ARISS SSTV Special Event

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On the weekend of August 3-4, Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) conducted a special event commemorating the life of Owen Garriott, W5LFL, who was the first astronaut to utilize amateur radio in space. Many of us were fortunate enough to make contact with him as the Space Shuttle(s) he orbited around the globe.

The crew aboard the ISS transmitted a series of photos using Slow-Scan-Television (SSTV) on their standard ham radio downlink frequency.  One of our founding members, Frank Krizan KR1ZAN, was able to capture 5 good photos and 3 partials (keep in mind that the ISS is only visible about 10 minutes each pass and each SSTV photo takes 2 minutes to transmit). A number of photos he received were also duplicates of previous ones.

The ARISS Team has provided a place to upload the photos for posterity. Click here to view the images. In the Call Sign block, enter the call KR1ZAN, and you’ll see the 5 photos that Frank received.

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2019 ILLW at Rockland Breakwater Light

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Eric Emery KC1HJK attaches a mast to a railing to mount the 40m SOTA Beams dipole

On Saturday, August 17th, the WS1SM team activated Rockland Breakwater Light, in Rockland Harbor, ME, for International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend (ILLW). Club members operated from 10am-5pm, using call sign WS1SM.

2019 marked the ninth year that WSSM has participated in ILLW, which sees over 500 light houses and lightships activated in over 40 countries. The international event helps promote the preservation of lighthouses and lightships, and at the same time gives the community an opportunity to experience Amateur Radio first hand.

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Tim KB1HNZ, Pete KC1DFO, and Brad KC1JMH about to take on the breakwater

The morning started out with breakfast at Moody’s Diner, in Waldoboro, before the team met up at the parking lot for the lighthouse. Ahead of them was task of carrying the radio equipment across the 7/8-mile long breakwater. This wasn’t easy, as one of the heavisest items, a marine battery, had to be brought out in a cart that wasn’t well suited to the rough surface of the rocks that made up the breakwater. It required two to three people at any given time to help it along. Once at the lighthouse, however, the setting was a beautiful place to spend the day on the radio.

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L-R: CJ W1CJC, Tim KB1HNZ, and Pete KC1DFO setting up antennas

The WS1SM team operated 2 stations full time from the front porch of the lighthouse, which overlooks the breakwater, including a Yaesu FT-857d with a 40m dipole, and an Icom IC-706 MKIIG connected to a BuddiPole (for 6-20m) antenna. Both stations operated on battery power, with solar assistance. 40 meter conditions were excellent and contacts were plenty there. Band conditions were a little more difficult on 20 meters, but it improved later in the day to even include a few DX contacts.

Particpants included Eric Emery KC1HJK, CJ Carlsson W1CJC, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, Brad Brown, Jr. KC1JMH, and Peter Warren KC1DFO.

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Tim KB1HNZ operates 40 meters

“This year’s ILLW has been a lot of fun,” said Tim Watson KB1HNZ. “It was fun working all the other lighthouses on the bands and also demonstrating ham radio to the public. We even met some other hams in person, who stopped by to say hi.”

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Lifting the cart over the cracks in the breakwater on the way back

Brad Brown KC1JMH said afterwards, “We’d really like to thank the folks from Massachusetts who helped us carry the cart back,” referring to a gentleman and his two grandsons who saw Brad, Tim, CJ, and Pete struggling with it and helped carry it to the mainland. “The extra help meant a lot at the end of a long day.” Earlier, Eric KC1HJK, brought the battery back on his kayak, so it was a little easier than it could’ve been.

Click here to see more photos from this and previous lighthouse events.

2019 Field Day at Wassamki Springs Campground

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SCARBOROUGH, ME – On the weekend of June 22-23, the WS1SM team participated in their 9th ARRL Field Day from Wassamki Springs Campground, in Scarborough. With over 30 participants and guests, including visitors from Cumberland County EMA, public service representatives, and Scarborough State Representatives Shawn Babine and Chris Cuazzo, the activities were many.

