Two more bottle posts have been found in Hamburg, Germany. Still, nobody seems to have a clue what these strange messages mean.

The Alster bottle post mystery is a series of unsolved cryptograms found in the river Alster and the Isebekkanal in Hamburg, Germany. Here’s what has happened so far:

  • In October 2016, an encrypted bottle post was found in the Isebekkanal, a sidearm of the river Alster in Hamburg (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 2017, Tuncel Biyikli informed me about another bottle post of this kind. He found it on the eastern bank of the Aussenalster.
  • In September 2017, Hans von Jagow sent me a picture of another bottle post of this series. He found it drifting on the water while he was rowing near the Krugkoppelbrücke, which is close to the finding place of thr third bottle.
  • In May 2018, Katrin Reischert informed me about a bottle post she had found a year before in the Isebekkanal, near the Bundesstrasse, next to the Kaiser-Friedrich-Ufer (Kaifu).
  • In July, 2018, I received another mail from Katrin Reischert. She had found another bottle post. Again, the finding place was the Isebekkanal, next to the Kaiser-Friedrich-Ufer.

Meanwhile, more than a year has passed since the last post was found. Yesterday, I received a mail from Christina Stacke. She told me about two more bottles containing a message she found in the Isebekkanal recently.

This means that we know about eight encrypted Alster bottle posts now. The finding places can be seen on the following map:


As can be seen, especially many of the bottles were found near the western end of the Isebekkanal. Is this the place where they were thrown into the water? In my view, it is unlikely that so many bottles drifted from the Alster into a dead-end canal. On the other hand, I can well imagine that a few bottles made it from the canal to the river. In the area that is relevant for us, the Alster flows south.


Bottle post 7

Apparently, the bottle containing message #7 wasn’t in the water very long:

Christina Stacke (used with permission)

The message is written on a cigarette pack. Here’s the first part:

Christina Stacke (used with permission)

And here’s part #2:

Christina Stacke (used with permission)

As usual, some German words can be identified, such as ABSOLUT, UHRZEIT, or BETREFF.

Bottle post 8

Message #8 was contained in the following bottle:

Christina Stacke (used with permission)

The message is written on an A4 sheet:

Christina Stacke (used with permission)

This one contains a number of graphic symbols. Apart from this, it looks like the other messages.


Bottle post 1

Here’s a picture (taken by Dominique Eggerstedt) of the first Alster bottle post:


Dominique Eggerstedt (used with permission)

This is the message contained in the bottle:


Dominique Eggerstedt (used with permission)

Many words can be read, while other parts of the text seem to have no meaning.


Bottle post 2

The second bottle post looks like this (source: Facebook):



Bottle post 3

Here’s the third message:


Tuncel Biyikli (used with permission)


Tuncel Biyikli (used with permission)

Again, the message contains a number of German cleartext words, e.g., MÄDCHEN, STURMBEFEHL, and HÖCHSTGEFAHR.


Bottle post 4

Here’s the picture Hans von Jagow provided me:


Hans von Jagow (used with permission)

Here’s the text part (for an even higher resolution check here):


Hans von Jagow (used with permission)

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.


Bootle post 5

Here’s picture of the first bottle post Katrin Reischert sent me:


Katrin Reischert (used with permission)

Like the four other bottleposts, this one contains an encrypted (?) text with many German cleartext fragments. Among other words, I can read SCHNELLBOOT, POSTFINANZ, and MÄDCHEN. All in all, this cryptogram looks pretty similar as the ones already known.


