Strolling on a beach in January near Wedge Island in Western Australia, Kym and Tonya Illman spotted a dark glass bottle mired in the dunes, as The Guardian reports. After first dismissing it as trash, Tonya took a closer look and decided the bottle's distinctive raised lettering might be a nice decorative touch in their house. Unbeknownst to the Illmans at the time, they had just retrieved the oldest message in a bottle ever found.
Back home, a family friend tipped the sand out of the bottle. Out came a rolled piece of paper that was dated June 12, 1886 and included coordinates for the German sailing ship Paula. The note requested that the finder send the note to the German Naval Observatory along with the coordinates where it was found—part of a long-term German experiment to track ocean currents that ran between 1864 and 1933.
The message was authenticated by the Western Australian Maritime Museum and the German Naval Observatory. Researchers were even able to find an entry from the captain's log matching the June 12 date and mentioning that a drift bottle had been put out to sea as the Paula crossed the Indian Ocean. The handwriting was also a match. If you're in Western Australia, you can see the bottle on display at the Western Australian Maritime Museum through 2020.