Thursday, July 5, 2012

Clyde Steamship Lines and S.O.S.

When the S.S. Arapahoe broke her tail shaft off the North Carolina Coast in 1909, the focus of the New York Times news story was not so much the damage done to the ship, but the manner in which the ship signaled she was in distress. The wireless operator on board sent out an S.O.S signal. Although that would not seem remarkable today, it was then, because the recognized signal for help had been C.Q.D., (a general signal followed by D for Distress.)  It did not stand for Come Quick Danger, just as S.O.S. did not stand for Save Our Souls or Save Our Ship, but it is a convenient way to remember them anyway. The Arapahoe's call for help was the first recorded use of the S.O.S. signal in the United States.

The use of S.O.S. was adopted by the International Wire Congress in Berlin in 1906, but it took awhile for it to be widely adopted. In 1912, the Titanic initially sent C.Q.D. messages before interspersing them with S.O.S. signals.

Here is a card showing another Clyde Line Steamer. Apparently the Mohawk, Cherokee, and Seminole, all built in 1925-26, looked the same, so this card could be any one of them. Björn Larsson's website, Maritime Timetables Images, shows some great interior views too and reports that:

The Mohawk was sunk in 1935 following a collision with a freighter off New Jersey,
while the
Cherokee, serving as a troop transport, was torpedoed and sunk in 1942.
Both the
Seminole and Algonquin were hospital ships during WW2 and survived to be scrapped during the 1950s. 

Here are the backs of the cards in the same order.

The second card was sent to Mrs. J.J. Burwell of Lumberton, New Jersey in 1929 from Jacksonville, Florida. The message reads:

Does this look like the vessel on which we took our trip?
Think Possibly I may get back by Friday eve next.


  1. I always learn such interesting things from your posts!

  2. The one we have just been holidaying on was a little bigger than the boats featured on the cards and I am glad to report that no SOS or CQD messages were necessary. Still, it is nice to be back.



Related Posts with Thumbnails