Category Archives: Radio

Eclipse Radio Experiments

NASA eclipse image

Solar Eclipses & Radio Propagation

If you’ve ever tuned the AM radio dial at night, you know that the sun has an effect on radio propagation. At night, you can hear stations from hundreds of miles away, even though those stations can’t be heard during the daylight hours. This is because the signals are either absorbed by or reflected by various layers of the ionosphere, and these layers behave differently in the presence of sunlight.

Radio propagation through the ionosphere. NOAA image.

Radio propagation through the ionosphere. NOAA image.

In general, lower frequencies (such as the AM broadcast band) work better for long distances at night, and higher frequencies work better during the daylight hours. Observations made during other eclipses show that the brief period of “night” during totality does have an effect on the ionosphere, and this has an observable effect on radio propagation.

This eclipse will allow for the collection of a huge amount of data, and it is likely that this will contribute to a greater understanding of the ionosphere.  This is because there are now automatic data collection tools such as the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN).

The Reverse Beacon Network is a collection of radio receivers operated by amateur radio operators all over the world.  They are constantly monitoring large portions of the radio spectrum and “skimming” the signals.  Other networks listen for different transmission modes, but the Reverse Beacon Network is constantly listening for CW (continuous wave, or Morse Code) transmissions.  Whenever it hears “CQ” (a general call) or “TEST” (a test transmission), it records the call sign of the sending station.  The network stores this data for later download, and also makes it immediately available for display on the internet.

RBNscreenshot

The image above is a screenshot from the Reverse Beacon Network taken today.  I sent a transmission in Morse Code consisting merely of the words “TEST DE W0IS.”  That transmission was picked up by several of the skimmers in the network, and the information was almost immediately displayed on the internet.

As you can see, my signals were picked up by skimmers in Alberta, Ontario, Pennsylvania, New York, and Kansas.  The numbers on the chart (snr, signal to noise ratio) show my signal strength at each location.

Radio propagation is sometimes more of an art than a science, and it’s somewhat surprising that my signal was heard at these distances at the time of day I did the test, about noon local time.  The pattern shown here is more typical for later in the afternoon for the frequency I was using (7 MHz).  Typically, at midday, I would expect to see more hits within about 400 miles, and fewer at the distances shown here.

But on the day of the eclipse, comparing the reports throughout the day should show what effect the eclipse is having on radio propagation.  I expect that before totality, the propagation toward the west coast will be enhanced, as areas starting in Oregon experience “nighttime.”  After totality, I expect propagation to be enhanced toward the east as the path of totality moves toward South Carolina.

While I might change my plans, I think I’ll concentrate on 40 meters (7 MHz) during the eclipse.  Lower frequencies such as 160 meters (1.8 MHz) or 80 meters (3.5 MHz) will have more dramatic effects, but the necessary antennas are much longer.  Since I’ll probably be viewing the eclipse from a fixed location, I should be able to set up a full-sized dipole for 40 meters (66 feet of wire, fed in the middle) without too much difficulty.  If we need to move quickly and use a mobile antenna on the car, then I’ll probably switch to 30 meters (10 MHz), since the mobile antenna starts to be more efficient at higher frequencies, but 10 MHz is probably still low enough to see some eclipse effects.

You’ll be able to monitor my signals yourself in real time by following this link, which shows the most recent times my signal has been picked up.  On the day of the eclipse, I expect the map to show reception on the west coast in the morning, moving toward the east coast in the afternoon.  (Since RBN won’t have any way of knowing that I’m not at my home location, the graphic display will incorrectly show my signal as originating from Minnesota, even though I will be in Nebraska.   When the data is analyzed later, it will show my location correctly.)

The data I generate will be part of a larger project, the HamSCI 2017 Eclipse Experiment.  After the eclipse, data will be collected and analyzed by researchers such as those at Virginia Tech.

How Hams Can Participate in Eclipse Science

To increase the amount of radio signals to analyze, a contest named the Solar Eclipse QSO Party is scheduled to take place on August 21 from 1400-2200 UTC (9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Central Daylight Time). Participants in this contest will submit their logs, and data will also be skimmed automatically by networks such as RBN.  If you are an amateur radio operator, I encourage you to participate in this event.  Even if you are not near the path of totality, it is likely that radio propagation will be affected for thousands of miles.

