Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Nonfiction
reviewed by Irwin Bryan
Sails, flags, flares, and lights have all been used to send messages among ships. This is a wonderful book about the origins and improvements to signaling ever since man first went to sea. Each method is explained, and others are also presented. All the illustrations and pictures make this work visually stunning as well.
Timelines serve as a unifying theme among principal sections of the book: Flag Signaling, Semaphore, and Light Signaling. The use of flags has a history that begins circa 450 BC with a quote from Herodotus, and ends seven pages later in 1889. Many individuals contributed to this process, including several foreign naval officers and dignitaries. Ten different sets of flags representing numbers are also pictured together. The British Admiralty adopted the first set of signal flags in 1665.
Visual communication involves “shapes, shutters and semaphore.” This section discusses a new alphabet developed for hand-held flag waving and mechanical methods for “telegraphing” messages. The Admiralty first erected signaling stations on land in 1795 and some of their devices were still in use during World War I.
Developments in signaling with light have a nine-page timeline that begins in 1746 and ends in 1897 with a controversy about which signaling method the Admiralty should choose. Included in this history is the creation of Morse Code and how messages can be spelled out one letter at a time using plain English. A complete ship to shore communication is presented to show how Morse Code is sent and each message is acknowledged.
Other aspects of signaling are also covered: why and how England’s national flag of St. George was modified for Great Britain’s Union Jack to ensure all would still recognize a Royal Navy vessel; Nelson’s message to the fleet before the Battle of Trafalgar; the way signals contributed to a collision during fleet maneuvers; and present-day efforts to improve signaling for warships at sea, including automating the process and having signals look more like text messages.
Notes about sources and quotations are found at the end of the text. There is also a bibliography with resources on the Web and an index, not available in the galley, is included in the published version. Hundreds of illustrations accompany the text.
If you have ever wondered what the flags decorating a docked ship are saying, or other examples of signals encountered in daily life, this book has the answer. Interesting and well told, What Ship, Where Bound? It is wholeheartedly recommended.
Review Copyrighted ©2021 Irwin Bryan
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