The message asks the reader to answer a survey and send it back. Unfortunately for the sender, the message was received 132 years too late.
On a beach some 180 kilometres north of Perth in Australia, a woman named Tonya Illman was walking by the shore when she found a bottle half-buried in the sand.
“It just looked like a lovely old bottle so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase,” said Illman.
Incredibly, the note inside was in good condition, despite the bottle having no cork or cap to seal it from the water.
“The note was damp, rolled tightly and wrapped with string. We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it we saw it was a printed form, in German, with very faint German handwriting on it,” added Illman.
The Illmans then brought the message in a bottle to the Western Australian Museum, which deemed the items as legit.
Based on the museum’s findings, the bottle was an 1886 Dutch gin bottle and the paper was the kind commonly used in the 19th century. The bottle, along with a thousand others like it, was thrown into the Indian Ocean on 12 June 1886 as part of a 69-year-long German study on ocean currents and faster shipping routes.
The message asks whoever found it to answer a simple survey regarding their location, then send it back to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg.
Interestingly, of the 663 message slips that got returned to Hamburg, none of the bottles they came with have ever been retrieved. Except for one: the now-world’s-oldest-message-in-a-bottle.