Bootle post 6

Here’s picture of the latest bottle post Katrin Reischert sent me:


Katrin Reischert (used with permission)

As can be seen, this post was contained in a Coca Cola Light (known as “Diet Coke” in some countries) plastic bottle. This is unusual, as all other bottle post known so far came in a small glass bottle, which is usually used for spirits. The label of the Coca Cola bottle is still present, while the labels of the glass bottles apparently got washed away in the water. Here’s a closer shot of the bottle post message:


Katrin Reischert (used with permission)


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 typically 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. Perhaps, the bottle post messages played a role in a later stage of an ARG, when some instructions about how they had to be interpreted were already known.
  • Geocaching: Many crypto puzzles created today have a relationship to Geocaching. Is this the case here, too? I don’t think so. At least, I can’t see how these messages fit into a Geocaching scenario (locating a bottle post using a GPS doesn’t make much sense).
  • Performance art: A few years ago some 20 encrypted notes were found at a university in London, Canada. In 2014 it became known that these messages all were created by a local artist. So, the crypto mystery turned out to be a performance art project. It is, of course, possible that the Alster bottle post mystery has a similar origin.
  • Hoax: 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.

2019-08-27. Edited to add: Originally, I wrote that the cigarette pack was in the older bottle, while the A4 sheet was in the newer one. It was the other way round, as Christina Stacke told me. I have changed it.

Further reading: Kaliningrad’s second mystery: Who can break this encrypted bottle post?


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Kommentare (16)

  1. #1 Dampier
    26. August 2019

    Here we have a full name for the first time: Dirk H Zakrsewski (e. g. last word of the left column in the big paper). In a quick search I found a SEO (search engine optimizer) named Dirk Zakrzewski, from Bielefeld (a town which, according to a german conspiracy-joke, doesn’t exist! – very mysterious …)

    Many letter sequences might be abbreviations, respectively the first letters of a sentence or so. What caught my eye was “DHKP” which reminds me to another old german joke: DBDDHKP, which means “Doof bleibt doof, da helfen keine Pillen” (Stupid remains stupid, and no pills will help). This might be an indication to my theory, which I still cling to: the messagens are written by a mentally ill person, schizoid or paranoid or whatever …

    These are wild guesses of course, but the style of the texts reminds me to writings of mentally ill persons I have seen before.

  2. #2 Muster Mark
    27. August 2019

    My guess is, this was written by a mentally ill, homeless Person that lives in his/her own world.

  3. #3 Marc
    27. August 2019

    du hattest doch erwähnt, dass du mal in einer Psychatrie gearbeitet hast und wolltest dort mal nachfragen. Ist dabei etwas herausgekommen?

  4. #4 Dampier
    27. August 2019

    oha, das ist auch schon wieder fast 2 Jahre her (09/17). Ich hatte an die Alsterdorfer Anstalten geschrieben & den Fall geschildert. Hab nie eine Antwort bekommen.

    Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

    ich möchte Sie auf einen Fall aufmerksam machen, der mich schon einige Zeit beschäftigt. Möglicherweise handelt es sich hier um eine hilfsbedürftige, evtl. traumatisierte Person.

    In den letzten Monaten wurden eine Reihe von Flaschenposten in der Alster gefunden. Der bekannte Kryptologe (Experte für historische Verschlüsselungstechnik) und Buchautor Klaus Schmeh berichtet davon in seinem Blog (links siehe unten).

    Es handelt sich um bisher vier Zettel mit schwer entzifferbaren Texten. Mit klassischen Entschlüsselungsmethoden sind sie offenbar nicht zu lösen. Ich habe den Eindruck, dass sie von einer verwirrten Person stammen. (Meine Erfahrung beschränkt sich auf den Zivildienst in der Psychogeriatrie in den 80er Jahren.)

    Mich würde sehr interessieren, wie Sie diese Sache einschätzen – ob da evtl. jemand Hilfe braucht.

  5. #5 Marc
    27. August 2019

    ist zwar schon 2 Jahre her, konnte mich aber noch daran erinnern. Glaube nicht, dass sich diese Anfrage über das Kontaktformular dort wirklich jemand ernsthaft angeschaut hat. Daher würde ich der fehlenden Antwort keine große Bedeutung zumessen.

  6. #6 bernhardt
    27. August 2019

    this is so funny! i work for the last 26 jears on the french atlantik ocean in french for the seson for 4-5 month and some years ago i find somthing similar! maybe iwill find the pictur in some of my old harddives and i will send it to you! but i think that sombody make a fun like same of the one and only bottlemessage i ever found on the beech.

