Amateur radio in the news: emergency communications in FL, Museum Ships Weekend

This TV report highlights the emergency preparedness of hams in Tampa Bay, FL.

This TV report highlights the emergency preparedness of hams in Tampa Bay, FL.

Amateur radio operators ‘vital’ to emergency response. They’re some of the most critical people for a hurricane response, but you may be surprised, even concerned, when you first hear who they are: amateurs. 10 News looked at the people our rescuers rely on when the power goes out and the phones go silent.

Master of the airwaves. John Sluymer has been social networking since 1972. There was no Twitter or Facebook when the Grassie resident first picked up a radio unit a little more than four decades ago. Instead of hashtags and status updates, Sluymer would either talk into his mic or tap out his message in Morse code. Just like today’s social networks offer users a chance to interact with people on all sides of the world, Sluymer’s hobby has allowed him to reach — both physically and through radio waves — even the most remote areas of the planet.

Museum Ships Radio Weekend USS Lexington (video). They say its like finding a needle in a hay stack. All weekend long volunteers on board the USS Lexington are reaching out and talking to other museum ships around the world.  Its part of the annual Museum Ships Weekend. It’s a competition where the point is to make contact with at least fifteen other Museum ships by using a ham radio.  Those museum ships who are actually able to contact at least 15 other ships by using a Ham radio receive a certificate.

Station Notes: June 6 – June 9, 2014

While going through some boxes last Friday, I came across a Heathkit IG-102 signal generator. It was in pretty good shape, so I thought I’d fire it up and see if it was still working. I fired up my Tek 2215 scope and connected to to the IG-102. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting any output.

I pulled the cover off the signal generator, and was going to start poking around, when I heard some arcing, and then saw a puff of smoke come out the back of the scope. I quickly pulled the scope plug, but of course, the damage had probably already been done.

Today, I finally got around to getting the Torx screwdriver that I needed to take the covers off the Tek. After removing more than a half dozen screws, I was finally able to get the power supply shield off to look for damage. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find any obvious signs of arcing or burnt components, and the scope seems to power up and work.

Even so, I’m hesitant to just button it up and start using it again. There must be a problem in there that’s just waiting to happen. If you have any experience with Tek 2215s, I’d love to hear from you.

Museum ships ahoy!
On Saturday, I operated the Museum Ships Weekend special event. This was a lot of fun. In a couple of hours, I worked 15 of the museum stations, which qualifies me for some kind of certificate.

One of the more interesting contacts was with AC0TX, operating from the SS Grandcamp Memorial. This ship was the site of one of the worst industrial disasters in the U.S. The Grandcamp had docked in Texas City to pick up a load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

Just before the longshoremen finished loading the fertilizer, a fire broke out aboard ship. It eventually got so hot that the ammonium nitrate exploded. Hundreds of employees, pedestrians and bystanders were killed. This was truly a disaster.

Alabama QSO Party
Kind of surprisingly, I was the high scorer from Michigan in the 2013 Alabama QSO Party. I don’t think I’m going to repeat this year. Last year, I scored over 2,000 points. This year, I barely broke 200. I guess I spent too much time working the museum ships.

More on the W8P special event

Rotary InternationalAs I reported earlier, I operated a special event station, W8P, from the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum the weekend of February 26-27. The special event commemorated the founding of the Rotary Club on February 23, 1905, and was designed to also spread the word about Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign. 

One of the incredibly cool things about Rotary is that it is an international organization. There are 34,000 Rotary Clubs all around the world, and many Rotarians (as we call ourselves) are radio amateurs. There’s even an international group of Rotarians who enjoy amateur radio call Rotarians on Amateur Radio, or ROAR.

ROAR members all over the world participated in this special operating event. Here are their reports as relayed by Bill, VK4ZD:

