Right now, I think there is a ~35% chance that the Somerton Man was a Russian merchant seaman who had worked on a WWII Lend-Lease ship bringing goods from America to Vladivostok on the Pacific Route. We know his physical appearance, height, fingerprints, and his rough date of birth: and that he was found dead on a South Australian beach on 1st December 1948.

What struck me last night was that this might well be all we need to work with.

So at long last, I’ve finally formed a Somerton Man plan. Here’s what I’ll do (though it won’t happen in a day or even a week):-

(1) Find the Soviet crew lists for Lend-Lease ships landing on the West Coast of America during 1941-1945 (e.g. via Ancestry.com or elsewhere), and merge them into a single list.

Once this is filtered for merchant seamen of the right age (and I’ll happily take your suggestions as to what age range to filter against), my estimate is that I should have ~250 names to work with.

(2) Find out if any of these were alive in 1949 and beyond.

As I recall, there is a Maritime Cemetery in Vladivostok. My guess is that a fair few of these merchant seamen will be buried there: hopefully I’ll be able to find a nice administrative list or database to work with.

I estimate that this should reduce the list to something closer to 100 names. If other usable secondary databases exist, they might help get the list down to ~50 names.

Once I get to this point, it seems that there are four parallel strategies to follow, each of which might independently work:-

(3a) Trace these 50 names further using other Soviet databases. (Though because this was the era of Stalin’s Russia, there might well be rather less to go on than one would normally hope for).

(3b) Find crew-lists of Soviet ships arriving in or leaving from Australian ports 1943-1948 (and/or Australian alien seamen registration forms), and cross-reference against these.

(3c) Network through to retired Russian merchant seamen who worked on Lend-Lease ships and see what / who they remember. (There are, as I also recall, Homes for Retired Seamen in Vladivostok, which would seem to be a good place to start).

(3d) See if I can get a Vladivostok journalist interested enough in the story to try to run it in a paper. Who knows what might come out of it.

Perhaps one of these will work, perhaps it won’t. But it certainly beats sitting around trying to guess what “MLIABO” might conceivably stand for (“Making Love Is A Bad Option”, etc). 😉

32 thoughts on “This is how we find out who the Somerton Man man was (fingers crossed)…

  1. Anton Alipov on September 20, 2014 at 10:07 pm said:

    Perhaps Konstantin Strelbitskiy (who is the Russian navy historian and activist of the searching movement) is the right person for you to approach. He has published some works regarding Soviet navy and merchant fleet losses in the Pacific theatre. He can be reached I think through the searching movement forum (patriotcenter.ru), here’s the link to his profile: http://forum.patriotcenter.ru/index.php?action=profile;u=1148

    (I don’t know him in any way, just googled him out).

  2. Hi Nick, Well, you’ve got your work cut out tracing Russian seamen. Newspaper contacts in Vladivostock may well be your best bet, photos of the SM may just trigger someone’s memory of a relative or a shipmate.

  3. If nobody was talking then, nobody will talk now. jestyn is the key

  4. Sherbakov is still unaccounted for as far as I am aware of. Missing . Ps friend was in Darwin the same time with a light aircraft.

  5. B Deveson on September 21, 2014 at 11:53 am said:

    It seems that a Mr Jock Armstrong may have lived in the Glenelg area, and it appears that he was a dancer and a circus performer of some sort. Maybe a trapeze artist? Worth following up I think.
    Wirth’s was preparing for a tour of New Zealand in late 1948. Perhaps SM stayed behind and went visiting his old haunts such as Glenelg? In my experience a “Jock” is rarely Australian born, so there is a chance that we can find him in the passenger records.

    Chronicle (Adelaide) 29th November 1934 page 46
    Returned Soldiers League Notes. By Gareth Owen
    GLENELG. The annual social was held on Saturday, November 24, and proved to be one of the most successful since the inception of the branch …….. a feature of the evening was the speciality dance number by Jock Armstrong, who has just returned from a successful season with Wirth’s Circus. A happy evening concluded with community singing — always popular with the diggers.

