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14 The seventy-year old secret of the Somerton code

M R G  O A B  A B D

M T B  I M P  A N E T P

M L I  A B O  A I A Q C

I T T  M T S  A M S T G A B

In every line consisting of over seven letters, the seventh letter is an A.

It’s as plain as day. The letter A + the position 7 = the number 8.


My work here is done. Now it is left for you to figure out.

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Champagne, anyone?

    February 2, 2021
    • пожалуйста #

      If that was the case, would you expect the working out to be visible? Some indication that a count was done?

      In fact, why – if it was a puzzle – is the puzzle in handwriting, not printed?

      All in all, what’s written down here looks more like an answer than a question, a solution more than a puzzle.

      That’s not to say you’re not on to something with the pattern. Is Nick aware of any similar patterns used in cryptography?

      February 3, 2021
  2. MyName #

    I assume you’re taking the piss on the 3rd one, or am I misunderstanding it?
    If you choose any sequence and choose a starting point, then if you iterate over the length of the sequence (presumably wrapping back to the beginning as you run off the end) then you will always end up at the letter before the one you started at.
    If you mean even if you wrapping onto the next line, then it’s a combination of the above and the fact that the A is in a fixed position.

    February 3, 2021
  3. Make of it what you will, MyName, but for the FIRST TIME EVAH we have found what binds the code together.
    I suspect you have never been asked to complete an IQ test as this little puzzle serves that purpose perfectly. Try it on someone, see if they are as clever as you are.

    February 3, 2021
  4. Byron Deveson #

    Number two looks interesting and worthy of some attention. Pete, yes I think it could have been some sort of 1940s newspaper puzzle – a find the sequence type puzzle.

    February 3, 2021
  5. MyName #

    Regarding the point formerly known as #3 being a result of ‘A’ being 7th (and adding to nickpelling’s eloquent dismissal of it):

    Suppose you have a 12-letter sequence ABCDEFGHIJKL we can see that ‘G’ is 7th.
    Rather than using modulo arithmetic, we’ll put the sequence in twice – I hope you’ll trust me it’s equivalent.
    Now if we call ‘G’ 1 and count to 12 in the sequence from there you find yourself at ‘F’.
    In fact, if instead of starting at the 7th,we start at the second (‘B’) you see that we still end up at the character before. Now change the sequence to ABCDE, rinse and repeat.
    No matter the length of the sequence, or where you begin, if you count the length of the sequence you will always end up on the character before you started. I don’t want to sound like a condescending numpty – after all, as you point out, I’ve never passed an IQ test – but it actually seems quite obvious when you consider that if you start at the beginning you reach the end.

    But in other news, not sure about LOTE but the letter ‘A’ as an initial is not very common – in fact according to Wiki, it’s 17th most common initial in texts, and 7th if we just look at a dictionary (note: ‘E’ would be 13th and 12th respectively under this criteria) – compared to 3rd most common anywhere withn a text. On that basis it seems to appear on this page WAY too often for an acronym English text.
    The same page also talks about letter frequencies in other languages – noting these frequencies don’t take into account the letter position, (so a similar change to ‘E’s prominence from first to thirteenth is possible) Portugese, (Esperanto), Turkish, Polish, icelandic, Finnish and Czech all apparently have ‘A’ as the most common letter. Of those, there is no ‘Q’ in Icelandic or Turkishh alphabets. Poles and Czechs only use it for loanwords, Finns rarely use it other than in foreign proper nouns,
    So has anyone got a Portugese translation for the Rubaiyat (or for shits and giggles, an Esperanto one)?

    February 5, 2021
    • All good, Myname .. everything understood. But now I’ve gone back to the secret message routine, based on what could be distinct signals in the code text. Being that regardless of the number of letters in the line – 9,11 or 13 – the letter A is in a constant position.

      What you may not know is that I have a library of well-read espionage literature, truth and fiction, been reading it for over fifty years and throughout have marvelled at the methods used by spies of all nationalities together with the intricate schemes they used to both authenticate and disguise their messages. Some were extremely creative, but they all needed a key otherwise they could not be interpreted.

