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Thread: Accounts of CW used in sending SOS

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AuthorText


Posted: 2021-12-25 03:23
I am wondering if any website or book exists which offers accounts of people responding to other people's messages of SOS?


Posted: 2021-12-25 11:36

Hi Brucer


Back in the days when wireless telegraphy was the "modern miracle", accounts of responses and rescues
were stock in trade for the press.

Marconi, who wanted to promote the business, cooperated in providing reports from the RO concerned.

so

There are a dozen ( rather old ) books just about rescues at sea.

eg. SOS to the Rescue by Karl Baarslag first published 1935

The RO websites have other references and leads

https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/forums/the-radio-room.365/
https://groups.google.com/g/radio-officers/
https://www.radioofficers.com/

David Ring of Prinsemdam fame has a web site:-
https://www.qsl.net/n1ea/

and the event was recorded
https://archive.org/details/MsPrinsendamSosDistressOct.41980_292


What sort of stuff are you looking for ?

cb










Posted: 2021-12-25 17:27
Hi Chris:
I am looking for the kind of accounts where some operator just happened to be surfing the frequencies and picked up on some weak but definite SOS signal and contacted people or agencies that could pursue the lead. I guess in the latter decades, a voice message would be common for most occasions. I wonder however it there have been those few occasions when someone doing routine searching, happened upon some helpless person's request for assistance. Those have often inspired me. I look forward to checking the references you provided. Maybe some of the users here have heard of some particular accounts. Thanks.


Posted: 2021-12-27 15:14
BrucerDucer1:
Hi Chris:
I am looking for the kind of accounts where some operator just happened to be surfing the frequencies and picked up on some weak but definite SOS signal and contacted people or agencies that could pursue the lead.
SNIP


Morse emergency calls should have all been on 500KHz during the red 3 minutes silence ( monitoring ) periods - the best time to be picked up.

Hiatoriclly most people who bothered to learn morse would know something of these.

Just sending SOS in morse without a location/status/nature-of emergency would not have been much use - as would transmitting on a quiet frequency and hoping someone picked you up.

https://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/12890350.how-a-blackwood-man-was-the-first-to-pick-up-titanics-distress-call-but-no-one-believed-him/

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=WAP6XoVVrsYC&pg=PA36&lpg=PA36&dq=sos+picked+up+by+amateur&source=bl&ots=LmEX7KdDIE&sig=ACfU3U34CjmjXFrOz8LDhVLINu33aCX-zw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiYt9OshIT1AhXQOcAKHX_KBNQQ6AF6BAgWEAM#v=onepage&q=sos%20picked%20up%20by%20amateur&f=false

https://sosmediterranee.com/


Another book:- Wireless at sea the first 50 years by Hancock

cb


Posted: 2021-12-27 18:04
Thank you Chris. You certainly have given me a lot of resources to work with here. I look forward to following up on these references.


Posted: 2021-12-27 23:34
There's Tony Handcock's Radio Ham sketch. Not what you're looking for but worth a listen anyway.


Posted: 2021-12-28 01:19
M7AOZ:
There's Tony Handcock's Radio Ham sketch. Not what you're looking for but worth a listen anyway.



" . . . Mayday, what's he talking about? That was weeks ago, it's nearly June."

etc


Posted: 2021-12-30 00:24

Some re-enacted rescue stuff in this vid . .

https://youtu.be/vSneGOI2Yo0


Posted: 2021-12-30 02:38
Thanks Chris. That was a fun account to watch.
I know that "Outdoor Life" magazine used to feature a regular account of odd or dangerous situations that hunters and fishermen used to get into, and they were entertaning and informative.
It seems to me though that there must be some very interesting stories to tell in regards to the sending of a "Mayday" signal. You have introduced some very helpful things.
One website I found suggested that "CQD" was sent for COME QUICK DANGER.

https://www.amazon.com/Outdoor-Life-This-Happened-Me/dp/0865731071


Posted: 2021-12-30 11:05
BrucerDucer1:


SNIP

It seems to me though that there must be some very interesting stories to tell in regards to the sending of a "Mayday" signal.


True - long skips, XXX repeats, mayday with a mirror etc
- but up to the general deployment of the transistor, radio morse was either a big spark or a valve rig - not somethings to carry around in your pocket.

BrucerDucer1:

One website I found suggested that "CQD" was sent for COME QUICK DANGER.

https://www.amazon.com/Outdoor-Life-This-Happened-Me/dp/0865731071



That's a popular if rather silly back-ronym for a distress call . . .

It's a official marconi-ism for CQ distress to differentiate from a normal CQ . . .

"run away; danger" . . . would be more sensible advice for a dangerous situation IMNSHO


Reminds me of another slightly obscure book:-

"come quick danger - a History of Marine Radio in Canada" by Stephen Dubreuil
ISBN 0660174901



SOS doesn't stand for save-our-souls either.