On the air, we operated as 3A (which is a club station, on battery power, using 3 transmitters), maintaining a continuous presence on the bands on CW, SSB, and digital. We also had a Get on the Air (GOTA) station operating as N5QYQ during most of the event, allowing beginners and new hams to operate HF as well.

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Anne KC1KWH, Ara AA1FB, Ben KC1HBL, Sean W1MSA, Gregg KM4PKE, and Pete KC1DFO work on installing a 40m rotatable dipole.

Setup began late Friday morning when a number of club members helped setup Rick Fickett’s (K1OT) CW operating trailer. The trailer is an all-in-one ham shack, which includes a 40-foot tower with 40m monobander and support for wire antennas. The radio used is an Elecraft K3 with built in tuner, and is complete with digital logging. Later Friday afternoon, the SSB station was setup, which includes a Spiderbeam tribander (for 10, 15, and 20m), and a rotatable dipole for 40m. The radios, and Icom IC-7300 and Yaesu FT-950, were setup in the Cumberland County EMA’s utility trailer. On Saturday morning, Charlie Shepard’s (W1CPS) 6 meter station was setup, which includes a 5 element yagi atop a 40-foot mast and an Icom IC-7000, and we were ready to get on the air!

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Rick Fickett K1OT, in the office

Although cloudy on Saturday, the weather was pleasant and remained that way until late in the day when a storm blew through. The winds were severe enough to shake the tower on the CW trailer and there were some crashes of thunder that caused us to shut down operations, but it only lasted for a few minutes. 40 meters was steady throughout most of Field Day, and 20m opened up nicely late Saturday afternoon and early Sunday. Rick K1OT, Joe K1JB, Greg K1ME, and others had some good runs going on CW on both 40m and 20m throughout the event, and Brad KC1JMH, Eric KC1HJK, Greg KM4PKE, Pete KC1DFO, Sean W1MSA, and Ben KC1HBL all had good runs on 40m SSB at various times. Stefania K1GJY and Waylon KC1HJN did the same on 20m SSB.

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Charlie Shepard W1CPS operates 6m SSB

Eric KC1HJK served as the safety officer for 2019, and he did a great job posting informational signs for the public and making everyone aware of the whereabouts of safety equipment such as the fire extinguisher and first aid items.

Frank KR1ZAN helped us copy the W1AW Field Day message from his home QTH, which was super helpful because many of us were setting up antennas during the broadcast.

Tim KB1HNZ sent radiograms to the Section Manager and various others by way of the Digital Traffic Network via our Packet station on VHF. Late Sunday, he and Eric were also successful at making a satellite QSO via AO92.

Mike Fandell N5QYQ and Steve McGrath AA1HF ran the Get on the Air (GOTA) station, which was located at the Wassamki Ham Shack. Many guests stopped by throughout Field Day, and lots of new folks had a chance to get on the air and experience HF. Thanks to Mike and Steve for making it so much fun for everyone!

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From L-R: Rep. Shawn Babine, Rep. Chris Cuazzo, Mike Fandell N5QYQ, Peter Hatem KC1HBM, and Ann McBride KC1KWH

Josh Brown KC1KTX got on the air at both the SSB and the GOTA stations, having QSOs at both, and was also the grill master during the cookout Saturday night!

Anne McBride KC1KWH got on the air and made lots of HF contacts at the GOTA station, as did Delia Brown, Daniel Fransiscus KC1DUN, Waylon McDonald KC1HJN, and Dave Wood KB1FGF.

Pete Donovan K1SK did a great job with the media publicity. Portions of our press release were published in the Portland Press Herald in the days leading up to Field Day.

Peter Hatem KC1HBM invited Scarborough State Representatives Shawn Babine and Chris Cuazzo to attend the event, and not only did they both make an appearance, but they stayed a while as Peter showed them around the various stations, including the GOTA station.

