The world’s oldest message-in-a-bottle thrown into the sea by British scientists has washed ashore in Germany – more than a CENTURY later.
The historic missive was sent by Brit George Parker Bidder between 1904 and 1906 – along with a postcard and the promise of a shilling to the finder.
It was found by Marianne Winkler, a retired post office worker, who was holidaying on the North Sea island of Amrum, off the north coast of Germany.
Now the message has been sent back to its return address, the Marine Biological Association (MBA) in Plymouth, Devon.
George Parker Bidder was president of the MBA 1939-1945, and released over 1,000 bottles between 1904 and 1906.
Reports say they were trawled up by fishermen at the rate of 55 per cent per annum.
The bottles were released as part of a project to find out about deep sea currents, and were specially designed to float just above the sea bed.
With the data from the bottles that were found, Bidder was able to prove for the first time that the deep sea current flowed from east to west in the North Sea.
He also discovered that plaice generally swim against the deep current – valuable commercial information for the fishing trade.
Out of the 1,020 sent out, some were never returned and were assumed by scientists to be lost in the open ocean forever.
The message, written in English, German and Dutch, asked the recipient to smash the bottle, and fill in some information on where and how they found it on a card inside.
Mrs Winkler said: “It’s always a joy when someone finds a message-in-a-bottle on the beach.
“Where does it come from, who wrote it, and how long has it been travelling on the winds, waves and currents.
“My husband, Horst, carefully tried to get the message out of the bottle, but there was no chance, so we had to do as it said.
“We did as it asked, and the story took its course.”
The couple filled out all the details, and send the postcard back to Plymouth in an envelope, to avoid it getting damaged in the post.
Guy Baker, of the Marine Biological Association, said: “It was quite a stir when we opened that envelope, as you can imagine.
“It was a time when they were inventing ways to investigate what currents and fish did.
“The association still does similar research today, but we have access to technology they didn’t have, such as electronic tags.
“Many of the bottles were found by fishermen trawling with deep sea nets.
“Others washed up on the shore, and some were never recovered.
“Most of the bottles were found within a relatively short time, we’re talking month’s rather than decades.
“It’s not as if they come in dribs and drabs. I don’t know when one was last sent in, but I don’t think it was for very many years.
“We think this bottle was one of the last batch sent out, in 1906, so that would make it 108-years-old.
It is thought that the postcard Mrs Winkler discovered may be the oldest message-in-a-bottle ever found.
Mr Baker said: “We’re still waiting for confirmation from the Guinness Book of Records.”
The current record holder spent 99 years and 43 days at sea, and was released in 1914 as part of a similar research experiment.
The discovery of an older message-in-a-bottle was claimed in Germany last year, but has not yet been recognised.
But Dibber’s message-in-a-bottle would beat both of them.