Field Day exercises communication
Yellowknife Amateur Radio Society participates in 24-hour exercise

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

NNSL (July 02/99) - "CQ, CQ, CQ, this is Victor Echo Eight Yankee Kilowatt, do you read?"

The Yellowknife Amateur Radio Society, call sign VE8YK, participated in a 24-hour North American-wide Field Day exercise last weekend, operating out of tents at the old Yellowknife Correctional Centre site on the Yellowknife River.

Society president Joseph LaFerla says the object of the exercise was to make radio contacts across the continent without the use of commercial power or a permanent structure.

The lack of structured facilities helps in honing emergency response communication skills that HAM radio operators are known for.

"This year we are using solar power, a heavy- duty battery and an invertor to power two computers and two HAM radios," said LaFerla.

"Solar power allows our battery to be constantly charging while the radios are in use."

Some 35,000 amateur HAM radio operators participated in the exercise that began at 1800 Zulu time, or noon, on Saturday. Zulu time, or Universal Time Co-ordinated, is an internationally accepted method of co-ordinating time among those who depend on common reference times -- such as aircraft, ships and radio operators. In 24-hours, the Yk Society made more than 90 contacts, some in morse code, to locations as far away as Hawaii, Alaska, Illinois and Southern California.

"Up here we have to point our antennas south in order to receive radio frequencies," said LaFerla.

"But in the southern parts of the continent, they are better off pointing their antennas east and west, towards major centres."

LaFerla and the society had two antennas set up for the exercise -- a dipole, which extended nine metres into the air with capabilities of reaching people anywhere in the world, and a G5RV antenna.

A contact is made when an operator successfully reaches another operator and both sides acknowledge the fact.

"The NWT is a prized contact to make because we have few operators here compared to other places," he said.

A point system is in place to award operators for different methods used in making contacts. A contact made using morse code is awarded more points than one with the voice.

The Yk society is also involved with the city's emergency measures operations.

"In the event of an emergency where all communication systems fail, the only system that would be working would be HAM radios," says Dave Nicklen, director of public safety for the city.

HAM radios are capable of establishing communication in disaster areas when all other communication systems are down.