Oldest Message in a Bottle Found

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A Scottish skipper has found the oldest message ever in a bottle at sea, Guinness World Records said.

According to the record-keeping organization, Andrew Leaper, skipper of the Shetland fishing boat "Copious," made the discovery on April 12 when hauling in his nets in the North Sea off the coast of Shetland.

He later learned that the message in bottle had been adrift for 97 years and 309 days. This surpasses the previous record by more than five years.

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Amazingly, it was Leaper's friend Mark Anderson who set the previous record in 2006 by retrieving another Scottish bottle as he was skippering the same boat.

"I spotted the bottle neck sticking out and I quickly grabbed it before it fell back into the sea," Leaper said.

"It was an amazing coincidence that the same Shetland fishing boat that found the previous record-breaking bottle six years ago also found this one. It's like winning the lottery twice," Leaper said.

Labeled as drift bottle 646B, the record-breaking bottle contained a postcard asking the finder to write down the date and location of the discovery and return it to the "Director of the Fishery Board for Scotland." The postcard promised a reward of six pence.

The water-tight glass bottle was released on June 10, 1914 by Captain C H Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation.

It was one of 1,890 scientific research bottles specially designed to sink downwards and float close to the seabed.

Each contained the same postcard asking the finder to record the date and location and return it for the six pence reward.

"Drift bottles gave oceanographers at the start of the last century important information that allowed them to create pictures of the patterns of water circulation in the seas around Scotland," Bill Turrell, head of Marine Ecosystems with Marine Scotland Science, said.

He added that the conclusions of those pioneering oceanographers were right in many respects.

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"For example, they correctly deduced the clockwise flow of water around our coasts. However, it took the development of electronic instruments in the 1960s before the true patterns of current flows, and more importantly what causes them, were unlocked," Turrell said.

Of the batch released in 1914, 315 bottles have been found so far. Captain Brown's original log, now held by Marine Scotland Science in Aberdeen, is still updated each time a bottle is tracked down.

"It's amazing that nearly 98 years of bottles are still being returned to the Marine Laboratory — and in such fantastic condition," Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochhead said.

"With many bottles still unreturned there is always the chance in the coming years that a Scottish drift bottle will once again break the record," Lochhead said.

Photos: Sending out a message in a bottle. The record-breaking bottle was one of 1,890 scientific research bottles specially designed to sink downwards and float close to the seabed. It was released on June 10, 1914. Credit: Kohn33/Wikimedia Commons;

— The oldest message ever in a bottle at sea – adrift for 97 years and 309 days. Credit: Scottish Government.