A couple from Perth, Australia, did not expect to make a historical discovery while strolling on a secluded beach in the area. Nearly 132 years after being thrown into the sea, the oldest message found in a bottle known in the world was unearthed by the couple.
Tonya and Kym Illman told the BBC they were walking on Wedge Island on the west coast of Australia at the end of January when they saw what they thought was waste.
Tonya Illman then spotted the old bottle, thinking that she would marry her decoration, and it was by picking it up that the family realized that a message was inside.
After emptying the bottle of sand and drying the paper, they say they were stunned by seeing the date of June 12, 1886 on the letter still in good condition.
The couple confided their find to the experts of the Museum of Western Australia, who authenticated it.
The letter, written in German, explains that the bottle was thrown over the German ship Paula, 950 kilometers from the west coast of Australia, as part of a study on ocean currents.
The message is to return the form on the reverse side to the Hamburg Naval Observatory or the nearest German consulate, indicating where and when the bottle was found.
The discovery confirmed by experts
Curator of the Museum’s Maritime Archeology Department, Ross Anderson, worked with teams in Germany and the Netherlands to authenticate the discovery.
The date and the geographical coordinates entered in the letter correspond to the data of the archives of the logbook of the commander of the boat Paula found in Germany.
Ross Anderson also points out that the writing of the letter and that of the journal correspond.
The experts were also able to establish that it was a bottle of Dutch gin and cheap paper dating from the second half of the 19 th century.
In his report, Ross Anderson believes that the bottle reached the Australian coast within 12 months after being launched into the sea, and that it was buried by the sand, which allowed its exceptional preservation.
For nearly 70 years, to the late 19 th century and the turn of the 20 th century, hundreds of bottles were thrown into the sea as part of a study on ocean marine currents conducted by the German Naval Observatory .
So far, some 662 messages had been returned, but no bottles had been found.
The previous record of the oldest message was held by a message that had taken 108 years to be found after being thrown into the sea.
The Illman family has lent for two years its discovery at the Museum of Western Australia, where it will be exhibited.
Rhonda Speechley is a seasoned journalist with nearly 12 years under her belt. While studying journalism at University of Melbourne, Rhonda found a passion for finding local stories. As a contributor to News Australia Today, Rhonda mostly covers human interest pieces.