  7. #7 Dampier
    27. August 2019

    @Marc, seh ich auch so. Allerdings stand da nach dem Absenden “Danke für Ihre Anfrage. Wir werden uns so schnell wie möglich bei ihnen melden.”

    Ist mir aber auch egal inzwischen. Wenn die Person über Jahre diese Flaschenposten verteilt, scheint sie doch ein einigermaßen geregeltes Leben zu haben. Ich glaube nicht mehr, dass da jemand wirklich in Not ist. Wahrscheinlich hat die Person sogar eine Betreuung oder so, und das ist bloß eine Marotte, die toleriert wird. Warum auch nicht?

  8. #8 bernhardt
    atlantik ocean
    27. August 2019

    ach, ich wusste nicht das man auch deutsch sprechen kann jier. ich such mal nach dem bild das sieht abef genauso aus wie dein bild. ich glaube an schmarn da will sich einer einer witz machen genau wie bei meiner post das hat nix zu sagen und am besten vergesen!

  9. #9 x3Ray
    27. August 2019

    Bei #6 sieht man ja schön, dass der Schreiber der dt. Sprache nicht ganz mächtig ist, da haben verschiedene Wörter ziemliche Schreibfehler:
    Zchrivten = Schriften
    Vunktürme = Funktürme
    poliglott = polyglott
    viernsehen = fernsehen
    weck da/weckbleiben = weg da/wegbleiben

    Ob das alles einen Sinn ergibt, soll jeder für sich entscheiden. Für den Schreiber wahrscheinlich ja. 😉

  10. #10 x3Ray
    27. August 2019

    @Dampier #1
    Das klingt nach einem vernünftigen Ansatz, wobei ich diesen Namen nicht in Stein gemeißelt sehen würde; da sind Schreibvariationen denkbar (Zakrzewski, Zagzrewsky usw.).
    Die Kürzel und Varianten scheinen mir jedenfalls das Kürzel für diese Person zu sein, und dann “liest” sich das wie die Notizen eines Patienten über Aussagen dieser Person. Ich würde bei dem Namen Z… auf jemandem mit dem Beruf eines Psychologen, Psychiaters oder Arztes tippen.

    (Stark gemutmaßt: Könnte die Kombination AHRSZ womöglich sogar ‘Arzt’ heißen sollen? Für jemanden mit Sprachproblemem, schlechten Deutschkenntnissen könnte das so klingen.)

  11. #11 Anonymous
    23. September 2019

    Ich könnte mir auch einen Hoax vorstellen.

    Ich könnte mir aber auch vorstellen, dass da jemand eine Computerdatei oder ähnliches abgeschrieben hat. Wenn man beispielsweise eine HTML Datei nicht vom Browser interpretieren lässt sondern in einem Texteditor öffnet sieht man ja auch Zeichen wie . Und das ist nur ein Beispiel. Computercodes geraten absichtlich oder unabsichtlich immer mal wieder an die Oberfläche und der Laie weiß dann damit nicht viel anzufangen. Auch ich habe mir schonmal Zahlen oder so notiert, von denen ich in dem Moment nicht wusste, ob sie noch einmal wichtig werden könnten. Und wenn man in dem Moment nichts anderes hat, kann man auch schonmal etwas auf einer Servierte oder einem Bierdeckel notieren… oder auf einer Zigarettenschachtel.

    Allerdings stecke ich diese Dinge dann nicht in eine Flasche, verschließe diese und werfe sie weg. Auf der anderes Seite fügen Menschen die verschiedensten Dinge zusammen oder arrangieren diese als physische und geistige Fingerübung oder dass es weiteren Sinn ergibt. Es ist wie ein Spiel. Als ob man Affen beim lernen oder ausprobieren von Techniken beobachtet.

