Lost Message Sets a Record
A bottle set afloat almost 100 years ago is found near Scotland
PHOTO: Andrew Leaper, a fishing-boat captain, discovered the bottle in his fishnets. (Scottish Government / AP Images)
MAP: The bottle was part of a project to help map the currents of the seas around Scotland. (Jim McMahon)
At first, fishing-boat captain Andrew Leaper had no idea he had pulled a remarkable piece of history from the waters off the coast of Scotland. While emptying the day’s fishnets, the skipper noticed a glass bottleneck sticking out among the piles of flopping fish.
Leaper snatched up the bottle before it could fall back into the sea. He soon found that it contained a message dating back 98 years—a world record for the oldest message in a bottle ever discovered.
“It was very exciting to find the bottle,” Leaper told BBC News, “and I couldn’t wait to open it.”
The message inside was not a romantic letter meant for a faraway loved one across the sea—its purpose was scientific research.
Inside the “drift bottle,” as such bottles are sometimes called, there was a postcard offering six pence (about six pennies in American currency) to the finder if he or she returned it to Captain CH Brown at the Glasgow School of Navigation in Scotland. In June 1914, Captain Brown released 1,890 of the scientific-research bottles, which were designed to sink. When they were found and returned, the bottles would help map the currents of the seas around Scotland. Leaper’s bottle is the 315th to be returned to the research center over the past 98 years.
Believe it or not, the fishing boat Leaper was on was also involved in the discovery of the world’s previous oldest message in a bottle in 2006. “It’s like winning the lottery twice,” said Leaper.
A spokesperson for Guinness World Records noted the odd coincidence.
“We are pleased to hear that the same vessel [boat] helped to break the Guinness World Record for oldest message in a bottle twice. This is a fascinating record, both historically and scientifically.”