A Spectacular Message in a Bottle

I =Jonathan Pearlman, in The Telegraph, 6 March 2018, with title Oldest message in a bottle found after 132 years”

The world’s oldest known message in a bottle – thrown off a German ship on June 12, 1886 – has been found by a family on a remote beach  in Australia after their car became stuck in the sand. The message was written in German on paper which was bound and tied with a string and kept in a nineteenth-century Dutch gin bottle. The note stated it was thrown off the sailing barque Paula, about 600 miles off coast of Western Australia.

 The bottle was found on a remote beach 100 miles north of Perth CREDIT: KYMILLMAN.COM

It was found 132 years later by Tonya Illman, who spotted an object sticking out of the sand while walking with her family near Wedge Island, 100 miles north of Perth.  “It just looked like a lovely old bottle, so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase,” she told ABC News. Ms Illman turned the bottle over and a damp piece of paper tipped out.

“My son’s girlfriend was the one who discovered the note when she went to tip the sand out,” she said. “We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it we saw it was a printed form, in German, with very faint German handwriting on it.”

The family took their find to Ross Anderson, a maritime archaeology expert at the Western Australian Museum, who confirmed the gin and paper were authentic. He then contacted colleagues in Germany and the Netherlands who tracked down handwriting samples from the captain’s entries in the ship’s meteorological journal.

“Incredibly, there was an entry for June 12, 1886, made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard,” Dr Anderson told ABC News. “The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message. The handwriting is identical in terms of cursive style, slant, font, spacing, stroke emphasis, capitalisation and numbering style.”

From the 1860s, the German Naval Observatory ran an experiment to examine ocean currents in which it urged captains to toss bottles overboard containing a form which recorded the date, the ship’s coordinates and details about its route.

Ms Illman has donated the discovery to the Western Australian Museum. The second-oldest bottle to be found was 108 years old.

II = Item in The Guardian, 6 March 2018, entitled “World’s oldest message in a bottle found by beachwalker in Australia”

The world’s oldest message in a bottle has been found on a beach in Western Australia by a couple who thought it might “look good on a bookshelf”. Tonya Illman found the 132-year-old gin bottle in the dunes near Wedge Island in January. Her husband, Kym Illman, told Guardian Australia she initially thought it was rubbish but picked it up because it had distinct, raised lettering and would be at home on their bookshelf.

Inside, she found a roll of paper printed in German and dated to 12 June 1886, which was authenticated by the Western Australian Museum.“It was an absolute fluke. It won’t get better than than this,” said husband Kym Illman.

The bottle had been thrown overboard from the German sailing ship Paula in 1886 as it crossed the Indian Ocean, 950km from the Australian coast, according to Ross Anderson, the museum’s assistant curator of maritime archaeology. At the time, German ships were conducting a 69-year experiment that involved throwing thousands of bottles into the sea to track ocean currents.

Each message was marked with the ship’s coordinates, the date, and the name of the ship, which Anderson used to verify the message.

Details from the Illmans’ message matched Paula’s maritime records, and Anderson also compared handwriting samples with captain’s entries in Paula’s meteorological journal. “Incredibly, there was an entry for June 12, 1886, made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard,” Anderson said.

His finding was confirmed by experts at the German Naval Observatory. The previous record for oldest message in a bottle was 108 years.

Kym Illman said that after bringing it home the damp and ancient paper was put in the oven for five minutes to dry it out. He added: “I have a basic understanding of German and it said could the finder please plot the coordinates it was found, and the date it was found, and send it back.”

Of the thousands jettisoned, 662 other messages from the same German experiment have been found and returned before the latest discovery. The most recent was found in 1934.

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