Sending a Smoke Signal

Posted On February 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm by / No Comments

Sending a Smoke Signal

Smoke signals are thought to have first been used by Chinese soldiers along the Great Wall and are also one of the oldest forms of communicating in recorded history. The smoke plumes, created by a fire, help to communicate visual messages over long distances as they can easily be seen from afar and are unmistakably human efforts. Although there is no common communication for smoke signals, there have been various historical examples of how people have used them in the past.

In a survivalist situation, smoke signals can be both a blessing and a curse. Those who are using the smoke signal to signal for rescue can get the same attention from enemies who can use the signal to track down the fire. If you are creating a smoke signal for rescue or to communicate a message, consider who else may see it and how it can work with you or against you.

Native Americans’ Smoke Signals

It is said that each Native American tribe had its own smoke signals rather than a set code for transmission. This meant the smoke signal would only make sense to the sender and receiver who had predetermined the meaning at some earlier period. Some tribes would place their fires in varying locations along mountains to convey meanings. Smoke from half way up a hill meant no harm and a smoke signal from the top of a hill would communicate danger.

The Apache Indian tribe used the following signals:

One Puff: Attention, but no harm or danger. Often one puff signaled to watch for additional signals.

Two Puffs: Two puffs signaled that camp was well and safe, and that the senders would be staying at their current location until further notice.

Three Puffs: Three puffs signaled an alarm and warned of approaching enemies or marked the beginning of a battle.

Boy Scouts Smoke Signals

The Boy Scouts of America teach our youth survivalist tactics at a young age. In line with their motto to “always be prepared,” the Boy Scouts also taught smoke signaling. Even in modern times where there are more advanced technologies for communicating, the Boy Scouts are taught to use three puffs of smoke to signal trouble when they are in the wilderness. Like the Apache’s, the Boy Scouts let others know of danger with smoke, although one could argue the Native Americans probably faced more challenging times.

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