Friday, August 31, 2012


"You have to blog about that!," said my Dad yesterday when he saw the news about a 98-year-old message in a bottle (1st image) found off the coast of Scotland - and indeed I do! I have covered the idea before, and made the point that tossing such a bottle constitutes littering, but this one predates that modern concept (founded in the 1960s) by several generations. This bottle was #646B of 1,890 set adrift on June 10, 1914, by Captain C.H. Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation to study and map undersea currents. The message inside (2nd image) asks the finder to report the date and location of the discovery and return the item to the Director of the Fishery Board for Scotland for a reward of sixpence. The find was dutifully recorded as the 315th recovered bottle in Captain’s Brown’s original log, now held in Aberdeen by Marine Science Scotland. Bill Turrell, Head of Marine Ecosystems, explains:
"Drift bottles gave oceanographers at the start of the last century important information that allowed them to create pictures of the patterns of water circulation in the seas around Scotland. These images were used to underpin further research – such as determining the drift of herring larvae from spawning grounds, which helped scientists understand the life cycle of this key species. The conclusions of these pioneering oceanographers were right in many respects – for example, they correctly deduced the clockwise flow of water around our coasts. However, it took the development of electronic instruments in the 1960s before the true patterns of current flows, and more importantly what causes them, were unlocked."
It was on April 12, 2012, that  Andrew Leaper, skipper of the Shetland-based fishing boat Copious, hauled in his nets to find the clear glass bottle, just 9.38 nautical miles from where it originated (coordinates here). He recalls, "As we hauled in the nets I spotted the bottle neck sticking out and I quickly grabbed it before it fell back in the sea. I couldn’t wait to open it." Leaper did as instructed, but instead of the sixpence reward he has been awarded the world record for finding the oldest message in a bottle. This gives him bragging rights over his friend and fellow fisherman Mark Anderson, who found what was previously the oldest drift bottle 6 years ago and reportedly, "never stopped talking about it." Anderson had been fishing from the same waters in the same boat!
Earlier posts about bottles:

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