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(* = Graphable)

Drawing of RMS Titanic's captain and radio operator, titled "The S.O.S"

From the beginning, the SOS distress signal has actually consisted of a continuous sequence of three-dits/three-dahs/three-dits, all run together without letter spacing. In International Morse Code, three dits form the letter S, and three dahs make the letter O, so "SOS" became an easy way to remember the correct order of the dits and dashes. In modern terminology, SOS is a "procedural signal" or "prosign", and the formal way to write it is with a bar above the letters, i.e. SOS. 1922 Chart of the Morse Code Letters and Numerals Morse code is a method for transmitting telegraphic information, using standardized sequences of short and long elements to represent the letters, numerals, punctuation and special characters of a message. ... 1922 Chart of the Morse Code Letters and Numerals Morse code is a method for transmitting telegraphic information, using standardized sequences of short and long elements to represent the letters, numerals, punctuation and special characters of a message. ... Morse code is a system of representing letters, numbers and punctuation marks by means of a code signal sent intermittently. ... Prosigns or procedural signals are dot/dash sequences that have a special meaning in Morse Code transmissions. ...

In popular usage, SOS became associated with phrases such as "Save Our Ship", "Save Our Souls", "Save Our Skins", "Save Our Stuff", "Shoot Our Ship", "Shoot On Sight", "Sinking Our Ship", "Survivors On Shore", "Save Our Sluts", "Signal On Sand", and "Suck On ****". It is mostly known by "Save Our Ship" and/or "Save Our Souls". However, these phrases were a later development, most likely used to help remember the correct letters—something known as a backronym. A backronym (or bacronym) is a phrase that is constructed after the fact from a previously existing abbreviation, the abbreviation being an initialism or an acronym. ...

## Early developments

With the development of radio communication in the early 1890s, seagoing vessels had already adopted a wide variety of visual and audio distress signals, using such things as semaphore flags, signal flares, bells, and foghorns. Radio—which initially was called "wireless telegraphy"—at first employed Morse code, the dit-and-dah system originally developed for landline telegraphy. With the introduction of shipboard radio installations, there was a need for standardized communication, but cooperation was somewhat limited by national differences and rivalries between competing radio companies. 1922 Chart of the Morse Code Letters and Numerals Morse code is a method for transmitting telegraphic information, using standardized sequences of short and long elements to represent the letters, numerals, punctuation and special characters of a message. ... Telegraph and Telegram redirect here. ...

The first International Radiotelegraphic Conference was held in Berlin, Germany in 1903. At the time, Captain Quintino Bonomo, an Italian representative, discussed the need for common operating procedures, including the suggestion that "ships in distress... should send the signal SSS DDD at intervals of a few minutes", according to "The Wireless Telegraph Conference", in the November 27, 1903, issue of The Electrician. However, procedural questions were beyond the scope of the 1903 Conference. Although Article IV of the Conference's Final Protocol, signed August 13, 1903, stated that "Wireless telegraph stations should, unless practically impossible, give priority to calls for help received from ships at sea," no standard signal was adopted at the time. is the 331st day of the year (332nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1903 (MCMIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ... is the 225th day of the year (226th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1903 (MCMIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ...

Because of the absence of international regulations, each ship was left to develop its own practices. For example in 1905 the crew of a sinking lightship off Nantucket transmitted the word "HELP" to call for rescue. Perhaps the first international radio distress call adopted was "CQD" ( — · — ·    — — · —    — · · ) which was announced on January 7, 1904 by "Circular 57" of the Marconi International Marine Communication Company, and which became effective for Marconi installations beginning February 1, 1904. Another suggestion appeared in the 1906 edition of S. S. Robison's "Manual of Wireless Telegraphy for the Use of Naval Electricians," published for use by the United States Navy. This stated that the standard visual flag signals, known as the International Code of Signals, would likely also be adopted for radio use. Thus, the flag signal "NC" ( — ·     — · — · ), which stood for "In distress; want immediate assistance", would also likely become the radio distress call or a cry for help. Nantucket is an island south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, formed of glacial moraine. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... is the 7th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1904 (MCMIV) was a leap year starting on a Friday (see link for calendar). ... is the 32nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1904 (MCMIV) was a leap year starting on a Friday (see link for calendar). ... The International Code of Signals (INTERCO) is a signal code to be used by merchant and naval vessels to communicate important messages about the state of a vessel and the intent of its master or commander when there are language barriers. ...

