A 108-year-old postcard offering a shilling in exchange for its return to an English marine research institute is now officially the world’s oldest message in a bottle after being recovered in Germany.
The Plymouth Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association (MBA), which received the card, said this week that the bottle had smashed the old record of 99 years and 43 days in the Guinness World Records. It was discovered by retired German postal worker Marianne Winkler while on holiday on Germany’s North Frisian islands, 108 years and 138 days after it was thrown into the North Sea off the English coast by distinguished marine biologist George Parker Bidder on November 30, 1906.
Winkler followed the message inside reading ‘break the bottle’, and found a postcard inside asking to be returned to the MBA in Plymouth, on England’s south coast. ‘The postcard asked the finder to fill out information about where the bottle was found, if it was trawled up, what the boat’s name was, and asked once the postcard was completed for it to be returned to a George Parker Bidder in Plymouth for a reward of one shilling,’ said Guy Baker of the MBA. When Winkler wrote a letter addressed to Bidder ‘our receptionist was somewhat confused’. Bidder released a total of 1,020 bottles between 1904 and 1906.
He found that many bottles that sank to the bottom of the southern North Sea washed up in England, while floating bottles moved towards mainland Europe.
From this, he deduced for the first time that the North Sea’s deep sea current flowed from east to west. The MBA is still an internationally renowned research institution, and Bidder served as its president between 1939-45 before his death in 1954, aged 91. Honouring its promise, the MBA forwarded a thank you letter and an old shilling piece to the finder.