‘Unsolvable’ Code Hidden in Antique Dress Pocket Is Finally Cracked

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has revealed a fascinating tale hidden within two mysterious messages found in a secret pocket. A decade ago, archaeologist and vintage dress enthusiast Sara Rivers Cofield stumbled upon a hidden pocket in an 1880s dress, unveiling two crumpled pieces of paper. What did she find written on those pieces of paper?

Deciphering the Mysterious Code

In a blog post in February 2014, Rivers Cofield shared the astonishing discovery of the dress and its intriguing content. The cryptic words, initially deemed among the 50 most “unsolvable” codes globally by NOAA, sparked widespread fascination.

However, the tide turned last year when Wayne Chan, a research computer analyst at the University of Manitoba in Canada, unraveled the mystery. It turns out that these enigmatic words were once a covert language for transmitting local weather updates via telegraph—that’s right, the secret codes were weather forecasts.

The Antique Dress’s Secrets

Cofield’s blog about the bronze-colored dress set the internet abuzz. Some speculated ties to the Civil War, but the dress’s age made that unlikely. A more plausible explanation that emerged was transmission.

Shutterstock // Everett Collection

Back in the telegraph era, condensing information was crucial to save costs, as telegraph companies charged by the word. In a fascinating 2023 paper published in the journal Cryptologia, Chan shed light on this practice. Encoding messages proved to be an effective strategy to reduce expenses.

Wayne Chan’s Decoding Journey

The quest to decode the telegraphic messages led Wayne Chan on a thorough search through 170 different codebooks, initially yielding no success. However, his persistence paid off when he stumbled upon a book containing the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ weather code.

Wikimedia Commons // United States Department of Commerce — Weather Bureau // Public Domain

Armed with the code book and additional resources, Chan deciphered that the messages originated from US and Canadian Army Signal Service weather stations. For instance, the line “Bismark, omit, leafage, buck, bank” conveyed that in Bismark, the temperature was 56 degrees Fahrenheit with a barometric pressure of 30.08 Hg (encoded as “omit”). “Leafage” indicated a dew point of 32 degrees at 10 p.m., while clear skies, no precipitation, and a northward wind at 12 miles per hour (“buck”) completed the weather report. How clever is that?

Bermuda Triangle Mystery Has Been ‘Solved’, According to Expert

In a scientific exposition seeking to unravel the enigma of the Bermuda Triangle – the notorious maritime region that has long intrigued the curious and fostered tales of inexplicable vanishings – an individual named Nick Hutchings, distinguished as a mineral prospector, proclaims a novel resolution. In a 2019 interview, Hutchings claimed that geological factors may explain the occurrences of aircraft and seafaring vessels disappearing without a trace.

The Bermuda Triangle Explained

Scientists Offer Explanations of the Bermuda Triangle Mystery
The Bermuda Triangle Explained

The Bermuda Triangle, a triangular geographic area in the North Atlantic Ocean next to the eastern coast of North America, has borne witness to an unsettling chronicle. According to sources, this locale has witnessed the unaccountable vanishing of over 50 ships and 20 aircrafts, leaving behind no clues.

This region has been marred by reports of disappearances spanning back to the mid-19th century, with neither discernible causation, distress signals, wreckage, nor the subsequent location of missing crews and passengers.

In light of this comprehensive geological assessment, the question arises – what does Hutchings attribute these phenomena to? His retort, grounded in scientific principles, implicates geological formations, specifically subaquatic volcanic remnants.

Hutchings explained in detail that Bermuda, in essence, constitutes an erstwhile seamount – an ancient underwater volcano that, eons ago, protruded above the ocean’s surface. Millennia of erosion have conspired to leave behind the vestiges of this volcanic edifice, accompanied by core samples bearing magnetite, a strong naturally occurring magnetic material on Earth.

Magnetic Materials and Statistics

Magnetic Materials and Statistics

Hutchings conducted an illustrative experiment, employing a diminutive fragment of the magnetite-rich rock and a compass as his tools. When the compass traversed the vicinity of the rock, its needle exhibited erratic behavior, rendering the navigational instrument utterly ineffectual. The ancient mariners voyaging past the Bermuda region would have simply been very confused. So, these vessels and aircraft were victims of navigational bewilderment due to magnetic anomalies.

Despite seafarers’ claims of encountering apparitional vessels and other bizarre occurrences within this eerie expanse, Karl Kruszelnicki, a distinguished scientist affiliated with the University of Sydney, Australia, contends that the proportion of missing aircraft and vessels in the Bermuda Triangle mirrors statistics observed in other heavily traversed maritime regions.

Kruszelnicki also states that most of the mysterious disappearances can be attributed to adverse weather conditions and suboptimal navigational decisions.