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Dead pigeon stumps UK code crackers

GCHQ humbled by unbroken bird bounty
Fri Nov 23 2012, 12:08

UK CODECRACKERS have been stumped by a message found on the leg of a dead pigeon.

The message was discovered early in November and handed in to GCHQ by a chap who found it up a chimney.

The man who found the dead pigeon up a chimney took a close look at a canister that it had on its leg. The canister contained a piece of paper with the words "Pigeon Service" written on it along with 27 handwritten blocks of code.

There are two options for deciphering the message. One is that it used a one time key known only to the sender and recipient, and another is that it was written in a book that is now lost. The code is not a common one, according to those involved, so the message probably won't make sense if you hold it up in front of a mirror.

GCHQ is hoping that someone will be able to help it crack the code and has supplied some information on its website about the message. It has a pigeon identifier that someone might recognise.

"Each pigeon in service was given an identity number. Two such numbers, NURP.40.TW.194 and NURP.37.OK.76, have been identified on the Bletchingley message," says the agency. "Either of these could be the identity of the pigeon in the chimney."

We've had a look. We reckon that the message might say, "Please help us. We are a collection of pigeons that have been trained to wear canisters on our legs and fly into chimneys", but this is doubtful. Pigeons cannot write, let alone create ciphers.

What we can't work out is how knowing who owned the pigeon 70 years ago or what its name was might help decipher the message. µ


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