A sign of the times

I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Bindon’s Bushcraft and Survival column in your August edition, as I do all his columns. His comments on the SOS signal were spot on as any signal made with sticks and stones is risky (the signal needs to be both seen and understood).

In radio communication SOS should not be sent by voice. The correct terms are Mayday or Emergency although younger types than us are taught a system of colour codes such as Code Blue or Code Red. I suspect this is change for the sake of change!

The international distress signal, commonly but slightly incorrectly referred to as SOS, requires a transmitter capable of sending Morse code, a receiver capable of resolving Morse code and an operator who can read Morse code, and I fear these criteria are becoming harder to find.

Conversely, Morse code can be sent at night with ordinary hand torches, though car headlights would have a longer range, but of course both are dependent on a clear optical path (eg hilltop to hilltop.)

SOS, Emergency and Mayday all mean the same thing - that human life is in actual or imminent danger while the signal for lesser problems is Urgent, Pan Pan Pan or, in Morse code, XXX. I agree with Peter the use of personal locator beacons is the way to go.

Barry Croker, via email

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