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Monday 20 October 2014

101-year-old message in a beer bottle discovered

8th April, 2014 by Rupert Millar

A message cast adrift in a beer bottle in the Baltic 101 years ago has been found and the descendant of the sender tracked down.

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Photo credit: DPA

The bottle was found by German fisherman Konrad Fischer (above) in the Baltic near the port of Kiel last month and is the oldest “message in a bottle” ever discovered, the previous record holder being a bottle with a note dated to 1914 and which spent 98 years at sea.

The skipper of the Maria I, who has found sea mines and torpedoes before on his voyages, initially thought the discarded bottle among the fish in his net was rubbish and was about to throw it back into the sea, he told local paper, Kieler Nachrichten.

“I had it in my hand, but then a colleague told me there was something in it,” he told the paper.

According to The Local, what was inside was a postcard from neighbouring Denmark dated 17 May 1913 and written by a German man called Richard Platz. The card politely asked the finder of the bottle to forward the postcard to his home in Berlin.

Platz’s granddaughter, Angela Erdmann, who still lives in Berlin, was subsequently tracked down by researchers.

Now in her sixties, Erdmann never knew her maternal grandfather as he died in 1946 aged just 54.

She said it was “unblieveable” to hold the bottle and see her grandfather’s postcard after all this time and has been inspired to find out more about him as a result.

It is thought that Platz threw the bottle into the sea with the note while on a nature appreciation hike in Denmark.

The bottle and message will go on display at the Maritime Museum in Hamburg until 1 May when researchers will go back to try and dechipher more of the note which is badly smudged after its time in the sea.

The bottle (below) is clearly stamped with a Maltese cross and crown and the word”Kiel”, and may have been bought by Platz on a stop before crossing the Danish border.

It was probably produced by a brewery that no longer exists, the main “Kieler Brauerei” today having been founded in 1988 and other big local brewers being Flensburger and Holsten.

As Kiel was the base for the Imperial German Navy, the “Kaiserliche Marine“, the crown on the bottle may point to a brewery that was “by royal appointment” and which went into decline after the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918 or that was destroyed by Allied bombing in the 1940s as Kiel remained an important base for the “Kriegsmarine“.

kiel beer

Photo credit: DPA

Wandergruppe or walking groups and other societies that engaged in outdoor pursuits such as the scout movement were popular among all age groups in Germany, particularly youngsters, from the late 19th century until banned by the Nazis in the 1930s and replaced by the Hitler Youth.

Since the end of the Second World War they have flourished once more.

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