Today, it’s taken for granted that if you are at sea, and in distress you can summon assistance by doing one of the following:
- press and hold the red button on your DSC equipped VHF Radio (if within range of land)
- if your VHF radio isn’t DSC equipped, you can call on VHF Channel 16 (if within range of land)
- out of VHF range? if your vessel is large enough you could possible get assistance using your MF Radio (DSC or Voice)
- or you could use a Satellite Phone or EPIRB
None of this is particularly difficult, yet many vessels still go to sea daily without any of these safety features on their vessels. They then depend on the radio that is their Mobile Phone when they are in trouble.
Any of the above methods of communication, once used in a distress situation will immediately bring into play many air and sea assets in order to render assistance. However this wasn’t always the case.
The “first rescue of a ship at sea by radio” was used was on January 23rd, 1909. It was mostly good luck that led to a successful outcome. It made a hero of the radio operator Jack Binns, but it also led the shipping companies to come to the (incorrect) conclusion that all subsequent collisions would have the same successful outcome.
Amateur Radio operators still use the “CQ” call today.