How Anyone Can Participate

AMRadioPicFromDotGovIf you are not licensed, but you own a normal AM radio, you can also participate and collect valuable ionospheric data.  As noted above, AM signals propagate much greater distances at night, and the eclipse will have an effect.  Some night before the eclipse, tune through the dial and note which distant stations you are able to pull in.  Write down the call letters, frequencies, and locations of the stations.

If you need help identifying the stations, the easiest way is often to wait to hear the call letters of the station and Google the call letters to find the location. Or if you missed the call letters but heard the name of the city, try Googling the frequency and city.  For example, a search for “780 AM Chicago” will confirm that you’re tuned in to WBBM.  You can also search the official FCC database, either by frequency or call letters, at this link.  Also, this listing at the FCC website shows the strongest AM stations at most spots on the dial.

During the daylight hours, but before the eclipse, tune to those spots on the dial again to ensure that you can’t pick them up.  Also, some frequencies might have stronger local stations on during the day, which might cover up the weaker more distant signals.  It will be best to concentrate on frequencies where you hear nothing during the day, although the distant signals could very well overpower a closer station.

On the day of the eclipse, tune to those same spots on the dial and see if you can hear the stations.  You will probably find that they come up out of the noise when the path of totality passes over the station, or when the total eclipse is on a straight line between you and the station.

For example, I would expect that when St. Louis sees totality, KMOX (1120) will be booming in for hundreds of miles.  Similarly, when the total eclipse makes it to Nashville, then WSM (650) will be heard in most of the eastern United States.

Also, listen for some stations on the other side of the path of totality.  For example, when the eclipse is over Missouri, I would expect that listeners in Oklahoma and Texas might be able to hear stations such as WCCO (830) in Minneapolis or WHO (1040) in Des Moines.

Before the eclipse, identify some stations, both close to the path of totality, and on the other side of that line.  Find stations that you can normally pick up at night, but not during the day, and then listen for those stations to come up out of the noise as the eclipse shadow moves into an optimum spot.

For most people, the best radio to use will be your car radio.  Most car radios have good AM tuners, and they usually have the advantage of having a digital display so that you can tune to exactly the right spot on the dial.

For more information on this experiment and how you can participate and submit your observations, see this article at Sky & Telescope magazine. A good starting point for learning about tuning in distant stations on the AM dial can be found at Wikipedia.

If you don’t want to be tethered to your car radio, another alternative is to buy a radio similar to the ones shown below.  These radios, even though inexpensive, will provide good AM reception with a digital read out that will allow you to quickly tune various stations.  Some of them also have shortwave, which will allow you to do more elaborate observations, as explained at the Sky & Telescope article.

(In addition to radio experiments, it’s important to have a portable radio if you want to receive weather and traffic information during the eclipse.  Due to the large number of people traveling to the path of totality, it’s quite possible that cellular and data networks will become overloaded in many areas.  Having a radio with you will allow you to learn where the breaks in the clouds are, even if your smart phone is without a signal.)

Radio propagation has been studied during most eclipses in the 20th century.  For example, during the 1945 Victory Eclipse, research was done by researchers in recently liberated Norway, and German installations were even quickly re-purposed to do this research.  Because of the huge amount of data that will be collected, thanks to technologies such as RBN, this eclipse promises to add to the understanding of the ionosphere, and it’s quite possible for citizen scientists such as you and me to contribute.

For more information on the eclipse, see my earlier posts.



Eclipse Links

NASA image.

NASA image.

Here are some links with more information regarding the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse:

General Eclipse Information:

Radio Links

Since radio propagation is affected by solar radiation interacting with the ionosphere, the brief period of “night” in the middle of the day can have measurable effects on radio signals, and some of these effects are not completely understood.  For that reason, there are some opportunities for citizen science by amateur radio operators during the eclipse.

