What’s the Signal?

It has been so interesting to see how technology aids in the work that is being done on the JR.  However, it’s also really interesting to learn about the history of sailing vessels, and how they did things in “the old days”.

Most of the communication on the ship now is handled by radio and satellite.  However, in the past, before this technology existed, ships still had to communicate with each other.  They did this using signal flags.  On the bridge, there is a shelf of small cubbies and each cubby contains a signal flag.  There is one flag each for letters A-Z and a flag for each of the numbers 0-9.  In cases where electronic communcations aren’t working, these flags can be used to send messages and “talk” with ships within visual range.  It’s like an entire language of symbols – and there is even a dictionary for this language.

This book contains the signals for just about every possible emergency situation you could imagine.  Flags are flown in combinations of 1-3 letters and a number.  Each combination has a very distinct meaning, and some of them are quite specific.  There is a whole section of medical signals that allow an illness or injury to be described in great detail.   The book was really interesting to look through – I would just open it at random to see different situations you could signal.

In case you’re wondering – the flag I’m holding in the picture is the “J” flag (for Julie of course), and it means “I am on fire and carrying dangerous cargo – stay well clear”.