Bosun’s Call

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One of the staples of any nautical book or movie — and I expand here nautical to include Star Trek — is the shrill whistle of the bosun’s call.

The pitch of the whistle allowed it to transmit a limited number of commands above the roar of the ocean and the howling of wind in the rigging much in the manner that armies used bugles, trumpets, and drums to signal.

I’ve searched in vain for mp3 files of bosun’s calls from the Age of Sail. The best, if limited, collection I’ve found is courtesy of the Sea Scouts. These calls come by way of the US Navy and one assumes have roots in the Royal Navy. The Australian Navy website, The Gun Plot, gives a bit of history of the calls.

The image is a Royal Navy bosun’s call, circa 1805, located in the Royal Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

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