I haven’t decided exactly how I am going to participate, but what I will probably do is send some beacon transmissions which will be picked up by stations of the Reverse Beacon Network.  This will allow me to participate with relatively little attention required by me while I watch the eclipse, but I’ll be able to review the data later and see how the eclipse affected my radio signals.

I will make this information available live during the eclipse, and you will be able to monitor how the eclipse is affecting the propagation from my transmitter.  At this point, I’m considering doing these experiments on 30 meters (10 MHz).  Effects will probably be more pronounced on lower frequencies, but higher frequencies will allow a more efficient antenna.  I think that 10 MHz probably represents the best compromise, but I’d welcome any input.

The following links include information on radio experiments to take place during the eclipse:


Eclipse Camping Links

Advertisement:



The following campsites and dorm rooms are still available as of June 28.  Many of the campgrounds are temporary campsites with limited amenities.  In most cases, you’ll need to make reservations by phoning the owners.  Update July 24:  Additional campsites have been added.  If you discover that any of these are no longer available, please let me know.  Also, if you have a site to add, please let me know.

A few of these links are to Facebook posts, and you’ll probably need to be logged in to Facebook to view them.

Note:  I don’t have any direct knowledge of any of these links, other than what they have on their websites.  Please contact the owners directly and ask any questions before making reservations.  The sites listed here range from very expensive “glamping” locations to inexpensive spots to pitch a tent in someone’s back yard.  Some will take self-contained RV’s only and no tents.  Others will take tents only and not RV’s.  So please do your homework!

Oregon

Idaho

Wyoming

Nebraska

Kansas

Missouri

Illinois

Kentucky

Tennessee

Georgia

South Carolina

 

Links to My Previous Posts



1937 Field Day

1937FieldDay

This weekend was Field Day, an activity in which Amateur Radio Operators set up portable equipment and make as many contacts as possible during a 24 hour period.

My own effort this year was very minimalist. I operated as I did for most of my National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activations, with my 5 watt Yaesu FT-817  with a Hamstick antenna mounted on the car. I only operated for about an hour, but made 13 CW (Morse Code) contacts to places such as Quebec, Florida, Kentucky, and North Dakota. My power supply consisted of my 12 volt fish finder battery,

Back in the day, both the equipment and the power supplies were much more intimidating, and a successful Field Day operation almost required a team effort. This video shows Field Day eighty years ago in 1937. The film shows W8NCD/8, the Charleston (WV) Amateur Radio Club. It is narrated by W8NCD, who is now a Silent Key.

Field Day has always been primarily a fun social activity, but it also has a serious side. It shows that amateurs are ready for emergency situations. In 1937, hams were able to set up at a remote location, without external electric power or any other infrastructure, and be in contact with the rest of the world. In 1937, there weren’t any cell phone towers, but hams managed to communicate around the world. Today, there are cell phones available, but in the location I was at today, at the bottom of the St. Croix River Valley at William O’Brien State Park, cell service is not available. But with five minutes of setup, I was on the air and communicating, just like they were in 1937



NPOTA and WWFF

The ARRL National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event concluded on December 31, 2016. During this year-long event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS), Amateur Radio operators set up their stations in NPS units to make contacts with other stations at home.

1494 hams participated as “activators” by setting up stations in the parks, and almost 17,000 participated by making contacts with them. A total of just over 1.1 million individual two-way contacts resulted. I closed out the year with a total of 59 activations, putting me in 64th place nationwide. I made contact with 329 different parks, giving me a ranking of 386th place out of those 17,000.

The March 2017 issue of QST contains an excellent article summarizing the year’s activity, and it is available for free PDF download at the ARRL website.

Even though NPOTA has now ended, there was a great deal of interest in continuing it in some fashion.  The activity isn’t as frenzied, but many hams are continuing to get out to the parks and do activations as part of World Wide Flora and Fauna in Amateur Radio (WWFF).  WWFF is a very similar concept to NPOTA, but as the name implies, it is worldwide.

The program got its start in about 2008 in Russia by the Russian Robinson Club, and has been very popular in Australia and Europe.  During my activations, there were a number of familiar European stations who kept working me, undoubtedly as part of the WWFF program.  With the tie-in to NPOTA, the North American chapter of WWFF has achieved similar popularity.