    Zurück zur Notitz-Hypothese: Es kommt mir vor wie Korrespondenz. Es kommt ja auch das Wort “Betreff” vor. Vielleicht sind es HTML Mails. Es kommen noch weitere Zeichnen vor, die nicht in ASCII vorkommen. In Zeiten von Unicode kann man aber auch solche Zeichen nicht ausschließen.

  12. #12 Breaker
    12. Juli 2020

    The idea that they are correspondences is correct.

    These are “SOS codes”…..”Messages in Bottles” dropped for operatives to pick up on and use as a template IMO, for conducting operations.

    Some of the characters written on the pages have Hebrew mixed in with German. I would say that they continue for some reason seeing as this has gone on for the past 6 years in relation to events that have occurred.

    Some of the bottles have the letters TNT circled and other flight control symbols like throttles and flight control frequencies added in others. There are also codesharing flight names and numbers and the plane numbers of smaller aircraft. Top that off with the words Ubooten and Bomberinin and you have the formula for a very bad set of events planned and plotted out using the instructions in this cipher series.

    This is all suspect for some kind of terrorist plot beginning in 2014….when the first bottle was found.

  13. #13 Breaker
    12. September 2020

    So the confirmation of the authorship of these bottles is now available to be seen and is confirmed to be known to be from a group of Israeli “Art Students” that are from the Gelatin Crew…..these were the students that were on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center for the 4 years before the Towers and WTC Center was attacked.

    Their book showed their language used on one page was specifically mixed with German and English, as well as their nationality being that of an Israeli organization within their military branches of the Aman and Mossad, with training as Explosives Experts.

    This explains the crude formula for TNT, the numerous other markings related to obvious military and commercial targets, including but not limited to a specific set of flights that were listed using both a incomplete flight number and their respective Code Sharing names (as known to their parent company), along with their flight control frequencies and other control module descriptors.

    There is a lot of information added to the Project Architeuthis Page and I would appreciate some sort of relay of information through a professional in your group so as to be able to make contact with the right agency in this affair. I have tried before and they simply do not speak to me, or pass the hot perverbial potato from one dept to the next.

    Maybe someone here can help the cause and forward the link shown above….


    Many Innocent Lives Will Be Saved

  14. #14 BREAKER
    18. November 2020

    Also for confirmation go to this page on the Shorty Awards 7th Annual, where the Project Architeuthis Alternative Reality Game was given the awards in the public forum. The links on the right side of the page host a few about the information behind the project and it’s makers, but how ironic that the top link is to my page on Facebook.

    Merely type in “Project Architeuthis” on Google, and the first link is to the Shorty Awards page, and hit that link and it takes you to the specific page that lists the description of their “Merits” and why it was chosen. The links are on the right side.

    I didn’t notice that the entire online community had noticed, and had propped me up on top, even before their own homepage, as if I had hijacked the proj!

    LOL the Master Codebreaker wins once again.

  15. #15 Breaker
    7. Juni 2021

    @Dampiere in regards to your comment here :

    “These are wild guesses of course, but the style of the texts reminds me to writings of mentally ill persons I have seen before.”

    Have you seen anyone in the “mentally ill” category you speak of able to encrypt plane frequency data before and drop numerous ciphers across a timeline like this before? Just your average mentally challenged individual who keeps such a consistent use of paper in such fashion as to write numerous details into them, segregating numerous sections of the text blocks to be used with a grille template provided with a gap in the cover of the “Novel” they are writing them on?

    Are you even slightly aware of the symbolism being used in these “ciphers” that hide plane flight control information and plane names in them behind a filler of jarbled German words?

    Did you happen to, by the slightest chance, catch the Hebrew that was schmutzed into the text anywhere in any of the bottles?

    Lets just say you all have one hell of a vested interest in not being very aware of what is going on…..

  16. #16 Breaker
    7. Juni 2021

    “My experience is limited to community service in psychogeriatry in the 80s”

    A good Joke would abbreviate like this DQYDJ
    ….not DBDDHKP

    Don’t quit your day job