Friday, 14 March 2008

Devon and Cornwall lifeboats on new stamps

A new set of British stamps was issued yesterday featuring 4 of the country's lifeboats and 2 of the coastguard helicopters. I'm pleased to say that one of them shows the lifeboat at Appledore in North Devon whilst on another there is a serious action shot of the St Ives lifeboat in Cornwall. One of the reasons for this particular choice of subject appears to be that it was about 100 years ago that the use of the Morse code SOS signal came into being.

I've just done a little bit of research on the origins of the SOS messaging. It's easy to think that it might have been the British who thought it up with those letters representing "Save our ship" or "Save our souls". Nothing of the sort apparently: it was the Germans who instigated the idea with three dots, three dashes, three dots and no gaps in between. It was at a later stage that a suitable choice of words was added to make it more memorable. So it was evidently pure good luck that a message such as "Save our ship" could be extrapolated from the original Morse.

Very cunningly and possibly overlooked the spacing of the perforations at top and bottom of these new stamps have re-created the famous sequence of dots and dashes. Clever stuff!

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