Record Breaking Drift Bottle

A small fishing boat off the coast of Scotland hauls in its nets. The skipper of the boat notices a small bottle among the fish. He reaches out to grab it just before it slips through the net and back into the sea.

That bottle turned out to be very special. What was it? Did it have a genie inside? Actually it had a card inside. The bottle was a scientific drift bottle dropped into the water in 1914.

Kids drop bottles with messages in them all the time. I did it when I was a kid. Usually I just wanted to let the person who found it know that I was trapped on a desert island and needed to be rescued. But sometimes I hoped that someone would find it and answer the honest message I put in there. It hasn't happened yet.

A drift bottle, sometimes called a floater, is a bottle (often a wine bottle) that contains a message and is sealed and dropped into the water. Oceanographers use them to follow and chart ocean currents.

The message inside the bottle usually has a serial number and the date and place of release. It will ask that the person who finds it answer where and when it was found. Sometimes a small reward is offered.

Scientific drift bottles are often designed to sink to a certain depth so that underwater currents can be studied. An oceanographer from England named John Swallow invented such a bottle. His bottle also emitted sounds so that it could be easily followed by a ship. Scientists were able to chart water flow above and below the surface with this invention.

Drift bottles have been used for centuries. All the way from ancient Greece to modern day they have been valuable tools. The messages range from distress calls, messages to loved ones, to advertising. They were widely utilized in the late 19th century and the early 20th century to chart the ocean currents. 

It might seem like they are an old-fashioned way to do things. But drift bottles are still being used today. Many seaside locales are recording the travels of the bottles and they keep exacting records.

So what was so special about the bottle found by the fishing boat? It is the oldest recorded find of a drift bottle. 98 years. It surpasses the record set in 2006 by the previous skipper of the very same fishing boat. There are still 1575 bottles from that particular batch that have not been recovered. And that is only one batch of hundreds, maybe thousands released all over the world.

Next time you are at the beach watch for the bottles. If you get a scientific drift bottle answer the card. You might become famous. If no note is inside you might get lucky and a genie will pop out and grant you your greatest wishes.


  1. It's a while since I have been by and I am loving the new layout.

    I think this was a great find...especially as it was off the coast of the Uk....where was the bottle first dropped??

  2. It was released about half-way between Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Swedish coast. Thanks for stopping by.


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