In 1906, British scientist George Parker Bidder released more than 1,000 bottles in an attempt to study oceanic currents. The bottles were specifically design to float and last, and all bottles contained detailed instructions in English, German and Dutch to return the note to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England, in exchange for a shilling.

George Parker Bidder who released the bottle into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 as part of his research Photo: MBA archive

The experiment was a success, most of the bottles were returned to Plymouth, and Bidder was able to show that deep sea current flowed west in the North Sea, a body of water that borders Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. But some of the bottles lagged behind.

One of George Parker Bidder’s bottles used to elucidate ocean currents Photo: MBA archive

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Recently, a retired postal worker from Germany found one of these 108 year old bottles. Marianne Winkler was walking on the beach with her husband when she came across the bottle.

“It’s always a joy when someone finds a message in a bottle on the beach,” she told the Amrum News, a local website.

The oldest message in a bottle in the world, found by the Winkler family Photo: Winkler family handout

Inside the bottle, there was a visible message: “Break the bottle”. So she did, and inside she found the instructions. The Marine Biological Association was, of course, shocked to get the card from Winkler – they hadn’t received one in many years – but they kept their promise: they bought an old shilling online and gave it to Winkler.

“It was quite a stir when we opened that envelope, as you can imagine,” Guy Baker, communications director at the Marine Biological Association, said in an interview.

According to Guinness World Records, the oldest found message in a bottle is 99 years old, so this one should easily take the crown.