Marianne Winkler, a retired postal worker, was on holiday with her husband Horst when she spotted an unusual bottle floating by on the German island Amrum. She said that the clear glass bottle had a note inside bearing only the words: ‘Break the bottle.’ ‘[We] tried to get the message out of the bottle, but there was no chance, so we had to do as it said,’ she said.
When the couple unfurled the note inside, they found a message in English, German and Dutch. It asked the finder to fill in some information on where and when they had found the bottle, before returning it to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, UK. It said whoever did so would be rewarded with one shilling.
Once it had received the card from the couple, the members of the Biological Association were amazed. They realized that the bottle was one of 1,020 released into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 as part of a project to test the strength of currents. It was a time when they were inventing ways to investigate what currents and fish did. 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 – months rather than decades.
True to their word, the association sent a shilling to the couple as the promised payment. Marianne and Horst are now waiting for the Guinness World Records to confirm if it is the oldest message in a bottle ever to be found. It is believed the current record holder is a bottle found after 99 years.
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