World’s oldest message in a bottle washes up on German beach

26 Aug 2015

A bottle that was thrown into the sea by British scientists at the start of the last century as part of a project to find out more about deep sea currents washed up on a German beach and is now vying to be recognised as the world’s oldest message in a bottle.

The message in a bottle was found on a beach in the North Sea island of Amrum by retired German couple Horst and Marianne Winkler, The Telegraph reported.

A message inside the bottle read ‘Break the bottle’, which they duly did and inside found a postcard with no date but the promise of the reward of a shilling to whomever returned it.

A message, written in English, German and Dutch, asked whoever found it to give some information about where and when it was found and to return it to the Marine Biological Institute in the UK.

The Winklers did just that and it was then that the story behind the message in a bottle came to light.

The bottle was one of more than a thousand released into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 by marine biologist George Parker Bidder in a project to find out more about deep sea currents.

With the data from bottles that were recovered Bidder was able to prove that the deep sea current flowed from east to west in the North Sea and he also discovered that plaice generally swim against the current.

Research of a similar kind is still carried out today – but now electronic tags rather than bottles are used.

The UK’s Marine Biological Association ensured the Winklers – who actually found the bottle in April but whose story only came to light last week – received the shilling for returning the postcard, as promised.

They now just await confirmation from the Guinness Book of Records as to whether their message in a bottle – which would be nearly 108 years old – can officially be recognised as the oldest ever found. The current officially-recognised oldest message in a bottle spent 99 years and 43 days at sea.

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Main image via Shutterstock

Brigid O Gorman is a former sub-editor of Silicon Republic.