Postal worker finds 108-year-old message in a bottle (Marine Biological Association/Thinkstock)
Postal worker finds 108-year-old message in a bottle
Lexile

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 when Marianne Winkler, a retired postal worker on holiday on Amrum Island, found it in 2015. It was washed up on shore. Amrum Island is one of Germany's North Frisian Islands. 

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 telling her to break it open. But she hesitated to actually break it open. Winkler and her husband could tell that the bottle was old and they didn't want to damage it, Maev Kennedy reports for the Guardian. When they finally got the note out, they found it was actually a postcard 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 posted 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, who died in 1954. He was 91-years-old. 

According to Corey Fedde at the Christian Science Monitor, the staff searched around on eBay to find a shilling, a unit of currency that went out of circulation in Great Britain in the early 1970s, to send to Winkler.
 
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 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 in 2012.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why have people used bottles for their messages?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (197)
  • maxwellc-3-bar
    5/05/2016 - 07:27 p.m.

    As the text stated, "This was the best technology available at the time...[...] It was the first time instruments had been made that could record the currents, but it depended on fisherman to report the finding." Societies always use the latest edition of technology and science. In this case, the time where the bottle was 'cast off' had limited ways of communication. One such way that is heavily documented in film and literature in the 21st century is the 'note in a bottle.' Of course, this strategy is most likely not the most advanced, and shows the primitiveness of the time. In conclusion, people used these bottles because it was their best, or maybe only choice for communication.

  • zeusr-3-bar
    5/05/2016 - 07:53 p.m.

    As paragraph 8 states "The idea was that fishermen trawling the sea would find the bottles and send them in." This was the point but now we have cell phones and other technology so we don't have to wait 108 years to get the message.

    My opinion on this topic is that we deserved a better way to get messages so this is why we have better technology.

  • johnd-3-bar
    5/05/2016 - 08:01 p.m.

    People used bottles to send their message's to see where they ended up. "The bottles were part of a research project to map currents in the North Sea." This means that the man who sent them wanted to see were they ended up. He did this because he wanted to map sea currents. So he sent bottles out hoping to find out where they ended up. I found this to be an interesting article.

  • briannt-3-bar
    5/05/2016 - 08:17 p.m.

    People used bottles for their messages because back then there was no over night shipping, FedEx, amazon shipping, or eBay shipping. So to send something they had to deliver it in person or in their situation send by water, or bottle it and throw it in the ocean. It think this is the coolest and longest thing to do to send something. Its a mystery to who ever finds it and decides to do what it say. I choose this article because I have wanted to do this also, once. I thought it would be an amazing journey for the bottle and message to "see" the ocean the some people can't see.

  • kaleal-2-bar
    5/05/2016 - 08:21 p.m.

    People used bottles because, as the article states, they were "...the best technology available at the time". This article interested me a lot because messages in bottles have always fascinated me.

  • taylorp-1-bar
    5/05/2016 - 08:33 p.m.

    People have used bottle for their messages because, in sea, there were many ships going around, so people were to write letters and "fisherman trawling the sea would find the bottles and send them in."(paragraph 8). This proved messages bottling to be a cheap way to send messages. I enjoyed this article because it surprised me that somebody found such an old message.

  • carsonb-2-bar
    5/05/2016 - 08:40 p.m.

    Between 1904 and 1906 George Parker Bidder dropped thousands of bottle from a boat into the North Sea. He was doing a study to map currents of the North Sea. Recently, Marianne Winkler, found one of those bottles. The bottle had been bobbing along in the water for over 108 years.

    When she finally got the note out of the bottle, she found it was actually a postcard addressed to Mr. Bidder at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England. The postcard promised a one-shilling reward if you filled it out.

    Mr. Bidder used special bottles he called "bottom-trailers." They were weighted so they would sink. The idea was that fishermen would find the bottles and send them in. The Marine Biological Association reports that about 55 percent of the bottles were returned and added that the experiment was a success showing the East-to-West flow of the North Sea's currents.

    People use bottles for their messages for a few of reasons. It keeps the bottle afloat in the water and allows it to travel long distances. In addition to this, it keeps the message dry and keeps it preserves . I also think people do it because it is somewhat easy to spot in the water and people are more likely to pick it up.

  • tialden-1-bar
    5/05/2016 - 08:51 p.m.

    People have used bottles for their messages because as stated in the article, the bottle was made to sink down in the ocean but no sink to the bottom ground. Also in my thoughts, bottles may have been used to store messages because it helps preserve them, easier organization, or it it's easier transportation. This article was about how a retired postal service worker found an old message in an bottle in Europe. I found this article exciting because I would amazed if I found a bottle that was 108 years old.

  • sethg-2-bar
    5/05/2016 - 08:51 p.m.

    People have used bottles as messages Because it was the early form of tracking sea currents. The bottles contained messages so when found, they could be returned and the data could be recorded. Paragraph 7 states "The bottles were part of a research project to map currents in the North Sea." I found this article interesting because this is something I would like to try.

  • ben0424-yyca-byo
    5/05/2016 - 09:18 p.m.

    Bottle mail was really interesting. Also that George Parker Bidder used it to study the currents. Something else could have been good to use too. Maybe just a bottle might have worked, or something that can float and is more resistant. Using bottle mail is really bad though. I'm pretty sure not a lot of people didn't use it though. People probably used mail overseas with ships instead of bottle mail.
    Critical Thinking Question Answer: Bottles were probably cheaper to send overseas than by boat.

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