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Archive for Monday, June 25, 2001

Radio hams take over Wells Overlook for annual field day

June 25, 2001

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"This is W - 0 - U - K ..."

Inside the Douglas County Mobile Command Center, Jim Canaday is at the mike, trying to contact other stations. A generator rumbles in the background, and wires snake up to five antennas atop the Wells Overlook Tower.

"This is Whiskey Zero Ugly Kid calling," Canaday repeats.

The command center, a converted school bus complete with tables, chairs and radios, served as headquarters for the Douglas County Amateur Radio Club's field day operations at Wells Overlook Park.

Radio clubs and operators around the world participated in the field day, organized by the American Radio Relay League. The goal: contact as many different stations in a 24-hour period using equipment connected to nongrid power sources, such as gasoline-powered generators or batteries.

The field day is both a simulated emergency test and a fun day for the ham radio enthusiasts.

"Some of us only see each other at this time of year," Canaday said.

Although each licensed ham radio operator has a call number assigned by the Federal Communications Commission -- Canaday is N6YR -- members use the club's call number, WÃ'UK, during the field day.

During a good field day, members will make contact with 600 to 800 stations, said Bob Rainbolt, WBÃ'AUQ, of rural Douglas County.

"You never know who you'll meet," he said. "That's the intriguing thing about it."

Rainbolt and a few other members of the club decided to make things a little more difficult this weekend. All of their equipment -- four batteries, transmitter and a laptop computer -- fit inside a Chrysler minivan with an antenna on top. The mobile station had another catch -- the operators only used Morse code.

"K - 2 - double A, do we have that one?" Rainbolt asked, fine-tuning the signal dial while his finger tapped a steady stream of dots and dashes.

"No, it's needed," said Dave Fayman, WÃ'GI, Lawrence, who maintained a database of contacted stations.

Then, after some quick taps by Rainbolt, the two stations exchange information: where they are, the type of station and number of transmitters. Within a few minutes, they knocked off W6TZ in Santa Barbara, Calif., K4LRG in Virginia and VE6NC in Alberta, Canada.

By 1 p.m. Sunday, the Morse code operators contacted just over 400 stations and the voice operators reached between 250 and 300, said club president Dan Gravatt, N2PC.

Most of the stations are from North America, but Daniel Evans, KCÃ'IDC, said the club had reached stations in South America, the Virgin Islands and Australia.

"It's a worldwide event," Evans said.

Amateur, or ham radio, is open to anyone who passes a simple test. Members of the Douglas County club said they do it for fun and service: They help run communication for the Douglas County AIDS Walk, ARC & Spoke bike ride, MS150 bike ride and other events.

"We have a lot of fun," Canaday said, "and there are many things to do in ham radio."

-- Staff writer Matt Merkel-Hess can be reached at 832-7187.

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