Ham Radio in the News – Lighthouse Edition

Montage Lighthouse, Australia

The Hellenic Amateur Radio Association of Australia spent three nights on Montague Island to celebrate International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend.

The weekend of August 20-21 was International Lighthouse Weekend, and as ham radio operators are wont to do, there were a number of special event stations set up at lightouses around the world. I worked three in the U.S. from the WA2HOM and one in Germany from here at my home station.

Here are some news stories about lighthouse operations in various places:

Ham radio at lighthouse (Crescent City, CA, USA)

Light banter hits the airwaves (Williamstown, Australia)

Calling the world from Montague Island on Lighthouse Weekend (Australia)

Calling the world from the lighthouse (Gibraltar)


Ham Radio at the Detroit Maker Faire

This Saturday, I was part of the ham radio booth at the 2011 Detroit Maker Faire. What a blast. As I’ve preached before, Makers are our kind of people. That is to say they are people interested in actually doing stuff. And that includes both the exhibitors and the attendees.

KB6NU @ 2011 Detroit Maker Faire

Yours truly at the 2011 Detroit Maker Faire. Seated is Dave, N8SBE, enjoying lunch. Photo courtesy of Roger Rayle.

To be honest, I didn’t get to see much of the Faire myself. If you take a look at the website, though, and some of the pictures taken by Roger Rayle, you’ll get an idea of what was being exhibited, and how much fun it was.

As far as ham radio goes, we had quite an operation, thanks in no small part to  James, W8ISS, who was our organizer. It included two HF stations, my Morse Code display, and a satellite station. The real coup here was that James got museum personnel to erect two antennas for us up on the museum roof. One was an R8 vertical; \;the other a multi-band dipole.

We were so lucky with radio conditions. Conditions on both 40m and 20m were really good on Saturday afternoon, and we generated pileups on both CW and phone. It was a real blast to be on the other side of a pileup and get to work stations one right after the other.

As I mentioned, my contribution was a Morse Code setup. I had my touch keyer, a bug, my J-37 straight key with leg clamp, and my Kent paddle all on display. As I usually do, I tried to induce people to step up and send their names in Morse Code. With this crowd, it wasn’t too difficult to do.

What I would do is ask them the initial of their first name, and then show them how to send that using the touch keyer. Then, I’d encourage them to look up the other letters of their name on the chart I had on the table. If they were able to successfully do this in a more or less understandable fashion, I would extend my hand and say, “Nice to meet you, Lindsay (or Julius or Aidan or whatever their name happened to be).” That would usually get a surprised smile out of them.

Perhaps even more important than teaching people something about Morse Code or ham radio, the “send your name in Morse Code” display gave me a chance to make contact with people. I passed out a lot of cards at this event, and invited many to attend our next one-day Tech class.

One interesting contact I made was with a woman who was home-schooling her two children. While the boy and girl played with the keys, I had a discussion with her about why I thought ham radio was a good fit with home schooling. I noted that it not only taught kids something about science and technology, but also about geography and social skills.

She agreed and noted that she thought that many other home schoolers would be interested in getting their kids into ham radio. She gave me her e-mail address and said that she would be willing to plug me into the home schooling movement. Stay tuned for how that goes.

In nearly every way, the Detroit Maker Faire was a great event. We made lots of contacts, both on-the-air and in person, we taught a lot of people about ham radio, and had a lot of fun in the process. The only thing that could have been better was that it could have been about ten degrees cooler, but that’s something we could deal with.

N8M to be QRV from the Detroit Maker Faire

N8M will be active on the amateur radio satellites and HF this weekend Juy 30-31 from the Detroit Maker Faire at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. Operating modes will be HF/VHF/SAT/EME CW/VOICE/DIGI conditions permitting. We hope to work as many Satellites as possible with the special call.

For more info, e-mail N8NWA at Yahoo.com

Daily Double

Last Wednesday evening, I hit the Daily Double, working two special event stations. The first was N4G, a special event station for the “Cannon County Good Old Days” in Woodbury, TN.

Flag of the Mosquito Nation

The second was H77REX, a special event station commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Mosquito Nation. The Mosquitos are the indigenous people in what is now Nicaragua.

Last night, I also hit the Daily Double, but of a slightly different nature. When I got on last night, I first tuned up on 30m. My first contact was with SE6Y, who answered my CQ.

After QSYing to 40m, I again called CQ. This time, SM6DLY, another Swedish station answered my call, completing my Swedish Daily Double. I love it when DX stations answer my CQ.