If you actually asked that you could probably expect a boatload of mixed sect/religion chaplains from the local seaman's missions coming to your "rescue", just as soon as you docked . .

cb







Posted: 2021-12-31 15:10
(sorry, I found a link but it turned out to be dead)


Posted: 2022-01-06 11:33
Amazon Kindle Unlimited has a book "Titanic 1912: The original news reporting of the sinking of the Titanic".

This book has lots of information on how 'wireless' was used during the Titanic sinking. About how US Navy intercepted communication from the owners of Titanic, all the way to confusion over one ship's wireless operators ignorning message which was to have come from US President!

Marconi himself had to appear and testify in the Senate Committee enquiry over this incident.

By the way; the wireless telegraphists at those days were trained to send and recieve at 45 WPM (and I am struggling at 15WPM).

URL: https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B007PDKGL8/ref=ku_mi_rw_edp_ku


Posted: 2022-01-06 12:22
vu3byd:
Amazon Kindle Unlimited has a book "Titanic 1912: The original news reporting of the sinking of the Titanic".

This book has lots of information on how 'wireless' was used during the Titanic sinking. About how US Navy intercepted communication from the owners of Titanic, all the way to confusion over one ship's wireless operators ignorning message which was to have come from US President!

Marconi himself had to appear and testify in the Senate Committee enquiry over this incident.

By the way; the wireless telegraphists at those days were trained to send and recieve at 45 WPM (and I am struggling at 15WPM).

URL: https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B007PDKGL8/ref=ku_mi_rw_edp_ku


In 1912 everyone was listening in to everyone else - and jamming each other, often on purpose.

Some early hams used to call ships at sea when they were within range near the coast.

Walter Gray - The marconi supervisor at Cape Race http://maritimeradio.pro/radio-officers/walter-james-gray/index.htm
said in an interview that The Titanic distress calls were at 15wpm

The sound file of the interview used to be here:- http://www.nmni.com/Titanic/Home/Media/Audio.aspx
and here:- https://youtu.be/w3Y60S8CdnI but have been "removed"

Harold Cottam ( RO on Carpathia ) morsing . . . from a BBC film
https://youtu.be/FVLiZo6Pkak?t=574

Cottam ( and later Bride when he was rescued) ignored all enquiries from everwhere ( including press reports and enquires from POTAS ) until they had sent the list of survivors and then personal messages.

If you ask any professional RO they will tell you that accuracy of transmission is everything and speed of transmission isn't.

cb


Posted: 2022-01-06 13:47
Interesting Chris. The Titanic was such a "landmark" event for radio communications by CW. It showed what was critical, both in correct actions and mistaken actions or even inactions.
Somewhere along the line some maritime organization must have set a standard operating procedure if they had not quite completed that already. I guess professional RO's (radio operators) well well established then. I have a book about American Civil War Telegraphers titled:
"Telegraphing in Battle" by John Emmet O'Brien published 1910. The Union telegraphers were in some combat, when they were sent out in crews to repair telegraph lines.


Posted: 2022-01-13 13:04
BrucerDucer1:
I guess professional RO's (radio operators) well well established then.

Looks like during the days of Titanic, the Radio Officer/Wireless operator jobs were outsourced. And Marconi Wireless was the company who bagged most of those job openings, and placed men trained at their establishments.


Posted: 2022-01-13 14:27
vu3byd:
Looks like during the days of Titanic, the Radio Officer/Wireless operator jobs were outsourced. And Marconi Wireless was the company who bagged most of those job openings, and placed men trained at their establishments.


It wasn't originally so much outsourcing as a result of the fact that to develop telegraphy in the UK without another battle-of-the-gauges ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Gauge_War ) the British Post Office was given a monopoly as a public carrier within the UK.

When Marconi came along ( hoping originally to sell lots of radio equipment ), the only way to get round the P.O. monopoly was to use the "loophole" of permitting telegraphy traffic within an organisation, so the wireless telegraphy had to be within the Marconi company i.e. from one Marconi owned station to another, thereby setting up another Monopoly at sea, which Marconi happily then defended, including at the 1903 Berlin Conference, and to free trade supporters ( mostly the Liberal Party ) in the British Parliament.

Ironically therefore the Marconi scandal ( insider trading after the Titanic disaster prompted an expansion of the Marconi company due to a Board-of-Trade requirement governing minimal coverage by operators ) involved the Liberal British Attorney General, and others . . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marconi_scandal.

This all changed after 1910, with the Post Office taking over the UK's shore W/T stations, and after the Kaiser's brother's messages were refused by the Marconi staion at Nantuket as coming from a rival company in 1902, the Kaiser had Telefunken set up ( by merger ) as competition - soon followed by, at the 1906 Berlin Conference, an International accord governing numerous aspects of W/T including SOS and other emergency calls ( The Kaiser failed to get the accord in the 1903 conference).