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Josh Brown KC1KTX operates 40m SSB

Special thanks also to Dave Feeney WN1F, and everyone at Cumberland County EMA for their support, and to the Hillock Family for allowing us to operate from Wassamki Springs Campground for the 9th consecutive year!

We finished up with nearly 1,700 QSOs and maximum bonus points! It was a massive effort. Thanks to eveyone for helping to make our 2019 Field Day such a success!

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The 20/15/10 meter Spiderbeam and CCEMA trailer

Click here to view photos of this year’s and previous Field Days.

WS1SM Team Activates Mt. Agamenticus for Summits on the Air (SOTA)

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by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ

YORK, ME – The WS1SM team ventured to the summit of Mt. Agamenticus on May 19th, meeting for breakfast at Maine Diner, in Wells, before making their way up the mountain. Among those who participated were Greg Dean K1ME, CJ Carlsson W1CJC, Brad Brown KC1JMH, Eric Emery KC1HJK, and myself. It was my second activation from the summit, having been part of the 2013 team, but for the others, it was their first SOTA activation from Mt. Agamenticus (W1/AM-381).

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Greg Dean K1ME (left) operates 20m CW, while Eric Emery KC1HJK (foreground), makes his first HF contact, on 20m SSB

Being a former ski area “The Big A,” Mt. Aggie is more developed than most of the mountains we hike to. There is a summit house, that was once a ski lodge, well groomed hiking trails, a parking area, and remnants of an old T-bar chair lift, among other relics. We set up our stations on a picnic table on the northern side of the clearing at the top.

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CJ Carlsson W1CJC, operates 40m SSB

Among the equipment used were my Yaesu Ft-857d and BuddiPole rotatable dipole, which I used on 14 and 21 MHz, CJ’s Icom IC706, which was paired with a 40m dipole strung in the trees, and various VHF radios. Greg brought a yagi for 144, which made for some interesting contacts, and we also used a TYT TH-9000D and J Pole for 220 MHz. Brad KC1JMH also took the opportunity to try his partially finished QRP kit on the air for the first time.

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A friend stops by

The weather was cloudy and windy at times, but otherwise pretty nice compared to the several days of rain that preceded the expedition. The only rain we experienced was a little bit on the drive toward the mountain, and some during setup, but it didn’t last. Conditions on the HF bands were much worse, however, and contacts were slow going with only a handful on SSB and CW. We made the majority of our QSOs on VHF, making one summit-to-summit contact, and one as far away as Boxboro, MA on 2 meter FM Simplex.

Photos courtesy of Eric Emery (copyright mark), and Brad Brown

For more information about WSSM SOTA expeditions, click here.

WS1SM Team to Participate in 9th Field Day from Wassamki Springs

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by Pete Donovan, K1SK

Members of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine are set to participate in the national Amateur Radio Field Day exercise June 22-23 at Wassamki Springs Campground, 56 Saco Street, Scarborough.

The public is encouraged to attend on Saturday, June 22, from 2p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more than 100 years, amateur radio – sometimes called ham radio – has allowed people from all walks of life to experiment with electronics and communications techniques, as well as provide a free public service to their communities during a disaster, all without needing a cell phone or the internet. Field Day demonstrates ham radio’s ability to work reliably under any conditions from almost any location and create an independent communications network. More than 35,000 people from thousands of locations participated in Field Day last year.

“Field Day is part emergency communications exercise, and part competition, where we accumulate points and test our operating skills against other clubs and individuals around the U.S. and Canada,” says club Vice President, CJ Carlsson, of Portland, ME.
During the event, participants will try to earn points by meeting specific goals as outlined by the American Radio Relay League. Some of these include handling and delivering messages, hosting educational activities, and making contacts with other amateurs through various methods, such as voice, telegraphy, satellites, and digital technology.

“This is a fun event that gives us an opportunity to share our passion with the community and to improve our operating skills, all while getting everyone out there and on the air,” says Carlsson.

