A family walking along the beach in Australia made an incredible discovery. Little did they know that their discovery was a record-setting historic find.
While walking across sand dunes in Western Australia, Tonya Illman spotted something sticking out of the sand.
“It just looked like a lovely old bottle, so I picked it up thinking it might look good on my bookcase,” she said.
She realized it was a little more than just a bottle when a rolled up piece of paper tied up in string fell out of the bottle.
“My son’s girlfriend was the one who discovered the note when she went to tip the sand out,” said Illman. “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 message was dated June 12, 1886, and stated that it was thrown overboard from a German ship about 600 miles off the Australian coast.
The Illmans conducted some research online on their find and came to the conclusion that they had either made a historic discovery or were the victims of an elaborate hoax.
Fortunately for them, it was the former rather than the latter.
Between 1864 and 1933, it was common practice for the captains of German ships to throw bottles containing a form with the date, ship’s coordinates, and route details overboard.
Why did they do this? The German Naval Observatory was interested in learning more about global ocean currents, so they devised this message in a bottle experiment in order to find out how ocean currents flowed.
On the back of each form, they asked the finder to write when and where they found the bottle and send it back to the Naval Observatory in Hamburg, Germany or the nearest German Consulate.
The Illmans took their discovery to the Western Australian Museum and gave it to Dr. Ross Anderson, the assistant curator of maritime archaeology. After a series of investigations, Anderson determined the contents to be of 19th century origin, but further study was needed.
Anderson contacted colleagues in Germany and the Netherlands for further evaluation. After cross-examining the form with other similar documents, they arrived at the conclusion that this indeed was an authentic and genuine discovery.
They even found a log written in the Paula’s journal by the ship’s captain that matched the exact date and location of the form in the bottle stating that a bottle was thrown overboard.
“The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message,” said Anderson. “The handwriting is identical in terms of cursive style, slant, font, spacing, stroke emphasis, capitalization, and numbering style.”
Since it was discovered 132 years after it was tossed overboard, this makes it the oldest-known message in a bottle in the world. The previous record was a 108-year-old bottle.
The bottle will be on display in the Western Australia Museum for the next two years.
Have you ever found a message in a bottle, or sent one out to sea? Let us know in the comments!
In other news, a prisoner that was thought to be dead came “back to life” on the autopsy table! Read the full story in the next article below!