What Does SOS stand for

What does SOS stand for?
What does SOS stand for?

Although it is an internationally recognized code, it’s not something heard every day so you may wonder, what does SOS stand for?

It is also, just as relevant to understand the origin when asking for the meaning of SOS. There have been various theories presented regarding the etymology of the “SOS” distress signal. However, the generally recognized and official interpretation can be traced back to 1904. At this time many trans-Atlantic ships from Britain utilized wireless communication, with their operators being recruited from railway and postal telegraphers.

The usual call sign for a landline wire at that time was ''CQ” which was employed by cable and telegraph stations worldwide. This call sign preceded special notices and time signals. Accordingly, the “CQ” sign accompanied the operators to their sea-going postings and became a general identity for maritime signals also. This “all stations” call sign was accepted as standard procedure shortly after wireless transmissions began for shore to ship, ship to shore.

The Marconi Company originated the “CQD” identity as a distress signal and is generally regarded as meaning “Come Quick Danger”. However, this interpretation is not correct as the “D” which follows the “CQ” is defined as "distress." This would then strictly translate “CQD” into “All Stations Distress”.

The subject of a universal danger warning signal was a topic of debate at a Radio-telegraphic conference in Berlin in 1906. After much discussion, it was decided that the three dots, three dashes and three dots of the Morse code SOS, sent as one signal string could not be misunderstood. The use of the “CQD” remained operative for several years after being officially ratified in 1908. This was especially prevalent within the British service, the source of origin. Although the most common response to the question “what does SOS stand for?” is Save Our Souls, it does appear this may have developed after the decision was made for the SOS signal.

One of the most well-known stories involving the SOS signal has to have been during the events of April 15, 1912, not so very long after the signal was adopted. The events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic are well documented and none more so, than in the personal account by one of the radio officers, Harold Bride. It was at 12:15 a.m. that the radio officers of the Titanic were given the order by Captain Smith to start signaling “CQDMGY” which was the call sign for calling all stations, danger with “MGY” the call letters for the Titanic. This call sign was changed after several attempts to SOS which was intercepted by the SS Carpathia, the first rescue ship to arrive at the scene (some 4 hours later).

Since those early days, the SOS emergency call sign has been used worldwide, and the three letters are recognized by most people all over the world. It is a signal for help that can be constructed in a physical form, including some innovative, and often dramtic, demostrations provided by Hollywood producers. An SOS can be constructed of various materials as a ground to air signals during the day and in darkness with the use of fire. Additionally, in daylight hours, weather permitting, a reflective process can be used with a mirror or similar object able to produce a form of long and short signals allowing for morris code via the reflection.

As with any other survival technique this signal is certainly helpful to know, all the while hoping you will never need to use. Howver, should you find yourself needing help and you have no radio to transmit Morse code or a phone to dial 911, select a site from which to signal that is a clear and open. In this situation it is essential that you place yourself in the position such that those who can provide help will be able to see you, whether from the air or from the ground. EDetermin what materials are available to form the letters “SOS”, and always keep in mind that three simple dots and dashes could literally be a life saver!

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