    Incidentally, Wirth’s circus attracted the attention of the security services after WW1.
    I noted the following in the archives:

    Japanese activities in South Australia [names of Japanese residents, Japanese members of Wirth’s Circus, possible Japanese links with Chinese Kuo Min Tang. 1918-1921

    I note a file on one Karl Kronin, a Russian member of Wirth’s circus in 1918.

  6. There was a rumour once. That JEstyn had runaway when she was about 13 years of age to join “the circus” .

  7. I’d be very surprised if the bones in the ground are Somerton Man’s. I have it on good authority that the coffin has already been exhumed, and recently.

  8. Jesus JET was a [lame troll insult]

  9. Nick, have you been able to research a ‘lead’ I gave to you several weeks/months ago? I mentioned that the US had sent a team of scientist/purchasing agents to Australia to negotiate for uranium. I mentioned that one of them disappeared. The date of his disappearance was right around the time a body appeared on Somerton Beach.
    So, if you know of anyone who can research Australian military records for the ‘goings-on’ of Australian defense measures for the strafing of Alice Springs by Japanese, you may be able to find out if the American scientists were successful in obtaining the material necessary for developing the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  10. Nick, mate – we don’t mind asking each other the tough questions. Bozo to Dome: His name is Keane, we know this three times. There is no argument strong enough to say that he isn’t.

  11. Nick:
    What would you think of a Google enquiry that gets you nothing back – like this one : Tamam Shud Mystery Arnold Deutsch –
    Otto. Give AD an ear job and its almost a match

  12. Pete – I agree with you and have searched far and wide for other photos of him to get a different view of the ears!

  13. No pics…

  14. Problem with the eyes misca, reference 2 on the Wikipedia entry says he had ‘sparkling’ blue eyes ….

  15. He had dead grey eyes

  16. Another description that I’ve found of him has him as “stout” and about 5′ – 7″. Still worth a look though!

  17. Pete – A little research shows that the SS Dunbass might indeed, NOT have sunk. See THIS BLOOD RED SEA by Anthony Hulse. What he writes is also corroborated by accounts of the SS Daniel Morgan. (The SS Dunbass gave assistance to the Daniel Morgan). It seems that the Dunbass may have eventually made it’s way back (with survivors) to Archangel.

  18. Pete/Nick – This one actually might be “testable”…Oscar Deutsche was either Arnold’s “cousin” or “uncle” (depending on what article one reads). Oscar has known living relatives. Oscar had a son named Ronnie and he has three children in their late 50’s who also have children.

  19. Forgive me for all the separate posts…I just wanted to make a correction. The incident I refer to above regard THIS BLOOD RED SEA appears to have taken place in July of 1942…So, prior to the “sinking” of the Donbass (incorrectly spelt above) that occurred on November 7, 1942. Nonetheless, there were survivors in the Nov 7 event.

  20. Gordon Cramer on September 24, 2014 at 4:12 am said:

    Misca, Re the Donbass, I think that there were 16 survivors rescued by the Z27, they were made POWs in Germany.

  21. Professor Abbott is still online at reddit, and answering every question, we are now on the Deutsch possibility

    I can’t put the link up – sort on new.

  22. Pete – Could you at least give a broken link?

  23. B Deveson on October 2, 2014 at 10:19 pm said:

    I remember that in Janet Fife-Yeomans’ article “The Man With No Name” printed in the Weekend Australian Magazine, 15-16 September 2001, or in the subsequent discussion in the Australian newspaper, it was mentioned that police suspected that SM was of Eastern European origin because of his distinctive dental work (which was not further described). From memory this information came from Lionel Leane, but I have mislaid my notes. If anyone has access to the archives of the Australian newspaper it would be worth confirming this point and also checking what else may have come to light.

  24. Derek Abbott ruled out T Keane, a decision based on his own faulty research. The search for T Keane has been exhausted in the Australian Archives, ask Gerry Feltus.
    Find a T Keane in US, Irish or British war records, find him in Sydney in October 1946, and you may have him. It could be that simple. Include the individual contracts that existed between the US Small Ships Company and their crews. 4F didn’t apply, a man with bad feet could get a job.

