A 3.7-meter (12-foot) long copper scroll outside the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, covered in seemingly irrational characters, known as Kryptos. The puzzle designed by Jim Sanborn has not been solved for more than three decades – Internet Slut, the NSA and the CIA tried it themselves, seeing the sculpture on their way every day. Three of the four passages hidden in the puzzle have been decrypted, but one remains elusive.
Here is what we know so far.
This passage was using Vision’s cipher, a way to encrypt text using two Caesar ciphers – a simple method of encryption that transfers letters to the alphabet before or after – interwoven together. The keywords used for this cipher are “Kryptos” and “Palimpsest”. First, the word Kryptos placed at the top of the grid (see video below) with Palimpsest going down. After Kryptos, the alphabet continues alphabetically, Kryptos avoiding any one letter in the word. This continued in the following lines, starting with the letter of the word Palimpsest.
Then to decrypt the first letter of the passage – in this case, an e – you scroll the first line until you find no e, then go to the top to reveal what it should be – in this case, the letter B. B. Continues to, finally gives you a message (with intentional type):
BETWEEN SUBTLE SHADING AND THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT LIES THE NUANCE OF IQLUSION
This passage uses the same encryption method as the first passage, but with the keywords “Kryptos” and “abscissa”. Once decoded, it translates text and coordinates:
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
Passage 3 solved using two methods of transport (a good explanation of which can found here). The final message was:
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?
Somewhat pleasingly, the message is a slightly modified relaying of Howard Carter’s account of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
The unresolved passage reads:
So far, the message is hiding, although the creator has revealed several clues. The first formula published in 2006, was that the first three passages were clues for the final passage. Four years later, he revealed that “NYPVTT”, the 64th–69th letters in passage four, becomes “BERLIN” when decrypted, before going on to reveal that “MZFPK” (the 70th–74th letters) means “CLOCK”.Still unresolved, he revealed that people should “look at that watch.” Yet he is highly unrealistic, he reveals that the letters in positions 22-25 contain the word “FLRV” as well as the one-word QQPRNGKSS”North Answer” published by “QQPRNG KSS”. The fourth passage, once solved, will reveal one more puzzle to solve. If no one can crack the code before he dies, Sanborn has revealed that he will sell the solution at auction by donating money to Climate Science. Already 30 years have passed; you may want to save for auction.