While NPOTA focused on National Parks and other NPS properties, WWFF includes many other parks, including most state parks in the United States. I haven’t been on the air yet from the parks, but in addition to the local NPS units I was able to activate in 2016, I can now do similar operations from other metro area locations, such as William O’Brien State Park, Fort Snelling State Park, and Afton State Park, as well as from most of the other state parks in Minnesota and surrounding states.

Most of my activations during 2016 focused on metro-area parks, but some of them, such as my activations of the Lewis & Clark Trail and the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, were done in conjunction with business travel.  Great minds obviously think alike, as shown by Vance, N3VEM‘s recent activation of a metropolitan park in Florida while traveling for business.

n3vemStation

Photo courtesy of N3VEM.

As he details at his blog, he recently had a business trip to Florida from his home in Pennsylvania. He immediately began researching parks in the area, and discovered Oleta River State Park, which is actually located minutes from downtown Miami. Rather than book a stay in a more conventional hotel, he rented a rustic cabin at the park, which allowed him do his activation after work.  He packed his FT-857, which is almost identical to the FT-817 I used for most of my activations, the difference being that his radio puts out 100 watts as opposed to my 5 watts.  His complete station set up in the cabin is shown at the left.  His antenna consisted of dipoles for 40 and 20, shown below.

n3vemAntenna

Photo courtesy of N3VEM.

One of the major successes of the NPOTA program was to encourage hams to learn new operating techniques.  In particular, many hams discovered that Morse code (CW) can be extremely effective if conditions are marginal or if the station is less than optimum.  Because NPOTA focused on portable operations, most of the activators were using stations that were less than optimal.  For that reason, more than one ham discovered or rediscovered how effective CW can be, even with extremely simple equipment.

n3vemQSOIt looks like that tradition is continuing with WWFF, since N3VEM became one of the hams to discover CW.  Vance has been licensed only since 2014, and by the time he got his license, the requirement to pass a code test to get a license had been gone for a number of years.  But even though it’s no longer required, it’s still permitted, and he used this activation to make his first ever CW contacts.  And his very first CW contact was with me!

To show how versatile CW can be, it should be pointed out that Vance didn’t even have a key with him.  But like my radio, his allows the microphone to be used as an emergency key, and he used the mike buttons to send the dots and dashes.  When I worked him, the band conditions between Florida and Minnesota were very poor, and I could barely hear his signal.  It would have been absolutely impossible to work him using voice.  But with CW, it was a fairly easy contact, despite his signal being almost completely buried in the noise.

Our first CW QSO was very slow, probably about 5 words per minute.  But I’m sure he’ll discover that speed will increase rapidly as he gets on the air, and I have no doubt that I’ll have future CW QSO’s with him.



Four Reasons Why You Need Two Radios: 1936

1936octradioretailing

Eighty years ago, consumers buying a new radio had come to expect that they could trade in the old set. This presented a headache for the retailer, since any sale of the used set would probably cut into sales of new sets. The trade press often contained pointers on what to do with these old sets, such as donating them to charitable organizations, or selling them in bulk to other dealers, hopefully in another town, so that they would be another market’s problem.

The October 1936 issue of Radio Retailing included this graphic to help salesman convince buyers that they would be better off having two sets.
The page was designed to be shared with customers, and noted that “many questions asked by the consumer are difficult to answer because of his limited technical knowledge and inability to visualize.” Thus, the graphic was easier to understand, “and most people believe much of what they see in print.” Thus, graphics such as this one were printed to assist the salesman close a deal by “picturing the answer to a specific question which introduces selling resistance.”

This page notes that the old radio is worth more than the maximum trade-in value any dealer could allow, and suggests four uses for the old set. First, it could be moved to the playroom, allowing the parents to “duck the kid’s programs without breaking their hearts.”

Another viable option would be the bedroom. The magazine notes that it could be connected to an automatic time switch for a musical alarm.

In the kitchen, “any good serviceman can remove the chassis and build it in” for a truly modern kitchen.

The final use would be in the “whoopee room,” where we see a group playing ping pong and enjoying cool beverages, listening to the old set which has been “painted, in color, for that modernistic touch.”



