1. ITV Report

World's oldest-known message in a bottle found on Australian beach

The bottle is believed to have thrown into the ocean over 130 years ago. Credit: PA

The oldest-known message in a bottle has been found on an Australian beach more than 130 years after it was thrown into the Indian Ocean.

The bottle was tossed into the sea by sailors on a German boat that had set sail from Cardiff as an experiment into ocean currents.

The bottle was found by beach walker Tonya Illman, who picked up the "lovely old bottle" with a view to using it as an ornament.

It is thought the bottle washed up on Wedge Island in Western Australia within a year of being jettisoned but remained buried in damp sand - which helped to preserve its contents - until being discovered.

The letters asked the finder to write when and where the bottle was found. Credit: PA

Mrs Illman, who found the bottle in January, said: "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."

Mrs Illman and her husband Kym researched their find and discovered that the German Naval Observatory - Deutsche Seewarte - threw thousands of bottles into the ocean containing the date it was cast into the water, the ship's co-ordinates and its destination.

The letters asked the finder to write when and where the bottle was found as part of an experiment.

The bottle was thrown by sailors onboard the German bark Paula. Credit: PA

Initial investigations by the Western Australian Museum established the bottle was a mid to late 19th century Dutch gin bottle, the paper and colouration were consistent with cheaply-made 19th century paper, and the German bark Paula sailed from Cardiff to Makassar in Indonesia in 1886.

The bottle has been loaned to the Western Australia Museum in Fremantle by Mr and Mrs Illman, and will be on display for the next two years.