When do you respond to an SOS? The answer facing the RCMP in British Columbia is now being learned – the hard way.

Seems a series of SOS messages stamped out on the snow-covered mountains near the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, B.C. were ignored for 10 days by everyone in the nearby town including the RCMP.

SOS means the sender is in imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.

The use of SOS as a call for help became well known as far back as 1912 when on the night of April 14 the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in two hours and 40 minutes resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people.

Titanic wireless officers Jack Philips and Harold Bride began by sending the international distress signal of the day CQD. As the alarm was being transmitted to ships in the area, the operators began sending the new distress signal of SOS. Ships including the Mount Temple, Frankfurt and Titanic’s sister ship Olympic steamed to the rescue but none were close enough.

The only ship nearby, the Carpathia, at 93 km away could see the distress rockets but ignored them. The wireless operator at the Carpathia had gone to bed after being earlier in the evening after being told by Titanic to stop interfering with its radio traffic.

An inquiry brought new regulations including one that required commercial ships to maintain a 24-hour radio watch.


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