  25. Any additional info. Found?

  26. Henry: well, I did end up finding a Russian seaman in an Australian hospital in exactly the right time period, but unfortunately he wasn’t the Somerton Man. All the same, nice to know that I was at least correct that this was historically possible. 😉

    The search continues!

  27. I don’t suppose anyone has come across a Ted Keane in their research?
    He was apparently a baritone with the ‘Italian Troubadours’ . I can’t seem to find anything more about him, just a few bits on Trove.

  28. There was a Theodore Keane, born July 1897 in Hurtle Vale, South Australia, and died May 1961 in Adelaide, South Australia…

    It is very likely that he was living in Adelaide in 1948. Now, obviously the fact that he passed in 1961 excludes him as the Somerton Man, but I’m thinking that possibly his luggage was stolen or misplaced… meaning that it could have been found/sold and used by the Unknown Man… which leads back to the same problem – the “T. Keane” was likely a name that was known to be unrelated to the Somerton Man himself.

  29. nickpelling on June 30, 2016 at 8:42 am said:

    Rio: unfortunately, Theodore Kean’s handwriting (e.g. his signature on pages 1 and 2 of http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/NameSearch/Interface/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=7366649 ) looks markedly different from the writing on the tie.

    In the same vein, Thomas Leonard Keane’s handwriting seemed a little closer – see http://ciphermysteries.com/2016/01/15/thomas-leonard-keane-and-the-somerton-man .

    And, just so you know, there’s Tom Kean to consider too: http://ciphermysteries.com/2014/06/17/somerton-mans-clothes-thomas-kean-deceased

  30. milongal on July 1, 2016 at 12:36 am said:

    I forget whether I mentioned this last week….I think I decided not to because it’s very mundane – but if we’re looking for Keane’s who are definitely not SM but might have lost a suitcase….

    What about Terence Henry Keane? As with the others, known to have died 1968 (in NSW) but if the luggage is not SM’s (or clothes have been handed down…)…

    There’s a couple of military records of Terence (on some paperwork Terrence) which are somewhat mundane, except the acronym DAC appears like it might be a title (on one page he’s listed as DAC Keane and it’s also listed under Awards – I couldn’t find any reference to DAC in military acronyms (AC is or was Air Commodore – but the record is Army, and his rank is listed as private)) – and I know I’ll feel a right idiot when someone points out that DAC is something obvious and common on military stuff….

    Of course, if it’s not his luggage or if the clothes were handed down it might all be a moot point.

    Also, did people never bother with Keanic? was it too hard to find one, or was there simply nothing of interest found…

  31. John sanders on December 22, 2016 at 7:09 am said:

    BV: Sometime back you were following a lead on a dancer cum circus artist named Jock Armstrong and I’m wondering how much headway you made. There has been recent mention of possible circus connections again and I recall looking at an American duo called the ‘Acro-Nuts some time ago but was frustrated by lack of information. They were a husband and wife aerial act, John & Marge Armstrong from Chicago who were mainly club acts and they included dance routines and a bicycle clown act. Their daughter Connie was also well known in the fifties and although she died in a 1969 auto accident, I can’t find out what happened to the parents. Whilst a photo of John taken in the 30s era does show some similar facial features to SM, he doesn’t appear much taller than his wife and I wouldn’t have too much confidence that he’s our man. Incidently another ballet star (probably Australia’s most famous) Paul Hammond was born in Marrickville at about the same time as Jessica Thomson and when he started his dance school in Melbourne one of his students was Roma Egan. It would not surprise me if there may have been some connection somewhere along the way and I might add that Hammond who spent many years with the Borovansky/Australian Ballet regarded Tadeusz Slavinsky as being the most influential figure in his early years as a dancer.

  32. john sanders on January 13, 2018 at 2:03 pm said:

    Pete: It seems that my post on this thread may have gone through to the keeper though it was a while ago and you may have missed it somehow. It seems to adequately cover Paul Hammonds involvement with Ballets Russes and his association with Roma Egan as one of his accademy’s students. As you will note there are other interesting aspects to his career but these are rather dated now and appear not to be significant in so far as our investigation is concerned. I can expand if you feel that they might take us somewhere; like over the rainbow for instance.

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