World's oldest message in a bottle (probably) discovered

A nearly 132-year-old message-in-a-bottle was found in late January (or was it?).

Here's the story: While walking around Wedge Island in Western Australia, beachcomber Tonya Illman discovered the old bottle in the dunes.

Inside was a tightly-bundled scroll with a piece of twine around it which Tonya and her husband Kym took home to dry out in their oven.

Once the note was dried out enough, they unrolled it and learned the bottle's message, dated June 12, 1886, was in German.

Some people believe the find is part of an elaborate marketing hoax staged by Kym, a known "ambush marketer" in Perth.

Still, according to BBC News, the couple got the note to an expert who confirmed its authenticity:

Dr Ross Anderson, Assistant Curator Maritime Archaeology at the WA Museum, confirmed the find was authentic after consulting with colleagues from Germany and the Netherlands.

"Incredibly, an archival search in Germany found Paula's original Meteorological Journal and there was an entry for 12 June 1886 made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard. The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message," Dr Anderson said.

The handwriting on the journal, and the message in the bottle, also matched, he added.

The bottle was jettisoned in the south-eastern Indian Ocean while the ship was travelling from Cardiff in Wales to Indonesia, and probably washed up on the Australian coast within 12 months, where it was buried under the sand, he wrote in his report.

Thousands of bottles were thrown overboard during the 69-year German experiment but to date only 662 messages – and no bottles – had been returned. The last bottle with a note to be found was in Denmark in 1934.

The message and its bottle will be on display for two years at the Western Australian Museum in Perth, courtesy of the Illman family.

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screenshots via Kym Illman