Field Day, which has taken place annually since 1933, is designed to test radio operators’ ability to quickly setup and operate portable stations in emergency conditions.

“The entire operation will exclusively use emergency power sources like batteries, or solar energy, in order to simulate how things would be during a catastrophic event,” says club member, Tim Watson, of Saco. “The public should be aware that in the event of an emergency, we’re ready to assist in any way that we can. While people may have the impression that cell phones and other technologies are good enough, we stand by as a trained pool of experienced radio operators to provide the vital communication services others may not. Hams have provided emergency communications during hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, blackouts, and other disasters, where more complex and fragile communications systems, such as cell networks, have failed or become overloaded.”

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The Wireless Society of Southern Maine’s Emergency Communications Team provides communications support to the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency and members also support the National Weather Service’s SKYWARN operations in Gray, ME.

“Since 2014, the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, using call sign WS1SM, has recorded the highest Field Day score in Maine and hopes to finish on top again in 2019,” says Carlsson. “The public is welcome to attend the event and if anyone is interested in learning more about the hobby, we’ll be glad to help.”

Anyone can become a licensed amateur radio operator. There are more than 725,000 licensed hams in the United States, as young as 5 and as old as 100. The Wireless Society of Southern Maine is ready to help anyone get involved and licensed right here in Scarborough. For more information about Field Day, and amateur radio in general, please visit: http://www.mainehamradio.com

Amateur Radio in Popular Culture

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A scene from the 1938 film, Nancy Drew, Detective

by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ

Amateur Radio has never been considered a mainstream hobby, but it has had its fair share of time in the spotlight of American popular culture – the most notable being when the hobby is featured on television or film. We’ll take a look back at some of ham radio’s more memorable appearances from the past, and a few recent ones.

When I was a boy, I used to love reading detective books and watching movies of the same genre. One of the first ones I remember that featured ham radio was a film called Nancy Drew, Detective, starring Bonita Granville (Warner Bros., 1938), where the teenage sleuth’s friend, Ted, showed off his radio shack and demonstrated the art of making a QSO. It played a minor role in the plot of the story as well. Ted even had a call sign – W8YZR, by which we can infer that Nancy’s fictional home town of River Heights must be located somewhere in the Midwest.

Another film from around the same era is The Men of Boys Town (MGM, 1941). In this sequel to the popular film Boys Town, Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney), has frequent conversations with his friend Pee Wee (Bobs Watson) over the airwaves. Whitey transmits from the home of his adoptive parents, while Pee Wee operates from the Boys Town club station.

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Orson Welles confronts reporters after the radio broadcast, The War of the Worlds

A scene in Orson Welles’ famous rendition of The War of the Worlds for Mercury Radio Theater, which aired on October 30, 1938 over the Columbia Broadcasting System, features an amateur radio operator saying: “2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . New York. Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone . . . 2X2L”

The Glass Bottom Boat (MGM, 1966), starring Doris Day, who has a “20-foot antenna,” shows her corkboard full of DX QSL cards above her Collins and Marine radio gear. Day uses a radio to talk to “Pop” (played by real-life ham Arthur Godfrey, K4LIB).

Based on true events, The Red Tent (Paramount, 1969), tells the story of the dirigible Italia, which crashed over the Arctic ice cap after flying over the North Pole in 1928. Authorities believed no one could have possibly survived the accident and soon gave up searching for survivors, until a young Russian radio amateur, Nikolai Schmidt (Nikolai Ivanov), heard on his modest radio set the faint SOS signals sent from the wreck site by Roberto Biagi (Mario Adorf). Thanks to the information provided by Schmidt, the rescue of the survivors was organized. The Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, first man to reach the South Pole, perished during the rescue operation.

Another film from around that time, The Anderson Tapes (Columbia 1971), starring Sean Connery who portrays a recently paroled thief that decides to rob an entire apartment building, while unknown to him, the government is watching and listening to every move via telephoto lenses and shotgun mikes. His character disables all telephone lines, but a young boy, in a wheelchair, is able to summon help via his ham radio. In the end, the government destroys all tapes because they had no legal business placing him under surveillance.

