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World’s oldest message in a bottle found off the coast of Scotland

Last April, a fisherman off the coast of the Shetland Islands in Scotland pulled a bottle out of the water. Inside was a 98 year old piece of paper, making it the oldest message in a bottle ever found.

"Please state where and when this card was found, and then put it in the nearest Post Office," read the message. "You will be informed in reply where and when it was set adrift. Our object is to find out the direction of the deep currents of the North Sea."

The message in a bottle found by Andrew Leaper—certified by Guinness World Records on August 30 as the oldest ever recovered—belonged to a century-old science experiment. To study local ocean currents, Capt. C. Hunter Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation set bottle number 646B adrift, along with 1,889 others, on June 10, 1914.

“Drift bottles gave oceanographers at the start of the last century important information that allowed them to create pictures of the patterns of water circulation in the seas around Scotland,” Marine Scotland Science’s Bill Turrell explained in a statement.

Turrell’s Aberdeen-based government agency still keeps and updates Captain Brown’s log. According to Turrell, Leaper’s discovery—plucked just 9 miles (15 kilometers) from where Brown released it—is the 315th bottle recovered from that experiment. Each one, Turrell explained, was “specially weighted to bob along the seabed,” hopefully to be scooped up by a trawler or to eventually wash up on shore.

Oddly enough, the previous record—a message in a bottle dating to 1917—was set in 2006 by Mark Anderson, a friend of Leaper’s who was sailing the same ship, the Copious. “It was an amazing coincidence,” Leaper said in a statement. “It’s like winning the lottery twice.”


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