Clues to the mystery barge

An increasing number of clues are implicating the involvement of internet search giant Google behind the "mystery barge" that appeared in Portland Harbor on Oct. 11. Here's the evidence so far:

Interactive by Christian MilNeil/online producer

The San Francisco mystery barge.
Source: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

The San Francisco connection

On Friday, Oct. 25, two weeks after the "mystery barge" first appeared in Portland Harbor, the tech news site reported that a strikingly similar structure was under construction at Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

A scene from WALL-E. Source: Walt Disney Studios by way of

By and Large LLC

According to online registries, both the San Francisco and the Portland barge are owned by the same limited liability corporation: By and Large LLC, which is incorporated in Wilmington, Del.

The company name could be a reference to "Buy N Large," the fictional mega- corporation that has taken over the entire economy in Pixar's WALL-E.

Timothy Brandon

While researching the provenance of the San Francisco barge, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman found a man named Timothy Brandon listed as the point of contact in By and Large's lease for the San Francisco construction site.

On his LinkedIn page, Brandon had posted his primary job responsibility was to "lead and manage all acquisition and disposition activity for Google's Silicon Valley portfolio."

Shortly after Terdiman reached out to Brandon for comment, the references to Google were deleted from his LinkedIn profile.

A screenshot of Timothy Brandon's LinkedIn profile, showing references to his work for Google, as it appeared earlier in the week of Oct. 21, 2013.
Source: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Binary registration numbers?

The registration number on the barge in San Francisco is "BAL 0010," and the registration number on Portland's barge is "BAL 0011". Some have suggested that, if it's Google, the numbering system might be binary — using only zeros and ones.

In the decimal system, digits represent ones, tens, hundreds and so on: each digit is a power of ten. The number 1111, for instance, is 1 + 10 + 100 + 1,000.

But in binary numbers, each digit represents a power of two: ones, twos, fours, eights, and so on. So, for instance, the binary number 1111 translates to 1 + 2 + 4 + 8, or 15, in our more-familiar decimal system.

If the barges' registration numbers are indeed binary, San Francisco's "BAL 0010" would be barge number 2, and Portland's "BAL 0011" would be barge number 3.

Of course, this would still leave barge number one from By and Large at large.

Sketch from Google's "water-based data center" patent. Source: Google

The Google patent

In 2009, Google received a patent for a "water-based data center," which, according to the patent claim, would include "a computer data center proximate to a body of water... a sea-based electrical generator in electrical connection with the plurality of computing units and one or more sea-water cooling units.

View the full patent application.