British Hams to Celebrate Royal Wedding With Special Callsigns

BBC News reports that hams in Great Britain can apply for special call signs to commemorate the royal wedding scheduled for this coming weekend:

The telecoms regulator Ofcom has agreed to issue temporary licences, meaning the UK’s 60,000 amateur radio enthusiasts can change their call signs to mark the royal wedding. The use of the letter “R” in a UK call sign will signify that the operator is celebrating the event.

The FCC should do something like this to commemorate special events here in the U.S. It doesn’t seem to me that it would be all that difficult or expensive to add something to the FCC website that would allow currently-licensed hams to apply for the commemorative callsigns.

Whiskey Festival to Host Not One, but Three(!) Special Event Stations

I love this story. Normally, you can barely work up enough interest to man a single special event station, but the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival will host three of them….Dan

Amateur radio enthusiasts set to run Speyside special

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is set to feature three special amateur radio stations broadcasting to the world.

By Stuart Crowther
12 April 2011 08:00 BST

It might seem strange in the days of instant communication around the world, but the spirit of the radio communication pioneers lives on.

Amateur Radio is still very much alive and well – and living in Moray, as will be noted during the Speyside Whisky Festival at the end of this month.

Amateur, or ‘Ham Radio’ as it is often known, has not been entirely left behind by the march of technology.

While communicating via Morse code lives on in the world of Amateur Radio, devotees of the hobby are equally at home using modern digital communication methods.

It is however their more traditional methods of talking to the world that will be employed by the Moray Firth Amateur Radio Society when they set up three ‘special event’ stations during the Speyside Whisky Festival.

The stations will be set up and controlled by operators from throughout Moray, with the Craigellachie, Strathisla and Glenfarclas distilleries hosting the radio communications gear and its operators throughout the Festival.

Read the complete article


Found this on YouTube today:

This Saturday and Sunday (4/9-4/10) listen for W0S from the steps of the Titanic Museum in Branson, MO. I worked them last year from WA2HOM.

National Weather Service Honors Ham Radio Operators Dec 4

This is an edited version of a press release from the ARRL……Dan

Newington, CT Nov 17, 2010 — The National Weather Service’s annual SKYWARN Recognition event will take place Saturday, December 4. Cosponsored by the National Weather Service (NWS) and ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, SKYWARN Recognition Day is the National Weather Service’s way of expressing its appreciation to Amateur Radio operators for their commitment to keep communities safe.

While the 2010 hurricane season has been fairly quiet in the US, amateur radio operators are also deeply involved with the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN). The HWN, which organized in 1965, began as an informal group of amateurs that has developed into a formal relationship with the National Hurricane Center in Miami via its Amateur Radio station WX4NHC. Ham radio operators and volunteers at Miami work together when hurricanes threaten, providing real-time weather data and damage reports to the Hurricane Center’s forecasters.

Over 100 National Weather Service regional offices will be participating in this year’s event to recognize the community service of ham radio people.

For full information see the NOAA website.

Frequently Asked Questions about SKYWARN Recognition Day

What is SKYWARN Recognition Day?
SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) was developed in 1999 by the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League. It celebrates the contributions that volunteer SKYWARN radio operators make to the National Weather Service. During the day SKYWARN operators visit NWS offices and contact other radio operators across the world. Information regarding SRD is updated at http://hamradio.noaa.gov.

Why are the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League cosponsoring the event?
The NWS and the ARRL both recognize the importance that amateur radio provides during severe weather. Many NWS offices acquire real time weather information from amateur radio operators in the field. These operators, for example, may report the position of a tornado, the height of flood waters, or damaging wind speeds during hurricanes. All of this information is critical to the mission of the NWS which is to preserve life and property. The special event celebrates this special contribution by amateur radio operators.

When is SKYWARN Recognition Day?
This year SKYWARN Recognition Day begins at 0000 UTC on December 4, 2010. It will last 24 hours.
How many NWS stations are participating in the event?
It is estimated that around 100 NWS stations will participate this year.

Is this a contest or what?
No, this is not a contest, so no scoring will be computed. This is simply a group of stations transmitting from NWS offices during the same time. Similar event occurs every year on the amateur radio calendar. For example, hams operate from lighthouses across the world during one weekend and from naval ships/submarines during another.

QST magazine usually lists Special Event stations in a compiled list every month. Will our station be listed there?
If you want your individual station to be listed in the Special Event section of QST magazine, you must submit your information following the ARRL submission policies. You can go to www.arrl.org/contests/spev.html for complete information on how to do this. Remember, though, the deadline to get this information to QST is fast approaching.

