Letters-Randomly Arranged. Do they mean anything? Usually they do not, but remember one thing, that if they are “Randomly Arranged” on a monument in the yard of an Intelligence Agency, such as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), they will surely have a meaningful message. The Americans took around 8 to 9 years just to figure out that the letters meant something. The following years, plus the coming ones till the whole of the message is cracked, would be the total number of years required to understand a cipher and crack it. This famous sculpture on the CIA’s yard is named Kryptos, meaning “Hidden” in Greek. Even knowing the name could we not understand its direction of plot.
Situated in CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia, this tricky ciphered monument was built by the famous artist, James “Jim” Sanborn. It is said that Jim Sanborn had worked with a retiring Chairman of CIA Cryptographic centre, to come up with various methods to cipher his text. The monument was then dedicated to the CIA on November 3, 1990. There are rumours and speculations that the then-CIA Director, William H. Webster had boldly said to Sanborn that without giving the solutions of the cipher, he would not get paid. Eventually, he gave him the solutions and was paid. The sculpture’s total cost was $250,000, but the main value lay in its solutions.
The wide, ignorant world became aware of the ciphered text of the Kryptos in 1999, when James “Jim” Gillogly, an American computer scientist and cryptographer publicly announced the solving of the first 3 parts of the Kryptos. But soon after Gillogly’s announcement, the CIA announced that one of their own, David Stein had too solved the same three parts in 1998, using old “pencil and paper” techniques. Yet after this, the NSA too announced that their own team too, led by Ken Miller, Dennis McDaniels and two other unnamed people, had solved the same parts in late 1992. Elonka Dunin, in 2013, by the Freedom of Information Act forced NSA to release documents related to their research. Elonka Dunin has been a major figure in the solving of Kryptos and her blog is widely helpful in the same.
The Kryptos is divided into 4 parts, of which, the first three have been solved. The fourth one, though the shortest, remains publicly unsolved. The ciphers used for various parts are different. The first two parts (K1 and K2 respectively) were deciphered using simple techniques of polyalphabetic cipher using the letters on the corresponding half of the sculpture as the Vigenère tableau. The part 3 (K3) was deciphered using a more complex, transposition cipher. There is one spelling mistake in all the Passages solved out. The straightened form of the letters appearing on the sculpture is-
The solutions, part wise, are
K1- BETWEEN SUBTLE SHADING AND THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT LIES THE NUANCE OF IQLUSION
Here, the word Illusion has been misspelled as Iqlusion.
K2- IT WAS TOTALLY INVISIBLE HOWS THAT POSSIBLE ? THEY USED THE EARTHS MAGNETIC FIELD X THE INFORMATION WAS GATHERED AND TRANSMITTED UNDERGRUUND TO AN UNKNOWN LOCATION X DOES LANGLEY KNOW ABOUT THIS ? THEY SHOULD ITS BURIED OUT THERE SOMEWHERE X WHO KNOWS THE EXACT LOCATION ? ONLY WW THIS WAS HIS LAST MESSAGE X THIRTY EIGHT DEGREES FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES SIX POINT FIVE SECONDS NORTH SEVENTY SEVEN DEGREES EIGHT MINUTES FORTY FOUR SECONDS WEST X LAYER TWO
Here, the word Underground has been misspelled as Undergruund. Moreover, WW indicates William Webster, the then-CIA Director. The last part of this passage “WEST X LAYER TWO” by the cipher, was originally spelled as “WESTIDBYROWS” since Sanborn had forgotten to have an X after WEST. It was rectified by him in 2006 publicly. The Co-ordinates mentioned in the answer point to a location approx. 150 feet southeast to the sculpture.
K3- SLOWLY DESPARATLY SLOWLY THE REMAINS OF PASSAGE DEBRIS THAT ENCUMBERED THE LOWER PART OF THE DOORWAY WAS REMOVED WITH TREMBLING HANDS I MADE A TINY BREACH IN THE UPPER LEFT HAND CORNER AND THEN WIDENING THE HOLE A LITTLE I INSERTED THE CANDLE AND PEERED IN THE HOT AIR ESCAPING FROM THE CHAMBER CAUSED THE FLAME TO FLICKER BUT PRESENTLY DETAILS OF THE ROOM WITHIN EMERGED FROM THE MIST X CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING Q ?
The spelling error here, is the usage of Desparatly instead of Desperately. This passage is taken from Howard Carter’s book, “The Tomb Of Tut.Ankh.Amen”. It describes the opening of the Tomb by Carter with the last question asked by Lord Carnarvon.
There were many clues given after the deciphering of the first three passages and then to decipher the fourth one. The first of the clues was the rectification of his error in K2. Next, Sanborn had said that the answers to the fourth passage lay in the answers to the first one. Once more, Sanborn announced publicly in November 2010, that the letters 64-69 in the fourth passage, NYPVTT, when deciphered, would read BERLIN. Yet once again, in November 2014, he announced through ‘The New York Times’, that the letters 70-74, MZFPK, when deciphered, would read CLOCK. Sanborn stated, “You’d better delve into that particular clock”, but adding, he said, “There are several interesting clocks in Berlin.”
The Bird’s Eye view of the structure is as-
Besides these verbal clues, there are several other things near the sculpture, such as copper sheets with morse code engravings, a slab having a rose compass and a lodestone, the compass pointing towards a rose garden, a duck pond, a reflecting pool and several other unseemingly marked slabs. Some people even speculate that Sanborn’s next few works, including Antipodes, was related to this. The unidentified things near the Kryptos include the following:-
Is the Kryptos really a great breakthrough, since Sanborn announced that its answers are a riddle for a greater thing? Will anyone ever be able to decipher this cipher in the near future or will Sanborn, frustrated by so long a window for solving the mystery, give up the answers?
For the best views on the Kryptos, do visit Elonka Dunin’s website! – http://elonka.com