## SOS created in Germany

A third standard resulted in the creation of the SOS distress signal. The German government issued a set of national radio regulations, effective April 1, 1905, which introduced three new Morse code sequences, including the SOS distress signal: is the 91st day of the year (92nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see 1905 (disambiguation). ...

1. Ruhezeichen ("Cease-sending signal"), consisting of six dahs ( — — — — — — ), sent by shore stations to tell other local stations to stop transmitting.
2. Suchzeichen ("Quest signal"), composed of three-dits/three dahs/one-dit, all run together (· · · — — — · ), used by ships to get the attention of shore stations.
3. Notzeichen ("Distress signal"), consisting of three-dits/three-dahs/three-dits (· · · — — — · · · ), also in a continuous sequence, "to be repeated by a ship in distress until all other stations have stopped working".

SOS was developed from the general German radio call "SOE", with the 3 dits of a "S" easier to hear in static than the one dit of an "E". Also, the otherwise meaningless string of letters was selected because it is easily recognizable and can be sent rapidly. Comparing SOS (di-di-di-dah-dah-dah-di-di-dit) with the older CQD (dah-di-dah-dit dah-dah-di-dah dah-di-dit) (— · — · / — — · — / — · ·) it is obvious how much simpler the new code is. Also, it would not be mistaken for CQ, which is the radio code for "calling anyone" used in casual circumstances.

In 1906, the second International Radiotelegraphic Convention was held in Berlin. This convention developed an extensive collection of Service Regulations to supplement the main agreement, which was signed on November 3, 1906, and became effective on July 1, 1908. Article XVI of the regulations adopted Germany's Notzeichen distress signal as the international standard, reading: "Ships in distress shall use the following signal: · · · — — — · · ·  repeated at brief intervals". The first ship to transmit an SOS distress call appears to have been the Cunard liner Slavonia on June 10, 1909, according to "Notable Achievements of Wireless" in the September, 1910 Modern Electrics. However, there was some resistance among the Marconi operators about adopting the new signal, and, as late as the April, 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, the ship's Marconi operators intermixed CQD and SOS distress calls. But with the need for consistency for public safety, the use of CQD appears to have generally disappeared after this point. is the 307th day of the year (308th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1906 (MCMVI) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Sunday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... is the 182nd day of the year (183rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1908 (MCMVIII) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Tuesday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... is the 161st day of the year (162nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1909 (MCMIX) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... For other uses, see Titanic (disambiguation). ...

In both the April 1, 1905 German law, and the 1906 International regulations, the distress signal was specified as a continuous Morse code sequence of three-dits/three-dahs/three-dits, with no mention of any alphabetic equivalents. However, in International Morse three dits comprise the letter S, and three dahs the letter O, and it soon became common to refer to the distress signal as "SOS." An early report on "The International Radio-Telegraphic Convention" in the January 12, 1907 Electrical World stated that "Vessels in distress use the special signal, SOS, repeated at short intervals." (In American Morse code, which was used by many coastal ships in the United States through the first part of the twentieth century, three dahs stood for the numeral "5", so in a few cases the distress signal was informally referred to as "S5S"). is the 91st day of the year (92nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see 1905 (disambiguation). ... is the 12th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1907 (MCMVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Monday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... 1911 Chart of the Standard American Morse Characters (now obsolete) American Morse Code â€” also known as Railroad Morse â€” is is the latter-day name for the now-obsolete version of the Morse Code specification originally developed in the mid-1840s, by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail for their electric telegraph. ...

In contrast to CQD, which was sent as three separate letters with spaces between each letter, the SOS distress call has always been transmitted as a continuous sequence of dits-and-dahs, and not as individual letters. There was no problem as long as operators were aware that "SOS" was technically just a convenient way for remembering the proper sequence of the distress signal's total of nine dits and dahs. In later years, the number of special Morse symbols increased. In order to designate the proper sequence of dits-and-dahs for a long special symbol, the standard practice is to list alphabetic characters which contain the same dits-and-dahs in the same order, with a bar atop the character sequence to indicate that there should not be any internal spaces in the transmission. Thus, under the modern notation, the distress signal becomes SOS. (In International Morse, VTB, IJS and SMB, among others, would also correctly translate into the · · · — — — · · ·  distress call sequence, but traditionally only SOS is used).

