Tag Archives: Field Day

A Field Day weekend of rain, shine, battery power, pile-ups, and radio improvisation

If you’ve been reading the SWLing Post for long, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of portable radio gear. Whether it’s a portable receiver, an SDR, or a ham radio, I believe radios are made to be taken outside––rain or shine; hence I love programs like Parks On The Air (POTA ) and Summits On The Air (SOTA), and I’ve always loved ARRL Field Day.

Of course, this ARRL Field Day was a bit different than years past due to Covid-19––there were more individuals on the air with their own Field Day stations, while there were relatively few clubs on the air. Typically, the opposite is true.

This year I’d planned to operate from the field at various POTA locations in western NC; some contenders were the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, and Mount Mitchell State Park. In the past few years, my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) and I––with spouses in tow––hit the field together, but this year he was out of town, and I planned to go solo.

I plotted a few hours of Field Day time at Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The night before, I had my antennas and the Elecraft KX2, KXPA100, Heil Pro Headset, and 15 aH LiFePo battery (all packed in my go-packs, of course), in the car and ready to go.

Saturday morning.  I woke expecting fairly nice weather: partly cloudy with a chance of showers. Turned out, it was chilly, gusty, with total cloud cover and fairly constant rain. I’ll admit, it dampened my enthusiasm for Craggy, because while it’s a gorgeous site, it’s well above 5000′ ASL, thus the winds up there can be seriously gusty and the weather can turn on a dime.

So, I decided to put up my feet in the shack  and operate class 1E, meaning on emergency/battery power.

I started calling CQ at the start of Field Day and, to my surprise, worked a constant pile-up for nearly an hour. Within that fairly short space of time I found I’d already collected about 90 or more stations on 40 meters.

After that, I hunted and pounced for maybe an hour, then took a break; later that night, I operated intensively again for 30 minutes or so.  Had I been at a Field Day site, I would have been a much more dedicated operator, but frankly, I’m not even sure I plan to send in my logs. Still, it was fun.

My set up on a damp picnic table at the Craggy Gardens Picnic area.

Sunday morning.  The weather was much more pleasant from the get-go, with sun and wind, though thunder showers were in the forecast. Around 11:00 or so, my wife suggested we pack up and head to Craggy Gardens for a little radio fun followed by some lunch and hiking.

We reached the site–it was beautiful, but ominous. Thick fog and Saharan dust (no kidding) covered the site and surrounding mountains.  Still, I set up the station and my new Wolf River Coils TIA portable vertical.

My daughter and I deployed the TIA vertical in a matter of 5 minutes.

I think I logged two stations before the misty clouds rolled up all around me; then (remember that change-on-a-dime weather?) a sudden––and torrential––downpour came from nowhere. My wife snagged all she could carry and ran for the car, and I quickly covered my gear with my raincoat and packed everything in my packs as soon as possible. I had to make two trips to the car to pack everything, and needless to say, with my raincoat in the service of my equipment, I was drenched to the skin. I literally looked like I had jumped into a lake with my clothes on.  Fortunately my gear––at least, the important gear––was only a bit damp, but internally fine. Herein lies one of the great things about being a pack geek: quality packs tend to be water-resistant, if not fully waterproof.

But. If I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit I was a bit miffed that I got so little radio time before the heavens opened. We knew there would be a risk of bad weather and, frankly, other than the hassle of packing and unpacking, we actually acknowledge the entertainment value of a little WX from time to time. After all, this is the hazard of operating under a wide open sky.

My wife, sensing my disappointment, suggested we go to another site to play a little radio, but at that point I just wasn’t feeling it. What I felt instead was the damp…wringing wet-level damp…and my spirits were dampened. too. I suggested we make our way back.

En route, I saw a sign for the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace––a historic site that I knew was a POTA entity. I’d completely forgotten about this site, and decided to make a detour so I could scope out the site for a future activation. By now I’d warmed up a bit, and a bit of lunch helped revive my flagging spirits.

Turns out the site’s visitor’s center is closed on Sunday, but the gates are open so the public can enjoy the grounds. We drove up to their covered picnic area, although the cover was now peace of mind only, as the sun was again making an appearance. The setting was…well, ideal. And here I was. How could I not go ahead and activate this POTA site?

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

It was windy but warm, and while my wife spread out the packs, lunch cooler, and jackets to dry, I, too, found I was no longer dripping. By the time I set up the Wolf River Coils TIA vertical and my KX2/KXPA100, the togs were fairly dry, and indeed I was quite comfortable again. I hopped back on the air and worked a number of stations in short order, easily logging the ten needed to confirm the park activation.

