A fourth encrypted bottle post has been found in the river Alster in Hamburg. Still nobody seems to have a clue what these strange messages mean.
The Alster bottle post mystery is one of the strangest crypto mysteries I have ever covered on this blog. Here’s what has happened so far:
- In October 2016, the first encrypted bottle post was found in the Isebekkanal, a sidearm of the river Alster in Hamburg, Germany (thanks to Dominique Eggerstedt for the hint).
- On January 24, 2017, a similar message was discovered on the South-East bank of the Außenalster, near the Restaurant Kajüte (thanks to Alex Vladi for the hint).
- In late April, Tuncel Biyikli informed me about another bottle post. He found it on the eastern bank of the Außenalster.
Earlier this week Hans von Jagow sent me a picture of another bottle post of the same kind. He found it drifting on the water while he was rowing near the Krugkoppelbrücke, which is close to the finding place of bottle 3.
This means that we now have four encrypted Alster bottle posts. The finding places can be seen on the following map:
Bottle post 4
Here’s the picture Hans von Jagow provided me:
Here’s the text part (for an even higher resolution check here):
Like the other three Alster bottle post messages this one consists of letter sequences, the purpose of which is unclear. A number of German words can be spotted, e.g., UBOOTE and DIEGRÖßTEN. I don’t know why anybody would put such a message into a bottle and throw it into a river.
Bottle post 1
Here’s a picture (taken by Dominique Eggerstedt) of the first bottle post found:
This is the message contained in the bottle:
Many words can be read, while other parts of the text seem to have no meaning. The purpose of this note is completely unclear to date.
Bottle post 2
The second bottle post looks like this (source: Facebook):
Again, I don’t know what the purpose of this message is.
Bottle post 3
Here’s the third message (picture taken by Tuncel Biyikli):
Again, the message contains a number of German cleartext words, e.g., MÄDCHEN, STURMBEFEHL, and HÖCHSTGEFAHR. I don’t know what this means.
What is it all about?
I still have absolutley no idea what all these messages are about. Here are a few hypotheses:
- Alternate Reality Game (ARG): ARGs usually start with messages (e.g. letters) being sent to selected people. These messages usually contain a call to action (e.g., “we need your help to save the world, call 123-456-7890”). While it seems well possible that the organizers of an ARG use bottle posts to start their game, none of the messages found so far contains a call to action.
- Geocaching: Many crypto puzzles created today have a relationship to Geocaching. Is this the case here, too? So far, I can’t see any relationship between theses messages and Geocaching.
- Performance art: A few years ago some 20 encrypted notes were found at a university in London, Canada. In 2014 it became know that these messages all were created by a local artist. So, the crypto mystery turned out to be a performance art project.
- Hoax: Of course, somebody might have created theses messages just to create a mystery – and to make himself laugh about the people trying to solve it.
Can a reader say more about the Alster bottle post messages? Any hint is welcome.
Further reading: Kaliningrad’s second mystery: Who can break this encrypted bottle post?