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Alaskan Man Finds 50-yr-old Message in a Bottle from Russia

Ian Harvey
The 50-yr-old message in a bottle found.
The 50-yr-old message in a bottle found.

Over fifty years ago a sailor from Russia threw over a message in a bottle. He was on the refrigerated cargo fishing ship, the Sulak and put a letter in a bottle and tossed it overboard into the Pacific Ocean.   On the 5th of August 2019, the bottle was finally discovered by an Alaskan man, Tyler Ivanoff. Ivanoff was searching the beach on Sarichef Island north of the Bering Strait for firewood and came across the bottle.

“I was just gathering firewood; everyone was just kind of picking berries, I just happened to stumble across the bottle, and I noticed it was a green bottle and had a cork top. Not really cork, it was a tight cap, and I could see inside the bottle there was a note.”

“My kids were pretty excited,” he continued. “They were wondering if it was a pirate’s note or treasure.”

He waited until he was back to his family to open it so his children could share the excitement and when they removed the note, they found a letter written in Russian and dated June 20, 1969.  Ivanoff knew a few words of Russian but not nearly enough to translate the letter. He decided to post the letter on Facebook to see if any of his friends could read the letter.

The letter found. Photo by Tyler Ivanoff.
The letter found. Photo by Tyler Ivanoff.

He received quite a few replies and was able to determine that the letter was from a sailor in the Soviet Union’s Far East fishing fleet which was disbanded in 1992.  According to The Moscow Times, the letter begins with, “A heartfelt hello, whoever finds this bottle we ask you to tell the entire crew of the ‘Sulak’ in the city of Vladivostok” and ends with, “We wish you good health, many years of life and happy sailing.”

A fellow Facebooker sent in a full Russian translation which can be read below:

Ivanoff wants to find the man who set the letter afloat but at present doesn’t have the time to do the research.  He has informed his friends to feel free to look into any avenues that may reveal the author.

Russian message in a bottle
The message in a bottle found. Photo by Tyler Ivanoff.

The oldest message in a bottle was discovered by Tonya Illman while she was walking along a Western Australian beach near Wedge Island in January of 2018.  Seeing an old glass bottle sticking up from the sand she thought it would make an attractive decorative object for her home and dug it up.  It turned out to be a gin bottle containing a note written in German and dated June 12, 1886.

After drying out the damp letter Tonya and her family decided to take it to the Western Australian Museum to see if it was genuinely one hundred and thirty two years old.  Dr. Ross Anderson, assistant curator of maritime archaeology at the museum conferred with colleagues in Germany and the Netherlands and determined that the note was authentic.

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The message translated from German read, “This bottle was thrown overboard on June 12, 1886, at latitude 32° 49′ South and longitude 105° 25′ from Greenwich East.  From: Bark Ship Paula, Port: Elsfleth, Captain: D [illegible], on her journey from Cardiff to Macassar.  The finder is requested to send the slip in the bottle to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg or the nearest consulate for the return to the same agency after filling in the information on the back.”  The Paula’s meteorological journal was found in Germany and confirmed that a bottle was thrown overboard on the 12th of June 1886 and the handwriting of the letter and the Captain’s journal matched. You can read the full story below:

World’s oldest message in a bottle found on a remote beach in Western Australia

According to, it was common for German sailing ships of the era to deposit messages in bottles and this one was thrown into the southeast Indian Ocean as the ship traveled from Wales to Indonesia.  Of the thousands of messages thrown overboard six hundred and sixty two have been returned to Germany with the last bottle found in Denmark in 1934 until the one found by Illman.  The family has loaned the note and the bottle to the Western Australian Museum for display.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News