What did those mysterious letters with the colons mean? Where was the rose bush that was hiding the Globe of Magellan, and how was the mystery ultimately solved?
The riddle that launched the inaugural season of Brain Chase was made up of five different types of clues: hidden pictures, clusters of numbers, groups of letters separated by colons, red letters, and hidden globes and roses. Here’s how they all fit together to lead to the prize.
The Globes and Roses
First of all, each animated episode contained several hidden globes and roses. These images related symbolically to the treasure hunt, but neither the objects themselves nor their placement in the animations contained any clues to the location of the buried treasure. These images were intended to provide motivation, a diversion, and a feeling of accomplishment to some of the program’s younger participants who might otherwise have felt overwhelmed by the more intricate puzzle.
Each Brain Chase episode contained one or more clusters of letters and colons. These clusters always appeared somewhere in plants (Tate Grayson was allegedly a skilled botanist). Based on participant feedback, these letters were the most difficult part of the riddle to solve – but they were also the key to finding the master riddle. Here’s how:
First, the letters needed to be deciphered. Each Brain Chase participant received a secret decoder ring in the mail at the beginning of the program. The ring translates numbers to letters, and vice versa. Translating the letters in each episode into numbers revealed fourteen codes made up of numbers and colons. These codes corresponded to specific “video time code” stamps that were visible in each episode.
Next, whether from Max Merriweather’s handheld camcorder, various security camera feeds, or other film and video projections, each Globe of Magellan animation had moments when streaming timecode was visible on a screen. This timecode is always made up of numbers and colons, representing the hours, minutes, seconds, and frames in video content. At the precise moments when the streaming timecode lined up with the timecode clues from the plants (these moments were usually punctuated by a subtle flash or jump in the streaming timecode numbers themselves), one of the characters would say a critical word or series of words. These words, when strung together from episode to episode, comprised the master riddle – the key to pinpointing the location of the treasure (more about this later):
The Red Letters
The first episode of each week of Brain Chase began with a few brief rhymes, and certain letters of each riddle were highlighted in red. As the other letters disappeared, the red letters remained, spelling a word that would prove a vital hint to finding the master riddle: Riddle, Decoder, Listen, Numbers, Plants, and Time. “Riddle” indicated that a master riddle was hiding in the animations. “Decoder” hinted that the decoder ring would be necessary to translate the letters into numbers. “Listen” was a major clue – it indicated that the riddle would be something you’d need to hear, instead of something you’d see. The word “plants” pointed to the common thread between all of the letters and colons hiding somewhere in the foliage, and the words “time” and “numbers” alluded to the significance of the video timecode.
The Number Clusters
If the red letters were the key to finding the master riddle, then the number clusters were the key to solving it. Each animated episode contained one hidden cluster of numbers. When run translated using the decoder ring, these groupings turned into words that offered clues to solving the master riddle. Here are the words, along with their significance to the treasure hunt:
Of these words, perhaps the most significant was the word “antipode.” An antipode is the point on exactly the other side of the earth. The only way that a third “island” could appear between the two islands of New Zealand was by finding the two points, finding the correct spot between them, and then finding that spot’s “antipode” on the other side of the world.
The two points – one on Chatham Island and the other on Hawkes Bay, each have their own antipodal city in Europe. A line connecting the two points would be approximately 441 miles long, and would be a 135 degree line in New Zealand, or a 45 degree line between the two antipodal points. The key spot along the line was not at the halfway point, but rather around the 70/30 point, favoring Chatham Island.
There, at approximately the point where the Coral Garden Graveyard sprawls across the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, lies the antipode to a tiny geopolitical island in the South of France – a small town called Llivia, Spain. The first student to click on Llivia was the winner of Brain Chase 2014.
The Hidden Images
Each animation contained several hidden pictures in addition to the generic globes and roses. These hidden shoelaces, hawks, thermometers showing a temperature of 135 degrees, Union Jacks, moons, graveyards, clocks at midnight, compasses pointing South, and many others, served as “confirmation” clues. They reinforced the clues delivered by the number and letter clusters in each episode.
If these five types of clues weren’t enough, the animations dropped several other hints about the location of the treasure. In the library, Sean found a clock whose hands were stopped at midnight. In the hedge maze, Mae found a fountain where the islands emerged from underwater. And in Henry’s headquarters, the wall map was upside down, symbolically reinforcing the hidden word “antipode.” Another subtle hint was dropped by the bookends in Henry Grayson’s office – one bookend was shaped like a crescent moon, and the other like a tiny boot. We were quite proud of that one. Did you find any other subtle hints or clues hiding in the different episodes?
Meet the Winners
Jack and Grayson Engler of Austin Texas were the first students to put the pieces together and locate the globe. Hear their story and see how they solved the treasure hunt:
What do you think – would you have been able to find and solve the master riddle? There’s only one way to find out – register today for one of our upcoming challenges. You might be the next adventurer on a plane to dig up a real golden treasure!
Dad and Co-Founder
Team Brain Chase