Calling All Radios
PARKERSBURG – Amateur radio operators called out around the world this weekend as part of a national field day operation.
This was the fifth annual exercise for the Parkersburg Amateur Radio Klub. The group currently has about 50 members.
“The idea is we try to see how many people we can contact all around the world,” said Ray Johnson, club secretary, adding the group invites anyone who is interested in learning about amateur radio operations to turn out and watch the action.
“Anyone who can pass the test and is licensed can participate with the club,” Johnson said.
The group set up its portable stations at Fort Boreman Hill Park on Saturday, with operators hunkered down over the radios inside the Civil War-era cabin used as headquarters for Carlin’s Battery. The group was using a portable generator as a power source, just as they might do in the event of an actual emergency.
Blaine Auville, past club president, said the exercise, which kicked off at 2 p.m. Saturday and went to 2 p.m. today, is part of the American Radio Relay League’s Field Day with participants checking in from all over the globe.
“I have talked with someone in Antarctica before. That was interesting because you hear an echo. The signal goes both ways around the earth, and there is a little time delay, it takes awhile,” Auville said.
“All this is done in preparation of an emergency or disaster situation. During Hurricane Katrina, the only way they could communicate out of that area was by amateur radio because all of the networks and cell towers were down, so they moved to emergency communications center, or a dispatch center. We have antennas on the Red Cross building, the hospital, you can just walk in and hook onto,” Auville said.
“You give a general call, CQ, and there are people working just this particular event,” Auville said.
Ohio resident Steve Lewis said this was his second year at the field day.
“I guess I’m an honorary member, I know most of these guys, so I stop by,” he said.
Johnson said he’s been in a member of the Parkersburg club since 1992.
“There are literally thousands of people across the U.S. involved with the clubs,” Auville said, adding he’s always been interested in electronics and that’s how he got hooked.
“The word went out they had a class at Parkersburg High School, I attended and got my license,” Auville said.
The operators said the hobby can be as expensive as the individual wants.
“The hams in Dayton, Ohio, had an operator’s day last month and I sent over a 30-year radio over so they could use it, and an antenna can just be electric wire. I have made antennas that didn’t cost me more than $2 to $3,” Auville said.
“You can spend whatever you want to spend,” Lewis said.
In past years anywhere from 700-1,500 contacts were made during the 24-hour field day. Operators said they can use satellites and even try to talk to the International Space Station.
Operator Rick Butcher was on the radio Saturday, calling out over the airways for anyone who would respond – “CQ, this is CQ field day.”
The term CQ is an old telegraph abbreviation used with Morse Code that’s still used today by radio operators. Transmitting the letters CQ on a particular frequency is an invitation for any other operators listening on that frequency to respond.
For more information on the Parkersburg club go to the website at QSL.net/n8nbl.