Everyone has heard of Morse code. It has been almost 144 years since its inception back in May of 1844. Three Americans used the telegraph system invented by Samuel Morse, and perfected it by having the telegraph make indentions on the receiving paper tape, whenever there were incoming electric currents. This method has all but been abandoned in today’s society, in favor of modern digital communication, which is faster and more reliable. Modern day communications, however, require electronics and computers for them to work. Radio amateurs, wildlife experts and military across the world still use Morse code for large distance communications (which cover several thousand kilometers).

What is Morse Code?

Morse code is a system for delivering letters and characters, using an on and off system, as a way to send messages. It consists of three symbols: short beeps, long beeps and pauses. The code can be used as sound as a radio signal, as an electrical pulse with a Morse key over a telephone line, mechanically or optically transmitted (such as a blinking light) or with many other media. The two different states (such as sound or no sound) can be presented clearly. The sound method is used sometimes in emergencies by tapping on metallic surfaces. While still only limited, it is understandable, with a little practice, because of the characteristic rhythm of the code. This hearing technology is derived from the “knockers” from the early days of telegraphy, consisting of a strong relay in a concave acoustic mirror. The sound of the code was evident even before the invention of the loudspeaker.

Morse Code History

Many people assimilate Morse code with “SOS” which is very understandable. The first time an SOS was used was by the passenger ship RMS Slavonia in June of 1909, when it sank in the Azores. The most historic use of the SOS Morse code was concerning the Titanic disaster; however the code never was received by any surrounding ships or land-based authorities. The Californian was only 10 miles away, but the radio operator was not fully versed in Morse code so the message was not understood. He went to bed shortly thereafter and cut the radio off for the night. So, in a 1912 provision, the emergency frequencies are programmed to be listened to, every half hour.

Survival with Morse Code

Survival skills are techniques that a person can use if they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation (i.e. natural disasters). Typically speaking, these techniques are usually meant to provide you with the basic necessities for survival: food, water, and shelter. These skills will help you think clearly, signal for help, navigate safely, avoid unpleasant interactions (usually with plants and animals), and perform emergency first aid. Survival skills are basic and common abilities that humans have used since the dawn of history. A number of skills can be used to make time spent in very remote places more enjoyable, and they can also be a way for you to thrive in the depths of nature. Most people can use these types of skills to better adapt themselves to nature and not just to survive. People who have been stranded have turned to Morse code when they are in dire need of rescue. Having flares, air horns or other survival items that can signal help is also important, but sometimes you do not have those things available. Morse code will always be there when you need it. History has shown that using Morse code to signal SOS (…—…) can save your life and will continue to save more, if the everyday person learns the code. The best example of this would be at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when the young men of the United States Navy were trapped inside the sinking ships docked at the Harbor. Many men tried using Morse code to be rescued and it proved successful as 300 men were saved from the USS Oklahoma.
A recent example happened back in 2006, when an amateur sailor, who was traveling to Thorneham Marina from Emsworth in Hampshire, England, noticed that his 28 foot boat had started to take on water. The sailor had no emergency equipment aboard the ship except for a flashlight and the knowledge of Morse code. Little did he know that these two things would be all he needed to save his life. He started flashing his SOS signal and was spotted by a coast guard sailor, from nearby Hayling Island. The amateur boater was picked up, shortly thereafter.
The fact, plain and simple, is that using Morse code, to send distress signals or messages, can save your life. You can be the best survivalist in the world, but if you do not have Morse code in your repertoire, then you are missing a vital component. Survival techniques can come in several different varieties but they all have one common goal… to save your life.


Amateur radio operator from Malaysia

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