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World’s oldest message in a bottle discovered in Australia


The world’s oldest known message in a bottle has been discovered on a beach in Western Australia.

The incredible find was tossed over the side of the Paula, a German vessel, on June 12, 1886. That makes it 132 years old.

The finder, Tonya Illman, noticed a something in the sand while out walking.

She explained: “It just looked like a lovely old bottle so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase. My son’s girlfriend was the one who discovered the note when she went to tip the sand out.

“The note was damp, rolled tightly and wrapped with string. 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.”

That form named the ship and its coordinates and included text requesting the finder to fill out where it was found and send it to their local German consulate. It was a survey, designed to collect information on the flow of currents around the south Pacific. The Germans conducted these tests across the globe from the mid 1800s until the early 1930s.

The Paula, the ship the bottle originated from

The Illmans took the bottle to expert Dr Ross Anderson, curator of maritime archaeology at the Western Australian Museum, who was astonished by the discovery. After conducting tests that confirmed the age of the bottle and the paper, Dr Anderson got in touch with other researchers in Germany who provided him with scans of the captain’s log from the Paula.

Incredibly, the handwriting matched. Not only that, but the log included a note confirming that a bottle had indeed been thrown overboard that day.

He explained: “Extraordinary finds need extraordinary evidence to support them. 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.”

The bottle will be on display at the museum until 2020.


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