Sunday Reading: Solving Australia’s Most Puzzling Mystery

Sunday October 07, 2018 Written by Smith

Somerton Man

Australian history is laden with unsolved mysteries. Was Prime Minister Harold Holt really scooped up by a Chinese submarine? Did Victorian woman Kelly Cahill get abducted by aliens? Why do electric hand dryers have pictures of emus on them when emus don’t have hands?

None of these questions, however, come close to topping the mystery of the Somerton Man.

If you don’t know the story, here’s the basic outline: in 1947, the partially decomposed body of an unidentified man was found on a South Australian beach. A quick investigation followed, and a bevy of True Detective-esque clues were found. First, there was the small piece of paper discovered in the man’s pocket, which had the phrase "it’s finished" written on it in Farsi. Then there was the strange pattern of the man's necktie. Most puzzling of all, though, was the (still) uncrackable code scrawled on to the back of a book.

Despite the best efforts of the police, the case soon went cold, and for nearly 70 years the man’s identity – and cause of death – has remained a mystery. But that hasn’t stopped amateur sleuths from trying to solve it, and one of them, a physics professor named Derek Abbott, reckons he might have finally done it.

But the twists and turns keep coming, and as this article over in California Sunday points out, the rest of the story is stranger than you might imagine.