Out-sourcing was popular due mainly to the investment necessary in training large numbers of telegraphists who could understood and maintain radio equipment, but also to a de-facto Marconi monopoly in the British merchant marine.

Some shipping lines preferred to employ free-lance Radio Officers ( as they became known eventually ), the various accords allowing anyone to contact any coast station.


The Titanic's call sign was MGY ( M for Marconi, tho the marconi operators usually dropped the M between themselves ), which is why the UK still has the M radio ham prefix.


cb


Posted: 2022-01-13 15:09
Hi Chris: That is a very interesting bit of history. Thankfully, some standard was agreed upon finally.
So at the same time manned flight was developing rapidly, telegraphy, having expanded greatly during the American Civil War (1861-1865), also became a leader in communications technology.
I recall the videos of the WWII pilots using Morse Code to report sightings of ships from their reconnaissance planes as did the Coastwatchers from various islands.
I cannot find the exact video about Colonel Joe Kittinger's record baloon flight into space, reaching an altitude of about 102,000 feet before jumping from the baloon to land in the desert; but one video account told by Col. Kittinger indicated that he had a small Morse Code Key within reach of his hand, and he transmitted an "OK" message to the ground facility during his assent. Everything was not okay though. One of the gloves of his pressure suit did not pressurize, and his hand painfully doubled in size. Still, Col Kittinger sent the "OK" message so that Ground Command would not cancel the flight.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Excelsior
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbVQ33ujzFw

Here,
https://outdoors.campmor.com/surviving-with-the-help-of-morse-code/

...there is a 2006 account of a sailor stranded in a sinking boat at night, who flashed "SOS" with a flashilight, and was rescued by a person on land who knew CW.


Posted: 2022-01-13 17:23
BrucerDucer1:

SNIP
but one video account told by Col. Kittinger indicated that he had a small Morse Code Key within reach of his hand, and he transmitted an "OK" message to the ground facility during his assent.
SNIP


During the great war, British artillery spotters ( the reason for millitary aircraft and balloons over the trenches in the first place ) has a wireless transmitter but no receiver, so they could transmit the target "square" from the map but not receive orders.

The Russian army made use of wireless early in the war - but uncoded, so the outnumbered German army, who were supposedly fighting a holding action, managed to work out what was being said and inflicted a surprise heavy defeat on Russia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_the_Masurian_Lakes

This was then covered up, resulting in no one in the German armed forces thinking about this happening to their forces the other way round.

It also gave Hindenburg and Ludendorff the epithet of team military genius, though later experience showed that Erich Ludendorff's nerves weren't quite up to it - with disastrous consequences for the Michael Offensive https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Michael

This, coupled with the Kaiser wanting Telefunken not only to compete with Marconi marine, but also, with the deployment of hugely powerful transmitters ( eg the one at Nauen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauen_Transmitter_Station the most powerful in the world ) to break the British under-sea cable monopoly with direct radio contact to Germany's colonies meant that German developments centred around high power transmitters at the expense of sensitive receivers, whereas in Britain a more balanced view was chosen and sensitive valve receivers were developed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._J._Round

This meant that when some ( well to do ) British hams with their new receivers started listening out towards the beginning of the war, they picked up transmissions from the K Marine base at the Jade, which the German engineers would not have expected to carry over the North Sea http://blogs.mhs.ox.ac.uk/innovatingincombat/hippisley-hut-hunstanton-wireless-interception-world-war-one/ and because of the Masurian "cover-up" no German Admirals were thinking about radio interception across the Nordsee anyway. so the Royal navy mostly got good advanced warning when the Hochseeflotte was starting an operation - including just before Jutland.

( the story about Captain Thomas Jackson, Director of Operations Division asking where the wrong German call sign was then ( wirelessly) telegraphing incorrect information to Jellicoe is apocryphal https://www.nmrn.org.uk/news-events/nmrn-blog/room-40-%E2%80%93-triumph-and-tragedy-jutland-1 https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/Thomas_Jackson_(Royal_Navy_officer) As we know from the Titanic follow-ups, you can't just believe anything that anyone says . . . ).


BrucerDucer1:

...there is a 2006 account of a sailor stranded in a sinking boat at night, who flashed "SOS" with a flashilight, and was rescued by a person on land who knew CW.


Everyone should know SOS, but to paraphrase Lawrence Beesley:- Anybody know what a flashing light at sea might well mean

https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Awww.gutenberg.org%2Ffiles%2F6675%2F6675-h%2F6675-h.htm+Anybody+knows+what+rockets+at+sea+mean&oq=site%3Awww.gutenberg.org%2Ffiles%2F6675%2F6675-h%2F6675-h.htm+Anybody+knows+what+rockets+at+sea+mean&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i58.8721j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8


cb

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