You never know when something from your family’s past may appear at your ‘doorstep’. Many things or events our ancestors participated in or owned may have been tucked away in an attic, a safe deposit box, a vault, buried in the ground or floating at sea for decades. This last situation is what happened for Angela Erdmann, a Berlin, Germany resident, who was notified that a postcard written by her grandfather, Richard Platz, the son of a baker, had been fished out of the Baltic Sea, almost 101 years since Richard had placed the postcard he had written on into a bottle, closed it and tossed into the Baltic Sea. Imagine reconnecting with something that was once your ancestor’s?
While on a nature appreciation hike along Germany’s Baltic Coast in May 17, 1913, 20-year-old Richard Platz scrawled a note on a postcard, shoved it into a brown beer bottle, corked it and tossed it into the sea. There it remained, for decades, during two world wars, in storms, shipping traffic, etc. In March 2014, a fisherman Konrad Fischer located the floating brown bottle pulling it out in the Baltic Sea not far from Kiel where Platz first pitched it in the spring of 1913.
Angela had never met her grandfather Platz, who was her mother’s father. He had died in 1946 at the age 54. She was given the opportunity to examine the bottle and the message which are being housed at the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg. Scientists are working to read Platz entire message he wrote, since portions were damaged from some moisture in the bottle. What is readable includes: a polite message asking the finder to send it on to his address in Berlin. It was a Danish made postcard and had two German postal stamps on it.
Two years earlier, on April 12, 2012, a Scottish fishing skipper Andrew Leaper, the skipper of the Copious found in his nets in the North Sea a bottle with a message dated June 10, 1914. This one was written by Captain C. H. Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation as an experiment using 1,890 scientific research bottle specially designed to sink downward and float close to the seabed. The purpose of this early 20th century experiment was see about currents in the North Sea. The 1914 message asked the finder to record the date and location and return it for the six pence reward. Of the original 1,890 put out to sea, only 318 have ever been located. The one found 2012 was marked as the oldest message in a bottle by the Guinness World Records. That record is now broken by Richard Platz’s own tossing of a message into a bottle in 1913 and putting it out to sea.
Photo – from International Maritime Museum in Hamburg: The bottle and postcard found nearly 101 years later.
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