We would like to publicize the event in the media. Can we do it?
You bet.

Is there a national point of contact?
Yes, there are three points-of-contact. Contact either:
Matt Mehle (Matthew.Mehle@noaa.gov) Dave Floyd (David.L.Floyd@noaa.gov) Scott Mentzer (Scott.Mentzer@noaa.gov)

Is this an annual event?
Yes. This is the 12th consecutive year that the event has been held.

A Busy Ham Radio Weekend

It was a busy ham radio weekend at KB6NU/WA2HOM.

Saturday, I didn’t get down to the museum until after noon. As usual, I went scouting around for special event stations. I bagged three of them:

  • K2G (Babylon, NY). K2G was taking part in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Coast Guard Auxiliary. According to the ARRL website, there were at least a dozen on the air, but I only worked this one and heard another in PA. A number of them were supposed to be operating CW, but I didn’t hear any of them.
  • W3S (somewhere in MD). This station was operating from a Boy Scout camp. I didn’t get its exact location as they were kind of weak.
  • WB8REI (Tiffin, OH). This was a Halloween operation of the Seneca County Amateur Radio Experimenters (SCARE). The certificate will look nice next to our QSL card from N0F (Frankenstein, MO), a station we worked last Halloween.

I was hoping to work N1P, Number One Pumpkin, the special event station at the Franklin County Pumpkin Festival, but I guess the skip was too short.

Saturday night, I prepared for the hamfest this morning. Several hams in the area have donated equipment and other stuff for us to sell to help finance our operations at the Hands-On Museum. I was going through the stuff when I found a Bunnel #9 key (see below).

This is a very cool key. I don’t think it’s worth all that much—many thousands were made during WWII by several different manufacturers—but it does have a nice action, and I like it. Unfortunately, it’s missing the knob. Anyone know where I can get a knob for this key? After playing with the key for a while, I packed up all the stuff I was taking in the morning, and loaded up my Freestyle.

Sunday morning, I got up at 5:30am. I ate breakfast, showered, and hopped in the car at about 6:30. I had to drive about an hour to get to the hamfest, and I wanted to get there with plenty of time because I never got a confirmation that the organizers had received my check, and I wanted to get that all straightened out—if it needed straightening—before the hamfest started. Fortunately, there was no problem, and I got set up quickly.

The TS-820 station (including antenna tuner, bandscope display, speaker, etc.) went very quickly. I was asking $600 for it. Around 8:20 am, a guy came over and offered me $500 for it, and when I turned down that offer, $550. I decided to take that. He counted out 28 $20 bills and told me to keep the change.

Jim, K8ELR, had given me a box of 12 rolls of leadless solder to sell to the EAE Sales guy. He said that he would only buy five or six rolls at $7-8/roll, but to get with him later as he was still setting up. I did go over there later and offered him the whole box for $40, which he accepted. (I hope that was OK, Jim!)

I sold about $200 worth of books. In fact, I’m almost down to a single box of them. I’ll be a little sad when they’re all gone. I might have to start looking for electronics books or buying books from Ann Arbor library sale to re-sell at hamfests.

I packed up about 10:30, then cruised the aisles a little. Didn’t see anything I wanted, so I hopped into the car and got back by noon. That ended my weekend in ham radio. I ate a little lunch, took a nap, and then my XYL and I went to a movie.

Random Links

Here are a bunch of random links to interesting and useful websites:

  • 1×1 Callsign Search. It’s often difficult to know who’s using a 1×1 special-event callsign. Looking them up on QRZ.Com doesn’t work because they’re only issued for short-term use, and they are re-used over and over. To help you identify that 1×1 callsign, the W5YI VEC has set up this searchable database. Type in a call, and it tells you who’s used the call recently and who will be using it in the near future. Very cool.
  • Arcane Radio Trivia. True to its name, this blog has all sorts of radio trivia. For example, a couple of the latest posts cover a 1920s radio show called Midnight Frolic that ran on WMC in Memphis, TN and the February 1930 issue of Radio News magazine. The latter is available as a PDF for download.
  • This item is from the 9/1/10 ARRL Contest Update: Why is 10.7 used to determine the solar flux index? Spaceweather published this interesting article that explains why.
  • Radio Sky Publishing: Resources for Amateur Radio Astronomers, Students, and Teachers. If you have any interest at all in radio astronomy, check out this website. It’s been very slow for me, though, so be prepared to wait. I’m waiting right now for the “Beginner Tips” page to load.