My father was never too close to his kids, but when his fishing trawler mysteriously disappeared in a storm to the South of Guam, his wife and her three sons felt the loss deeply. I, more than my brothers, felt compelled to investigate what the Navy and NOAA wouldn't. A week later, I arrived in Guam and found the marina at which my father's boat had last been docked. Here I interrogated the manager, Vormen Klinkers. He mentioned that the South Equatorial Current would likely wash up any remnants in Halmahera, of the Maluku Islands, based on the ship's last radioed position.

So, I scoured the 160 kilometers of Halmahera coastline until at last I found a clue. His logbook, nearly ruined, had washed up near a village. The first pages crumbled in my fingers, and the last ones were all blank. However, I managed to extract the last 4 pages with writing on them.

My hope dwindled as I stared at the strange collection of symbols arranged on the papers. My father often used codes and ciphers for private information, but he never explained any of them to us.

Determined to uncover the truth, I took pictures and brought them home. These are the exact symbols which were on each page:


For three weeks I tirelessly studied them. At last, their meaning became clear. I hitched up the boat trailer to my pickup truck and floored it to the nearest highway.

Where was I going, and what had I discovered in my father's notes?

Clue 1:

One night I stared into the sky, hoping, watching the small pinpoints of light twinkle in the vastness of space. And that gave me an idea—but it had nothing to do with stars.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This looks like a really interesting puzzle: welcome to Puzzling! Would the tag visual also be applicable? $\endgroup$
    – boboquack
    Dec 13 '18 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ Is it related to nautical alphabet? $\endgroup$
    – qq jkztd
    Jan 5 '19 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @qqjkztd It is not. $\endgroup$ Jan 6 '19 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ since it's been more than three (sleepless) weeks, what about giving a clue? $\endgroup$
    – qq jkztd
    Jan 28 '19 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ @qqjkztd I have now. Thanks, I suspected everyone had given up. $\endgroup$ Jan 29 '19 at 14:26

I'm going to ...

... the place where my father used to fish with me and my brothers.

The last pages of the logbook read:

March seventh. Still don't know where we are. Signals gone. Power out. Darkness outside. The beings call themselves eternals. Locked us below deck. Asking questions.

March eighth. Somehow they suspended the ship somewhere else. There is no sound or rocking of waves. But how? Studying us. One almost found my log.

March tenth. Food almost gone. They'll have to let us go soon or else we'll die. Peter tried attacking one and it crushed him.

March eleventh. Going to try and escape when they open the hatch again. If I survive, I'll make my way to the place my boys and I used to fish.

How the cipher works:

The symbols are read from the outside in. There are three kinds of symbols:

Closed symbols: These are the circle, the square, the diamond, the triangle and the hexagon. These symbols represent vowels. (Rhssquared's observarion was useful in finding that out.)

Strokes and arcs: These symbols come in pairs, each pair represents a consonant. When there are several consonants between vowels, it is usually clear which one is outside and which one inside, because the strokes cannot be adjacent. For example, look at the top left figure on each page: The four strokes inside the triangle must be paired in such a way that soutwest-east is the outer and west-east the inner pair.

Punctuation: There may be a symbol in the centre. If so, the word ends with this symbol. If it is a dot, it's just a space; a times sign is a full stop; an upright bar is a comma; a plus sign is a question mark. Occasionally, there's a little icicle / lone vampire fang / triangle attached to a letter. That's an apostrophe. (To be honest, I wouldn't have bothered with encoding these.)

Here's a chart:

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent! There was one decryption error you made that, if you hadn't, might have helped you decide what the one symbol was which you guessed on. The word just before the guessed symbol starts with a different letter than you wrote. Also, I'm sure you now know the answer to the puzzle's question itself, at the bottom of my post? $\endgroup$ Nov 26 '19 at 18:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think I decoded that correctly at first, but didn't see how it realted to te previous sentences, so I miscorrected it. Anyway, I've updated my post. Thanks. I thought that the first word would be a date and I checked the months. But at that time, I still tought each stroke would be one letter and I got nowhere. Later, when I knew the structure of the code, I forgot to check that again. That would have saved me some time, too, in finding out how the punctuation works. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Nov 26 '19 at 20:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Anyway, puzzles are pastimes, so no complaint there. This one was a slow burner, but worth the effort. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Nov 26 '19 at 20:15

Far from solution yet:

The name of the dock manager, Vormen Klinkers, translates into English as "Form Vowels", which might be a hint.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The first word may not be an accurate translation - there are several synonyms which should also be considered. $\endgroup$ Jan 6 '19 at 17:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Vormen" also translates to "Shapes", incidentally. This may be more accurate considering some shapes show up repeatedly. $\endgroup$
    – Braegh
    Nov 23 '19 at 12:31

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