Message in a bottle

This puzzle was sent in by a visitor to Omniglot who found this piece of paper in a bottle off the coast of Oregon in 1963. It has been suggested that the writing system might be Yi.

Message in a bottle

Can you make any sense of it?

NB: I don’t know which way up it should be.

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This entry was posted in Language, Puzzles, Writing.

13 Responses to Message in a bottle

  1. TJ says:

    If you ask me, it feels totally random. I’m not familiar with Yi but I remember even Yi got some sense in its drawing (and you can tell some direction in it). Could it be a joke??

  2. Ethan says:

    I don’t see a single character repeated.

  3. BSF says:

    It must be Yi: note the top row, second from the left…

  4. TJ says:

    @BSF: you know what this character means?

  5. Caenwyr says:

    @ TJ: I think he’s joking. That character vaguely looks like “yi”

  6. TJ says:

    lol oh well ….. who knows …. hmm coincidences in life never cease to surprise me!

  7. Katwoo says:

    Any help in having this interpreted would be greatly appreciated. I have waited 47 years and tried every path I know. Thanks so much,

  8. Michel says:

    Many of these glyphs look to me as variations of the character for I in Chinese (我),

  9. Christopher says:

    @Ethan If you look at the fourth row you’ll see one that looks almost identical to the first one. I guess it’s possible there’s an intended pattern (all the variations of “s” shapes with the cross-bars), but otherwise the shapes don’t look like they are repeated very skillfully.

  10. andre says:

    It does look a lot like Yi, more than I thought when I look at the syllabary chart, but I would have no idea as to even identify the characters… Other than that I’d probably suggest that it’s just a doodle with no meaning, which would make sense given the inconsistency of the characters.

  11. Jim M. says:

    There are variants of Yi and other Sinitic scripts from that area … gotta be someone out there who can say yea or nay to this idea.

  12. sda says:

    There is Liangshang Yi, Eshan yi and some others, plus sui, and dongba, maybe it’s one of those?

  13. Katwoo says:

    After I found this note I took it to the University of Oregon “Discovery Day” and they told me they thought it was authentic and the paper from a ships log book (about 4″ X 5″ in actual size)and the ink waterproof; obivously since even though it was corked and waxed over there was a small amount of water in the bottle.

    Thanks to all helping to disipher this note. I believe it is authentic, possibly the sailor was not too literate!