A message on a postcard inside a glass bottle thrown into the sea by a Plymouth biologist in 1906 and recovered in Germany has been confirmed by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest message-in-a-bottle.
The historic message was sent by George Parker Bidder between 1904 and 1906 – along with a postcard and the promise of a shilling to the finder.
It was eventually picked up in April last year by retired post office worker Marianne Winkler who was holidaying on the island of Amrum, off the north coast of Germany.
The message inside was sent back to its return address, the Marine Biological Association (MBA) in Plymouth, Devon.
This week, Guinness confirmed that it now held the world record for the oldest ever message of its kind to be discovered.
Spokesperson Amber-Georgina Gill said: ‘The oldest message in a bottle spent 108 years and 138 days at sea after being released by the Marine Biological Association (UK) in the North Sea (52° 4.8′ N; 003° 37’ E), on 30 November 1906.
‘The message was found at Amrum Island, Germany, on 17 April 2015.’
It beat the previous record holder, which had spent 99 years and 43 days at sea and was released in 1914 as part of a similar research experiment.
Mr Bidder was president of the MBA 1939-1945 and released over 1,000 bottles between 1904 and 1906 as part of his research. Reports say they were trawled up by fishermen at the rate of 55 per cent a year.
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 have never returned and are assumed by scientists to be lost in the ocean forever.
The record-breaking 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.
The couple who found it sent the postcard to Plymouth in an envelope to avoid it getting damaged in the post and, true to its word, the MBA found a shilling on ebay and sent it back as a reward.
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, communications director at the Marine Biological Association, said: ‘It’s amazing to actually hold the postcard and think it’s been floating around the North Sea for 108 years.
‘It is great to get it back – it is one of the earliest examples of a citizen science project and will now go on display somewhere.’
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