Before I start this post, I want to dispel any rumors that all W2LJ does at Field Day is take photographs. Here are two of yours truly actually pounding brass and adding points to the NJ2SP Field Day total - courtesy of Mario KD2HPF.
Field Day, or perhaps better said, the end of Field Day often causes me to wax nostalgic. That definitely happened this year, and a large part of it was seen in that video which I posted yesterday. Watching Marv K2VHW working ZL4TT in New Zealand brought back me back, in an instant, to something that happened to me, as a newly licensed Amateur Radio operator so many years ago.
A little context - Bill W2AOF, our Club President, spent a month with friends in New Zealand earlier this year. When he got back, he filled us in on the details of the trip. He had a great time, got to see a lot of wonderful sights, got to eat good food and spend quality time with good people. Yet, there was a price to pay, and I'm not referring to the monetary expense. Sure, there was that, but there was also an expenditure of time.
With all the technological advancements we've witnessed over the last century, getting to New Zealand from New Jersey is comparatively easy compared to 100 years ago. Back then, the ocean voyage took weeks. Flying by air is a snap compared to that, but even that takes time. You don't often think about it, but even flying on a commercial aircraft, going at speeds never dreamt of by the seafaring ships of the old days, it still takes the better part of a day (around 18 hours) to get from New Jersey to New Zealand. And in the middle of the overnight, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, with 5 Watts of power to a hunk of wire hanging in the air, we made that trip and back in seconds, the whole conversation taking a few minutes!
I was struck by that, once again. I wish Bill had been there. He had left a few hours earlier to make sure the A/C was working properly in his home as well as to get some much needed rest. Had he been there. Bill is the kind of guy who would have been taken aback and would have experienced that "Wow factor" of what had just been accomplished. We communicate with all parts of the world. There is really no place too far that our radio waves can't reach. But how often do we let that soak in? How often do we get annoyed when that DX contact isn't made. How often do we take our radios and our hobby and all the physics involved for granted?
I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, as I had a similar experience happen to me back in 1979, and I'm sure it's been related somewhere earlier in this blog. But I like to think about it, it's an enjoyable memory and I'll re-tell it again.
I passed my Novice exam sometime back in October/November of 1978. The actual paper "ticket" came in the mail the last week of the year. I didn't even get on the air until the end of January of 1979, as I was busy putting my station together, and building my Heathkit Novice receiver kit that I had gotten as a Christmas gift. I upgraded to General in July and I worked my first DX contact with a Ham in Germany shortly thereafter.
Later that year in October of 1979, my best friend and I decided to take a trip up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to do some photography. We were two young budding photographers who were working together at a local camera shop and we both needed a road trip. We got our much needed time off and eventually made it all the way to Maine, specifically Bar Harbor. From there we decided that we would follow the coast as we made our way back to New Jersey.
That meant a side trip to Cape Cod, and on the way out to Provincetown for some authentic New England clam chowder we came across a sign indicating that we were approaching the site of Marconi's Wellfleet Station. I had to stop. We were in my car and I was the driver, so what I say goes .....goes. Right? What newly minted Amateur Radio operator would not want to visit a Marconi site?
Not my image, but this is what you see when you visit. ^ This site is part of the National Park's Cape Cod National Seashore entity, so it is well maintained and there is a plethora of history to read about. This is what it looked like back in the day:
A few of the cement pylons that anchored the legs of the antenna towers were still there when I visited. Most had washed away into the sea as a result of beach erosion.
But it was the sea that struck me the most, which is a strange thing to say as I was born, bred and continue to live in New Jersey. I've seen the Atlantic Ocean and it bays hundreds, if not close to a thousand times in my time here on earth. But that time was different.
I had not yet traveled to Switzerland, and would not experience air travel to Europe for another nine years, but standing there, for a VERY long time, where history had been made, just staring at the ocean, looking out upon all that water as far as my eye could see, was an experience unlike any other I had ever had. All I could think of was the radio waves from my Drake 2-NT and my MorGain multiband dipole, flying over all that water to another Ham in Germany. And her radio waves (she was an XYL) travelling back to my Heathkit HR-1680 receiver in a matter of seconds.
That water looked like it would never end. I knew that it did. I knew that on the other side of that vastness was Europe and the rest of the world. To contemplate my radio signals covering all that distance made me feel so tiny, but also filled me with awe at the immensity of Creation at the same time.
We get so busy on Field Day and the rest of the year with making contacts, conducting ragchews, running nets, competing in contests, speaking into microphones, banging away on keys, typing away on keyboards that we forget to notice what is really happening. It's the magical part of Amateur Radio that never grows old for me and I hope I never take it for granted.
Long winded, I know, but thanks for staying with me!
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!