As They Walked Along the Beach, This Couple Never Expected to Discover A Cryptic Message

As They Walked Along the Beach, This Couple Never Expected to Discover A Cryptic Message

Most people go to the beach to soak up the sun, read a good book, hit the waves, and simply enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. For others though, the beach is seen as a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered. If you have a metal detector you can comb the beach for hours, waiting to hear the beep-beep, of something ready to be unearthed. Sometimes you will find something, but more often than not you will come up empty-handed. For one family who was out for a stroll, they would pick up something astonishing.

Meet Tonya And Kym

For these two Australian photographers, they never expected to happen upon anything of interest on a beach in Western Australia. They would spend most of their time flying to far-flung places in the world to capture beautiful shots of nature and animals.

When they decided to go out for a simple walk in their home province though, they would find something worth a second look. What appeared to be something quite old, would contain a story that they had to uncover.

Getting Stuck

Driving out to beaches in Australia is pretty normal. You have a vehicle with 4-wheel drive for those tough to reach places, and in this case, sandy situations. Kym and Tonya knew they wanted to get some shooting done, which meant driving over some very sandy patches of their favorite local spot.

They never expected that the sand would sink under the wheels of their vehicles and get stuck. Once they realized there would be no moving, and that they would need someone to come and help them they decided to go for a walk along the shoreline. It was there that they would make a discovery.

Keeping The Beach Clean

This particular stretch of beach saw a lot of traffic, and as the couple walked along they noticed that there was a lot of litter scattered around. They knew they were in for a bit of a wait with their vehicle, so they decided to make the most of their time and collect all of the litter in the area.

As Tonya went about picking up trash, she saw the light hit something very near to her hand. She got a bit closer to the source of the shine, and low and behold, it appeared to be a very old glass bottle.

The Bottle

Tonya bent down and picked up the old bottle she had found washed up with the other litter. She liked the shape of it, and the glass appeared to be quite old. It did not have the smooth finishings of anything that had been recently made. She thought that it might be a nice piece to add to her collection of found objects that have a nautical flair to them.

However, she did want to show this piece to one of her family members who might know a bit about its origins. Tonya had to admit, she was curious about the original owner of this bottle.

A Small Discovery

Bree was Tonya and Kym’s son’s longtime girlfriend. She had a good eye for objects that were found on the beach, and Tonya decided to show her the bottle she had just found. Bree inspected it, and noticed that the bottle was not empty.

After a bit of tinkering, she was able to remove something that had been placed inside the bottle. It was a very small, rolled up piece of what looked like parchment paper from some other era. This bottle had just become a whole lot more interesting to everyone involved. What would the note say, once it was unrolled?

The Message In The Bottle

It was official, Tonya and Kym now had a message in a bottle. Everyone wanted to know what the tiny note contained. Was it a love letter or a treasure map? Or, was it simply someone’s shopping list that they put in a bottle as a funny joke.

After some consideration, the family decided that they should untie the twine holding the note together, and carefully unfurl it to see what secrets it was potentially hiding.

A Bit Damp

The note itself had been in the bottle for a long time. With so long spent in the ocean, and the bottle not as well-sealed as they originally thought, the note was a bit on the soggy side. Before they opened it, they needed to make sure that it was completely dry.

The best way to dry out the note for the grand reveal would be to let it air dry in the oven, away from any outside elements. Then, the family would be able to read it together.

The Message

As soon as the paper was dry, and there would be no risk of any ink running, the family gathered together. Carefully, they unrolled the note and stared down at it. What they were looking at was less a note, and more what appeared to be some kind of communication from Germany.

There was no English anywhere on the paper, some of it was printed in German, with handwritten portions filled out. What did it say?

A Translation

Kym took it upon himself to begin puzzling out what the note said. The handwriting was so faint that it could not be read, but the printed portions were very clear. Kym was able to determine that the final paragraph had to do with the German consulate, and contacting them.

