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101 Year Old Message in a Bottle

101 Year Old Message in a Bottle Pulled from Fishing Net

Over the years, Konrad Fischer, skipper of the German fishing vessel Maria, has found some strange and alarming things in his fishing nets, including WWII water mines and, once, a corpse, according to The Local DE. But the veteran fisherman had never found anything like the bottle he pulled from his nets in March 2014: a 101 year old message in a bottle, signed by a man named Richard Platz.

101 Year Old Message in a Bottle: Konrad Fischer

Photo: Uwe Paesler/AFP-Getty

“I had it in my hand, but then a colleague told me there was something in it,” Fischer told the Kieler Nachrichten newspaper. Apparently, he nearly threw it back in the water! “When I saw the date,” he added, “I got really excited.”

“If the message is really this old,” Fischer went on, “maybe a museum would be interested.”

Well, a museum was interested–my friends at the Internationales Maritimes Museum in Hamburg! As a matter of fact, I visited the museum in 2015 and got to see the message in a bottle in person.

101 year old message in a bottle: Display inside the International Maritimes Museum Hamburg.

Richard Platz’s message in a bottle, known as a “Flaschenpost,” or “bottle mail” in German. Display in Internationales Maritimes Museum, Hamburg. Photo: Tante Andrea / Treibholzeffekt.com

101 year old message in a bottle: Clint Buffington with Richard Platz's message in a bottle inside the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg

I obviously had to get a photo of myself with this incredible piece of history! That’s Richard Platz’s 101 message in a bottle on display in Internationales Maritimes Museum, Hamburg. Photo: Tante Andrea / Treibholzeffekt.com

101 year old message in a bottle: The post card, including postage, that Richard Platz wrote a message on and sent in 1913.

Close up of the 101 year old message in a bottle. Photo: Tante Andrea / Treibholzeffekt.com

101 year old message in a bottle: The bottle, made in Kiel, Richard Platz used to send his message in 1913.

Close up of the bottle Richard Platz used. Photo: Tante Andrea / Treibholzeffekt.com

Notice how the bottle is embossed with the word “Kiel”? Kiel is a northern port town in Germany on the Baltic sea. Incredibly, the message in this Kiel bottle was found not far from the city. When you look at the size of the Baltic sea and consider that the bottle was floating around the sea floor for a 101 years, it’s just incredible that it was found so close to “home”.

Granddaughter of Message Sender is Found

According to The Local DE, the Internationales Maritimes Museum in Hamburg determined that Richard Platz’s granddaughter, Angela Erdmann, was alive and well in Berlin. Of course, she was blown away by the find.

101 year old message in a bottle: Angela Erdmann holds her grandfather's message in a bottle

Angela Erdmann, holding her grandfather’s bottle, with Peter Stamm, founder of the Internationales Maritimes Museum, Hamburg. Photo: Verfuhrer Berlin.

“It was almost unbelievable,” she told the German news agency DPA. “[It] was a pretty moving moment,” Erdmann said of getting to hold the message and bottle. “Tears rolled down my cheeks.”

Angela Erdmann’s grandfather, Richard Platz, had sent the message in a bottle in 1913 while on a nature appreciation hike. He was just 20 years old. Unfortunately, Richard Platz died in 1946 at age 54, before he got a chance to meet his granddaughter Angela.

101 year old message in a bottle: Richard Platz

Richard Platz around 27 years old. Photo: Angela Erdmann and family.

But the most intriguing thing about this 101 year old message in a bottle is that some of it is illegible. Like many of the messages I have found, the ink is faded, and researchers hope to eventually piece together the rest of the message. What else is hidden in those invisible lines? There must be more to the story. I have been very lucky to reveal hidden writing through careful work, like with this message, and this one, and this one.

Who was Richard Platz?

Although Angela never met her grandfather, she took this opportunity to get to know him. In an interview with Verfuhrer Berlin, she shared what she learned. I’m translating here, so this may not be perfect…please submit corrections in comments:

“He was the father of my mother Sieglinde and her sister Gudrun, who was born in 1920. My mother was born in 1921. He loved his family above all and tried to educate them in terms of mutual love, understanding and tolerance.

101 year old message in a bottle: Richard Platz with fiance Ella Bromberg

Engagement photo of Ella Bromberg and Richard Platz. Photo: Angela Erdmann and family.

101 year old message in a bottle: Richard and Ella Platz rowing.

Ella and Richard Platz in the nearest boat, off to row a bit. Photo: Angela Erdmann and family.

101 year old message in a bottle: Ella and Richard Platz rowing with daughters.

Ella and Richard Platz rowing with daughters Gudrun and Sieglinde. Photo: Angela Erdmann and family.

He was in World War I, was wounded, but recovered. But he developed heart disease. In 1946 he died of appendicitis during the reconstruction.

Only now [with help from family] did I find out who my grandfather really was: a great man. He organized walks for young people (hikers) all over Germany by bike or on foot, was a member of the Social Democratic Party, worked in the Chamber of Culture, and was responsible for the school library, loved literature, was a writer himself and an outspoken family man who adored his family. And, from the very beginning onward, he moved with his small family through Germany, first on foot and then mainly with a canoe, where all had to paddle diligently. Later they even had a small outboard motor, which somewhat simplified the travel. Thousands of kilometers they traveled from Berlin to the Baltic Sea, to East Prussia to the home of my grandmother Ella, his wife, or to the Thuringian Forest. Mostly they spend the night in a small tent.

101 year old message in a bottle: Platz family camping.

Ella Platz with daughters Gudrun and Sieglinde, camping in Germany. Photo: Angela Erdmann and family. Taken by Richard Platz.

[The message in a bottle] came at just the right time, because after my crash in 2010 I had lost everything I had laboriously built up over many years. I was sick for a long time and only since mid-2013 are things going slowly back uphill. With the help of dear friends I am starting again now and his message in a bottle tells me that I’m on the right track.”

101 year old message in a bottle: Ella and Richard Platz in 1945.

Ella and Richard Platz in 1945, a year before he died. Photo: Angela Erdmann and Family.

So there you have it–the 101 year old message in a bottle. For a brief time, it was the world’s oldest message in a bottle. Like so many bottled notes, it demonstrates that same old incredible power of messages in bottles to “reunite” families and bring to life family history that would otherwise have been lost. Magic.

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