Ham operators reach out on field day

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.The Amateur Radio Relay League field day on June 22-23 at Cornerstone Park went well, according to Scott Brown, site coordinator.

“We had five transmitters operating at the same time from our site and we handled 800 to 900 messages,” he said June 24. “We still had more to do but ran out of time, but that happens about every year.”

For field day, batteries, cables and radio equipment instead of picnic food covered the tables in a Cornerstone Park shelter as several members of the Littleton Radio Amateurs set up their site.

The ARRL is an international amateur radio organization that holds a number of events each year, including field day, which is a 24-hour demonstration of ham operators’ ability to provide communications in emergencies.

The ARRL website states more than 35,000 amateur radio operators around the world set up equipment on the field day and established communications from remote locations without using phone systems, the Internet, power grid or any other link that could be knocked out in case of an emergency.

The Cornerstone stations were staffed by members of the Littleton Amateur Radio Club and other volunteers.

The amateur radio enthusiasts, nicknamed ham operators, took down their regular station setups and moved into the Cornerstone shelter for field day. The ham operators used car batteries as their power sources for the five transmitters being used to handle message traffic using voice, Morse code and data communication.

At one of the five stations, John Polson used a key to send the Morse code letters, CQ, which is a ham radio operator’s request for any station on frequency to respond. When the response came, Polson transmitted his response using the lengthy string of dots and dashes that make up the letters of Morse code.

Rick Spiegel also sent out a CQ request on his transmitter but he did it using voice communications. When several CQ calls didn’t get a response, he changed frequencies and kept trying until he received a response, which happened to be from another Colorado field day operator. At another voice operation, the response was from a Wyoming ham operator. 

While operators worked at their transmitters, Chris Campbell was making repairs to a damaged cable connector.

“I am an electrical engineer and radio is my first love,” he said as he stripped a wire and prepared to solder the wire to the connector. “During my career, I built shore radio communications stations at a number of countries around the world. Now that I am retired, ham radio is my hobby and I really enjoy it.”

Brown said the Cornerstone site was one of about 20 set up in Colorado.

“Members of our group worked together to set up antennas in the horseshoe area and each member brought his equipment to the shelter site,” he said. “It took some time to get everything set up and hooked up to power, but we were on the air on time,”

Brown said members of the club kept the field day operation going for 24 hours and made contact with other amateur radio operators around the country.

“I think we communicated with ham operators in possibly every state in the union,” he said. “The exception might be Alaska, but I know we communicated with the other states, including Hawaii.”