Ham radio enjoyed a renaissance in popular culture in the 1990’s. Some movies from the time include Pump Up the Volume (New Line Cinema, 1990), where a teenager’s father provides him with amateur radio equipment to keep in touch with his friends on his native east coast when his job transfers him to Arizona. However, the teenager uses the equipment to start a pirate radio station promoting his cynical views on American life.

The science fiction film, Contact (Warner Bros., 1997), starring Jodie Foster playing Dr. Arroway, opens with the heroine operating a ham radio transceiver as a child, using the callsign W9GFO. She later becomes a researcher working in SETI.

The Sweet Hereafter (Alliance, 1997) starring Ian Holm, features a scene where a man is sitting at a table, holding a pair of communication headphones up to one ear. On the wall is a plastic QSL card holder full of cards.

In the mystery-science fiction film, Frequency (New Line Cinema, 2000), John Sullivan (played by Jim Caviezel), and his father Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid) use ham radio to communicate; due to unusual aurora borealis activity John is able to communicate via ham radio with his father 30 years in the past.

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A scene from the 2000 film, Frequency

So far, we’ve looked primarily at movies, but ham radio also been referenced several times in television and short film as well. One of the more-subtle references appears in the Disney cartoon, Donald’s Better Self, (Walt Disney, 1938), where Donald Duck is pursued by both angel and devil versions of himself. In one scene, the devil duck calls CQ from a mailbox as he passes by.

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Donald’s not-so-better self gets his attention by calling CQ from inside a mailbox

In the popular TV show, ALF (1986-1990), an Alien Life Form crash lands at the Los Angeles home of Willie Tanner, who is a ham.

In an episode of the Munsters (1964-1966), Grandpa Munster, uses an army surplus BC-654 field radio as a ham station.

In an episode of The Loretta Young Show (1953-1961), a young couple are snowed in at a ski chalet when a boy with pneumonia shows up at their door. Rita (played by Loretta Young), uses a ham station at the chalet to summon medical assistance.

In a double episode of The Waltons (1971-1981), Jim-Bob uses ham radio to help two young guests speak to their mother in England.

In an episode of The Jetsons (Hanna-Barbera 1962-1963), George’s son, Elroy, uses an interstellar version of ham radio to chase DX.

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Henry, Fr. Mulcahy, and Klinger, in M*A*S*H*

In an episode of M*A*S*H (Fox, 1972-1983), called “Springtime”, Henry uses ham radio so Father Mulcahy can marry Klinger to his girl back in the USA. The other “ham” that gets in the middle of the QSO with her recipes is Mary Kay Place.

Similarly, in an episode of McHale’s Navy, one of McHale’s crew members finds out about the birth of his baby back home via a phone patch from a Stateside ham radio operator.

On the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that aired May 13th, 2005, they held a showdown between Morse code ops Chip K7JA of Yaesu USA and Ken K6CTW and “the fastest text messagers in the country” to see who could transmit the message “I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance” faster. The Morse code operators won by completing the message first.

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Mike Baxter is on the air from his ham shack in a 2013 episode of Last Man Standing

The main character of Last Man Standing (Fox, 2011-Current), Mike Baxter, (played by Tim Allen), is a ham radio operator, and ham radio is figured into many episodes – one of the most memorable is a scene where Mike retreats to his basement ham shack during Thanksgiving dinner to talk on the radio while his family squabbles upstairs.

Club member, Brad Brown KC1JMH, let us know recently that, in addition to the character, the show’s executive producer is a real licensed ham and he and several other crew members are on the air every Tuesday night at 23:45 UTC (6:45p EST) as “KA6LMS”. They often work 20 meters, and post where they are on dxsummit.fi. They also post the station log on Facebook and send out cards. This coming Tuesday, they plan on being active on D-STAR REF 012A during the same time slot.

