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Tech Tip Whistle signals

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Sonny Lawrence, Nov 18, 2018.

  1. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    There is no universal whistle signal system for canyoning. Each country has its own system. Some countries have more than one system that are significantly different from each other. Some are relatively complex similar to Morse code. I asked some international canyoning friends for their whistle systems. Here are some responses:

    Belgium
    1) Stop - 1 whistle blast.
    2) Free - 2 whistle blasts.
    3) Down - 3 whistle blasts.
    4) Up - 4 whistle blasts.

    Germany
    One stop
    Two ok
    Three give me rope
    Four pull the rope up
    Many whistles: danger

    Italy
    a) Stop (stop) - 1 whistle blast
    b) Down (ca-la) - 2 whistle blasts
    c) Free (li-be-ra) - 3 whistle blasts
    d) Up (re-cu-pe-ra) - 4 whistle blasts

    Britain
    a) Stop (stop) - 1 whistle
    b) Free (off rope) - 2 whistle blasts
    c) Down (lo-wer rope) - 3 whistle blasts
    d) Up (up rope) - 2 (long) whistle blasts

    Current whistle signals are often based on similarity with the syllables in the words of that language: “stop, down, up and free.” Each language may be quite different in the number of syllables for the equivalent of those commands.

    Assume one of the whistle blasts from the person on rope was not heard by the operator at the anchor. For example, a “down” command that is not entirely received. In the above examples, an Italian operator will “stop” because he only heard one of the two whistles. While a British operator who heard only two of the three whistle blasts will think that his mate completed his rappel and is off rope. The operator might leave the rope without control. This could be dangerous.

    A better whistle coding system would assign rules that are meant to minimize the impact in case the rope operator at the anchor cannot hear all of the whistle blasts. This is much different logic than having one whistle blast for each syllable of the word being coded for. The following was suggested by some very experienced European canyoneers who have been instrumental in the development of the sport.

    Proposed international whistle system:

    a) Stop - 1 whistle blast. In dangerous situations where progress needs to halt, one whistle blast is simple and fast. Perhaps the person actually whistled more than once. The likelihood of harm to him/her is low by stopping. The person on rope can whistle again in order to clarify.
    b) Down - 2 whistle blasts. Two whistle blasts are relatively easy to perform in a dangerous situation.
    c) Free- 3 whistle blasts. The person does not have difficulties. Hence giving three whistle blasts is very easy to do. If the operator at the anchor only hears two or one, this does not significantly change anything. The person on rope either is lowered or remains stationary.
    d) Up- 4 whistle blasts. Used to retrieve the rope that is too long. If all four whistle blasts are not heard, there is no harm. The message can be repeated until understood.
    e) Multiple whistle blasts. Used for an emergency. Should be obvious to the operator that there are not just one, two, three or four blasts.

    Admittedly this is different than the whistle signals I routinely use. It is different than the signals used by the rescue team I am a member of. Ultimately each group, at the beginning of the day, must agree on the signals to be used. However, it would be nice if the international canyon community could agree on a standard. It would make international canyon festivals a little safer.
    ratagonia and Bill like this.
  2. Andrew J Farrow

    Andrew J Farrow

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    while an international " whistle code " - sounds great - there is no single international body to promote it

    further - even in the countries you cite - different adventure activities - ie cavers , recreational climbing , kayak etc - already have different whistle codes .

    i believe that one blast = stop // warning is the only conformity " we " have

    my philosophy is - rater than try to change the world - just " be content with " - getting each party you do any activity with - to accept // use - a given code for the trip you are undertaking
  3. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    I like your idear, Sonny.

    You're right...different folks from different countries have their own.

    I've always liked the Italian version...for some reason..."li-be-ra" is easy for me to remember.
  4. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    Here is a possibility for canyoning as an international body: www.ficanyon.org
    Tom Collins likes this.
  5. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    The problem is if you go to an international event and have to change your whistle codes every single day for every single party there's a good chance you won't remember the right code in a crisis. The more people that are using the same system the less likely it is you'll have to learn something new each day. Also Sonny does say that ultimately you do have to agree on a coding system at the start of each day to make sure that everyone is on the same page. As for other groups having other codes, good for them, but really that's not an issue here, we aren't talking about international kayaking we're talking about international canyoning here and canyoning can have a separate coding system.
    Sonny Lawrence likes this.
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