What Does “Oldest” Mean?
You’d think it would be a pretty straightforward thing to identify the world’s oldest messages in bottles. But “oldest” can mean two things when it comes to MIBs:
- Oldest in terms of date sent (i.e., a 1849 MIB is “older” than a 1900 MIB, even if the 1849 MIB is found after a week, and the 1900 MIB is found after 10 years)
- Oldest in terms of time passed between the sending and finding of the MIB. In this case, the 1900 MIB found after 10 years is “older” than the 1849 MIB that is found after only a week.
When people talk about the oldest messages in bottles, they use only the second meaning of “oldest” here: time passed between sending and finding of the MIB. So that’s the way I’ll use the word in these descriptions of the world’s oldest messages in bottles.
How the World’s Oldest Messages in Bottles Got Older
Not all that long ago, the world’s oldest messages in bottles ever to be found were just a few decades old at most. Of course, there was the odd myth here and there of much older messages in bottles. The myth of Chunosuke Matsuyama comes to mind. But as for real, verified messages in bottles? Few survived more than a couple decades. Bottles were made of various strengths prior to the 20th century, and often their mouths were irregular, making secure sealing difficult.
In the early 20th century, scientific interest in ocean currents blossomed in Europe and America. Suddenly, marine researchers began stuffing bottles with notes by the thousands and tossing them out to sea. Many were made to sink and follow sub-surface currents. These bottles were heavy-duty, built and sealed to withstand the punishing ocean environment.
At the same time, the fad of sending messages in bottles continued among normal folks. The fad blew up in the 19th century after the idea was popularized by Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens. Some of the oldest messages in bottles ever found come from normal folks, out on walks or cruises.
List of the Oldest Messages in Bottles Ever Found
I have collected here the world’s oldest messages in bottles that have been verified, and the stories behind them. Sometimes, very little is known about such old messages in bottles; other times, surprising troves of information are available.
Enjoy this journey through the past! And let me know if there is a story you think I should include here.
- This 108 year old message in a bottle is the oldest message in a bottle ever found.
- 107 year old message in a bottle.
- 101 year old message in a bottle.
- 98 year old message in a bottle.