Researchers have identified what they believe could be the oldest message in a bottle ever recovered, a German museum announced Monday. Those who analyzed the bottle even tracked down the granddaughter of the note’s author, Richard Platz, the son of a baker who died in 1946 at the age of 54.
The bottle contained a postcard dated May 17, 1913, and was signed by 20-year-old Platz. According to LiveScience, Platz was hiking along Germany’s Baltic Coast more than 100 years ago when he stuffed the postcard into a brown beer bottle, corked it and chucked it into the water.
The Danish postcard inside included two German stamps on it and politely requested that whoever found the bottle should return it to the Berlin address provided. Based on the address, researchers were able to determine who penned the letter.
The 101-year-old message in a bottle was discovered last month. A German fisherman was trolling the waters of the Baltic Sea when he snagged the century-old relic. Where the bottle had traveled and where it came from weren’t clear, but it was recovered from an area not too far from where Platz deposited it into the sea, according to NPR.
The boater who discovered the bottle has loaned it to the International Maritimes Museum in Hamburg for an exhibit.
"This is certainly the first time such an old message in a bottle was found, particularly with the bottle intact," Holger von Neuhoff of the International Maritime Museum told AFP.
Much of the letter was illegible, having suffered water damage. Still, investigators were able to locate the granddaughter of Platz, 62-year-old Angela Erdmann. She became emotional when researchers presented her with the bottle.
“I knew very little about my grandfather, but I found out that he was a writer who was very open minded, believed in freedom and that everyone should respect each other,” she told reporters, according to ABC News. “He did a lot for the young and later traveled with his wife and two daughters. It was wonderful because I could see where my roots came from.”
Prior to the discovery of Platz’s postcard, the Guinness World Record holder for oldest message in a bottle dated back to 1914. It was cast into the ocean by a scientist at the Glasgow School of Navigation and traveled the sea for nearly 98 years before it was fished from the water in 2012.
According to The Atlantic, the bottle from 1914 was one of 1,890 bottles released on June 10, 1914, as part of a data-gathering experiment.
"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 in a statement. "These images were used to underpin further research -- such as determining the drift of herring larvae from spawning grounds, which helped scientists understand the life cycle of this key species."
The discovery of the 101-year-old message in a bottle is similar to that of a bottle recently recovered from the Canadian Arctic. In December of last year, researchers in a remote area of Ward Hunt Island found a bottle with a note inside tucked between some rocks nearly 500 miles from the nearest human settlement.
The note, dated July 10, 1959, was written by Paul Walker and Albert Crary, both of whom were well-known polar geological researchers at the time the message was written. The message asked whoever found the bottle to measure the distance between a nearby rock formation and the edge of a nearby ice shelf.