message in a bottle,
[Representational image]Creative Commons

The world's oldest known message in a bottle was dumped into the Indian Ocean 132 years ago. Tonya Illman, an Australian woman, and her friend came across the vintage bottle in January.

Illman found the bottle near her son's car on Wedge Island, which is located at 180km north of Perth in Western Australia.

Tonya's husband Kym Illman said that they had no idea about what exactly it was until they dried it up in an oven, BBC reported. 

The bottle is green in color, measures less than nine inches long and is three inches wide. It has been defined as "an exceedingly rare find" by experts. It was tossed in the Indian Ocean as part of an experiment on ocean drift patterns, Washington Post reported. 

The Western Australia Museum had released a report which revealed the details of how the vintage bottle was found and what message regarding science and history it uncovered.

Illman and her friend made the surprising discovery along the coast when her son's car got stuck in soft sand.

"It just looked like a lovely old bottle so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase," Illman said as quoted in a press release by Western Australia Museum.

"My son's girlfriend was the one who discovered the note when she went to tip the sand out. The note was damp, rolled tightly and wrapped with string. We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it we saw it was a printed form, in German, with very faint German handwriting on it," she added.

The family wasn't sure whether their finding was a hoax or a historically significant finding. They took the bottle to a museum for the verification of its authenticity.

Experts in the museum analyzed the bottle closely, measuring the bottle's opening and the twine that had wrapped the yellowed paper inside it. The researchers speculated that the cork of the bottle shrunk or dried out and got displaced at some point, according to Washington Post.

The bottle is identified as a mid-to-late 19th century Dutch gin bottle by the museum staff. It is believed to have washed on to the shore within a year's time of being thrown into the water and it remained buried there since.

The paper inside the bottle was found to be well preserved. Two noteworthy details present on the paper were the date -- June 12, 1886 -- and the name of a ship called Paula.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany also helped in providing more about the bottle, which they revealed was was a part of a long-term German Naval Observatory programme to study global ocean currents in a bit to find shipping routes which were more efficient and quicker.

An entry for June 12, 1886 was made by Paula's captain in the ship's original Meteorological Journal, and it recorded that a drift bottle was thrown overboard on that day.

"A handwriting comparison of the bottle message signed by the captain and Paula's Meteorological Journal, shows the handwriting is identical in terms of cursive style, slant, font, spacing, stroke emphasis, capitalisation and numbering style," Dr. Ross Anderson, Assistant Curator Maritime Archaeology at the WA Museum, was quoted as saying in the press release by the museum.

"Ocean current and drift patterns are still not completely understood," Dr. Anderson stated.

"The need to understand long-term climate change patterns has also seen historic data, such as that recorded in Paula's meteorological journal and other 19th century ships' logbooks, added as datasets into global climate models," he added.

The bottle has been linked to German scientist George von Neumayer, who had carried out the 69-year-long drift experiment from 1864 to 1933, which included thousands of bottles.

This Wedge Island find takes the total number of message recovered from the experiment to 663, the last one was discovered in Denmark in 1934.