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The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Somerton Man: Code Page cracked open, Yes, it has been done and here's proof positive that the techniques used really do work..

Code Page Cracked Open, Techniques Proven Successful
Proof Positive..

This demonstration shows just how the details of the code can be recovered. To be more precise, it is another way that the code details can be recovered. The use of digital forensic methods has been dealt with earlier. 

Whilst finding the real code is very important and gives the case a whole new direction, the impact goes beyond that. It means that whoever worked on the code page, would have seen what was really there and it was literally covered up and then released for the public to see. It must throw doubt on the other aspects of the case including the suitcase, the story surrounding the man's arrival and the tickets. 

For some years now, working on the code page and other items has consumed a great deal of time. It hasn't been just a question of taking lots of photographs, much more a question of learning and researching widely into the topic of code writing techniques and especially concealment methods. I figured that if I knew how they hid codes in days gone by then I would have a reasonable chance of finding them.So amongst the things I have studied are things like advanced image editing techniques, clandestine communication methods, espionage in WW2 and the Cold War, SOE methods and techniques and of course forensic examination of documents which includes photographs. Last but not least, I also made an extensive study of micro writing.

After many hours reading and searching the web on this wide range of topics associated with 'tradecraft', the work that I was doing finally started to come together and, whilst the project still has much work to be done, I have been able to demonstrate the use of a particular concealment technique known as INK H as developed by the British Intelligence services, (SOE) in WW2. 

At the risk of boring the many who have read this here before, the process was devastatingly simple, write normal sized letters in ink, add micro code in pencil in some or all of those letters, add another layer of ink to all of the letters to properly conceal the micro code and that's stage 1. The reason a second layer of ink is added is because if you did not do that and a sharp eyed enemy used oblique lighting on the page containing your letters/code, then they would pick up the tell tale glint from the pencil marks. The ink prevents that. The final step in this clandestine method of communication was to immerse the page containing the letters and code into a strong bleach solution. This had the effect of removing the ink but leaving the tiny pencilled code visible. You will see all this in the images that follow.

Step 1. Code inked over, this is a photograph of 
the original

Step 2. Immersed in bleach for about 15 seconds, code beginning to show.

Step 3. 1 minute immersion

You can see how the ink is breaking away and dissolving leaving the pencilled code coming into view.

Step 4. 3 minutes immersed, code is now clearly visible

Step 5. Using the photographic image above, the code is again inked over, the nib on this pen is around .7 mm in width. Having made an extensive study of the page for some time now, I think that the actual markings on the photograph were done with a brush, a very skilled job.:

Step 6. The image is of the revealed code after it had been inked over in the picture below. You can see the ruled edge showing sub 1 mm for most of the coded letters/numbers. It is this picture, the photo of the photo, that we will use to develop the code and make it visible again.

Step 7. Image from step 6 is immersed in bleach, the image shows the effects of 2 minutes after immersion.

Step 8. The image is developed and the code once again becomes visible. Please bear in mind that, even though the code page was written many years ago, the tools and techniques used by Police and Intelligence services were extremely good. Glass plate photographs were capable of producing extraordinarily fine details and the use of various chemicals, including Iodine vapour,  would reveal every single fibre in a document and if it had been modified in any way.

This image is a little hazy, with more time I would have improved on the quality but I think you can get the picture. What this post has done today is to clearly demonstrate that using a digital image of another image in fact this was a scan taken at 400 DPI, you are indeed able to recover concealed code. That is exactly what I have been able to do with the code page as well as the torn piece and Verse 70 from Jestyn's book inscription to Alf Boxall.

I would like to acknowledge the impetus for writing this post received from JP who commented in a very constructive manner, earlier today. 

In closing, anyone can do this even with just basic knowledge.

If you have any queries on this process, please message me via the comments link. I will not publish your name without your permission.

Some questions for other bloggers in this space, I was wondering when you will start to at least look at the implications of the results of this work? Are you unable to see how the whole case changes? Will our audiences be treated to yet more re-runs of the suitcase contents and imaginings about the body? 

For the audience reading this post, why don't you tell the other bloggers to wake up! What they have is a real live espionage story on their plate and they don't know what to do with it, further, they'll keep on not knowing what to do with it until their blogs step off the edge of the cliff again.

As for this blog, I will keep posting as and when I am able to recover more of the micro code and intersperse those posts with some fascinating and little known case studies that I have managed to find related to tradecraft and espionage.


MithridatesV1 said...

Methinks you are getting closer Mr.G. True to say that the use of photographs and scans are commonplace in questioned documents and forensic retrieval of indented writing, also knew of the use of strong bleach on originals but not on photographs. Tried it and it worked, matter of interest I used a morse code telegraph from the year dot as the hidden element. I think you have uncovered a new/old technique. Be useful to see more examples.

Gordon332 said...

Thanks for your comment. Interesting choice of name? I might shorten it to MV1!

As you have obviously seen, it is straightforward enough to try the process and it does work consistently.

When you think about it, the various shade of grey or whatever colour, are actually layers of ink applied by the printer in accordance with the information it receives from the image file. In that respect, the everyday photograph that people think is a 2D image, actually has 3 dimensions if you count the micro thin layers of ink on the surface of the photo paper. So, when the image is immersed in a fairly strong bleach, it acts progressively on those layers of ink. In this case, what we are after is the darkest shades which when immersed in bleach turn out to be letters and numbers. It based on the SOE INK H method which does the same thing but on the original. We are not, today at least, in possession of an original but in the SM Code Page we do have a very finely taken glass plate photograph at sufficient resolution, 400DPI, to be able to use that same INK H development method.

Having said all of that, more than happy to provide further examples, will do so by the end of the week and thanks again for your comment.