World record find made by Shetland whitefish skipper
The drift bottle found by Andrew Leaper of the Copious in the North Sea in April this year had been at sea for more than 97 years, five years longer than the one found by Mark Anderson in 2006.
The find has been confirmed by Guinness World Records, triggering some competitive banter between the two fishermen.
Drift bottle 646B was released on 10th June 1914 by Captain C H Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation, as part of a batch of 1,890 scientific research bottles specially designed to sink downwards and float close to the seabed. By tracking the location of returned bottles it was possible for the under-currents of the seas around Scotland to be mapped out for the first time.
The water-tight glass bottles contained a postcard asking the finder to record the date and location of the discovery and return it to the “Director of the Fishery Board for Scotland” – with a reward of six old pence available. Of the batch released in 1914, 315 bottles have been found. The original log of Captain Brown – now held by Marine Scotland Science in Aberdeen – is updated each time a discovery is made.
Mr Leaper, 43, said: “It was just a normal day and we were out fishing for monkfish. As we hauled in the nets – with a mixed catch of monks, megrim and cod – I spotted the bottle neck sticking out of the cod end of the net.
“I quickly grabbed the bottle before it fell back in the sea. I immediately knew what it was, having seen a previous drift bottle on display at the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen. It was very exciting to find the bottle and I couldn’t wait to open it. While still at sea I opened the bottle, with the aid of pliers and a welding rod, and retrieved the postcard inside.
“It was an amazing coincidence that the same Shetland fishing boat which found the previous record-breaking bottle six years ago also found this one. It’s like winning the lottery twice – this is a widely used fishing ground, with half the North Sea fleet fishing here. It’s also remarkable that the bottle wasn’t crushed by the fishing gear.
“I can tell you that my friend Mark Anderson is very unhappy that I have topped his record! He never stopped talking about it – and now I am the one who is immensely proud to be the finder of the world record message in a bottle.”
Mr Leaper has donated the bottle, along with the Guinness World Records Certificate, to the Fetlar Interpretative Centre in Shetland – the community-run museum in the island where he is from.
Dr Bill Turrell, head of marine ecosystems with Marine Scotland Science, said: “Drift bottles gave oceanographers at the start of the last century important information that allowed them to create pictures of the patterns of water circulation in the seas around Scotland. These images were used to underpin further research – such as determining the drift of herring larvae from spawning grounds, which helped scientists understand the life cycle of this key species.
“The conclusions of these pioneering oceanographers were right in many respects – for example, they correctly deduced the clockwise flow of water around our coasts. However, it took the development of electronic instruments in the 1960s before the true patterns of current flows, and more importantly what causes them, were unlocked.”
A spokesman for Guinness World Records added: “We are pleased to hear that the same vessel helped to break the Guinness World Records for ‘Oldest message in a bottle’ twice. This is a fascinating record, both historically and scientifically. We hope that future expeditions will retrieve more of these treasured messages from the sea.”