After, the family found some paper in the bottle but had “no idea” what it was until they took it home and dried it in the oven. In fact, the note in the bottle, which was dated 12 June 1886, was jettisoned from the German ship Paula, as part of an experiment into ocean and shipping routes by the German Naval Observatory.
So the message was 132 years old. Experts confirmed the find was authentic. Dr Ross Anderson, Assistant Curator Maritime Archaeology at the WA Museum concluded that the bottle was jettisoned in the south-eastern Indian Ocean, and probably washed up on the Australian coast within 12 months, where it was buried under the sand. An archival search in Germany found Paula’s original Meteorological Journal and there was an entry for 12 June 1886 made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard. The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message. Thousands of bottles were thrown overboard during the 69-year German experiment but to date only 662 messages – and no bottles – had been returned. The last bottle with a note to be found was in Denmark in 1934. The Illman family have loaned the find to the Western Australian Museum for the next two years, and it will be on display to the public from Wednesday.