  • From Dan, KB6NU (W8P): W8P made 80 contacts in about four hours of operation, all but one or two in the continental U.S. My goal was not to make as many contacts as possible, but to engage as many hams as I could about the End Polio Now campaign. I think I was successful in doing that. I recommended to those that were interested that they visit the endpolionow.org website and tried to answer their questions about polio as best I could.
  • From Jean-Pierre (F1CFA): It was the French Contest, but it was possible to make QSO with a foreign station…American, Japanese, etc…On 18, 21, 28 MHz !!!!
  • From Coco, YO9BC (YO9POLIO): In Roumania the only ROTARY Club having radio amateurs among its members is ROTARY Club Ploiesti (Prahova, District 2241). There are three members of ROTARY Ploiesti who are also ROAR members: Mr. Malanca Mihai, YO9BPX; Mr Rosca George, YO9BGR; and Mr. Duque Vincent, YO9BC. On 22 and 23 February, we contributed to the event two stations: the Ploiesti radio club station, YO9KAG, with five operators under the supervision of Malanca Mihai, and YO9BC, with Rosca George as operator. AIl authorized bands where worked, including 10m, 15m, 20m, 40m, and 80m, using phone (SSB), CW, and digital modes. We made 1,680 contacts on all continents. Special QSL cards were mailed to all correspondents.
  • From Pertti, EA7GSU: I kept busy in the morning and the afternoon calling CQ POLIO on 20m and 10m. Got 31 contacts with two W’s,one VU and one LU included.
  • From Wally, VK6YS (VI6POLIO): We made a total of 296 contacts, and logged 46 different countries, with over 1350 lookups on my QRZ.com page. Interestingly quite a number had already had a look at the page before making contact and then once they read the page decided they want to be on the contact list. Overall a very enjoyable weekend albeit my daughters wedding did slow me down a bit on the Sunday. Apart from all that, it was most interesting talking to people around the world about polio and the state of polio eradication in the world.
    What I found disturbingly, was that a number of VK calls I spoke to were quite ignorant of the threat of polio and saw it as a dead disease that we don’t even need to think about any more.
        In fact one VK2 suggested that the effort should be put into ridding the world of HIV as he saw that there is a real issue rather than polio.!!! I did explain to him that there were great differences between the two diseases and in particular when you look at the numbers affected particularly children. But it was interesting to have a few comments at such a level of ignorance.
        On the other hand, I spoke to 3 VU stations who were completely full bottle on polio and eradication and were so proud to tell me that India was declared polio free three years ago. They also thanked Rotary International for the work done in assisting.
    Many of the Europeans I spoke to on 10 m were well aware of polio in the world in the current status of the eradication progress. Thank you so much for the work done to get this event on the road. I did enjoy it immensely.
  • From Lee Moyle, VK3GK (VI3POLIO): A fun Sunday spent operating VI3POLIO from the home QTH. I managed to work about 640 contacts often with DX-pedition style pileups. VI3POLIO had 3 operators, and I believe the two Peters, vk3kcd and vk3fspr  had a good result too. Looking forward to next years event. 73 VK3GK
  • From Noel, VK2IWT (VI2POLIO): I had a fantastic time talking to those that I did.
  • From Diane, VK4KYL (VI4POLIO): THe QRZ pages for each of the “polio” websites garnered a lot of attention. Another fantastic Radio weekend for Rotary’s 109th Birthday spreading the word on Rotary & Polio Plus: we contacted some 905 Radio Hams and we had people commenting on what great work Rotary does and a number were going to check out their local Rotary Club. Our radio activity webpages got over 3100 hits.  The operators were myself (Diane VK4KYL, Alizah VK4FOXE and Bill VK4ZD).

In summary the huge numbers of Hams who looked up information on our QRZ web pages shows the high level of interest this activity has generated over the weekend in question.

QSL cards will depict the Sydney Opera House as illustrated on the VI4POLIO QRZ web page.

Operating Notes: W1AW/8, W8P

Over the past week, I participated in two special operating activities. The first was operating as W1AW/8 on 40m CW on Thursday evening, 2/20/14. Three of us—Stuart W8SRC, Arun W8ARU, and yours truly—operated for two hours between 0100Z and 0300Z at W8UM, the station of the University of Michigan’s amateur radio club. Matt, WS8U, the station manager, made all the arrangements.

While it was a lot of fun, I’m afraid that we didn’t make as many QSOs as we’d hoped. Band conditions were just horrendous, due to a coronal mass ejection, and often we couldn’t hear a thing. All told, we only made 86 contacts over two hours.

We did have a lot of fun, though. Stuart recorded about a half hour of our operation and posted the video to YouTube (see below). You get a great view of the back of my head in this video. :)

W8P spreads the word about End Polio Now

Over the weekend, I operated W8P from our station at the Hands-On Museum. The purpose of this special event was to commemorate the founding of the Rotary Club in 1905 and to spread the word about the End Polio Now campaign. Since the mid-1980s, Rotary International has been working to eradicate polio around the world.

Since 1988, more than 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated against polio, and the number of countries where polio is endemic has decreased from 125 to just 3 (Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan). On the About Polio page, there’s a graphic example of how the number of cases and the countries in which polio is endemic has declined over the years.