Amateur Radio has also been prominently featured in print. One book that I remember distinctly was a Hardy Boys mystery called “The Short-Wave Mystery” (Grosset & Dunlap, 1945). The events that set the plot into action are when the Hardy Boys hear a mysterious call for help on their shortwave radio set: “Help — Hudson”. This happens while their father, Fenton Hardy, is investigating nation-wide thefts of radio equipment by a group of criminals called “The Hudson Gang”.

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The original book cover to “The Short Wave Mystery”

Ham radio is also featured in an Archie Comic, Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure (1997), and in at least two Dilbert cartoons. In one of them, Dilbert’s date hints that Dilbert’s sex appeal would be increased if he got his ham radio license. In another, one of Dilbert’s team members says that she got her ham radio license in a workshop held by Dogbert.

Looking back, a lot of these rekindled old memories. At the time I first encountered many of them, I had no idea what amateur radio was really like, and remarkably, many offer an accurate portrayal. This was by no means a complete list, nor was it meant to be, but hopefully you’ve had as much fun revisiting them as I did.

2018 Field Day at Wassamki Springs

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The Spiderbeam with WS1SM banner on a guy wire

2018 Field Day was a tremendous success, and a lot of fun! Special thanks to the Hillock family of Wassamki Springs Campground for hosting us for the 8th consecutive year!

UPDATE: The 2018 ARRL Field Day results are in, and WS1SM captured 1st place in Maine for the fifth consecutive year. In addition, we finished 14th overall in the 3A category, cracking the top 20 for the 2nd time in 2 years. Congratulations to everyone on our team for a job well done! Click here to read the QST article.

Operating twice around the clock, in the 3A category, we captured 1,730 Bonus Points, and 6,968 QSO points, which is a new record for WS1SM. The biggest areas of improvement this year were in SSB QSOs (+500), and in the bonus points (+200) over last year.

Setup began Friday morning, as Rick K1OT and helpers met to raise his 40′ tower and antennas. Later in the evening Tim KB1HNZ and Eric KC1HJK setup the Spiderbeam tribander.

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Rick K1OT (L) and Joe K1JB (R) in the CW Trailer

On-air activities began at 2PM on Saturday, and continued through 2PM Sunday. All the radios ran on 100% battery power, with the exception of a handful of QSO that Charlie W1CPS made on solar power.

Frank KR1ZAN and Steve AA1HF served as coaches for a Get on the Air (GOTA) station, which operated concurrently in the Wassamki Springs Ham Shack, which is located in the former camp store. There were 6 participants who made QSOs!

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Waylon KC1HJN and Steve AA1HF hunt for hidden transmitters

The educational activity for this year was Radio Direction Finding, using various methods, including a tape measure yagi, rotatable loop, and attenuator.

Peter KC1HBM, invited Scarborough Town Councilor, Jean-Marie Caterina, who spent some time talking to participants and got a tour of the Field Day and GOTA operations.

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Scarborough Town Councilor, Jean-Marie Caterina visits the WS1SM Field Day site and also checks out the GOTA station (seen above).

Special thanks to everyone who brought food to the pot luck supper on Saturday evening, especially to Sheila Martin, W1DXX, who brought lots of pizza, and Mike Mooney, who brought ribs and pulled pork!

Tim KB1HNZ composed or replied to 23 messages, which were transmitted via Winlink on HF. He also operated some digital modes over night on Saturday.

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Frank KR1ZAN successfully makes a satellite QSO

The CW operators equaled last year’s total, and Charlie W1CPS came just 2 QSOs short of his previous best on 6 meters.

We also copied the Field Day bulletin, thanks to the efforts of Frank KR1ZAN and Ryan KB1YTR.

Frank, with the help of Waylon KC1HJN, also helped us get a satellite QSO during the last SO50 pass of the day.

Field Day was a massive team effort, and it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone’s help. Great job everyone!