In every aspect of life, communication is important. However, perhaps one of the places where it has significant value is in marine communications. As a species, humans have been fascinated with the sea from further back in time than records exist. It provides a unique mode of transport, brings a wealth of life to the planet and has an undeniable allure that has drawn in many a sailor. And having the ability to effectively communicate both on and off the sea is something we continue to perfect to this day. After all, the ocean may be beautiful, it is also a demanding force that can cause injuries and even death. So, how has marine communication developed over the years?

Pre-Electricity Marine Communication

Before electricity become common use in our lives, people used a technique known as Semaphore signalling to communicate between ships. This method involved using flags and lights to send messages across far distances. In order for the message to be read, the receiver would have to use a telescope while identifying the changing pattern of size shutters sitting on a white background. Similar to morse code, the method would spell out words and phrases that would then be deciphered by the recipient. This method quickly fell into disuse as it required two boats to be within a reasonable distance from one another. However, the Royal Army needed something that allowed for clear communication between its ships and also from it’s vessels to the shorelines.

Marine Communication In The 1800s

A time of much technological development, the 1800s bore the invention of electromagnetic radiation and electromagnetism. Here, the use of radio waves was developed to help communication in the form of Morse Code. A series of dots and dashes were used to represent letters of the alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks, allowing a full message to be sent easily.

From here, marine communication developed. Renowned physicist and mathematician, James Clerk Maxwell, discovered that sound waves could be converted to radio waves and then back again. Ships could record a message, send it across a wide distance as a radio wave and have it decoded on the other end. And by the beginning of the 20th century, the Royal Navy began to use equipment that enabled this form of communication.

Satellite Communication

Marine communication continued to develop, with the US Navy discovering that the ability to bounce waves off the surface of the moon and other artificial satellites. This allowed messages to be sent across the other side of the world and with minimal interference. In 1957, Sputnik was launched with many more to follow, further improving the efficiency of marine communication.

Between the ’20s and ’40s, technology including the radiotelephone and High Frequency (HF) were introduced to mainstream use, improving communications over far distances. And, today, ships are able to communicate effectively between themselves with little issue. Radio technology is used for everything from Safety & Rescue, Security & Tracking and Navigation to keep marine professionals and enthusiasts safe at all times while at sea.