I operated solely on 20m SSB, and made a number of poignant contacts, including those who had family or friends who were polio survivors. Perhaps the most touching was with Greg, WA4YBP, of Shelby, NC, who is himself a polio survivor. He contracted polio when he was only 9 months old and wasn’t expected to live. He not only survived, but has lived a good life, even though he’s spent his entire life in a wheelchair.

Both of these operations were worthwhile in their own ways. I’d urge you all to either participate in a special event operation, if you’re invited, or start your own special event. Special events not only make our hobby more fun, but can also provide a real public service.

From my Twitter feed: Antique wireless, Nuclear Summit special event

K7AGE's avatar @K7AGE
AWA GATEWAY available #hamradio antiquewireless.org/uploads/1/6/1/… pic.twitter.com/NoI7dkksmW

DIYEngineering's avatarDIY Engineering @DIYEngineering
Call for Hams and Hackers: Welcome ICE/ISEE-3 Home – ISEE-3, one of America’s most dedicated space exploration … ow.ly/2DSJMz

PD0MV's avatarPD0MV@PD0MV
#PD6NUKE – For All Ham Operators world wide pic.twitter.com/tmHZDuCQAOStory image

Amateur radio in the news: Hong Kong, Wales, young hams, and more

Lots of ham radio items in the news lately, so this post is longer than usual….Dan

hong-kong-amateurs

Hong Kong’s ham radio enthusiasts lend a helping hand. More than just a hobby and a way to socialise, amateur radio provides vital communications to ensure the safe running of Hong Kong’s charity events.

Gwent radio hams ready to help in emergency. They are helping to guard the public in the event of a disaster, but you may not have even heard of them. Gwent’s RAYNET group – a bunch of licensed amateur radio enthusiasts who help the emergency services in the event of a communications meltdown – is part of a national organisation celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

Lake amateur radio operator gets top marks. Lake County amateur radio operators, often called hams, brought home the bacon in a national Field Day event held earlier this year, it was announced Thursday.

young-hamsYoung hams make the grade.  Surrounded by radio gear, Gene Clark sat in his chair and listened intently as his two sixth grade proteges were interviewed by a reporter recently. Dalton Duggers, 11, and Jordan Sirmans, 12, recently earned their radio technician’s licenses, making them two of the youngest licensed ham radio operators in Georgia. The two friends are are members of the Albany Amateur Radio Club (AARC) and are in the Gifted Program at Merry Acres Middle School.

Okanogan Amateur Radio Club recognizes first concrete pouring at Grand Coulee Dam. Dec. 6th, 1935, was the first “ceremonious pour” of concrete at Grand Coulee Dam. It was the first of a total of 12 million yards, which is enough to pour a sidewalk around the world at the equator twice. The Okanogan County Amateur Radio Club W7ORC sponsored a special event to celebrate the anniversary of the that pouring. Club members used their home radio stations, commonly referred to as “HAM SHACKS,” starting at 4 p.m. Dec 6, and ended at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec 8.

Family saved by ham radio and Good Samaritan after car accident. On a cold, bitter night earlier this month, the actions of a Good Samaritan and a ham radio probably saved the lives of a family. It began at about 7 p.m. Dec. 6 when Cody Fowler and his wife, Tina, and their two sons, Jacob and Timmy, were on their way home from Pueblo. Because of the bitter cold temperatures and the icy roads, Cody turned around and drove back down the road, where he discovered that a red SUV had slid off into a ditch. The five people in the car had climbed back onto the road….

K5PEA celebrates ham radio and the purplehull pea

K5PEA QSL

Normally, when I post about QSLs in my collection of QSL cards from stations whose callsigns spell words, I post two at a time. Well, this one is so remarkable I thought I’d give it its own blog post. When I worked K5PEA in September in the Arkansas QSO Party, I thought it was just another guy lucky enough to get a distinctive callsign. When the QSL arrived, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is the QSL very distinctive, the message is very friendly and inviting.

Bill, WB5FKG, writes, “TNX so much for FB QSO in AR QSO Party, Dan. VY happy to send the QSL with “PEA” in it. Hope you can come to our festival some day.” The festival he is referring to is described in the boilerplate below:

Emerson’s sandy loam is ideal for growing purple hull peas. These tasty and nutritious legumes are some of the best eatin’ the South has to offer. And, each year, on the last Saturday in June, we celebrate the purple hull pea at the PurpleHull Pea Festival. The feature event, the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race–a race of souped-up garden tillers–garners national and even international attention. Bring your ham rig and join us! For information, visit www.purplehull.com.

Sounds like a great time, doesn’t it? One of these years, I’m going to rent an RV and travel around to all these festivals, and if the festival already has a special event station, I’ll help man the station, and if not, I’ll set one up of my own.

