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The code, in pencil.

We’ve never seen it. The Navy office at Port Adelaide didn’t see it.

Paragraph from a letter from the Navy Office at Port Adelaide responding to Leane:

“From the manner in which the lines have been represented as being set out in the original, it is evident that the end of each line indicates a break in sense.” GF 114

The writer was not looking at the pencilled code, he was looking at the manner in which the pencilled code had been represented. He was looking at a photo.

A fellow called Marcel Varallo picked it up and threw this down a couple of years ago:


“I’ll keep it as blunt and simple as possible.  

Anyone on the internet who claims to have taken pictures of the code with infrared or filters or whatever is wrong.  

Our favourite picture of the code is actually a photo of a photo the code on its actual page taken with a UV light illuminating the page.  I have seen it in person.  The original code was so hard to see that the UV light (referred to as a “special light” and not in common use at the time) was required to display it adequately.  

Unfortunately the camera used to photograph the code by the Adelaide Advertiser didn’t pick it up very well at all and this problem was only discovered after the film was developed.  The result was faint and unprintable.  So what could they do?  Grab a pen and trace the outline of the code onto the photo.  

This becomes evident when we zoom in on a few of the letters, courtesy of a high-def scan of the photo, and the start/stop pooling of the ink betrays the truth.  Remember all reports said the code was in pencil.”


Marcel thinks Leane handed the Rubaiyat over to the Advertiser for them to photograph, mark up and publish.

That proposition is as thin as a toe nail. And the Dome should be viewed with a little more suspicion for not having his engine turned on when he linked Marcel to the Mysteries of Cipher. We’re talking about EVIDENCE here …

That, Marcel, was woeful.

This is better:

Adelaide Metropolitan Police Station. Detectives’ office. Leane officiating.

On Leane’s desk: a photo of the pencilled code.

The situation: the photo was found to be unsuitable, faint on faint.

So Leane told a detective to take this unsuitable photograph, sit down at his desk and ink over the capital letters. All of them. One by one. Equipment provided.

‘And It has to be done at once. And no detective with shaking hands need apply. The newspapers are waiting. Shit will not happen.’

Leane pointed at a Detective.


Thanks boss

Then the room emptied, being lunchtime.

The non-luncher may have had the Rubaiyat beside him, back cover up for reference. He may have had to work one-handed, the other for holding a large magnifying glass to one eye. An ultra-violet lamp if anyone could find it.

Rocket Science.


‘Cover the faint pencilled letters with as much accuracy as you can,’ Leane had thundered, ‘and Make No Mistakes. You’re not here to rub things out or over. As a matter of fact, cover EVERYTHING that looks like a pencil mark.’

Like the tail on the P up there. The dot under the A.

Leane isn’t finished.

‘But – if you do make the mistake of misinterpreting one letter for another, keep them both as separate as you can so others might decide.’

‘Because one man’s double u is another man’s M.’

And slowly and painstakingly, the faint pathway was transformed into a macadam highway.

That done to everyone’s satisfaction, Jimmy Durham was asked to attend and take the money shot.

Then somebody called the Advertiser.

And that swoop on the last letter, the B, tell me that isn’t someone signing off.

header pic is cattle trails at Eureka

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Marcel Varallo has his theory, sure, but it’s not mine (which is that the police drew lines on a photo with something like a laundry marker, and then photographed their handiwork).

    But as far as evidence goes, Marcel’s scans are much better than the over-processed one that some researchers have built such elaborate theories atop.

    April 25, 2020

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