Quiztime 5th July – Lifeboats and Fast Reverse Image Searching

Rescue boats are a common theme in this week’s Quiztime. On Tuesday Lars Wienand asked us to locate a rescue boat and today Philipp Dudek asks another Lifeboat related question. This was quite a fun quiz to solve but after solving it once I realised there was another solution which I think would allow you to solve the puzzle in about ten seconds. The first solution relies on researching the subject matter in a bit more depth, whereas the quick-fire solution relies on a very precise reverse image search. I’ll post both solutions here.

Which Boat Is This?

Philipp asks us to identify the boat in this picture:

The picture is from a publication about the social media activities of the DGzRS, the German Maritime Rescue Service. It’s just about possible make out the URL seenotretter.de.

There is not enough detail visible to make out anything as distinctive as the boat’s name (as if we would be that lucky). The first place I looked at was the DGzRS official website. It contains a very handy guide to all the boats currently in the fleet.

Unless you already know a lot about boats most of them all look pretty similar and it’s hard to tell them apart. However with a little attention to detail it is possible to get enough information from the original photograph to positively identify the right kind of boat.

We can tell the boat’s bridge has three windows at the front, with another single window on each side. It has a flagpole on the prow, a white mast behind the bridge, and an orange-brown trim along the edge of the deck. It was possible to go through the different types of boat used by the DGzRS and look for these matching features.  This boat looked very similar, but attention to detail shows it cannot be right:

The boat we are looking for is unusual among the DGzRS fleet because it doesn’t have any orange paint across the front of the bridge. I was puzzled by this at first as every boat in the fleet appeared to be in the same colour scheme. Was the boat in the image in an older colour scheme, in which case we might be searching for an old out of service boat? To make sure, a quick check of the DGzRS social media accounts referred to in the original image helped to date the article posted by Philipp. The article referenced the organisation’s YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. A quick check showed that the Twitter and YouTube accounts were created in 2009, but the first Instagram post was not until May 2015. This means that the original article must have been posted on or after that date, so the paint scheme on the boat can’t be that old after all.

So I continued to look through the pictures of the fleet and found a possible match:

 

This boat matches the shape and features of the boat we are looking for and unlike all the other similar boats in the fleet, it has no orange paint on the front part  of the bridge. There’s only one slight problem though, the website says “Anzahl:6” , which means there are six ships of this kind in service. How to find the exact one?

The method to do this was fairly simple. Each boat is allocated to its own port, so by using Google Maps and/or Google Earth I hoped to look at each location and verify it was the correct one by matching it to the original image.

I opened up Google Maps and searched for DGzRS Nordstrand. The location didn’t obviously match, so I moved on. When I searched for DGzRS Busum, a familiar looking image appeared along with the map:

This cannot be the same boat because of the paint scheme, but the wharf it is tied to is identical to the one in the original image. This means that Busum is the correct location, and so the correct boat must be Theodor Storm because it is the only boat of that type based there. A quick image search confirms this is the case:

Same paint scheme, same boat, same location.

An aerial view of the location shows the background features also match, i.e. the original photo has a harbour in the background and not the open sea.

So the correct answer is that the boat is the Theodor Storm.

The 10 Second Method

There was a super fast method to solve this that took all of about ten seconds. I’ve described it here to show the technique but in real-life OSINT speed is not everything. It’s rare to be really fast and really accurate, and accuracy is more important. Better to be slow and right then fast and wrong. Whatever real-life OSINT question you’re asking, your answer probably needs to be more than just a the name of a boat and nothing else. Being methodical and researching widely will always give better and more detailed answers than instant hits. That said, sometimes solving things almost instantly can be fun too.

I’ve mentioned Search By Image in a previous blog post, and I’ve also made a short video showing it in action. It’s ideal for a task like this because it lets you focus on one particular part of an image and just search on that particular detail. Here’s the ten-second method to identify the boat.

1. Use the capture feature of Search By Image to select just the boat from the original image.

 

2. Choose “All Search Engines” and click search. Go to Yandex first and see a familiar looking boat in a familiar location:

 

3. Click on it. Yandex tells you this is a picture of the Theodor Storm. Easy-peasy!

 

If only this Quiztime challenge was quite so straightforward! (I’ll post my solution if I ever solve it…)

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