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The world’s oldest messages in a bottle

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British man who dropped note from ocean liner half a century ago has been traced

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Thursday, July 18, 2019 - 12:05pm

The British author of a 50-year-old message in a bottle that recently washed up on the South Australian coast has finally got a reply, after the discovery went viral.

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Paul Elliot and his nine-year-old son, Jyah, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that they found the bottle while fishing on a remote beach on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.

The letter inside was dated 17 November 1969 and signed by Paul Gilmore, who wrote that he was a 13-year-old English boy travelling to Melbourne on board the Fairstar - “a ship that brought many British migrants to Australia during the 1960s under the assisted passage scheme”, according to The Guardian.Gilmore urged the finder of the note to “please reply” and gave an address in Mitcham, a suburb of Melbourne.

Now, days after the story made headlines worldwide, Gilmore’s sister, Annie Crossland, has come forward, and says her brother will be “chuffed to bits”.

“It’s amazing, absolutely incredible,” she told the ABC.

Gilmore himself has not heard the news yet as he is back out at sea - this time, on a cruise in the Baltics.

The Gilmores lived in Australia until 1973 and then moved back to England. Crossland, who was on the steamer with her older brother when they made their outward journey 50 years ago, says she remembers him “writing letters and putting them in bottles”.

“He sent about six of them,” she recalled. “So it’s good that one of them has surfaced.”

But Gilmore’s note is by no means the oldest message in a bottle to wash up on shore.

The Guinness record holder

Found 132 years after being thrown overboard, the oldest discovered message in a bottle washed up on a remote beach in Western Australia in 2018. The note, dated 12 June 1886, was too wet to be unravelled immediately, and had to be dried in an oven before revealing its contents - a slightly underwhelming message that included the date, coordinates (32.49 South, 105.25 East), and a message asking the finder to contact the nearest German consulate, according to the Guinness World Records. The bottle was one of hundreds dropped by German ships, as part of a research project by the German Naval Observatory.

A strange catch

German fishing boat captain Konrad Fischer and his crew discovered an unexpected catch among their haul during a routine trip out in the Baltic Sea in 2014. The old beer bottle contained a Danish postcard from 1913 signed by a man named Richard Platz, who asked the finder to send it on to his address in Berlin - possibly an optimistic scheme to “save on international postage fees”, The Local suggests. 

From Tashmoo with love

Teenage friends Selina Pramstaller and Tillie Esper of Detroit had an enjoyable day at the Tashmoo amusement park, on Harsens Island in Michigan, according to the message they stuffed in a bottle and set adrift in 1915. The note, scribbled on a boat ticket, simply reads: “Having a good time at Tashmoo.” Diver Dave Leander found the bottle 97 years later, buried on the shore near the spot where the Tashmoo steamship once docked daily, reports USA Today.

Found by grandson

On 26 March 1930, a group of craftsmen working at a cathedral in the German town of Goslar wrote a note listing their complaints about inflation and unemployment since the First World War, and expressing their hope that their note might be found during better times. Almost 90 years later, that is exactly what happened: roofer Peter Brand, the grandson of one of the authors, found the bottle during a routine check under the cathedral’s roof last September.

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