132 Year Old Message in a Bottle is the Second Oldest Ever Found
The second oldest message in a bottle ever found was 132 years old when it was found in 2018. Upon discovery, it became the world’s oldest message in a bottle, smashing the previous record of 108 years. The 132 year old bottle held the record for about 4 years.
In November of 2022, a 135 year old message in a bottle was discovered under the floor in a home in Edinburgh, Scotland, taking the title of oldest message in a bottle ever found, and knocking this 132 year old message into second place.
There is some debate about whether the 135 year old message in a bottle is, actually, a message in a bottle, or simply a time capsule, since it never went to sea. When I look at it, I see a message inside of a bottle, and that pretty much settles it for me. Bottled messages have been “sent” on dry land since at least the time of the American Civil War, so in my book, bottled messages have never belonged strictly to the sea. That said, it is clearly especially impressive when a letter in a bottle does manage to survive the elements of sea, sun, and sand for the 132 years that this second oldest one did. Anyway, here’s the story!
Second Oldest Message in a Bottle Discovered in Australia
Tonya Illman was simply walking among sand dunes in Western Australia with a friend when she discovered a very old gin bottle that she thought “would be nice for her bookshelf,” according to the BBC. Tonya, her husband Kym, and their son’s girlfriend passed the bottle around, and noticed something inside.
“We took it home and put it in the oven for five minutes to dry up the moisture,” Kym told the BBC. “Then we unrolled it and saw printed writing. We could see the hand written ink at that point, but saw a printed message that asked the reader to contact the German consulate when they found the note.”
The BBC reported that “The Illman family…loaned the find to the Western Australian Museum for the next two years.”
World’s Second Oldest Message in a Bottle Was Used for Ocean Science
Like many of the oldest messages in bottles ever found (including the third oldest and the fifth oldest), the reason this one was dropped overboard was to study ocean currents. The vessel that dropped the message in the Indian Ocean was a German research ship called Paula.
132 Year Old Message Authenticated by Handwriting Sample
Dr. Ross Anderson, Assistant Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australia Museum, told the BBC that “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. The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message.”
In other words, everything written on the message by the person who sent it was also recorded in the ship’s log by the same person! Here’s the WA Museum’s side-by-side comparison of the handwriting:
Also, according to the BBC, “Thousands of bottles were thrown overboard during the 69-year German experiment but to date only 662 messages – and no bottles – had been returned. The last bottle with a note to be found was in Denmark in 1934.”
This means that there could very well be more bottled notes from the same experiment just waiting to be found…
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