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, one of Germany's North Frisian Islands, found it in 2015. It was 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 telling her to break it open. But she hesitated. 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 at the age of 91. 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 with postcards in them as part of a research project to map currents in the North Sea. He used special bottles he called "bottom-trailers," which were weighted so they would sink, but 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, something the MBA says might be one of the first citizen science projects ever recorded.
 
"This was the best technology available at the time," Guy Baker, communications officer for the Marine Biological Association tells Fedde. "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, and 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 (33)
  • jacks-6-bar
    5/05/2016 - 06:42 p.m.

    People have used bottles for their messages because it was one of the only technologies available in certain circumstances and/or past time periods, and it could serve as an easy, inexpensive way to survey/examine/study something (in this case, the currents). Marine Biologist and communications officer Guy Baker states: "This was the best technology available at the time." Since bottles containing messages were of the best, most efficient form of technological messaging back some 108 years ago, it would obviously be used; its finding and message was quite relevant back then, when it was initially released. In the person's who released it point of view that this now primitive, wasteful method would serve his needs the most efficient of anything else that was available during his time, much further in the past than the present is, he took the option of implanting the card into the bottle that was essential to him. It would serve their needs, at the time, best. To their present, it was the most efficient tool.
    Messages in a bottle also were used to study something, especially in this case. Guy Baker also states: "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." Bidder's technological availability did indeed limit him, and the timing of his plan was quite inconvenient, but the plan, as stated in the article, was successful: the currents moved from east to west, as he suspected. Using other instruments would be more expensive, though less primitive, and he didn't even have access to them at his time. The best option is also the least expensive and functional one, and Bidder had every sense of logic to put messages into bottles to monitor the currents.
    I found the article quite interesting; I cannot believe that, after all this time, one's scientific experiment's results were discovered.

  • caitlynk-2-bar
    5/05/2016 - 07:37 p.m.

    People used a message in a bottle because, '"This was the best technology available at the time," Guy Baker'. Today we have our way of communicating long distance, by texting or calling. This was the sailors ways. To communicate with people when you were on an island and they were on the main land, they would drop a bottle in the water. This article was interesting because it was cool to see how people communicated and how much time has changed over the years. This article was interesting because you would thing that with new technology it would be easy to find a bottle in the water, but this one took one hundred and eight years for someone to find it.

  • seans-2-bar
    5/05/2016 - 08:49 p.m.

    Well, as in this experiment the scientists didn't exactly intend to use the bottles for messaging, instead they were for an oceanography experiment. bottles were commonly used for messages with no specific address, as the deep water currents and Ekman spirals would be the only directors of the message. This was an interesting article, and not a bad question to go with it.

  • lucasddd-3-bar
    5/05/2016 - 11:40 p.m.

    People have used bottles for their messages because they might need to quickly get a message to someone, and its the only way if you are away from technology. The note usually survives also. The first paragraph is an example of that, "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, one of Germany's North Frisian Islands, found it in 2015. It was washed up on shore."
    This article was interesting, and I'm surprised how long the bottle survived!

  • noahf-3-bar
    5/06/2016 - 04:04 a.m.

    People have used bottles for their messages because they provide a seal to ensure your message will be safe. Glass bottles take a long time to decompose and most of the time they float, making them perfect for messages.

    I found this article interesting because someone found a message in a bottle 108 years later.

  • averyd-ver
    5/06/2016 - 12:29 p.m.

    I think people put messages in bottles because it is cool for someone to find it years later and maybe call the number you put in it. I might do this some time.

  • lukem-orv
    5/06/2016 - 02:59 p.m.

    People use bottles to deliver messages because for one thing it can be private, but risky because people who are curious can find it and read it and know that secret message. And second of all, people can send it just for the people that are in the future so that it can become history.

  • tyn-2-bar
    5/07/2016 - 03:57 p.m.

    When people used bottles some one-hundred years ago, it was the best way to communicate in their time. People used to put messages in their bottles and send them out to sea in hopes that another person may find the message. "This was the best technology available at the time," says Guy Baker, communications officer for the Marine Biological Association. This man specializes in things such as the message in the bottle. In conclusion, messages in bottles were used because it was the best technology at the time.
    I think the idea of messages in bottles is very inefficient.

  • jesusr1-bea
    5/09/2016 - 12:20 p.m.

    Thats crazy that she found a bottle from a 100 years ago. I never knew that things in the past would still be here ,i thought it would be gone by now.

  • lilyg-2-bar
    5/09/2016 - 06:32 p.m.

    People have used bottles for their messages because this was what was available to people in the olden days and it was the best bet for most people. "This was the best technology available at the time," Guy Baker, communications officer for the Marine Biological Association tells Fedde. " This is interesting because one bottle survived for so long in the ocean and someone still managed to find it.

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