The Polarneft conspiracy is one of the five mini-viral marketing subjects for Shadow of the Colossus. First posted on viral hub site Giantology on October 21, 2005 (three days after the game was first released), this site featured a Russian geologist named Arkady Simkin who had found the remains of Quadratus in Siberia.
Of the five viral sites linked to through Giantology, this is perhaps the most complex one, creating an entire story around the dilemmas Simkin and his colleagues faced when Polarneft, an oil and gas company of which Simkin was once an employee, began to cover up their discovery.
October 21, 2005
Giant Creature Discovered in Siberia
The hits just keep on coming! This latest one was sent to me by several Giantology fans.
It's a video [archived links: .wmv , .mov] initially posted to a website owned by a Russian geologist named Arkady Simkin, apparently showing the discovery of a mammoth type creature half-buried in a glacier on a set of islands called Franz Josef Land, which is almost at the North Pole.
His site talks about the discovery, as well as attempts by his company to cover it up. It's in Russian and English. Though the Tsunami video was clearly a hoax, this one is quite a bit different.
After you watch the video, listen to the MP3 audio clip he's posted of a radio interview he did. Right-click to download. Pretty incredible stuff.
It is un-f'ing-believable.
October 28, 2005
It seems as if we have leapt from Forteana/Cryptozoology/Giantology into the realm of conspiracies.
I mentioned last night dropping an unexpected bombshell. Well it's stranger than I originally thought. But is it real?
So here's the story. I've gotten all kinds of emails and comments on the Siberian Ice Giant video [see download links above], as well as Arkady Simkin's site.
Some of you are saying it's another hoax, and connected to the Tsunami video, and possibly even connected to a videogame campaign. I'm looking into whether or not that really is the case, and will post my thoughts probably next week.
The latest twist is that I've received a couple of emails suggesting that Arkady Simkin has gone missing, his apartment ransacked, his website hacked by Polarneft, etc. Tres shadowy, no? The email address listed on his site has in fact been changed, and to top it all off, the Arkady Simkin site was down for several hours today due to "bandwidth limitations," which may either be proof of a conspiracy or perhaps, simply, bandwidth problems.
The site is back up, and all the content seems to be intact. But I've pulled the video and audio files and will be hosting them on Giantology.net just in case they get taken down again.
Mind you, I'm watching all of this with a bit of a jaded eye... certainly anyone can say or do anything on the net, and even I've been accused of being part of the supposed marketing campaign.
However, if this IS a hoax, it's pretty elaborate, and at the very least I'm enjoying the ride, along with quite a few of you out there as well, it seems.
So much so, that I've even received email from a couple of key players in this Siberian Ice Giant saga.
The first one I got was from Arkady Simkin himself, about a day after I posted his remarkable video to Giantology. It was short and to the point, simply thanking me for posting it. Then I recently got a second email from someone claiming to be a friend of Arkady's, stating that he is in hiding, in a "safe place," and so on.
It all sounds very spy thriller, though if there's any shred of truth to any of this, it's certainly possible that Arkady has gone into hiding to avoid the oil company Polarneft, the existence of which hasn't yet been conclusively proven or disproven, IMHO.
And the only reason I give any of this any credence at all is that I got yet a third email just yesterday, which is what prompted me saying I had a bombshell.
If you go to the "For Fun" page on Arkady's site, there's a photo of a guy named Boris about a third of the way down. And someone claiming to be "Boris" is the one who emailed me:
Dear Mr. Belson,
- You do not know my, but I am a coleag of Arkady Simkin. I was on Franz Josef Land expedition. I have 3D seismic video but I am traveling now. I will send when I reach safe place. I can not get in hold of Arkady and I want peoples to see this.
Trust me when I say I will definitely post the 3D video if and when I get it.
Regardless of what's really going on, I fully intend to keep following this story, and posting anything I learn. Hoax or not, it's exciting stuff.
Now, the OTHER thing I wanted to talk about... well, I'll save that for Monday. Lauren and I are taking a much-deserved celebratory weekend off in Wisconsin before the weather goes south for the winter. Celebratory, you ask? You'll have to wait to find out why!