Operating Notes: WA2HOM 11/3/13

I had a great time down at WA2HOM yesterday. I only spent two hours down there, but I managed to work three special-event stations and even did a little running in the Sweepstakes contest.

RCA officially began operations from this site on Long Island on November 5, 1921.

RCA officially began operations from this site on Long Island on November 5, 1921.

The first special event station I worked was W2RC, the club station of the Radio Central Amateur Radio Club. W2RC was operating from the RCA Radio Central facility in Rocky Point, NY, shown in the photo at right. RCA officially began operations from this facility on November 5, 1921, and, at the time, it was the largest transmitter facility in the world.

I also worked W0I, a special event station run by the Arrowhead ARC commemorating the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The club was operating from the pilot house of the William A. Irvin, a Great Lakes freighter docked in Duluth, MN.

The club’s website notes, “The club was founded in 1929 and received its charter from the ARRL and was signed by W1AW, Hiram Percy Maxim himself. The club continues to hold monthly meetings and has a yearly Hamfest, Christmas Party, Picnic, as well as supports local VE testing in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin.” What a great history!

The third special event station was with N4V, operating from the Stuart (FL) Air Show. I didn’t spend a lot of time with the ops there talking about the show, but I did visit the show’s website this morning, and it looks like quite an affair.

If you’re interested in working special event stations, go to the special event stations page on the ARRL website. I visit it nearly every weekend when I’m down at the museum.

I would also encourage you and your club to organize a special event. It’s a lot of fun to be on the other end of the mic or key. If you do organize a special event, make sure to get it listed on the ARRL site. You can do this by filling out the Special Event Listing Form.

Say “HI” to Juno

On October 9, 2013, the spacecraft Juno will fly by Earth to get a gravity assist and put it on a course for Jupiter. To celebrate this event, NASA is inviting amateur radio operators around the world to say “HI” to Juno in a coordinated Morse Code message. Juno’s radio and plasma wave experiment, called Waves, should be able to detect the message if enough people participate.

Say HI to Juno

NASA is asking us to send the letters “HI” in verrrrry slow Morse Code on 26 different frequencies in the 10m band. I say verrrrry slow because each dit is 30 seconds long.

The event is to start at 1800 UTC on October 9 and last until 2040 UTC. The “HI” message is to be repeated every 10 minutes, beginning at 18:00, 18:10, 18:20, etc. as shown in the figure below.

Say HI to Juno

The Say HI to Juno Web page has much more information on this event. The page include a table of frequencies on which to transmit and information on how to get a QSL card. There is also a Facebook page.

I think that this is a very cool event, and I hope that if you have the capability of transmitting on 10m that you’ll participate. Let’s all say HI to Juno!

ZM90DX to commemorate Kiwi contribution to amateur radio

This from VK4ZD:

kiwi-dx-groupAfter World War 1 and with the banishment of radio amateurs to the supposedly “useless shorter wavelengths” an amazing period of radio exploration took place.  Amateurs all over the globe soon learnt that far from being useless these wavelengths seem to allow communication over long distances.  Amateurs in ZL were at the forefront of this activity with the first ZL to VK QSO in April 1923, and then world record distance QSOs between ZL and Argentina in May 1924, ZL and California in September 1924, ZL and Connecticut on the US east coast just weeks later, and the ultimate Z4AA Frank Bell’s QSO with Cecil Goyder G2SZ in London on 18 October 1924.

To commemorate the 90th anniversary of the record breaking activities of these early pioneers of Amateur Radio, ZM90DX will be on the air between 1 October 2013 and 31 October 2014 on all bands 1.8 MHz to 1.2 GHz and beyond in all modes.  Activated by the Kiwi DX Group, an informal group of DXers and contest enthusiasts, ZM90DX will be used around New Zealand and a special commemorative QSL card will be available as well as an award program for contacts with ZL during this period.

Not only will ZM90DX be active at expected times and on expected bands, but in the spirit of those early pioneers the ZM90DX operators will also be calling CQ on bands and in directions one may not necessarily expect with the intention of exploring the boundaries of radio propagation.

This will be an unparalleled opportunity for Amateurs all over the world to work ZL while celebrating the exploits of those early trail blazers whose work paved the way for radio communications as we know it today.

Further details can be found on http://www.zm90dx.com/.

Note: “Please remember this is a ZL based activity NOT ZL9 Campbell & Auckland Islands.” ENSURE your logging software logs ZM90DX correctly as ZL and NOT ZL9, Auckland / Campbell Islands. To update the Country File for your logging software please visit: http://www.country-files.com/