SYDNEY • A message in a bottle written 132 years ago and found on an Australian beach by a group of walkers, including the parents of Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo, has been verified as the world's oldest-known missive of its kind.
The bottle was discovered half-buried in sand dunes near Wedge Island, about 160km north of Perth, in January.
It took weeks of sleuthing using Google Translate, online research and archival digging before the unusual find was confirmed as an authentic bottle thrown from a German ship into the Indian Ocean.
The group of six had been driving through the remote dunes when Mrs Grace Ricciardo suggested they stop to take a walk, Mr Kym Illman said yesterday.
He told the BBC his wife Tonya "saw a whole lot of rubbish on the ground and thought she'd help pick up some rubbish".
The group shook the bottle and a damp, rolled-up parchment fell out. Returning to their holiday home, they opened the note after warming it briefly in an oven.
Using Google Translate to decipher the German text, Mr Illman realised that if the note were authentic, they might be the first people to read it since June 12, 1886, according to the date written on it.
They thought it was "too far-fetched" but experts at the Western Australian Museum and their colleagues in the Netherlands and Germany concluded the bottle was thrown from the German barque Paula, sailing about 950km from the West Australian coast.
It was one of thousands of bottles used in a long-term experiment by the German Naval Observatory to better understand global ocean currents and find faster, more efficient shipping routes, the Western Australian Museum said.
"Incredibly, an archival search in Germany found Paula's original Meteorological Journal and there was an entry for June 12, 1886 made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard," the museum's assistant curator for maritime archaeology Ross Anderson said in a statement.
The museum said Germany's Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency and National Meteorological Service had verified the find as authentic, with the bottle to go on display at the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle.