What’s the Signal?

So much of the work on the ship is heavily aided by technology.  For instance, the DPS system I talked about earlier.  In the middle of all this technology, I love to hear things about the history of sailing, and how things were done traditionally.

The main way ships stay in communication with each other now is satellite and radio.  But in the “old days”, they could only signal each other visually.  On the bridge, there is a shelf with little cubbies, and each cubby has a flag in it.  There is a flag each for letters A-Z, and one for numbers 0-9.  Sailors have an entire language built around these flags. They are called International Signal Flags.  The symbols mean the same thing to sailors all over the world, so you can communicate with another vessel, no matter what language the crew speaks.

Jerry, the ship’s Chief Mate loaned me the book that tells all about these symbols:

It’s amazing how with just 26 flags, you can convey just about any emergency situation that could possibly happen.  There is an entire chapter on medical messages that allow you to describe illnesses or injury in great detail with combinations of 3 flags!

They don’t use these flags much, but it’s still really neat to see the maritime history and tradition and know that these signals mean the same thing to ships anywhere.  In case you were wondering – the flag I’m holding is the “J” flag (for Julie of course).  Guess what a J by itself means?

It means “I am on fire and carrying dangerous cargo, stay well clear”.  How’s that for specific??