The oldest message in a bottle, thrown off a German ship in the Indian Ocean in 1886, has been found on a beach 110 miles north of Perth, Australia. The bottle, in remarkably good condition, was authenticated by German and Australian authorities.
The bottle was found by Tonya Illman, who was walking along the shore of Wedge Island, in Western Australia. She was picking up debris, and saw the bottle, with a tightly rolled message inside. The message paper was wet, so she took it home and put it in her oven to dry out. When she unfurled it later, she saw neatly printed German on both sides.
She contacted the Western Australia Maritime Museum. They, in turn, contacted the German Naval Observatory, who tracked down old shipping records.
The logbook of the German ship Paula said a bottle was thrown overboard on June 12, 1886, as part of a larger German effort to track ocean currents. The Paula was about 590 miles west of Australia at the time. The handwriting on the message, giving the date and the ship’s coordinates, matched the handwriting in the logbook from “Captain O. Diekmann.”
When Ms Illman found the bottle, it did not have a cap, so the authorities assume the cap came off after the bottle was washed ashore, probably after a recent cyclone.