The Wolf River TIA is outstanding in its field (sorry!)

Later, I discovered that the site was an “All-Time New One” (ATNO) in the POTA system. A bittersweet discovery, in a way, because Field Day is not the best time for POTA hunters to log a new site. Still, I wasn’t even calling CQ with POTA in mind; I just worked Field Day stations and had a great time.

Just as I finished, there was yet another downpour, but as the picnic area where I’d set up was covered, I no longer feared my gear getting soaked. This time, it was a sudden loud clap of thunder that gave me my cue to pack up quickly!

Still, all in all, I was very pleased with my weekend Field Day chase, and it was worth dodging rain storms for it. Sure, I would have loved to play radio at Craggy Gardens for a couple hours, but it was a pleasant surprise to fit in an ATNO activation before the end of the day. I’d have never guessed the Vance site was an ATNO, since it’s so accommodating and accessible. Indeed, I’ve discovered that, at this stage in POTA, most of the sites that haven’t been activated are either newly-incorporated into POTA or are very inaccessible. If you missed me there on Field Day, no worries: I plan to head out there again in the very near future.

Oh, and I did learn one more thing over the weekend: the Wolf River Coils TIA vertical antenna is incredibly easy and speedy to deploy. I’m very pleased with this recent acquisition!

Parkway and parks? I’ll be back soon. My radio’s already packed.

Did you participate in Field Day or put your receivers to the test by trying to log exchanges between stations?  Please comment!


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It’s Field Day 2020 weekend during a pandemic and I see it as an opportunity!

This weekend is the 2020 ARRL Field Day!  Typically, I’d be telling you about the benefits of finding a local club’s Field Day site and getting on the air for the first time. This year?  Not so much.

2020 being a pandemic year, many clubs that would normally host a large public event are asking that either their members operate Field Day on their own–as individuals–or if they do host a public site, to practice social distancing and adhere to all local/state/provincial guidelines.

The 2020 setup is certainly a departure from the Field Day norm.

An opportunity

Field Day, at its core, is all about practicing radio preparedness. The contest classes and scoring are designed to promote battery/generator/solar power and even low-power (QRP) operations.

Field Day tends to be a group event and it certainly gives clubs a chance to coordinate and build an impromptu station with multiple operators.

But in a real emergency–say, a natural disaster that disrupts local transportation–responsibility would truly fall on an individual operator to get on the air from home and coordinate communications.

Use this Field Day as an opportunity to build a radio go-kit, to set up a portable antenna, operate from battery or generator power, and to see just how well you, as an operator, can cope with crowded radio conditions.

If you’re an SWL, Field Day is a perfect time to see just how well your receiver can cope in an RF-dense environment. If you want a challenge, try to see how many QSOs/exchanges you can monitor and log from as many sections as possible.

My Field Day plans

My trusty KX3 during one of my 90+ NPOTA activations.

This year, I plan to operate Field Day from a local National Park. I’ll set up a couple hours in advance of Field Day and activate the site for Parks On The Air (POTA).  When Field Day starts, I’ll abandon my POTA exchange and simply work stations as a Field Day site. I hope to play radio for at least a few hours or until afternoon thunderstorms chase me away. I plan to use both my Elecraft KX3 and Xiegu G90.

Being a radio reviewer, I always use Field Day as an opportunity to see how well a transceiver can handle adjacent signals. This year, I’ll be putting the G90 through its paces!

What are your plans?

Do you plan to operate on Field Day? Please comment with any plans you may have!


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Radio Waves: Free Foundation License Course, More Titanic Radio, CQD, and ARRL Field Day Waivers

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Trevor, Mark Hirst and Ulis Fleming for the following tips:


Register now for free Amateur Radio Foundation Online training course (Southgate ARC)

The next free amateur radio Foundation Online training course run by volunteers from Essex Ham starts on Sunday, June 7

The Coronavirus outbreak and the RSGB’s introduction of online exams that can be taken at home has led to a surge in demand for free online amateur radio training courses such as that run by Essex Ham.

These courses have been very popular and early registration is advised. 313 people took the course that started on May 3 and a further 235 are on the course that started on May 17.

You can find out more about online training and register to join a course at
https://www.essexham.co.uk/train/foundation-online/

Essex Ham
https://www.essexham.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/EssexHam

US court grants permission to recover Marconi telegraph from Titanic wreckage (ARS Technica)

But NOAA is fiercely opposed to the controversial salvage mission.

When RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, crew members sent out numerous distress signals to any other ships in the vicinity using what was then a relatively new technology: a Marconi wireless telegraph system. More than 1,500 passengers and crew perished when the ship sank a few hours later. Now, in what is likely to be a controversial decision, a federal judge has approved a salvage operation to retrieve the telegraph from the deteriorating wreckage, The Boston Globe has reported.

Lawyers for the company RMS Titanic Inc.—which owns more than 5,000 artifacts salvaged from the wreck—filed a request in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, arguing that the wireless telegraph should be salvaged because the ship’s remains are likely to collapse sometime in the next several years, rendering “the world’s most famous radio” inaccessible. US District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith concurred in her ruling, noting that salvaging the telegraph “will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking.”

However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is fiercely opposed to the salvage mission. The agency argues in court documents that the telegraph should be left undisturbed, since it is likely to be surrounded “by the mortal remains of more than 1500 people.” Judge Smith countered in her decision that the proposed expedition meets international requirements: for instance, it is justified on scientific and cultural grounds and has taken into account any potential damage to the wreck.[]

Why Titanic’s first call for help wasn’t an SOS signal (National Geographic)

When RMS Titanic set sail in 1912, it was blessed and cursed with the latest in communication technology—the wireless telegraph. In the last hours after Titanic hit an iceberg, radio messages sent from the storied sinking ship summoned a rescue vessel that saved hundreds of people, but also sowed confusion with competing distress calls and signal interference. More than 1,500 people died that fateful night.

Now, a recent court ruling may pave the way to the recovery of Titanic’s telegraph, designed by Guglielmo Marconi, a telecommunications pioneer and 1909 Nobel Prize winner in physics who invented the first device to facilitate wireless communications using radio waves.

[…]Despite the limitations of the Marconi telegraph—and the fact that it wasn’t intended to be used as an emergency device—Titanic was outfitted with a radio room and a Marconi-leased telegraph machine. Two young Marconi-employed operators, chief telegraphist Jack Phillips and his assistant Harold Bride, sent Morse code “Marconigrams” on behalf of Titanic’s well-heeled customers 24 hours a day during its maiden voyage in April 1912.

Both Marconi’s technology monopoly and the torrent of personal messages conveyed through Titanic’s telegraph proved fatal on that April night. Phillips was so overwhelmed by a queue of incoming and outgoing guest telegrams —one Titanic passenger wanted to “notify all interested” about an upcoming poker game in Los Angeles—that he didn’t pass on messages about the ice threatening Titanic’s ocean environs. When a nearby vessel, SS Californian, telegraphed that it was already surrounded by ice, Phillips testily responded “Shut up! I am busy.”

Once Titanic hit the iceberg, Phillips tone shifted and he used the Marconi distress signal: “CQD.”[]

Temporary Rule Waivers Announced for 2020 ARRL Field Day (ARRL News)

With one month to go before 2020 ARRL Field Day, June 27 – 28, the ARRL Programs and Services Committee (PSC) has adopted two temporary rule waivers for the event:

1)      For Field Day 2020 only, Class D stations may work all other Field Day stations, including other Class D stations, for points.

Field Day rule 4.6 defines Class D stations as “Home stations,” including stations operating from permanent or licensed station locations using commercial power. Class D stations ordinarily may only count contacts made with Class A, B, C, E, and F Field Day stations, but the temporary rule waiver for 2020 allows Class D stations to count contacts with other Class D stations for QSO credit.

2)      In addition, for 2020 only, an aggregate club score will be published, which will be the sum of all individual entries indicating a specific club (similar to the aggregate score totals used in ARRL affiliated club competitions).

Ordinarily, club names are only published in the results for Class A and Class F entries, but the temporary rule waiver for 2020 allows participants from any Class to optionally include a single club name with their submitted results following Field Day.

For example, if Podunk Hollow Radio Club members Becky, W1BXY, and Hiram, W1AW, both participate in 2020 Field Day — Hiram from his Class D home station, and Becky from her Class C mobile station — both can include the radio club’s name when reporting their individual results. The published results listing will include individual scores for Hiram and Becky, plus a combined score for all entries identified as Podunk Hollow Radio Club.

The temporary rule waivers were adopted by the PSC on May 27, 2020.

ARRL Field Day is one of the biggest events on the amateur radio calendar, with over 36,000 participants in 2019, including entries from 3,113 radio clubs and emergency operations centers. In most years, Field Day is also the largest annual demonstration of ham radio, because many radio clubs organize their participation in public places such as parks and schools.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many radio clubs have made decisions to cancel their group participation in ARRL Field Day this year due to public health recommendations and/or requirements, or to significantly modify their participation for safe social distancing practices. The temporary rule waivers allow greater flexibility in recognizing the value of individual and club participation regardless of entry class.