      I’m liking that scenario more than a straight out cognitive test right now.

      February 5, 2021
  6. Clive #

    I suppose you could say that a bit of progress has been made with the Code page, at least we’ve recognised that the letter ‘A’ is the Seventh letter on Four lines. Something that the Australian military never recognised back in 1949!

    February 5, 2021
    • Not to mention every code-breaker in the game.
      I dare not walk outside the front door, Clive, bloody paparazzi are everywhere. My life will never be the same again.

      February 5, 2021
  7. Clive #

    Could ‘AIAQC’ mean: Adelaide is a quiet city? Just a thought

    February 6, 2021
    • Adelaide in 1948, Clive, as we all know was a city overburdened with spies of all nationalities, suburban homes equipped with radio equipment and used as listening posts, Americans with too much money, refugees with not enough, near-sighted policeman, paranoid politicians, Atom bomb technicians, war deserters, men and women of generally unsavoury habits, SP bookmakers, sly grog shops, baccarat dens and a red under every bed.

      February 6, 2021
  8. Clive #

    Not to mention, a ‘Sister’ living in Glenelg with a married man who had a police record.

    February 7, 2021
    • MyName #

      maybe Quaint rather than Quiet (or Questionable, Quick, Quirky, Quality etc)……1948 I think Adelaide might have been 3rd largest city in Aus.

      February 8, 2021
  9. Clive #

    Not sure about Adelaide being 3rd largest city in Australia in 1948, I wasn’t around at that time! It has a rather unsavoury reputation, just a feeling, that certain individuals, in high places want to maintain their positions. Perhaps the SM case has remained unsolved, because solving it would open a can of worms in the city of churches.

    February 9, 2021
  10. Byron Deveson #

    There was another Persian poem translated by Edward Fitzgerald that would probably have attracted the attention of some of those who read the Rubaiyat.
    Salāmān and Absāl by the Persian Sufi poet Jāmī (1441-1492). This poem has a carnal theme so I expect it would have attracted some audience in buttoned down Adelaide of the 1940s. From vague memory Salāmān and Absāl was often offered by book sellers along with the Rubaiyat. I haven’t checked to see if the “code” occurs in this poem.

    February 11, 2021
  11. Clive #

    On the first line, the first letter either a ‘W’, ‘M’ or ‘H’ overlays what looks like the letter ‘P’?

    February 12, 2021
    • Well, there’s no doubting whoever overlaid the image was confused.

      February 12, 2021
  12. Mission accomplished.

    October 1, 2021
  13. Julian #

    MLIABO AIAQC = My Love I am bowled over, and I am quite C…
    I looked at the original police reports on the Internet around 2010, and my pet theory revolved around SM being married to Jessica, and that he was bumped off to avoid bigamy. I thought the code was more like a lover’s note, not intended to be decoded, but rather read by two lover’s together, as a kind of teasing game.

    November 19, 2022
  14. Julian #

    No, your collected notes on the characters of Jessica, Carl and Prosper suggest
    people who were shady. Back in 2010, my impression was more like Agatha Christie – that Carl was an intruder into Adelaide high society, and he had to be dealt with (I misread somewhere that Prosper was a doctor, or part of old Adelaide money).

    Interesting choice of suburbs they lived in – without exception, not working class.
    If you are scraping by in Adelaide in the 1940s, you could save money living in Prospect rather than Medindie, or in Norwood rather than Hazelwood Park.

    Thanks also for replying. I must read more, having only stumbled on your site today. You might like to know that the Somerton Man case was featured this weekend by the UK podcast The Rest Is History. They played it light-hearted, as entertainment. In reality, the case is quite the rabbit-hole to go down – and dark, too.

    Did you pick up on another disappearance/death in the Largs Bay sand dunes around the same time as this case? There was some discussion that the two cases were related. But this may have been media stirring up paranoia (or sales).

    As for the cracking of the code, all the best and TTFN!

    November 19, 2022

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  1. The Somerton Man, Four Straight As, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the 1930 US Census...? - Cipher Mysteries

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