NPOTA: Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

dsc01378

Preparing to send RF ‘cross the wide Missouri.

During the 2016  ARRL National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event,  Amateur Radio operators are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS) by setting up their equipment in NPS units  to make contact with other Amateurs around the world.  Since the beginning of the year, the event has been extremely popular, with over 13,000 activations from 450 different different units of the NPS and over 700,000 individual two-way contacts.  As I’ve reported in other posts, I’ve made contact with 281 different parks and operated multiple times from six parks in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

One of the event’s successes has been encouraging visits to the parks.  Until recently, my activations have been confined to the NPS units in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Last week, I had to be in Sioux City, Iowa, for one of my continuing legal education programs.  The city lies along the path taken by Lewis and Clark as the traveled from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean, and is therefore part of an NPS unit, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.  Because the trail’s sheer length, and because it passes through so many other notable sites, it is the NPOTA’s most popular activation site, with over 13,000 individual contacts made.  Since my son had recently been studying Lewis and Clark in school, I decided to bring him along.

Sioux City marks the point where the only death during the 1804-06 Corps of Discovery’s expedition took place.  Sgt. Charles Floyd is buried under a prominent obelisk on a bluff overlooking the river.  The Sioux City riverfront contains two museums devoted to Lewis and Clark’s journey.  The first is in a drydocked former riverboat, the M/V Sergeant Floyd.  The ship was an Army Corps of Engineers Inspection Vessel.  Interestingly, the ship contains a ham station, although it’s supposed to be a recreation of the ship’s radio room.  As you can see from the photo below, the radio room is equipped with an E.F. Johnson Viking Valiant and a Hallicrafters S-40.  Even though these amateur rigs appear to be out of place, it was interesting to see this inadvertent ham station set up.

dsc01372

dsc01371The museum also contains the forensic reconstruction of Sgt. Floyd shown here, created from a plaster cast of his skull.

The second museum on the riverfront is the Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, which includes animatronic versions of Lewis, Clark, President Jefferson. and “Seaman,” the expedition’s Newfoundland dog.

Conditions were relatively poor the day I visited the site, and my initial attempt with a mobile antenna was unsuccessful.  Since the day was nice, I returned and set up a dipole at a picnic shelter overlooking the river and made ten contacts on 20 meter CW.

Read More at Amazon



1946 NPOTA Activation

1946septradionews

During the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is conducting its National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event.  Amateur Radio operators are setting up their stations in various units of the National Park Service (NPS) and making contact with other Amateurs around the world. Since the beginning of the year, the event has been extremely popular, with over 11,000 activations from 450 different different units of the NPS (with only 39 not yet activated), with over 640,000 individual two-way contacts.  As I’ve reported in other posts, I’ve made contact with 251 different parks, operated multiple times from six parks in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and plan to activate additional parks in the Midwest before the end of the year.

Even though this event is recent, operating portable from the National Parks is nothing new, as shown from the photograph above, which appeared seventy years ago this month in the September 1946 issue of Radio News.

Shown here are members of the Washington Radio Club operating Field Day 1946 from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Shown here are Dick Houston, W4QPW (apparently at the mike), along with Major Eric Ilott, G2JK, of the British Army (later VE3XE), and club secretary Barbara Houston. They are operating a 25 watt phone rig on 10 meters, with a Hallicrafters Sky Champion serving as the receiver. Power was supplied by a 300 watt gasoline generator.

Ilott, apparently at the left in the photo, served in the British and Canadian military until his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1974. He immigrated to Canada in 1947. During the war, he served as a listener for the British War Office, sending reports to Bletchley Park. Among his accomplishments after the war was bringing the first ever television signal to Kingston, Ontario, from an antenna atop a water tower. He died in 2015 at the age of 95.  (For another look at the early days of bringing distant TV signals to town, please see my earlier post on the first TV in Marathon, Ontario.)

1946 was the tenth running of the ARRL Field Day, an event in which hams set up stations at portable locations to make as many contacts as possible.

