Message in bottle drifted for 132 years

Central Station | 8 Mar 2018

A message in a bottle written 132 years ago and found on an Australian beach 160 kilometers north of Perth in January is the oldest known missive of its kind.

After weeks of sleuthing it was found to have been thrown from a German ship into the Indian Ocean on June 12, 1886.

The finders were among six people walking in the remote west coast dunes. Kym Illman said his wife Tonya spotted the rectangular bottle half buried in sand and thought it would look good on a bookshelf.

But it was realized the walkers had something special when they shook the bottle and a damp roll of parchment fell out. At their nearby holiday home they opened the note after warming it in an oven.

Illman used a knowledge of German to read a message for the finder to send details of where and when the bottle was found.

Later it was found to be a 19th-century Dutch gin bottle thrown from the German sailing barque Paula 950 kilometers off West Australia as part of a study of sea currents. And a search in Germany found Paula's original journal with an entry by the captain for June 12, 1886, recording the bottle thrown overboard.

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