Having a field day

Ham radio operators go back to a simple form of radio communication

Published on June 29, 2014

MERIGOMISH – Radio isn’t dead.

That’s what a small group of amateur radio operators had to say while holding a field day contest in Merigomish on Saturday.

Over the weekend, ham radio operators around the world communicated, partly to see who could make the most connections, and partly to keep their skills handy in case they need to use them in an emergency situation.

“We’re doing it in the simplest mode,” Sean Bridge, who held the event at his home, said, adding that there are many ways of communicating through radio, including Morse code.

Less than a decade ago, an ice storm took out the fibre optic cable in Port Bickerton, killing all communication, including 911, Clarence Humber remembers.

Through radio, operators were able to contact someone in Ontario, who relayed the message to someone in New Brunswick who were then able to get in touch with the telephone company to let them know Port Bickerton was stranded.

Though it’s primary function is in emergency situations, it serves many purposes, including entertainment for its users.

“Some just do it for the contests,” Humber said, adding that there are thousands like field day happening each year.

For some, it’s a way to connect with other electronics enthusiasts from around the world.

For Ray Baines, it was an extension of what he was already doing in his career. In the navy, he used radio on a regular basis, but it was very strict. Ham radio is much more relaxed, he said.

He notes that it’s a medium that works on land, in the air and out at sea.

The technical aspect is what he enjoys.

It’s something to do “when there’s nothing to do.”

Bob Romano was a part of a Prince Edward Island school’s meeting via radio with Chris Hadfield in the International Space Station, giving several students a chance to ask Hadfield a question.

“It was a great experience. The kids were thrilled.”

The Pictou County Amateur Radio Club hopes to do something similar.

“We want to work with the community to make contact with the space station,” Bridge said.

The club wants to team up with a group of kids, whether it’s through a school, scouts, girl guides or the like, and use one of the small windows of opportunity when the ISS passes over.

The field day event, which requires hours of antennae set-up, was the first in more than 10 years in Pictou County.

On a more regular basis, the Pictou County Amateur Radio Club meets monthly, swapping stories and planning projects.



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