What Does The World's Oldest Message In A Bottle Contain?


In what may sound like a Nicholas Sparks novel, a German couple has found a message bottle - a no-ordinary one since it's been at sea for at least 108 years.

None other than the Guinness Book of World Records has confirmed that the bottle found near the German North Sea coast by Mrs. Marianne Winkler and husband Horst is 108 years, 4 months, and 18 days old. It has therefore beaten the oldest existing record of 99 years and 43 days, which was discovered almost three years ago.

What Does It Say?

Hundreds of bottles containing messages are picked up every year, but while many of the letters enclosed may be more personal - romantic, even - some like the one discovered in Amrum in North Frisian Islands can be scientific related.

During the early years of the twentieth century, a prominent UK marine researcher named George Parker Bidder III, conducted a "citizen science" project.

He wanted to know the flow of the ocean currents and the behavior of the fish, but to achieve that, he sent out more than a thousand of bottle-trailer bottles containing postcards out into the sea from 1904 to 1906.

The postcards contained a very simple message. Whoever gets to have it should fill out information such as the date it's picked up and from which location, and if it was trawled, the finder could send it back to Plymouth Laboratory, where the Marine Biological Association (MBA), which started in 1884, can also be found.

In return, the "discoverer" gets a prize of a shilling.

The Bottle That Traveled Far

The now-famous bottle may have traveled for around 500 kilometers from the UK to the German North Sea in Amrum where the Winklers were spending their holidays almost a year ago.

When they stumbled upon the bottle, they knew it was old. What they weren't aware of was where it came from and, more interestingly, why it had such a unique message. Nevertheless, they decided to follow the instructions and sent the postcard in an envelope back to Plymouth.

The Confusion - and Exhilaration

The incredible story was surprising for the people of MBA. Bidder, who was the association's president from 1939 to 1945, has been dead for more than 50 years. Further, while they know about the experiment and at least 55 percent of the bottles had been returned by fishermen, "some bottles were never returned, assumed to be lost in the open ocean forever," said MBA Communications Officer Guy Baker, who also filled out the application form for Guinness.

MBA has already kept the end of the bargain by giving a shilling it found online to Marianne. Interestingly, the discovery of the bottle proves that not only does the deep sea current of the North Sea move from east to west, but "the percentage of bottles recovered by the trawls did not differ from the percentage of plaice in the same area caught by the trawl at the same time. This meant that Bidder could use the bottles as an instrument for assessing the intensity of trawling because they cannot migrate," MBA wrote.

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