Open frequencies: Halifax ham radio operators contact Get on the Air

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With the sound of the Saturday noon cannon atop the Citadel, John Bignell was on the march.

Or at least his portable radio was the Halifax Amateur Radio ClubThe Get on the Air winter event has started. Dozens of radio operators across town turned on their home transmitters or took to the snowy streets with portable units to make as many contacts as possible before the 4 p.m. deadline.

With Saturday’s stormy conditions in full effect, Bignell chose the heights of Citadel Hill as an ideal location to get the clearest signal, and within seconds he exchanged his VE1 JMB call sign with a radio operator at Hammonds Plains, and another that turned out to be transmitted from a car in a parking lot at the foot of the hill.

“VA1 CCC, this is Victor Echo One Juliett Mike Bravo,” he replies to a user, using the NATO phonetic alphabet. “It’s John on Citadel Hill.”

“Good afternoon, John, this is Brian,” the voice replies, adding another point to his journal for the day. “The location is Bedford and we are a fixed station operating at 50 watts. “


John Bignell, a member of the Halifax Amateur Radio Club, made his way to the top of the Citadel during Saturday snowfall for the annual winter event Get on the Air. The competition invited licensed radios to make as many contacts as possible between noon and 4 p.m. – Stephen Cooke

Competitions like Get on the Air have been held among amateur radio enthusiasts, mostly known as Amateur Radio Operators, since the 1920s, and have been a regular activity of HARC since its founding in 1933. Bignell, also Director club- in general, expect about 50 members to be involved, either from a fixed station at home or using a mobile radio from their vehicle to contact other stations from various perspectives.

“This is a great opportunity to test our community, to test its ability to communicate and its resilience; the ability to go out there and figure out what is working and what is not, ”he says, adding that bad weather is the kind of challenge operators like to take on.

“These are not the best days when we have disasters, these are the days when the conditions are not good. This is what makes these skills unique, having the ability to communicate with each other across the port or across town. I think that’s important, and understanding how to communicate becomes even more important in a disaster or emergency.

Tradition dating back to Marconi

Nova Scotia’s amateur radio operators are part of a wireless communications heritage on the east coast that dates back to Guglielmo Marconi’s historic transatlantic transmissions from Signal Hill and Glace Bay 120 years ago.

In 2021, with cell phones and wi-fi – and the ability to visually communicate with someone halfway around the world on Zoom or FaceTime using a device that fits in your pocket – you could you wonder about the need for shortwave radio as a method of communication. But Bignell believes amateur radio enthusiasts aren’t just driven by nostalgia for technology born in bygone times.

“The technology is great; as long as it works, it’s fantastic. In today’s society, we’ve become very dependent on technology, and I think most of it works. But when that doesn’t work, we really fall apart, ”says Bignell, who points out that the simplicity and reliability of radio transmission, especially in remote locations, makes it ideal for emergency situations.

“You just have to see when Bell lost its communications network (August 6) and we lost the ability to communicate within emergency services, and that was a challenge. Amateur radio is not the first or the most effective form of communication, but when there is nothing else, it is the most effective.

Technology makes radio more accessible

The technology has also helped change the world of amateur radio transmission, with the development of microscopic circuitry leading to inexpensive portable assemblies that provide an entry-level alternative to large home transmitters and towering backyard antennas. .

Bignell became a licensed radio operator after being intrigued by a friend’s CB radio set years ago and enjoys being part of a global community that is still going strong thanks to events like the Get on the contest. Air this weekend.

“The competition is all about having fun, and for me, being an amateur is having fun and talking to other radio operators. It’s a very strong community internationally, and you can go to any community and find an amateur there, ”says Bignell, who also heard radio communications reaching astronauts on orbiting space stations.

“The fact that you can talk to someone who is in space over an antenna is pretty cool. From a youth perspective, I have two little boys, and for them, being able to build something that they can then use to talk to people in space is pretty amazing.

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