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342930.  Fri May 23, 2008 9:42 am Reply with quote

Question: How do you know if a sailor needs a tug?

Forfeit: None

Answer: By using the international code of signals, which allows ships to communicate at sea.

The international code of signals has a system of international maritime signal flags, each of which represents a letter and has a more specific meaning: for instance, the “z” flag means “I require a tug”

Supplimentary: What do the following flags mean?

Other flag meanings:
The letter “F” means, rather poignantly, “I am disabled, please communicate with me”.
“J” means “I am on fire”
“R” means “You may feel your way past me”
“T” means “Keep clear of me; I'm engaged in pair trawling”

Strangely some flags have multiple meanings. The most famous flag is one of these. The “P” flag is the blue peter it means "hurry up and get on board, we're about to leave!" or “Your lights are out or burning badly” – of course this is a white square on a blue background, not the picture of a ship which is a logo created by Tony Hart. Hart asked for a penny for every time his design was used, but instead was paid a flat fee of a hundred pounds. He therefore missed out on a fortune.

The flags can either be used to spell out words, can be used singularly to give a specific signal (as above) or a few flags can be used together to form a code. The first International Code of Signals was codified in 1857 by the British Board of Trade. The original Code contained 17,000 signals using 18 signal flags.

Another, perhaps more famous, use of flags in signalling is semaphore where two flags, one in each hand, are used to signal letters of the alphabet. The idea was invented by Robert Hooke (the man who rebuilt London after the great fire with Wren, claimed to have discovered gravitation before Newton and found the laws behind elasticity). It was not taken up for more than a hundred years until Frenchman Claude Chappe managed to come up with a practical system involving rods mounted on towers. The CND Peace symbol was based on the semaphore for ND, the N (uclear) is superimposed on a D (isarmament) and both are placed within a circle symbolising Earth.

The study of flags is called vexillology. In the US, organisations such as the American Legion and the Boy Scouts burn many more American flags than any protesters in anti-American countries. The US Flag Code states, "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning".

Further sources
The Curious Life of Robert Hooke - Lisa Jardine.

Picture Ideas:
Picture researchers, can we get a pic of Z, F, J, R & T flags please
A rather saucy looking sailor for the Q too.

345167.  Mon May 26, 2008 10:14 am Reply with quote

We've bought an actual set of signal flags, so they can be photographed or physically used as much as we want.

This might be fun: semaphore (ie silent) buzzers.

345173.  Mon May 26, 2008 10:29 am Reply with quote

I like the idea of semaphore buzzers. Particularly if they're appropriate. Alan should probably be given V - "I require assistance". I'm sure "I am leaking dangerous cargo" and "You may feel your way past me" could be used for comic effect as well.

345210.  Mon May 26, 2008 11:51 am Reply with quote

I love that idea.


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