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This answer has inspired me to a question: say you are a castaway on a desert island. There might be a plane flying casualy but you can miss it. So you want to create some pattern (e.g. put some branches in the sand near the beach) which will signalize S.O.S. to the pilot.

Are there any simple, international, emergency patterns for this purpose?

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why the most stupid question always gets most votes? :-) Compared to the other question I've put, this one is the least likely to be useful :) – Tomas Feb 1 '12 at 19:35
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The trick is, high contrast, right angles, and unnatural colors. A ratio of 6:1 for the lines. Letter X or V are best.

So, if you find two 6 foot long, one foot wide branches, place them in an X. Scale as you can to get it as large as possible.

Source: Wilderness First Aid Field Guide.

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what is the ratio for? – Jay Bazuzi Jan 28 '12 at 7:30
@JackBazuzi: Easy visibility. A bit wider is okay, narrower not as well. – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 28 '12 at 14:11
I mean, what are you measuring with the 6:1 ratio? Also, Jack is my father, ha ha. :-) – Jay Bazuzi Jan 28 '12 at 18:23
Oh. The length of the part of the letter to the width of the letter. IE, for the X, you ideally would want something for each line in the X that is 6 feet long, 1 foot wide, roughly. Of course, bigger is better, so... – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 28 '12 at 19:57
@Tomas: Added in source. – PearsonArtPhoto Feb 1 '12 at 13:57

The international distress signal is a triangle of fires.

enter image description here

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THanks, but if you are on the desert island weeks and months, you cannot burn fire all the time. And making triangle from just wooden things isn't very onspicuous I think. Any static pattern that can be very flagrant? – Tomas Jan 28 '12 at 0:31
@Tomas: well you can fire it when you see a plane: you just have to pay attention, but it seems a reasonable request to a castaway – clabacchio Jun 16 '12 at 16:13

SOS is pretty recognizable and clear. Just make it BIG. Rocks with holes around them (to create contrast) seem to be the easiest and best way.

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