German Message in Bottle Found 132 Years Later in Australia

On This Site

Current Events

Share This Page

Follow This Site

Follow SocStudies4Kids on Twitter

March 6, 2018

An Australian family has found the world's oldest known message in a bottle. And 132 years later, the message inside could still be read.

The family from were walking on a remote beach in West Australia on January 21 when they found the bottle, which they assumed was trash. Determined to take it off the beach, Tonya Illman picked it up and saw right away that it was something more than trash. At first, she thought that it might look nice on a bookshelf in her home. But when she opened the bottle, she discovered what looked like very old paper, tied with very old string.

Oldest message in a bottle

Illman tried to undo the string, but it wouldn't give. She and her family took bottle and note home and warmed the note in an oven to dry it out (while also making sure that it didn't burn). Once warm and dry, the note proved easy to unroll.

Handling the note carefully, Illman saw on the note a printed message asking whoever was reading the words to contact the German consulate. The date on the note in the bottle was June 12, 1886.

The Illman family did some research of their own and then took their bottle and note to the Western Australian Museum, where experts, after consulting with other experts in Germany and the Netherlands, confirmed that the bottle was genuine. It was, in fact, dropped from the Paula, a German ship conducting an experiment on shipping routes, in the southeastern Indian Ocean. Maritime records included an entry from the ship's captain's meteorological journal for that exact date and stating that a bottle had been dropped overboard.

At the time, the ship was traveling from Wales to Indonesia. Archaeologists estimated that the bottle traveled more than 600 miles at sea.

The German experiment involved tossing thousands of bottles off ships from 1864 to 1933. Each bottle contained notations of the date and the ship's name and coordinates at the time of dispersal. A total of 662 messages have been retrieved, the last one in Denmark in 1934.

The newly found bottle and note will soon be on display at the Western Australian Museum.

The Illmans' find was the oldest known message in a bottle yet found. The previous record was one written 108 years ago and found in 2014 in Germany.

Search This Site

Custom Search

Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2018
David White