The message in a bottle found by Andrew Leaper—certified by Guinness World Records on August 30 as the oldest ever recovered—belonged to a century-old science experiment.
"In what does the appointment consist?"
"Madam, in 1598 a tarred bottle, picked up by a man, conger-fishing on the strand of Epidium Promontorium, was brought to Queen Elizabeth; and a parchment drawn out of it gave information to England that Holland had taken, without saying anything about it, an unknown country, Nova Zembla; that the capture had taken place in June, 1596; that in that country people were eaten by bears; and that the manner of passing the winter was described on a paper enclosed in a musket-case hanging in the chimney of the wooden house built in the island, and left by the Dutchmen, who were all dead: and that the chimney was built of a barrel with the end knocked out, sunk into the roof."
"I don't understand much of thy rigmarole."
"Be it so. Elizabeth understood. A country the more for Holland was a country the less for England. The bottle which had given the information was held to be of importance; and thenceforward an order was issued that anybody who should find a sealed bottle on the sea-shore should take it to the Lord High Admiral of England, under pain of the gallows. The admiral entrusts the opening of such bottles to an officer, who presents the contents to the queen, if there be reason for so doing."
"Are many such bottles brought to the Admiralty?"
"But few. But it's all the same. The appointment exists. There is for the office a room and lodgings at the Admiralty."
"And for that way of doing nothing, how is one paid?"
"One hundred guineas a year."
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