"Hello, we received your message ... after 132 years!"
One of the greatest memories from my childhood’s summer vacations are the long walk along the promenade with mum and dad taking my hands. The scent of the sea, the light breeze that caressed my face, the feeling of the sand beneath my feet and the sound of waves crashing on the rocks are indelible memories from probably the happiest time of my life and my greatest riches.
The promenade was an excuse for me to be looking for looking for the most beautiful shells. I remember I could not resist. I liked digging into the sand to find as much shells as possible and then show them proudly to my friends, as if they were a trophy... You might think they were just shells though, for a 10 year-old girl, this is a real treasure! After all, as a child I was content to just a little, maybe one day I would have found a nice message in the bottle coming from another era or another planet ... This never happened to me, though.
What if you ever find a 132-year-old gin bottle with a real message inside of it while walking on the beach? What if you find out this to be the oldest message in a bottle of all time? What if this all ever happens to you by chance? Well, this came about to a lucky Australian couple who found a note, placed in a bottle and thrown overboard on June 12, 1886 near Wedge Island. The note was out of human hands for 131 years and 223 days!
While taking a walk on a remote beach in Western Australia, a family from Perth discovered what is now believed to be the oldest message in a bottle: a message left in the ocean waves for a good 132 years. It’ a small sheet dated 12 June 1886 and entrusted to the sea by a German ship named Paula.
At first, the Illmans did not understand what this bottle was. They were just intrigued by its strange shape. Then they saw the message inside of it. The paper was really wet so they put it in the oven for five minutes to let it dry. "When we unrolled it ... I saw a printed message asking the reader to contact the German consulate," Mr. Illman said. They immediately realized it was not a fake and took it to experts at the Western Australian Museum.
It was then possible to know a little more about this mysterious bottle and they found out that the message was part of an experiment on the oceanic and maritime routes made by German Naval Observatory at the end of 1800s.
"Incredibly, an archival search in Germany found ship Der 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 found by the Illman family," said Dr. Ross Anderson of Western Australian Museum.
The bottle was jettisoned in the south eastern Indian Ocean while the ship was travelling from Cardiff in Wales to Indonesia, and probably washed up on the Australian coast within 12 months, where it was buried under the sand, he wrote in his report.
What an impressive finding! And thanks to the Illman family who have loaned the find to the Western Australian Museum for the next two years, it can now also be shared with the whole world!