World's oldest message in a bottle found on Australian beach

Australian couple discover 19th century German letter in old gin bottle.

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David Rosenberg,

Message in a bottle (illustration)
Message in a bottle (illustration)

An old gin bottle found containing a letter on an Australian beach earlier this year is the oldest message in the bottle ever recovered, experts confirmed Tuesday.

In January, Tonya and Kym Illman, from Perth, Australia, chanced upon an old gin bottle which had washed up on a West Australian beach.

"It just looked like a lovely old bottle, so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase," said Tonya, ABC reported.

When Mrs. Illman picked up the bottle, however, a damp note written in German fell out.

The letter inside the bottle was dated June 12th, 1886, making it the oldest message in a bottle ever recovered, beating out the previous record of 108 years.

The letter was brought to the Western Australia Maritime Museum, which after five weeks of research, was able to confirm the veracity of the note.

Researchers say the message in a bottle was part of a decades-long experiment conducted by the German Naval Observatory from 1864 to 1933. As part of the experiment, thousands of messages were dropped into the ocean in bottles at various coordinates, each with notes on the location and date of the drop.