The meaning of SOS

What is the Meaning of SOS?

Harmony asks “Do the letters in the term SOS represent three words? If so could you let me know what they are?” Thanks to Neal McEwen for allowing us to use information from his article “SOS”, “CQD” and the History of Maritime Distress Calls. Visit Neal’s web site A Tribute to Morse Telegraphy.There is much mystery and misinformation wpe4.jpg (3194 bytes)surrounding the origin and use of maritime distress calls. Most of the general populace believes that “SOS” signifies “Save Our Ship.” Casual students of radio history are aware that the use of “SOS” was preceded by “CQD.” Why were these signals adopted? When were they used?

The practical use of wireless telegraphy was made possible by Guglielmo Marconi in the closing years of the 19th century. Until then, ships at sea out of visual range were very much isolated from shore and other ships. The wireless telegraphers used Morse Code to send messages. Morse Code is a way of “tapping” out letters using a series of dots (short signals) and dashes (long signals). Spoken, short signals are referred to as “dih” and long signals are referred to as “dah”. The letter “A” is represented by a dot followed by a dash:
dotdash.gif (293 bytes)

wpe5.jpg (21793 bytes)By 1904 there were many trans-Atlantic British ships equipped with wireless communications. The wireless operators came from the ranks of railroad and postal telegraphers. In England a general call on the landline wire was a “CQ.” “CQ” preceded time signals and special notices. “CQ” was generally adopted by telegraph and cable stations all over the world. By using “CQ,” each station receives a message from a single transmission and an economy of time and labor was realized. Naturally, “CQ,” went with the operators to sea and was likewise used for a general call. This sign for “all stations” was adopted soon after wireless came into being by both ships and shore stations. In 1904, the Marconi company suggested the use of “CQD” for a distress signal. Although generally accepted to mean, “Come Quick Danger,” that is not the case. It is a general call, “CQ,” followed by “D,” meaning distress. A strict interpretation would be “All stations, Distress.”

At the second Berlin Radiotelegraphic Conference 1906, the subject of a danger signal was again addressed. Considerable discussion ensued and finally SOS was adopted. The thinking was that three dots, three dashes and three dots could not be misinterpreted. It was to be sent together as one string.sosgraphic.gif (488 bytes)

The Marconi Yearbook of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony , 1918 states, “This signal [SOS] was adopted simply on account of its easy radiation and its unmistakable character. There is no special signification in the letter themselves, and it is entirely incorrect to put full stops between them [the letters].” All the popular interpretations of “SOS,” “Save or Ship,” “Save Our Souls,” or “Send Out Succour” are simply not valid. Stations hearing this distress call were to immediately cease handling traffic until the emergency was over and were likewise bound to answer the distress signal.

Although the use of “SOS” was officially ratified in 1908, the use of “CQD” lingered for several more years, especially in British service where it originated. It is well documented in personal accounts of Harold Bride, second Radio Officer, and in the logs of the SS Carpathia, that the Titanic first used “CQD” to call for help. When Captain Smith gave the order to radio for help, first radio officer Jack Phillips sent “CQD” six times followed by the Titanic call letters, “MGY.” Later, at Brides suggestion, Phillips interspersed his calls with “SOS.” In SOS to the Rescue, 1935, author Baarslag notes, “Although adopted intentionally in 1908, it [SOS] had not completely displaced the older ‘CQD’ in the British operators’ affections.” (It is interesting to observe that Marconi was waiting in New York to return home to England on the Titanic.)

The first recorded American use of “SOS” was in August of 1909. Wireless operator T. D. Haubner of the SS Arapahoe radioed for help when his ship lost its screw near Diamond Shoals, sometimes called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The call was heard by the United Wireless station “HA” at Hatteras. A few months later, the SS Arapahoe received an “SOS” distress call from the SS Iroquois. Radio Officer Haubner therefore has the distinction of being involved in the first two incidents of the use of “SOS” in America, the first as the sender and the second as the receiver. The U.S. did not officially adopt “SOS” until 1912, being slow to adopt international wireless standards.

