Australian couple discovers world's oldest message in a bottle

At 132 years old, the world's oldest message in a bottle was found in Australia.

ByABC News
March 6, 2018, 11:30 AM

The world’s oldest message in a bottle washed up on a beach in Australia, about 132 years after it was thrown overboard a ship, according to 9 News in Australia.

Kym and Tonya Illman of Perth, Australia, found the bottle in January near Wedge Island, about 100 miles away from Perth.

“It just looked like a lovely old bottle, so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase," Tonya Illman told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

When Tonya Illman took the bottle back home and opened it, she saw a tightly rolled piece of paper tied with string. The writing was in German.

“I could easily make out the day and month, June 12, but the year was harder to decipher,” according to Kym Illman.

After the Illmans laid the wet paper out to dry, “we had to wait a week before we had confirmation it was 1889," Kym Illman wrote on, a website that he created detailing the discovery of the bottle.

After researching where the note could be from and using his basic German language skills, he discovered it was from the German ship named Paula. The message was a form filled out as part of a German experiment to understand ocean currents, according to ABC Australia.

The Illmans brought the note to the West Australia Maritime Museum, which confirmed the age of the message.

“This has been the most remarkable events in my life. To think that this bottle has not been touched for nearly 132 years and is in perfect condition, despite the elements. I’m still shaking,” Tonya Illman wrote on

9 News also reported that the museum received evidence from Germany and the Netherlands that a captain kept a record of a bottle thrown overboard on June 12, 1886, for an experiment on ocean currents.

According to ABC Australia, thousands of bottles were thrown overboard from German ships, with messages containing a form with the ship’s coordinates. On the back of the note, messages asked the finder to write when and where the bottle had been found and return it to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg as part of a project to help the observatory understand naval currents.

The previous world record for the oldest message in a bottle was 108 years ago, according to 9 News.