Postal worker finds 108-year-old message in a bottle
On Nov. 30, 1906, George Parker Bidder dropped a bottle from a boat into the North Sea. The weighted glass bottle sank almost to the sea floor. Then it bobbed along for 108 years, 4 months and 18 days.
Its journey finally ended in 2015. That is when Marianne Winkler, a retired postal worker found it. She was on holiday on Amrum Island. It is one of Germany's North Frisian Islands. She found the bottle washed up on shore.
Though Winkler didn't know it, the message in a bottle was the oldest ever recovered. It earned Winkler a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
When Winkler first found the bottle, she could see a message inside. It told her to break it open. But she hesitated to break the bottle. Winkler and her husband could tell that the bottle was old. They didn't want to damage it, Maev Kennedy reports for the Guardian newspaper.
When they finally got the note out, they found it was actually a postcard. It was addressed to G.P. Bidder at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England. It promised a one-shilling reward.
The Winklers filled out the card and mailed it in an envelope. Luckily, the Marine Biological Association still exists. According to a press release, the association was surprised and thrilled to get a postcard addressed to its former president. He died in 1954. He was 91. According to Corey Fedde at the Christian Science Monitor, the staff searched around on eBay to find a shilling to send to Winkler. The shilling is a unit of currency that went out of circulation in Great Britain in the early 1970s.
Winkler's bottle was not the only one Bidder sent to sea. Between 1904 and 1906, he released thousands of bottles. He placed postcards inside them. The bottles were part of a research project. The purpose was to map currents in the North Sea.
He used special bottles he called "bottom-trailers." They were weighted so they would sink. But each had a piece of stiff wire attached to keep them off the seafloor. The idea was that fishermen trawling the sea would find the bottles and send them in. This was something the MBA says might be one of the first citizen science projects ever recorded.
"This was the best technology available at the time," said Guy Baker. He is the communications officer for the Marine Biological Association. "The bottles were [Bidder's] own invention. It was the first time instruments had been made that could record the currents. But it depended on fisherman to report the finding."
The Marine Biological Association reports that about 55 percent of the bottles were returned. The MBA added that the experiment was a success as it showed the East-to-West flow of the North Sea's currents. Bidder's bottle breaks the previous record for finding a message in a bottle. The previous record went to a bottle that spent 97 years and 309 days at sea. It was found by a Scottish skipper near the Shetland Islands. That was in 2012.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why have people used bottles for their messages?
Write your answers in the comments section below