SOS has also sometimes been used as a visual distress signal, consisting of three-short/three-long/three-short light flashes, or with "SOS" spelled out in individual letters, for example, stamped in a snowbank or formed out of logs on a beach. The fact that SOS can be read right side up as well as upside down became important for visual recognition if viewed from above.

## Famous SOS calls

RMS Lusitania was a British luxury ocean liner owned by the Cunard Steamship Company and built by John Brown and Company of Clydebank, Scotland. ... For other uses, see Titanic (disambiguation). ... HMHS Britannic (1914), the third Olympic-class ocean liner of the White Star Line, sister ship of RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic, sank in 1916 after hitting a mine with the loss of 30 lives. ... The SS Andrea Doria was an ocean liner for the Italian Line (SocietÃ  di navigazione Italia) home ported in Genoa, Italy. ...

## Later developments

During the Second World War, additional codes were employed to include immediate details about attacks by enemy vessels, especially in the Battle of the Atlantic. The signal SSS signalled attacked by submarines, whilst RRR warned of an attack by a surface raider, QQQ warned of an unknown raider (usually an auxiliary cruiser), and AAA indicated an attack by aircraft. They were usually sent in conjunction with the SOS distress code. All of these codes later switched from three repeats of the letter to four repeats ("RRRR", etc.). Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 18 km into the air. ... Battle of the Atlantic can refer to either of two naval campaigns, depending on context: World War I - First Battle of the Atlantic World War II - Second Battle of the Atlantic A Third Battle of the Atlantic was envisioned to be be part of any Third World War that arose... Auxiliary cruisers were merchant ships taken over for conversion into a vessel armed with cruiser-size guns, and employed either for convoy protection against true cruisers, or for commerce-raiding missions, where its appearance was used to trick merchant ships into approaching. ...

None of these signals were used on their own. Sending SOS as well as other warning signals (TTT, XXX etc.) used similar procedures for effectiveness. These were always followed correctly. Here is an example of an SOS signal the portions in brackets are an explanation only.

SOS SOS SOS de (this is) GBTT GBTT GBTT (call sign of the QE2 repeated 3 times)Queen Elizabeth 2 (Name of ship) psn (position)49.06.30 North, 04.30.20.west. Ship on fire, crew abandoning ship (Nature of distress) AR (end of transmission) K (invitation to reply).

Many merchant vessels carried only one Radio Operator in which case the SOS may not be heard by operators off duty. Eventually equipment was invented to summon of-duty operators by ringing an alarm in the operators berth. This was triggered by the operator of the ship in distress transmitting 12 long dashes of four seconds duration each. These were sent prior to the SOS hopefully ringing the automatic alarm in ships so equipped. If possible a short delay was given before transmission of the SOS proper. This was to give those off watch operators time to get to their radio office.

## References

• "The Wireless Telegraph Conference", The Electrician, November 27, 1903, pages 157–160, 214.
• Final Protocol, First International Radio Telegraphic Conference, Berlin, 1903.
• Regelung der Funkentelegraphie im Deutschen Reich, Elektrotechnische Zeitschrift, April 27, 1905, pages 413–414.
• German Regulations for the Control of Spark Telegraphy, The Electrician, May 5, 1905, pages 94–95.
• Robison, S. S., "Manual of Wireless Telegraphy for the Use of Naval Electricians", 1st edition, 1906.
• 1906 International Wireless Telegraph Convention, U.S. Government Printing Office.
• "The International Radio-Telegraphic Convention", Electrical World, January 12, 1907, pages 83–84.
• "S 5 S" Rivals "C Q D" for Wireless Honors, Popular Mechanics, February, 1910, page 156.
• Notable Achievements of Wireless, Modern Electrics, September, 1910, page 315.
• Collins, Francis A., Some Stirring Wireless Rescues, from "The Wireless Man", 1912, pages 104–141.
• Turnball, G. E., "Distress Signalling", The Yearbook of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony, 1913, pages 318–322 (includes text of "Circular 57").
• Dilks, John H. III, "Why SOS?" in QST, June, 2007, pages 88–89.

is the 331st day of the year (332nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1903 (MCMIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ... is the 117th day of the year (118th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see 1905 (disambiguation). ... is the 125th day of the year (126th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see 1905 (disambiguation). ... is the 12th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1907 (MCMVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Monday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ...

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