Message in a bottle returned to sender's family 101 years later

A message in a bottle tossed in the sea in Germany 101 years ago, believed to be the world’s oldest, has been presented to the sender’s granddaughter, a museum said.

A fisherman pulled the beer bottle with the scribbled message out of the Baltic off the northern city of Kiel last month, Holger von Neuhoff of the International Maritime Museum in the northern port city of Hamburg said.

“This is certainly the first time such an old message in a bottle was found, particularly with the bottle intact,” he said.

Researchers then set to work identifying the author and managed to track down his 62-year-old granddaughter, Angela Erdmann, who lives in Berlin.

Erdmann told German news agency DPA she was first able to hold the brown bottle last week at the Hamburg museum. Inside was a message on a postcard requesting the finder to return it to his home address in Berlin.

“That was a pretty moving moment,” Erdmann said. “Tears rolled down my cheeks.”

Von Neuhoff said that researchers were able to determine, based on the address, that it was 20-year-old baker’s son Richard Platz who threw the bottle in the Baltic while on a hike with a nature appreciation group in 1913.

A Berlin-based genealogical researcher then located Erdmann, who never knew Platz, her mother’s father, who died in 1946 at the age of 54. Von Neuhoff said a handwriting comparison with letters penned by Platz later in life confirmed that he was “without a doubt” the author.

Erdmann told local newspapers that the surprise discovery had inspired her to look through family scrapbooks to learn more about her grandfather, a Social Democrat who liked to read.

The Guinness World Records had previously identified the oldest message in a bottle as dating from 1914. It spent nearly 98 years at sea before being fished from the water.

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