ARRL is contacting logging program developers about the temporary rule waivers so developers can release updated versions of their software prior to Field Day weekend. Participants are reminded that the preferred method of submitting entries after Field Day is via the web applet. The ARRL Field Day rules include instructions for submitting entries after the event. Entries must be submitted or postmarked by Tuesday, July 28, 2020.

The ARRL Field Day web page includes a series of articles with ideas and advice for adapting participation this year.[]


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It’s Field Day weekend 2019: find a local event, have fun!

If you live in North America and have an interest in becoming a ham radio operator, this is the weekend to check out what amateur radio is all about, and meet local radio enthusiasts.  

It’s Field Day!

What is Field Day?  I’ll quote from the ARRL, who sponsors the event:

“ARRL Field Day is the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. On the fourth weekend of June of each year, more than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations.

Field Day is a picnic, a camp out, practice for emergencies, an informal contest and, most of all, FUN!

It is a time where many aspects of Amateur Radio come together to highlight our many roles. While some will treat it as a contest, other groups use the opportunity to practice their emergency response capabilities. It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Amateur Radio to the organizations that Amateur Radio might serve in an emergency, as well as the general public. For many clubs, ARRL Field Day is one of the highlights of their annual calendar.

The contest part is simply to contact as many other stations as possible and to learn to operate our radio gear in abnormal situations and less than optimal conditions.”

GOTAField Day is always the fourth full weekend of June, beginning at 1800 UTC Saturday and running through 2059 UTC Sunday.

Many Field Day sites have a GOTA (Get On The Air) station where non-licensed individuals are welcome to play radio. It’s a fantastic way to try your hand at transmitting with a little guidance and encouragement from the more experienced. Indeed, even if there is no GOTA station, you will often be invited to try out the mic.

You’ll find that ham radio operators are very welcoming on Field Day–after all, spreading the word about the fun of amateur radio is what it’s all about. Indeed, I’ve shown up unannounced to a number of Field Days over the years; once I got some serious radio time with the Charlotteville Amateur Radio Club while on vacation in Prince Edward Island, Canada and I’ve spent the two recent Field Days with the Québec Amateur Radio Club (Club Radio Amateur de Québec). It’s all been amazingly fun.

Gaétan Trépanier (VE2GHO) making final adjustments to the club’s HF Yagi during Field Day 2017

This year, like last, I’ll be home and plan to spend Field Day with my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) in the Field! We plan to operate from Mount Mitchell State Park for a few hours. Later, we’ll likely stop by some local clubs on the air.

Keep in mind that there are many shortwave listeners among the amateur radio community; indeed, many hams became interested in the hobby through SWLing.

The ARRL has made it quite easy to find registered Field Day locations in your region. Click here to find a local Field Day event near you–and have a great Field Day!

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RSGB Archives Film: Field Day 1947

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who shares the following film from the archives of the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB):

Click here to view on YouTube.

Wow!  Thanks so much for sharing this film, Kris.  What an amazing number of classic rigs. Hams back then needed some serious muscle to take their gear to the field!

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Video: “The Fort and the Field Day”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Dura, who shares a link to this short video highlighting amateur radio at the 2017 Fort Wayne Field Day:

Click here to view on YouTube.

YouTube description: A 10 minute documentary investigating why people still do ham radio. Shot at the Historical Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana, during ARRL Field Day in 2017.

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Shortwave station WTWW promotes Field Day on the air

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill (WD9EQD), who writes:

Shortwave Station WTWW is promoting Field Day with a special shortwave broadcast. From their Web Page:

http://wtww.us/

Call in toll free at:

833-390-5085

Promote The Ham Radio Hobby To The Entire World On A Powerful International Shortwave Radio Station – WTWW BY Calling In From Your Field Location and Tell The World about it. Put the members of your Field Day group on the air by passing the phone around. Include special guests and your local city officials. Let’s catch the excitement from the young kids and teens that are visiting your Field Day site. Let’s talk to prospective Hams that have gotten excited by watching your field day activities.

If you can’t get through on the first try to this number – you can leave a message and we WILL call you during the live show. You are welcome to leave a message by calling ahead of time as well!

Let’s give the world a shout from Field Day 2018!

Thank you, Bill and a number of other SWLing Post readers who shared this tip!

 

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