Amateur Radio Club competes in 2014 Field Day

Jun. 30, 2014 @ 09:25 AM

Hudson’s Redwood Park was much more than a gathering space Saturday, and will be into this afternoon, alive with the sounds of radio static, the quick, intermittent beeping of Morse code, and precise radio call signs sounding from the pavilion and reaching around the globe.

Behind nine antennas spread out on the grass, some 50 feet tall, the Lenoir Amateur Radio Club is trying to make as many contacts as possible in the 24-hour window from 2 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday.

It’s the club’s annual participation in the American Radio Relay League’s Field Day, when more than 35,000 amateur radio operators from across the U.S. and Canada all set up their equipment for an informal competition and practice for emergencies.

The group arrived at the park around 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and within a few hours had the pavilion set up with the antennas and five radio stations, all with different capabilities, from digital to Morse code.

Thomas Land, LARC vice president, said the club has participated in field days for nearly 30 years,

The field day is “sort of like a training exercise, learning how to set up antennas, running the logging software, networking computers together,” said Land, adding that it’s also a “time to get out and demonstrate amateur radio to the public.”

The club also operated a GOTA, or get-on-the-air station, where any interested members of the public can try their hand at the radio and making contacts.

But this year, members hope to more than double last year’s 368 contacts — or verified communications with another group — which is how the teams compete with each other. Just 20 minutes into the competition, contacts had already been established in Florida, Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and more. Last year contacts were made as far away as the Virgin Islands and Russia.

During the field day, all radio stations were operated on generator power, just as they would in an emergency situation like an extreme weather event or missing person search.

But the focus Saturday afternoon was making contacts, as radio operators relayed their call signs to operators on the other end and receiving their frequency and location, set to continue all the way through this afternoon.