Source: Positive News

When a German fisherman saw an old brown beer bottle floating in the Baltic Sea in March, he could never have predicted that it was more than a century old. Even greater was his surprise when he found out there was a message in the bottle, dated 1913.

The story gets more intriguing, as the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg analysed the worn postcard hidden inside the beer bottle and discovered that it was written by baker’s soon Richard Platz. Though much of the ink had faded, a return postal address was still readable. The museum managed to track down the sender’s 62- year-old granddaughter Angela Erdmann in Berlin.

Erdmann never knew her grandfather, and was “very surprised” when a genealogical researcher knocked on her door to deliver the message from her grandfather, who was 20 years old when he threw the bottle into the sea. “He included two stamps from that time that were also in the bottle, so the finder would not incur a cost. But he had not thought it would take 101 years”, she told the Guardian.

Researchers believe it is the oldest message in a bottle ever found. The Guinness World Record for the previous oldest one dated from 1914 and was discovered after 98 years. The bottle and message are on display in the International Maritime Museum Hamburg museum, where experts will attempt to recover the full message.

“In our age of high speed communications and great uncertainty, time stands still for a moment.”

Bild Hamburg

Photo: The 101-year old bottle in the museum. Courtesy of IMMH

Holger von Neuhoff, curator at the museum, believes that the bottle offers an opportunity to rethink our modern-day society: “Why are people all over the world moved by a plain, handwritten postcard in a bottle? Because in our age of high speed communications and great uncertainty, time stands still for a moment”, he told me. “It is a message from the past, reaching us now. For many visitors in our museum, this was a moment of reflection on our history. A short journey back in time, combined with the question: what will people in 101 years think about us?”

Despite rapid digitalisation, messages in a bottle seem to not have lost their charm. In Ireland, 9- year old Oisin Millea found a bottle containing a message in French two years ago, which turned out to have been thrown into the sea by two Canadian girls in Quebec eight years previously. The story captured the media’s attention on both sides of the Atlantic and Tourism Quebec flew Oisin and his family out to meet the message senders.

Message discoveries from around the world increasingly get reported on social media too. Fiene van Loock’s 8- year old son Yore was on a weekend trip to the Dutch island of Texel last May when he decided to release a message in a bottle. Half a year later, he received a post card from Denmark, where his bottle had washed ashore. His mum tweeted a picture using the hashtag #flessenpost (Dutch for #messageinabottle), proving that ‘good old’ communication can indeed blend with the new.

“It was such a joyful surprise that the message had reached someone, and brilliant news for my son”, says Fiene van Loock. “The founders turned out to be a German family who happened to be on holiday in Denmark. We have since exchanged pictures and we might go visit them one day. It was the first time we’d sent a message in a bottle, but definitely not the last. Some more of these kinds of spontaneous actions would make the world a happier place.”