November 04, 2005
Siberian Ice Giant on the Radio
Unfortunately, I was not asked to be a guest (instead, they got the world's other Giantologist, who also recently featured Arkady's discovery in an online broadcast that I'm trying to get hold of). But I will be listening, that I can assure you. I'm reasonably confident that myself and this blog will be mentioned. You never know for sure, but how cool would that be?
Unfortunately, I haven't heard back from Arkady about any of this. At least from the email address listed on his site. And frankly I'm a bit... unconvinced?... leery?... but not yet quite suspicious of whoever is answering mail "on his behalf" at the old address. It'd be unfortunate if Arkady actually got some attention and exposure for his discovery, but it was too late for him
I'm also waiting to hear back from Boris on the long-awaited 3D model, but I've heard nothing from him since his initial email.
Strange stuff indeed.
November 11, 2005
Digging Up the Truth on the Siberian Ice Giant
If anyone listened to the radio on Monday night / Tuesday morning, you would have heard guest and host briefly discuss the Siberian Ice Giant video, Arkady Simkin and a much talked-about viral marketing campaign, which yet again fingers me as the primary culprit. Hey, maybe I can get a free copy of the game? Anyone from Sony listening?
In a nutshell, they said that a helicopter pilot contacted them and said it was a fake video shoot for the PlayStation game Shadow of the Colossus.
Now I have a few thoughts about that, but I've reserved them for my latest podcast...I don't think any of this is quite as straightforward as anyone so far would have you believe. Take a listen, and let me know what you think.
December 08, 2005
Boris has spoken...
Yes, after weeks of utter silence, Boris has spoken. And frankly, I'm scratching my head.
Today I received an early-morning email from him. No greeting. No message. No signature.
Just a URL:
His site consists of a single page rant about Polarneft. No new information. No 3D model that he AND Arkady Simkin promised us.
I don't get it. So I sent Boris an email:
- Thank you for the link. But I must admit I'm rather disappointed. I really thought you were planning to release the 3D seismic survey video you talked about in your last email to me.
- Most people no longer believe your story - in fact, they think it's an outright hoax on behalf of a videogame campaign for Sony PlayStation.
- As far as I'm concerned, if you want anyone to believe you, you should email me the 3D video and any other evidence you have so I can post it to my blog.
- Sorry for being so harsh, but I and many others want some answers. We want to believe. But we can't without further proof.
- Eric Belson
And to you, dear readers, if you can make sense of this site, please by all means do.
December 12, 2005
What's the secret of stop-polarneft?
No more word from "Boris Atlasov," so I'm thinking the only thing we have to go on from here on in is stop-polarneft.com. And you've all wisely pointed out that Polarneft probably doesn't even exist (it only turns up search results in reference to Arkady Simkin).
Regardless, I am intrigued by an email I got from a Giantology fan, that said there's a hidden directory on the "Stop Polarneft" site.
At the very bottom of the home page is an invisible link. And if you click it... you get a pop-up asking for a password.
So the question is, what's the password? And more importantly, what's behind it?
December 13, 2005
I've been doing a little digging on the stop-polarneft site, and here's what I've been able to determine.
It's actually a clever little puzzle, apparently set up by Boris Atlasov to ensure that only Arkady Simkin could gain access to the hidden, password-protected directory. I won't spoil the fun by giving it away, but a few of you have already figured it out. The one clue I will offer is that just because you can't see text on a webpage, doesn't mean there isn't any.
December 14, 2005
Dots and dashes
So this stop-polarneft site is coming into focus, and making a lot more sense. Obviously, whatever evidence Boris Atlasov has for Arkady, is being hidden in the password-protected directory. Most likely the 3D seismic survey is in there, and who knows what else - so I imagine it's worth it to crack this thing.
Now here's a couple little pieces of the puzzle that several of my intrepid fellow Giantologists figgered [sic] out:
The hidden link at the bottom of the page has the following text:
...- .. . .-- ... --- ..- .-. -.-. . -.-. --- -.. .
I'll leave it to you to find a way to translate it, but there is another clue on the page as well. I found a certain phrase a bit odd for a couple reasons, and sure enough, it points in the same direction as the above dots-and-dashes. A colossal shout-out to whoever emails or comments to me with the phrase and what it actually means.
Check back here soon for what's behind the next curtain...
