A message in a bottle found on an Australian beach in January has been identified as having been thrown overboard in 1886 from a ship carrying coal from Cardiff to Makassar in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). It was dropped into the sea as part of an experiment to measure oceanic currents.
It was found by chance by a couple visiting the beach on 21 January 2018 and it’s been matched to an entry in the ship’s log of the barque “Paula”, dated 12 June 1886. Its discovery after nearly 132 years, makes it the oldest known message in a bottle ever found. Experts at the Western Australian Museum estimate that it drifted for no more than a year before being buried in sand for well over a century.
The message in the bottle is not at all romantic. It simply states when and where the bottle was thrown overboard (32° 49’ South, 105° 25’ East), the name of the ship, its home port of Elsfleth near Bremen in Germany and details of its voyage. The finder was asked to write the details of where it was found on the back of the message and send it to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg.
The German experiment of getting ships to drop messages in bottles into the sea lasted from 1864 to 1933. It’s thought that the 662 messages recovered were about 9% of those thrown overboard. Before this latest discovery, the last one known to have been found was in 1934.