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.


Prince Harry raises Invictus Games flag over Sydney Harbor

Updated 19 October 2018
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Prince Harry raises Invictus Games flag over Sydney Harbor

  • The sporting event, founded by Prince Harry in 2014, starts on Saturday
  • Prince Harry and his wife, American former actress Meghan Markle, will attend the opening and closing games ceremonies.

SYDNEY: Prince Harry scaled the Sydney Harbor Bridge on Friday to raise a flag marking the arrival of the Invictus Games, his brainchild and the focus of his current royal tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, starts on Saturday. It gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball and to find inspiration to recover.
The fact that the Duchess of Sussex never planned to climb the world’s tallest steel arch bridge with her husband had fueled speculation that she is pregnant. The speculation was confirmed on Monday when Harry and the former Meghan Markle announced that their first child is due in the northern spring.
Harry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, four members of the Australian team and the widow of an Australian veteran climbed more than 1,000 steps up the back of an arch to raise the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 flag.
“The Sydney Harbor Bridge is an Australian icon and I can think of no better place to raise the ... flag,” Morrison said in a statement.
During the descent, Harry hugged fellow climber Gwen Cherne, a games ambassador whose husband Peter Cafe, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, took his own life in February.
“We were talking about mental health and really working on changing the way that our global community looks at mental health and deals with it,” Cherne said later.
The flag will fly 134 meters (440 feet) above Sydney Harbor until the games close on Oct. 27.
Harry and his American former actress wife will attend the opening and closing games ceremonies. Around 500 athletes from 18 nations will compete in venues around Sydney.
The couple earlier Friday walked barefoot on Bondi Beach to meet a group of surfers focused on mental wellbeing.
The group, OneWave, meet weekly in an “anti-bad vibe circle” on the sand.
While the group dressed in loud and outrageous fluorescent outfits, Harry and Meghan were more subdued, but their message to the group was clear.
“They’re super passionate about mental health. They are showing that mental health does not discriminate,” OneWave co-founder Grant Trebilco said.
Charlotte Connell, a OneWave member, said Harry spoke of his own experiences seeking counselling more than 20 years after his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997 when he was aged 12.
“Harry said it took him not six months, but 18 months to find the right person to speak to. ‘You’re not going to find the right person to speak to straight away,’” Connell said.
Both Harry and Meghan used exercise as a way of keeping well, Connell said.
“Even in her jetlagged state, she got up in the morning and did yoga at 4.30am,” Connell said.
“She said it’s so good for healing her mind,” Connell added.
After Bondi, the couple made an unannounced visit to Macarthur Girls High School in Parramatta in central Sydney.
The shrieking students gave the couple a rock star welcome to a school assembly.
“When they walked in, I felt like my heart stopped. Their presence just made everyone shocked,” 15-year-old student Rhiannon said.
The couple finished their day’s events with formal meetings with Morrison and opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Harry and Meghan will also visit Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand during their 16-day tour.