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World’s oldest message in a bottle recovered in Germany

The world's oldest message in a bottle drifted for more than 108 years. Photo: Winkler family handout
The world’s oldest message in a bottle drifted for more than 108 years. Photo: Winkler family handout
A woman strolling on the beach of the German island of Amrum discovered what is believed to be the world's oldest message in a bottle, which washed ashore after more than 108 years at sea as part of a scientific experiment.

Marianne Winkler, a retired postal worker, found the old bottle floating in the water near the beach and retrieved the relic, according to The Telegraph.

"It's always a joy when someone finds a message in a bottle on the beach," Winkler told Amrum News via The Telegraph. "Where does it come from, who wrote it, and how long has it been traveling on the winds, waves and currents?"

The bottle was clear and the note was evident. In large red letters, it read, "Break the bottle."

"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," Winkler said via The Telegraph.

Inside was a note in English, German and Dutch asking for information on where and when the bottle was found and that it be sent to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England, for a reward of one shilling.

So the couple did just that.

"It was quite a stir when we opened that envelope, as you can imagine," Guy Baker of the Marine Biological Association told The Telegraph.

The staff recognized the bottle as one of the 1,020 released into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 by George Parker Bidder, former president of the Marine Biological Association.

The Winklers posing with a thank you letter and one shilling reward for reporting the message in a bottle. Photo: Winkler family handout
The Winklers posing with a thank-you letter and one-shilling reward for reporting the message in a bottle. Photo: Winkler family handout
"It was a time when they were inventing ways to investigate what currents and fish did," Baker told The Telegraph. "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."

Baker said most of the bottles were found within months and the last one was many years ago; the association had given up hope of any more being found.

The bottle was discovered in April, but the story only now has surfaced, first reported in the Amrum News on Wednesday.

The association is awaiting word from Guinness World Records on whether it is the oldest message in a bottle. The current world record is 99 years, 43 days. That bottle was found in a trawler's net in 2013 and was part of a similar scientific experiment. The Telegraph also reported that a message in a bottle from a German hiker in 1913 was found last year but hadn't yet been recognized.

As promised, Winkler received a thank-you note along with one shilling.

"We found an old shilling," Baker told The Telegraph. "I think we got it on eBay."

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