A handwritten message in a beer bottle has washed ashore after 101 years; Danielle Batist shares a heartwarming story of good old-fashioned communication

When a German fisherman saw an old brown beer bottle floating in the Baltic Sea, he could never have predicted that it was more than a century old. Even greater was his surprise when he found out there was a message in the bottle, dated 1913.

The International Maritime Museum in Hamburg, Germany, analysed the worn postcard hidden inside the beer bottle and discovered that it was written by a baker’s son, Richard Platz. Though much of the ink had faded, a return postal address was readable. The museum tracked down the sender’s 62-year-old granddaughter, Angela Erdmann, in Berlin.

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Erdmann never knew her grandfather, and was ‘very surprised’ when a genealogical researcher knocked on her door to deliver the message from her grandfather, who was 20 years old when he threw the bottle into the sea. “He included two stamps from that time that were also in the bottle, so the finder would not incur a cost. But he had not thought it would take 101 years,” she told the Guardian.

“In our age of high-speed communications, time stands still for a moment”

Researchers believe it is the oldest message in a bottle ever found. The Guinness World Record for the previous oldest one dated from 1914 and was discovered after 98 years. The bottle and message are on display in the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg, where experts will attempt to recover the full message.

Holger von Neuhoff, curator at the museum, said: “Why are people all over the world moved by a plain, handwritten postcard in a bottle? Because in our age of high-speed communications and great uncertainty, time stands still for a moment. It is a message from the past, reaching us now. For many visitors in our museum, this was a short journey back in time, combined with the question: what will people in 101 years think about us?”

Photo title: The 101 year old message and the bottle it was found inside

Photo credit: © IMMH