CLINTON TOWNSHIP—Local amateur (ham) radio operators took to the fields at Valleyview Campground from June 21-23 for the 87th annual American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day.
Over the course of 57 hours, 15 members of the Wayne County Amateur Radio Club (WCARC) set up seven radio station, operated them for a full 24 hours and tore down the site to leave.
The aim of ARRL Field Day is for ham radio operators to make contact with as many other stations as possible over the 24-hour period.
According to a WCARC press release, “A contact is a simple exchange of information that can be used to verify later that the contact was made. Once the exchange is complete the operators search for the next contact.”
WCARC was able to reach stations as far away as Hawaii and and Asiatic Russia.
Contact results are recorded, organized and reported in December.
Looking to challenge themselves, WCARC ham radio operators utilized three campers and two enclosed utility trailers in the campground and went off-grid to simulate a disaster setting in which they'd need set up in no pre-existing location.
“Field Day preparations started in March,” states a release. “The Club met several times a month to develop a plan.
“Challenges include gathering all the supplies and equipment, providing shelter for the electronics and the people, deconflicting any interference from so many radios operating so close to each other, providing meals for all involved, and scheduling time to set up all the equipment.”
Some of the equipment used to accomplish their Field Day connections is owned by the club, but many of the radios belong to the members themselves, disassembled from their home configurations.
Boosting their signals, the WCARC operators made use of 50 foot Army surplus communication tower with one directional antenna and two “long line” antennas hanging from that which were supported by lines thrown over nearby trees with a potato gun, states the release.
The group also utilized two antennas positioned on homemade towers built from extension ladders.
Having participated in the ARRL Field Day for five years, the WCARC was happy not to have been rained out.
“For the first time since the start of the organization,” said Club President Ken Katzmann, WB2HJQ in a press release, “it wasn't a washout from inclement weather, which has been our ‘little black cloud’ that always seemed to follow any outside event the club would attempt.”
In years past, analogue radio transmissions were the norm, but 2019 saw digital transmissions become the primary delivery method, states the release.
Mark Wheeler, WCARC Vice President and Field Day Coordinator, stated in the release, “This year we saw a tremendous increase in the popularity and usage of digital communications among the Field Day participating stations in North America and we were prepared.
“Of the seven radio stations we operated at our communications site, five of them were capable of sending and receiving messages in multiple digital modes.”
More information about WCARC is available online at https://w3aro.org/about-us.
The club will be holding its next meeting on Monday, July 29, at the Gravity Inn in Waymart.
Wayne County ARES
Also present at ARRL Field Day were members of the Wayne County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES).
Henry “Hank” Grilk, Emergency Coordinator for Wayne County ARES, operated a morse code station as one of the seven set up on Field Day.
Appearing before the Wayne County Commissioners on June 20 to announce ARRL Field Day, Grilk noted Wayne County ARES operators practice emergency communications in a net of between 12 and 15 ham radio operators.
“And during this net,” he explained, “We conduct training and emergency communications, techniques and procedures...So we're ready if needed.”
Grilk noted Wayne County ARES was recognized by ARRL last October for their response in a national simulated emergency test.
The simulation's aim was to test radio communication response in the event the gates of Lake Wallenpaupack failed and major flooding ocurred.
“So we had stations set up at the dam and at various locations along Wallenpaupack Creek and Lackawaxen River, and simulated what would happen if the dam actually did open up...,” said Grilk, noting “It went very well.”
Wayne County ARES was the top scorer in eastern Pennsylvania.
More information about Wayne County ARES is available online at: https://wc-ares.com.