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Communication thrown into sea by Plymouth biologist in 1906 and found by German woman confirmed as oldest in the world.
You remember this Sting song?
Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair
I’ll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle
The story from the last days remind it as much as possible.
When the distinguished marine biologist threw his message in a bottle into the sea, asking whoever found it to contact him, he wasn’t expecting a speedy response. Which is just as well, because it took just over 108 years – now officially confirmed by Guinness World Records as the oldest such message in the world. The German woman who found it has been given the reward promised in 1908, by the scientific institution which has inherited the debt of honour: a shilling.
Inside she could see a message reading “break the bottle” but she and her husband Horst tried and failed to get the message out without destroying its container. Eventually they extracted a postcard with a message in English, German and Dutch, asking for it to be returned to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, Devon. The Winklers could see it was old, but had no idea how old as the card was undated. They duly followed the instructions to fill in the date and where it was found, then put the card in an envelope to preserve it and posted it off, copying the printed address to GP Bidder.
The association, founded in 1884, still exists and is an internationally renowned marine research institution. Although there was astonishment when the post arrived, Bidder’s name was still familiar in Plymouth, as in a remarkably long working life he had served as president of the association between 1939-45. He died in 1954 aged 91. His messages in bottles helped him prove for the first time that the deep sea current in the North Sea flowed from east to west.