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World's Oldest Known Message in a Bottle Washed Ashore in Australia

The 132-year-old message washed ashore

World's Oldest Known Message in a Bottle Washed Ashore in Australia
(Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The world's oldest known message in a bottle washed ashore on a West Australian beach after 132 years adrift at sea.

In 1886, a message in a bottle was tossed overboard in the Indian Ocean and has now made landfall, according to a report from ABC Perth in Australia.

"Oldest-known message in a bottle found on WA beach, 132 years after being tossed overboard in Indian Ocean"


Whilst enjoying a walk along the sandy shores just north of Wedge Island, Australia, Tonya Illman noticed something unusual sticking out of the sand. "It just looked like a lovely old bottle, so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase," Illman told ABC Perth.

"My son's girlfriend was the one who discovered the note when she went to tip the sand out."

Inside was a printed form in German. "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," Illman said.

Oldest Message In A Bottle - Discovering the

The document, dated June 12, 1886, came from a German schooner called "Paula." The note was part of German research into ocean currents. "Between 1864 until 1933, thousands of bottles were thrown overboard from German ships, each containing a form on which the captain would write the date, the ship's coordinates and details about its route," ABC Perth explained. "It was part of an experiment by the German Naval Observatory to better understand global ocean currents."


Instructions on the note told whomever found it to "return it, either to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg or the nearest German Consulate." Illman brought it to the Western Australian Museum. Assistant curator of maritime archaeology Ross Anderson conducted a slew of investigations, and "determined it was a mid-to-late 19th-century Dutch gin bottle, and the form inside was written on cheaply-made 19th-century paper," wrote ABC Perth.

"Incredibly, there was an entry for June 12, 1886, made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard."

"Extraordinary finds need extraordinary evidence to support them," Dr Anderson said. "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 and its message will be displayed at the Western Australian Museum for two years, thanks to a generous loan by the Illman family.