97-Year-Old Message in a Bottle Found Off British Coast Sets New World Record

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After floating on the lonely seas, adrift for nearly a century, the world’s oldest message in a bottle has finally been liberated and graced with a Guinness record.

Andrew Leaper, a Scottish skipper aboard the fishing boat Copious, discovered the bottle early April of this year, trapped in his fishing net as he sailed east of Shetland, an island group northeast of the U.K. mainland. The bottle, which reportedly spent 97 years and 309 days at sea, beats the previous world record by more than five years.

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Amazingly, it also turns out the exact same boat, the Copious, found the last record-setting message in a bottle. Though Leaper wasn’t at the helm of the boat that time, his friend Mark Anderson hauled in the bottle. “It was an amazing coincidence,” Leaper commented.

The bottle was originally launched back in June 1914 as part of a scientific study to map sea currents around Scotland. More than 1,800 bottles were released, but only 315 of them have been found according to the BBC. The bottle Anderson found in 2006 was part of the same scientific experiment.

After nearly 98 years, the bottle had traveled a disappointing 10.7 miles from its original launch location, Guinness reports. Which means that stuffed inside the bottle wasn’t some prized possession or heartfelt message from a long-lost love that had sailed across the Atlantic, or even anything redeemable in today’s society. All that it contained was a cream-colored postcard asking the finder to record the location where it was found and mail it back to the Glasgow School of Navigation for a minor reward.

But that was of no consequence for Leaper. Surely with a smile across his face, he told the BBC, “It’s like winning the lottery twice.” Too bad he can’t claim the sixpence reward for finding the bottle — the coin was discontinued by the British Mint in 1970 and completely phased out by 1980. Holding the Guinness record, though? That’s probably just a bit more valuable.

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Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

1 comments
seattlesteve007
seattlesteve007

How do we know that the bottle didn't travel around the world and return home in all those years?