Related Articles:
Distress Signals
by Chief Warrant Officer Jim Krzenski
Commanding Officer, U.S.C.G. Station Fort Pierce, FL

Graphic Chart of Distress Signals

5,454 Responses to “The meaning of SOS”
  1. low carb diet plan…

    [...]although web-sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we really feel they are really really worth a go through, so have a look[...]…

  2. birthday cake cookies…

    [...]please take a look at the sites we comply with, including this a single, because it represents our picks through the web[...]…

  3. Memes says:

    News info…

    I was reading the news and I saw this really interesting information…

  4. Yahoo results…

    While browsing Yahoo I discovered this page in the results and I didn’t think it fit…

  5. Scandi says:

    Informative and precise…

    Its hard to find informative and accurate information but here I found…

  6. telefonsex cam…

    [...]Here are several of the websites we advise for our visitors[...]…

  7. branding says:

    Just Browsing…

    While I was browsing today I noticed a excellent post about…

  8. Just Browsing…

    While I was surfing today I noticed a great post concerning…

  9. Digg…

    While checking out DIGG today I noticed this…

  10. desinfectionpunaisedelit…

    [...]the time to study or pay a visit to the content material or websites we have linked to below the[...]…

  11. list qq says:

    Yahoo results…

    While browsing Yahoo I found this page in the results and I didn’t think it fit…

  12. anal toy review…

    [...]we came across a cool web page that you could get pleasure from. Take a appear in case you want[...]…

  13. Dreary Day…

    It was a dreary day here yesterday, so I just took to piddeling around on the internet and found…

  14. Wikia…

    Wika linked to this place…

  15. buy ig likes says:

    Wikia…

    Wika linked to this website…

  16. Title…

    [...]please visit the web sites we follow, which includes this one, because it represents our picks in the web[...]…

  17. Another Title…

    I saw this really good post today….

  18. Wikia…

    Wika linked to this place…

  19. Its hard to find good help…

    I am regularly proclaiming that its difficult to find good help, but here is…

  20. wabbit vibrator…

    [...]Here are several of the web-sites we advise for our visitors[...]…

  21. Title…

    [...]Every the moment inside a when we choose blogs that we study. Listed below are the most recent internet sites that we pick out [...]…

  22. Sillicone Rabbit Vibrator…

    [...]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine some unrelated data, nevertheless seriously worth taking a look, whoa did one particular study about Mid East has got more problerms as well [...]…

  23. Title…

    [...]always a major fan of linking to bloggers that I really like but don’t get a good deal of link really like from[...]…

  24. Title…

    This is my Excerpt…

  25. Wikia…

    Wika linked to this website…

  26. Amanda Hernandez…

    [...]the time to study or go to the content material or sites we’ve linked to beneath the[...]…

  27. Tumblr article…

    I saw someone writing about this on Tumblr and it linked to…

  28. Looking around…

    I like to browse around the online world, often I will go to Digg and follow thru…

  29. Title…

    This is my Excerpt…

  30. Tumblr article…

    I saw a writer talking about this on Tumblr and it linked to…

  31. Another Title…

    I saw this really great post today….

  32. Tumblr article…

    I saw a writer talking about this on Tumblr and it linked to…

  33. Looking around…

    I like to surf in various places on the web, regularly I will go to Stumble Upon and follow thru…

  34. Looking around…

    I like to look around the online world, regularly I will go to Stumble Upon and read and check stuff out…

  35. Title…

    This is my Excerpt…

  36. Yahoo results…

    While searching Yahoo I found this page in the results and I didn’t think it fit…

  37. Tumblr article…

    I saw a writer writing about this on Tumblr and it linked to…

  38. Just Browsing…

    While I was surfing today I saw a great post about…

  39. g spot says:

    g spot…

    [...]always a major fan of linking to bloggers that I appreciate but really don’t get lots of link appreciate from[...]…

  40. skirt says:

    Just Browsing…

    While I was surfing yesterday I saw a excellent post about…

  41. Title…

    [...]always a major fan of linking to bloggers that I adore but don’t get a lot of link love from[...]…

  42. male vacuum pump…

    [...]Every the moment inside a when we pick blogs that we study. Listed beneath are the latest web-sites that we pick out [...]…

  43. Title…

    [...]that may be the end of this report. Right here you’ll find some web-sites that we feel you’ll enjoy, just click the hyperlinks over[...]…

  44. orgasm problem…

    [...]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a handful of unrelated data, nonetheless really really worth taking a search, whoa did one particular find out about Mid East has got a lot more problerms too [...]…

  45. Title…

    This is my Excerpt…

  46. Tumblr article…

    I saw a writer writing about this on Tumblr and it linked to…

  47. funny says:

    funny…

    [...]although internet sites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we feel they are really really worth a go by way of, so possess a look[...]…

  48. loan sharks says:

    News info…

    I was reading the news and I saw this really cool topic…

  49. iPhone 8 says:

    Title…

    This is my Excerpt…

  50. szybkie pozyczki…

    [...]check beneath, are some completely unrelated websites to ours, however, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[...]…

  51.  
Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment. Login »