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

PERTH, Australia — In a Police song come to life in an epic way, an Australia woman made history with a find on a beach.

ABC News Australia and the BBC report Tonya Illman was strolling on Wedge Island at the end of January when she spotted what she thought was garbage and decided to pick it up.

Instead, it turned out to be what she called a “lovely old bottle,” and she yanked it out of the sand to bring home to display on her bookcase.

But when her son’s girlfriend saw what she thought was a cigarette inside and dumped it out, it turned out to be a damp piece of paper, rolled up and tied with string, which they took home and put in the oven for a few minutes to dry out.

When they finally unrolled it, they were shocked to see the message in German.

“This bottle was thrown overboard on June 12, 1886 at latitude 32° 49′ South and longitude 105° 25′ from Greenwich East.

“From: Bark Ship Paula, Port: Elsfleth, Captain: D [illegible], On her journey from Cardiff to Macassar.

The finder is requested to send the slip in the bottle to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg or the nearest consulate for the return to the same agency after filling in the information on the back.”

Illman and her husband, Kym, brought the bottle to the Western Australian Museum.

Maritime expert Ross Anderson confirmed the old-time gin bottle had been part of a German Naval Observatory experiment between 1864 and 1933, in which messages in bottles were thrown overboard to study ocean currents.

And in the Paula’s shipping logs, “Incredibly, there was an entry for June 12, 1886, made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard.”

That would make this the oldest message in a bottle at 132 years old; the previous oldest one, according to Guinness, was 108 years old.

The note was preserved despite the bottle having no cork and being partly filled with damp sand.

Anderson explains the bottle’s thick glass and narrow opening left the paper relatively unscathed. (This woman got a reply to her message in a bottle nearly a quarter-century later.)

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