I previously wrote about the 1941 Field Day, in which the high scoring station had made 1112 contacts. That would be the last Field Day before the war, and the one shown here was the first postwar Field Day. According to the results in the February 1947 issue of QST, the top 1946 scorer made 809 contacts.

But the results article noted that it would be pointless to compare the 1946 results with those of prewar Field Days, since operating conditions as of June 1946 were quite different. In particular, hams had not yet regained access to the 160, 40, and 20 meter bands, which had been the workhorses for the prewar events. The 1946 Field Day was limited to 80 and 10 meters on HF, along with the 50, 144, and 420 MHz bands.

Shenandoah was not the only national park being activated in 1946. In addition, according to the results article, there were operations from Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and a battlefield national park in Virginia, as well as numerous other venues.

n3knshenandoah

Photo courtesy of N3KN.

While the Washington Radio Club took the honors of activating Shenandoah National Park in 1946, my own 2016 contact took place on February 8 on 20 meter phone.  Fortunately, the 20 meter band was returned to hams shortly after the war, as the contact on 10 or 80 meters in 1946 would have been considerably more challenging.  My contact was with Kay Craigie, N3KN, shown here.  In addition to being an avid NPOTA chaser, activator, and member of the NPOTA Facebook group, Kay is the immediate past president of the ARRL (a select group which included Herbert Hoover, Jr.).  She was at the helm of the ARRL when the NPOTA event was proposed and adopted.

Click Here For Today’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon



NPOTA: St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

St. Croix River looking north from Interstate State Park, Minnesota. By Aaron Fulkerson –  CC BY 2.5.

Last week, I did two National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activations of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.  I did both of them from William O’Brien State Park in Minnesota.  My station consisted of my  Yaesu FT-817, powered by a 12 volt sealed lead acid fish finder battery,  The antenna consisted of a Hamstick mounted on the back of my car.  The QRP (low power, 5 watts) radio and very modest antenna have proven quite effective, especially on 20 meters.

During the ARRL NPOTA event, Amateur Radio operators are setting up their stations in various units of the National Park Service (NPS) and making contact with other Amateurs around the world. Since the beginning of the year, there have been over 11,000 activations from 449 different different units of the NPS (with only 40 not yet activated), with over 600,000 individual two-way contacts.

Williamobrien.jpg

William O’Brien State Park, Minnesota. By Greg Seitz (The.dharma.bum at English Wikipedia) – Photo by Greg Seitz (The.dharma.bum), CC BY-SA 2.5.

I made the quick jaunt to William O’Brien on Friday in order to work Patrick, N9OQT, who was set up at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana.  Patrick was there doing an Amateur Radio demonstration for a conference of state park superintendents from around the country, and he put out a call for activators to work him from different state parks around the country.  My five watts can be extremely effective using CW (Morse Code), but I thought it would be a challenging contact using voice.  However, since one of the purposes of the event was to demonstrate Amateur Radio to the gathered park officials, Patrick wanted to use voice only.  I started out by setting up in the parking lot of the park’s visitor center.  Even though this location is quite a distance from the river, it’s at a much higher elevation, and I thought it would make the difficult contact easier.

I needn’t have worried, since he copied my 5 watt signal quite well.  I immediately drove down to the river, and he copied me quite well from there as well.  He made a total of 124 contacts, including a total of eight state parks around the country.

lincoln1

Patrick Twigg, N9OQT photo.

Patrick’s operating location was an interesting juxtaposition of history and modern technology.  He was set up in the recreation of Thomas Lincoln’s (Abe’s father) 1820’s carpentry shop.  In addition, he reported local interference from roosters crowing in the background.  His radio and logging computer are shown on the old workbench, with the power source being the battery shown on the floor.

lincoln2

Carpentry Shop at Lincoln Boyhood Home, Patrick Twigg N9OQT photo.

After working Patrick, I went to CW and worked about 30 more contacts over the course of the next hour.

