Tuesday, August 26, 2014


While reading about a 1909 shipwreck on Ocracoke I came across this sentence: "Keeper Barnett then picked up the Creeds Hill life boat and towed her near the station and wigwag[ed] a surfman on the beach to ... come off with the Jersey boat and carrey [sic] the crew of said station on shore."

I did not know what it meant to "wigwag" a surfman, though I suspected it had something to do with signaling. This is what I discovered from Wikipedia:

"In the 1850s,  U.S. Army Major Albert J. Myer, a surgeon by training, developed a system using left or right movements of a flag (or torch or lantern at night). Myer's system used a single flag, waved back and forth in a binary code conceptually similar to the Morse code of dots and dashes. This is sometimes called the wig-wag method of signaling, or 'wig-wagging'."

Signal Corps Insignia

Wig-Wag Flag Movements

I learn something new almost every day!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of late 19th century steamship traffic to Ocracoke, and the large Victorian hotel that accommodated the guests. You can read the article here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news082114.htm.


  1. I do too...much of it from reading your journal.

  2. Semaphore flagging is also sometimes informally referred to as wigwag.

  3. Anonymous9:31 AM

    Looks like the hurricane warning flags.

  4. Anonymous12:13 PM

    Learn something new indeed--and as always.


    My wife just mentioned yesterday a book she recently heard of that had to do with a minister from Ocracoke back in the 1970s. I recall a previous post of yours here about the book and the minister. Do you recall the title of the book? Thanks, Philip.

    1. The book is "Adam's Gift" by Jimmy Creech. This is the link to my blog post: http://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2011/02/jimmy-creech.html