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World's Oldest Message in a Bottle Found

The world record for oldest message in a bottle was broken this year with a find off Scotland's coast.

Skipper Andrew Leaper was dragging in his fishing nets near Scotland's far-north Shetland Islands on April 12, 2012, when he pulled out a water-tight glass bottle. The container was keeping dry a document from 1914, which was recently confirmed by Guinness World Records as the oldest message in a bottle ever found. It spent 97 years and 309 days at sea.

"As we hauled in the nets I spotted the bottle neck sticking out and I quickly grabbed it before it fell back in the sea," Leaper said in an Aug. 30 statement. "It was very exciting to find the bottle and I couldn’t wait to open it."

The bottle was actually one of 1,890 released in 1914 as part of a scientific research project to track the currents of the seas around Scotland. The note inside asked the finder to write down the date and location of its discovery and send the postcard back to the "Director of the Fishery Board for Scotland" for a small reward. Scottish officials said 315 of those bottles have since been found.

This bottle beat out another Scottish drift bottle scooped up in 2006 for the world-record title. That previous record-breaker was found by the same fishing boat, named Copious and based in Lerwick, the capital of Shetland.

"It was an amazing coincidence that the same Shetland fishing boat that found the previous record-breaking bottle six years ago also found this one," Leaper said in the statement. "It's like winning the lottery twice — this is a very popular fishing ground, with half the North Sea fleet fishing here."

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Megan Gannon
Megan Gannon
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.