June 27, 2009

Amateur Radio & Field Day!

Thanks to Kim's friend Jim, we have a beautiful "base camp" here in Duluth to locate the trailer. Since we'll be here for a few weeks, and there's plenty of room, for the first time I set up the new vertical antenna with all of it's "radial wires" for great performance. It's been a little over two years since I've gotten back into amateur radio, a hobby I've enjoyed on and off since I got my license to operate at age nine. Earlier this year while in Florida, I treated myself to this new antenna, and a "new" (actually slightly used) ham radio. It certainly has been a positive decision and experience. In these few short months, I've enjoyed talking to other "hams" all over the world! One of amateur radio's primary roles is to act as an emergency radio network in cases of national emergency or disaster. In fact, hams played a crucial role during Hurricane Katrina, being one of the only reliable communication systems that prevailed throughout and after the storm. In order to test the readiness of hams all over the country the ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League http://www.wedothat-radio.org/ ) has a yearly event called "Field Day". The idea is to operate stations remotely, from a non-permanent location solely on emergency power (solar, battery, generator, etc). http://emergency-radio.org/

To make the event more interesting and challenging, the ARRL sponsors a contest for a 24-hour period during the yearly weekend. The goal is to make as many "contacts" with other stations as possible. Scores are assigned to each contact depending on the type of station used and it's location.

The Duluth Amateur Radio Club actively participates in Field Day every year. So, I decided to join in the fun up on top of Thompson Hill, a great high location for temporary antennas. It was a dismal and foggy morning as local club members set up two primary stations. This nice motorhome and 60 foot crankup tower array took the better part of the morning to get set up and operating.

At the same time, other club members were stringing up wire antennas in the parking lot, and the Club's emergency "RACES" trailer was commissioned across the lot. http://www.usraces.org/

I parked the Dodge between the two, and with the help of a couple of locals, strung a temporary wire between a light pole and a small tree behind the truck. With a few minutes, I was set up and operating, and although the contest had not officially started, made the first contacts of the morning with my little low power (5 watts) rig in the truck.

By 1PM (official contest start), the club was in action. Doug is shown here to the right, operating in the big motorhome, primarily operating CW Mode (morse code)...while a group of others man the RACES trailer on SSB (single sideband, voice mode).

I came back out the next day (Sunday) to see how things were going. The weather top the hill was much improved, and operators were still at it, having endured the night, working in shifts. The CW boys had a fantastic event, logging over 1600 contacts in the 24-hour contest period. I never found out what the final tally on the voice contacts were, but I'm sure close to a thousand! What a fun weekend, with a great groups of folks enjoying a wonderful hobby!