What Are ‘Spoken Vessels’?

What does this mean? This old newspaper article reports on ships that have “spoken” with each other.

In 1847 communication was not as instant and seamless as it is today.

People were anxious to know how ships were doing on their long voyages to far-away destinations. So, the practice in the 19th century was for passing ships to “speak” with each other (signal by lights or semaphore flags) to report their status. These contacts were then reported to the local press when a ship reached port, and published in the newspaper.

So, in this example: the brig Cohansey was “spoken with” by a passing ship off the Capes of Virginia on December 16th as it was transiting from New York for Waithall; and on December 19th, the brig Camargo was “spoken with” off Barnegat, a coastal town in New Jersey, as it was transiting from Philadelphia to Newburyport, Massachusetts.

And, now you know.

Source: GenealogyBank, Boston Semi Weekly Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 December 1847, page 2
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