In 1914, a Scottish scientist named Captain C. Hunter Brown dropped 1,890 bottles in the North Sea as part of a science experiment. So far 315 of these bottles have been found, the most recent one last week by a Scottish fisherman named Andrew Leaper. At 98 years old, it’s the world’s oldest message in a bottle. (At least, the oldest one that’s been recovered.)
The bottles were dropped to help Captain Brown get a sense of water movement in the North Sea. They were carefully weighted to drift just above the ocean floor, because Brown wanted to test deep currents, which might explain why it took so long for this one to surface.
Obviously, Brown died before collecting all his data, but evidence from his experiment is still being recorded by Marine Scotland Science in Aberdeen. This new data point suggests that it takes a bottle 98 years to get from Glasgow to Shetland, which is of course not data at all but just what happened to this particular bottle.
Each of Brown’s bottles contains a form for the finder to fill out saying where he found it, and upon returning it, he’s supposed to get sixpence. Andrew Lepper seems to have forgone this monetary reward in favor of letting people take photos of him smiling and holding the bottle.
Found: World's Oldest Message in a Bottle, Part of 1914 Citizen-Science Experiment, The Atlantic.