On Saturday, my son and I made another trip to the St. Croix River, and I decided to do another activation.  We spent most of the day exploring the glacial potholes at Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls, Minnesota.  The parking lot near the potholes is more than a hundred feet from the river, and the other unit of the park has somewhat difficult access due to road construction.  So we decided to stop at William O’Brien on the way home, where I set up in the same spot as the previous day near the boat landing.  This time, I didn’t get “spotted” on the DX cluster, so I spent about an hour answering other calls in order to make my required 10 contacts.  The most interesting contact was with Jim, K7MK, who was doing a SOTA activation in Idaho.

Shafer Butte, Idaho. National Forest Service photo.

Shafer Butte, Idaho. National Forest Service photo.

Summits On The Air (SOTA) is another Amateur Radio activity in which hams set up temporary stations on various mountain summits.  These can range from very modest summits that can be reached by car, to ones requiring serious mountaineering skills.  Jim’s location appears to be one that was somewhere between these two extremes, as he was atop the 2311 meter Shafer Butte in Idaho.  He reports that his activation involved a 6 mile hike, including a 1400 foot vertical ascent.

William O’Brien is a 1520 acre park founded in 1947, and located on the St. Croix River less than an hour from Minneapolis and St. Paul.  It’s location close to the metro area makes it an extremely popular park, but its being on the St. Croix can make it very much of a wilderness experience.

Minnesota’s Interstate State Park is located slightly further away from the Twin Cities, in Taylors Falls, Minnesota.  It was founded in 1895.  The main visitor center is located immediately adjacent to the downtown area of Taylors Falls, and the campground and other facilities are located about a mile down the river.  It’s also a very popular park with Twin Cities residents to explore the glacial potholes, and is also a popular venue for rock climbing.  It is located across the river from the Wisconsin state park bearing the same name, from which I’ve done a previous NPOTA activation.



NPOTA: Touro Synagogue, Rhode Island

Touro Synagogue. National Park Service photo.

Touro Synagogue. National Park Service photo.

During the ARRL National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event, Amateur Radio operators are setting up their stations in various units of the National Park Service (NPS) and making contact with other Amateurs around the world. Since the beginning of the year, there have been over 9000 activations from 444 different different units of the NPS (with only 44 not yet activated), with over a half million individual contacts.

One interesting aspect of this event is learning about the different parks, some of which I did not even know existed.   For example, in an earlier post, I wrote about the fascinating history of Kalaupapa National Historical Park in Hawaii, a remote settlement originally set aside for persons suffering from leprosy.

Synagogue interior. Wikipedia photo.

This week, I learned, by talking to someone there, of another important site in American history, Touro Synagogue National Historic Site in Newport, Rhode Island.  In addition to being the oldest synagogue in the United States, the site is important as a symbol of religious liberty for all Americans.  The synagogue still houses an active congregation, Congregation Jeshuat Israel, as it has since 1763.  It was designated a National Historic Site in 1946, and is an affiliated area of the National Park Service.

The congregation itself was founded in 1658.  The ancestors of the founders had fled Europe for the Caribbean in search of religious freedom, and the founders of the synagogue ultimately fled to Rhode Island for even greater liberty.  It was well established by 1790, when President George Washington wrote his letter to the “Hebrew congregation at Newport,” in which he vowed that the new nation would give “to bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance.”

The congregation does an annual reading of President Washington’s letter, the next scheduled for August 21, 2016.

This week, the park was put on the air by students from Rogers High School Ham Radio Club, W1VRC.  Most national parks can be easily “activated” by individual hams simply pulling in and operating from a parking lot or picnic table.  But many culturally sensitive sites, such as this synagogue, require more advance planning, and W1VRC worked with the site to do an activation that was both sensitive to the site, and also well planned from a radio point of view.  With their advance planning, they were able to put up a 132 foot long Windom antenna, that put out an effective signal but was unobtrusive.

In sanctioning the activation, the Synagogue found especially compelling the youth involvement as the students made contacts.  The young operators all did an excellent job, and there were many compliments as to their professionalism as they  made 185 contacts, including one with me.  This operation was actually a trial run for a larger activation, which will take place on August 7, 2016.  If you’re a ham, I encourage you to try to work them.  The best place for up-to-date information on frequencies is the NPOTA Facebook group. More information about W1VRC’s activation is also available at the school’s website.

Read More At Amazon

 

 

Click Here For Today’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon