Lonely Planet Writer

World's oldest message found after 111 years in North Sea

What is believed to be the oldest message in a bottle ever found has washed up – almost 111 years after it was tossed into the North Sea.

eBay auctions off world's oldest message in a bottle. Image by Wendy / CC BY-SA 2.0
111-year-old message in a bottle has washed up on a German island. Image by Wendy / CC BY-SA 2.0 Image by Wendy / CC BY-SA 2.0

It was one of a number of bottles UK scientist George Parker Bidder put to sea with the simple instruction that anyone finding them should send him word back at the Marine Biological Association of Britain where he worked.

Dr Bidder's promised in 1904 to pay a shilling for every bottle returned was honoured by his old work place - 111 years later.
Dr Bidder’s promised in 1904 to pay a shilling for every bottle returned was honoured by his old work place – 111 years later. Image by Michiel2005 / CC BY 2.0

Well over a century later, the relic was washed up on Amrum Island, just off the German coast.

The latest discovery was made by Marianne Winkler who did as Dr Parker instructed on the bottle by breaking it open.

The card inside, written in English, Dutch and German, simply asked that the finder would post it back to England – with the reward of a shilling if they did so successfully.

Mrs Winkler, told her local news website Amrum News that she got great joy from the find on the beach.

She said herself and her husband were on holiday in the area when they discovered the bottle. She sent it back to Dr Bidder’s old research unit, which kept his promise by sending her an old British shilling.

Marine biologist, Dr Bidder, released more than 1000 bottles with messages into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 because he wanted to study the way the currents flowed in the seas.

He designed the weight in the bottles so that they would float just above the sea bed. This unusual method is explained by his interest in deep sea currents rather than surface flows.

A great proportion of the bottles washed up within months of release along the British coastline while others were discovered in fishing nets.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Guinness World Records lists the current oldest message in a bottle at just 99 years old. That bottle was discovered west of the Shetland Islands two years ago.