This did not make very much sense to the family though, nor did it help them to date when this message in a bottle might have been put into the ocean.


The message appeared to be a part of some sort of research experiment. It had been launched into the ocean with the explicit purpose of seeing how long it would take to wash up on a continent or an island.

Clearly, it had taken a very long time for this message to reach anyone. It was asked that the message be returned to the German embassy as soon as it was found, with a time stamp attesting to when it was found and where.

A Mystery Year

What this family was truly curious about, was just how old this note was. They wanted to know if it dated back to the early 1900s or even the 1800s. Unfortunately, even as the note dried there was no year that was legible.

Tonya and Kym decided it might be time to bring in some professional help to deal with their mystery note. They wanted to know if they had found something important to share with the world.

The Ship’s Name

The name of the ship was almost legible, but not completely intact. Kym believed that this message in a bottle may have been aboard the ‘Paula’ but he could not be sure. This family could only do so much home research before they needed to bring in some historians to try and get the job done.

They would be able to accurately date the message and hopefully know about this mysterious German research vessel.

The Professionals

Maritime Archeology is a big area of study in Australia, especially because they have the biggest coral reef in the world. Dr. Ross Anderson, from the Western Australian Museum, offered to help Tonya and Kym with their mysterious message.

It was hoped that he would be able to shed some light on the year the message was produced, and why it ended up in Australia which is rather far away from Germany unless a research vessel was in the Pacific.

Some Answers

As Dr. Ross got to work on deciphering the message and its origins, he was able to confirm that the message did originate from a vessel named Paula, just as Kym had thought. This vessel though had been sailing in 1883, which mean this message was very old indeed.

Kym and Tonya were shocked to discover that they had found a piece of history on a random beach stroll. They had gotten very lucky.

Ocean Researchers

The crew aboard the Paula were a group of scientists and researchers fascinated by the currents found throughout the oceans. They wanted to know how fast they were, how far they stretched, and anything else that might aid their research.

One of their primary information collection techniques were these messages in bottles that they dropped all over the world. To date though, only one bottle containing a message had ever been found which was a big surprise.

The Only Reported Finding

After combing through a lot of archives, Dr. Ross was able to confirm that Tonya was the only person to ever find one of their messages in a bottle. The ship’s log was also in the archive, which meant that Tonya, Kym, and Dr. Ross might be able to find out a bit more about what happened on the ship.

It was odd, that only Tonya had managed to come across a bottle when thousands had been launched into the ocean.

The Mystery Bottle

Even though it was the 1800s, research methodologies were relatively advanced aboard the Paula. Each message in a bottle had specific dates, and coordinates for where it was put into the ocean logged on them, and in the ship’s log.

It was very easy for Tonya and Dr. Ross to see the date her message was put into the ocean, and just how far it had come to wind up on the shores of Western Australia.

The Same Writer

What was even more intriguing was the fact that the handwriting on the note, and in the ship’s log were identical. Whoever was in charge of writing the messages, and recording all of the findings was the same person.

This was one of those stories that grabbed historians’ attention though. Many people began to come forward to express their disbelief of this incredible find. How could it be true? They wanted some more proof.

How Could It Be True?

One tidbit that had been left out, was the fact that this bottle did not have a lid. When Kym and Tonya came upon it, it had been sitting in the sand for quite some time. A lot of people had difficulty believing that the sand and saltwater laden ocean spray had not damaged the note.

They thought that this could be some elaborate hoax on the part of Kym and Tonya, even though proof was right in front of them.

A Radio Host Weighs In

Kym had worked in marketing for many years, and due to this, Radio host Basil Zempilas decided to create a story in which Kym had actually bought the bottle and then pretended to ‘find’ it.

Basil thought that the Illman family was just looking for their 15 minutes of fame, and they decided this message in a bottle story was the perfect way to get that. All of the historical evidence was there to back them up though.