Sands of time: world’s oldest message in a bottle found on Australian beach

The world's oldest-known message in a bottle — a form filled out as part of a German experiment to understand ocean currents — was found on a west Australian beach. Courtesy Kym Illman
Updated 07 March 2018
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Sands of time: world’s oldest message in a bottle found on Australian beach

MELBOURNE: The oldest known message in a bottle was found on an Australian beach 132 years after being thrown from a German ship in the Indian Ocean as part of an experiment to track currents, experts said.
The Dutch gin bottle, with no cork or top, was spotted by Tonya Illman in January in remote sand dunes 180 kilometers north of Perth, the capital of Western Australia state.
Inside, her family discovered a note tightly rolled up and tied with string, carrying the date June 12, 1886, and the name of the ship, Paula.
“We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it, we saw it was a printed form, in German, with very faint German handwriting,” Illman said.
Her husband searched online to find that, in an experiment run from 1864 to 1933 by the Deutsche Seewarte, or German Naval Observatory, ship captains would throw bottles overboard, each with a message giving the date, the ship’s name, its location coordinates, home port and destination.
“It was clearly very exciting, but we needed a lot more information,” said Illman’s husband, Kym. “We wanted to know if what we had found was historically significant or a very inventive hoax.”
The family took their find to the Western Australian Museum, which got experts in Germany and the Netherlands to confirm the bottle was made in Holland in the 19th century, the paper matched the era and the vessel Paula had sailed from Cardiff to Makassar in 1886, as the message stated.
German experts turned up the ship’s journal, with a captain’s entry from June 12, 1886 showing that a drift bottle was thrown overboard. The coordinates, 950 kilometers from Australia’s west coast, matched those on the note.
The handwriting in both journal and note also matched. The find has been authenticated by the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) and Germany’s National Meteorological Service (DWD).
“The forms have changed a lot over the years, but in the 1860 period, the form is exactly what you have,” the BSH said in a report.
Researchers think the bottle probably washed up on the coast within a year of being thrown overboard, to be buried in sand until a storm uncovered it.
The message and the bottle will be on display for two years at the museum in the Australian port city of Fremantle.
“It’s quite stunning, I’ve never experienced anything that corroborates so fully as this,” said Ross Anderson, a specialist in maritime archaeology at the museum.


ISS astronaut drops in on Kraftwerk gig, plays duet from space

Updated 21 July 2018
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ISS astronaut drops in on Kraftwerk gig, plays duet from space

  • Video posted Saturday by the European Space Agency shows German astronaut Alexander Gerst “dropping in” for a live performance
  • Using a tablet computer with a virtual synthesizer, Gerst played a duet of Kraftwerk’s 1978 song “Spacelab”

BERLIN: Kraftwerk fans are used to hearing otherworldly tunes, but the German electronic music pioneers took it to another level at a gig in Stuttgart.
Video posted Saturday by the European Space Agency shows German astronaut Alexander Gerst “dropping in” for a live performance from the International Space Station.
Using a tablet computer with a virtual synthesizer, Gerst played a duet of Kraftwerk’s 1978 song “Spacelab” with the band Friday night to cheers from the audience.

He’s not the first space musician. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and played a duet with the Barenaked Ladies while 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the Earth in 2013.
American astronaut Ron McNair planned to play saxophone from orbit with Jean Michel Jarre in 1986 but died in the Challenger tragedy.