A woman walking on an Australian beach recently came across an odd-looking bottle with German writing on it protruding from the sand. After picking it up, she discovered it had a waterlogged note inside. It turned out to be more than 130 years old, the oldest-known message in a bottle ever found. Researchers say it was tossed from a German ship, the Paula, as it sailed the Indian Ocean on June 12, 1886. The German government was conducting an elaborate science experiment to try to understand sea currents, and thousands of bottles were cast from vessels between the 1860s and the 1930s, with notes requesting they be returned to Germany. Tim Scarlett, an archaeologist at Michigan Tech, says the new discovery is a reminder of a time when sea travel still wasn’t well understood. ”There was no GPS, no detailed weather reports, and little technology,” he says, “and people still risked their lives by setting sail to learn about the oceans.”