beach. It has been verified as the world's oldest known missive of its kind.

The rectangular bottle was discovered in January half-buried in sand dunes near Wedge Island, some 160 kilometers north of Perth, the capital of Western Australia state.

It took weeks of sleuthing using Google Translate, online research and archival digging before the unusual find was confirmed as an authentic bottle thrown from a German ship into the Indian Ocean.

The group of six had been driving through the remote west-coast dunes when Grace Ricciardo, the mother of Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo, suggested they stop to take a walk, Kym Illman told AFP Wednesday.

His wife Tonya accompanied her and spotted the object, thinking it was rubbish.

"She thought, 'That looks nice, that'll look good on my bookshelf'," he said.

The group thought they might have picked up something special when they shook the bottle and a damp, rolled-up parchment that looked like a cigarette fell out.

Returning to their nearby holiday home, they opened the note after warming it briefly in an oven.

Illman used his knowledge of basic German to decipher instructions asking the finder to send details of where and when the bottle was found.

Using Google Translate to understand the rest of the text, Illman realized they might be the first people to read the note -- if it was authentic -- since June 12, 1886, according to the date written on it.

The discovery led Illman to plunge into weeks of research and discussions with museums, before settling on the theory it might be a 19th century Dutch gin bottle thrown from the German sailing barque Paula some 950 kilometers from the West Australian coast.

It was one of thousands of bottles used in a German oceanographic experiment run from 1864 to 1933 by the Deutsche Seewarte, or German Naval Observatory, to better understand global ocean currents and find faster, more efficient shipping routes, the Western Australian Museum said.

The find has been authenticated by the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) and Germany's National Meteorological Service (DWD).

"The forms have changed a lot over the years, but in the 1860 period, the form is exactly what you have," the BSH said in a report.

The previous oldest known message in a bottle was found in Germany 108 years and 138 days after it was thrown into the North Sea by a marine biologist in 1906.

The latest bottle to be found on the Australian beach will go on display at the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle.

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