For 24 hours this weekend members of the Marietta Amateur Radio Club joined other clubs across North America and Canada in the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) annual Field Day on-the-air contest event.
"But it's more than a contest, this is also a great exercise in operating under less than ideal circumstances," said club member Matt Pooler (call sign KD8CWV) of Parkersburg.
Every June the club sets up temporary radio stations and antennae in a couple of camping trailers at Jackson Park from which they attempt to contact as many other amateur, or "ham" radio operators as possible stationed in similar camps across the country.
At 10:50 a.m. Sunday, Pooler and Dave Paskawych (call sign KB8DP) of Marietta logged the 550th voice radio contact with another operator in Minnesota. Along with two other ham radio units, including a VHF (very high frequency) vocal system and a Morse Code unit, the club planned to make contact with at least 1,000 other operators during the 24-hour event.
In a nearby field, club president Ralph Matheny had already logged more than 723 contacts on his Morse Code radio.
"The ARRL Field Day events began just after World War II as emergency drills for ham radio operators," Paskawych explained. "Now it's a time to get out in the field and test our equipment by contacting as many others across the country as possible."
About the Marietta Area Radio Club
The club has been active since the 1920s.
Current membership is approximately 25, and more members are welcome.
Clubhouse is located on Hartline Road, off Stanleyville Road, northeast of Marietta.
Club meets at 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month.
For more information, contact club president Ralph Matheny at 740-374-8637.
The club may also be contacted via U.S. Mail at P.O. Box 393, Marietta, Ohio 45750.
He said the contacts logged over the weekend would be submitted to the ARRL which issues an award certificate or plaque to the winning clubs.
Club member Paul Jett of Marietta noted amateur radio operators are often called out during major disasters to maintain communications when other forms of wireless communication have been knocked out or failed.
"Hurricate Katrina was probably the last really big disaster where ham radio was used in this country," he said, but noted amateur radio also played a part when a giant sunami struck Japan in 2011.
Ham operators were also brought in to assist following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.
"These field stations can operate completely independent of other traditional communications systems likc Verizon or AT&T," Jett said. "As long as we have access to a generator or 12-volt battery, we can operate these units and communicate across the nation or around the world."
He recalled one local disaster in the New Matamoras area about 25 years ago when a storm took out communications there.
"We were there to help with communications, damage assessment, and reporting weather observations," Jett said. "When all else fails, this works-and it works very well."
The weekend's Field Day event began at 2 p.m. Saturday and ended by 2 p.m. Sunday.