December 15, 2005
OK, so by now I imagine most if not all of you have figured out Boris Atlasov's previous clue, hidden in some invisible Morse Code (how Cold War of him!) on stop-polarneft.com, which translated means: [hidden text] VIEWSOURCECODE (highlight the preceding text if you want to know).
If you follow that instruction, you see this: [hidden text] ARKADY: TELEPHONE 44 7962 837 318 (highlight text to reveal).
And if you follow THAT instruction... well, I did, but I'm curious to know if anyone else did too.
Also, I mentioned another phrase on the site that points at the same clue. I've had a couple of responses from smart smarties. That phrase is: [hidden text] DEVIOUS CEO CREW (highlight to reveal)
Which is an anagram for - you guessed it: [hidden text] VIEW SOURCE CODE (highlight to reveal)
As promised - big shout-outs to: CS, David, Mad Matt, (a different) Matt, Daniel, WatACutie, Jamie and Kevin for solving that last one. Way too many people emailed and commented solving the Morse Code for me to mention, but you're all very smart. Although some of you ARE a bit sarcastic. This means you, Col. Chaos.
[hidden text] (And just in case anyone thinks I'm a total idiot - and you know who you are, and that's not a very nice word! - I have cracked the puzzle and seen what's in the hidden directory. And if you stick with me, all will be revealed in due time.) [/hidden text]
December 19, 2005
As you should know by now, the "viewsourcecode" clues at stop-polarneft.com direct you to the following tag hidden in the - what else? - source code:
ARKADY: TELEPHONE 44 7962 837 318
Which is a working mobile phone number in the UK. Which is where I suspected Boris was hiding out following his first cryptic email to me, based on the message headers.
When you call that number, you get a message apparently from Boris Atlasov, saying something in Russian. He clearly mentions the 3D seismic video we've all been waiting for, as well as, at the very end, the password for a certain hidden directory.
Now, I do recommend calling that number if you can swing it, simply because it's worth hearing Boris' voice in person. Kinda cool.
However, if you can't call it because of the cost, or you just are too darn lazy to pick up the phone and dial 011 for an international line, I plan to call the number again and record the message for you. Because I care!
I'll post it, along with the password to the hidden directory, as part of my final podcast before I begin my research travels for The Age of Giants book I'm going to write.
Granted, there are a couple of technical workarounds to get into the hidden directory that quite a few of you have figured out and emailed or sent via comments. And if you have the know-how to get in without the phone message, good for you. But I'm of the opinion that a puzzle - even a simple one such as this - should be solved properly. And that is why I have been much stingier lately with posting comments. It's like giving away the ending of a movie, and I truly hate that. So you'll have to go elsewhere for technical trickery. I'm a traditionalist.
Also, if anyone knows Russian, maybe you could call and translate the full message for us. Da?
December 21, 2005
Recap of the Arkady Simkin Mystery
Very shortly I will post all of the stuff from the hidden directory at stop-polarneft.com. But first, for anyone coming to this new, a quick recap (try saying that five times fast) of what's gone down so far:
Arkady claimed to be hounded by an oil company called Polarneft, that was trying to stop him from releasing information on this find, out of concern that their oil prospecting would be halted. Arkady soon stopped posting to his site, which crashed for a day, prompting fears that Simkin had been kidnapped.
There was a "friend" named Brian who claimed to know where Arkady was. And a colleague named Boris Atlasov who claimed to have the 3D seismic video, but himself was afraid of Polarneft. There was even a second site that contained all the same content as Arkady's, but in a different order.
Still, questions lingered, a conspiracy was suspected. Weeks passed with no word from Arkady or Boris, until Boris finally emailed me the URL for stop-polarneft.com, which appeared to be just an angry rant about Polarneft "abuses."
And then it became apparent there was more underneath the surface. A puzzle to be solved - a hidden, password-protected directory that appeared to be only for Arkady. The page had some invisible Morse Code and a strange anagram that spelled out "ViewSourceCode".
You, the Giantology readers, were very quick to solve the puzzle and unlock the hidden directory. The password, BTW, is [hidden text] polaricegiant (select text to reveal).
Much like the others, Simkin's site looks as though it were designed by someone with only a casual knowledge in web pages. There are both Russian and English translations of the page.
Like most of the other sites, both his site and stop-polarneft.com were taken down in May 2006.