Monday, March 11, 2013

Straight - For the Key & Ice

Myself participating in SKCC's WES March 2013 
SKCC had their monthly Weekend Sprintathon (WES) this past weekend. I've participated in several of these over the last few years and find them extremely enjoyable. This WES was just a bit different as the Bonus station was the one and only, W1AW! You can read a bit more about this event on SKCC's main page. I think the neatest part of this was the fact that the team of 9 operators were going to be using Hiram Percy Maxium's Spark Key over the course of the entire weekend. This weekend was also promoting QRP operating (although I opted for QRO as band conditions were a bit tough for a large part of the weekend for me). Using a Straight Key for me is like taking a trip back in time. This is where it all began! I can envision that telegraph operator sending messages back in the days of the wild west. Or the telegraph operators relaying vital information during World War I and World War II. But to know the history behind the key that you're using and know who had used it, well that's taking manual Morse to the next level in my opinion!

I love Morse Code and it is by far my most favorite mode of communication that I use on the ham bands. It's the only "other" language that I know. When I first got into ham radio, knowing Morse Code was a requirement. To obtain the highest license level available to ham radio operators (Extra Class), you had to take a 20 Word Per Minute (WPM) Morse Code test, and pass it! Morse Code is no longer a requirement to obtain your ham radio license. This old form of communication is just as popular today as it has been for many, many years. 

My Navy Flameproof behind the keyboard
I knew my time would be somewhat limited this weekend but I also knew I was going to participate one way or another. My goal at the very least was to locate and contact W1AW. I was excited to actually work W1AW on two bands this weekend, 15 & 20 Meters. Yes, I've worked W1AW many times before and have even operated W1AW. But this weekend trumped any previous contacts I've had with W1AW due to the circumstances and of course the KEY being used at the other end. I'm not sure if Hiram's key was in fact the one that was used for our QSO but again, I thought it was a great way to promote Morse Code and the use of Straight Key's. Over the course of the short time I operated on Saturday, and what I was able to operate on Sunday, I made 96 straight key QSO's. It was great to see so many operating QRP as well. All in all, SKCC and W1AW made this past weekend one to remember.

Looking toward Sugarloaf Mountain & Mt. Dora
As mentioned earlier, Saturday was beautiful here in the Interior of Alaska. Suffering from cabin fever, my wife and I accompanied by our family beagle, headed out onto Otto Lake, the lake we live next to. We have done this now for the past few years, walking the lake from one end to the other. It was breezy but warm and the ice was still 3-4' thick, plenty safe. 
Mt. Healy

I sacrificed a few hours of operating time to enjoy the great outdoors. The sun is slowly returning to Alaska, so the longer days are very refreshing. It's been another long, dark and cold winter. Now that temperatures can rise to the 30+ above, we will open windows and doors and venture outdoors to enjoy the fresh, clean air! The photos here are ones I took from our foot trek across Otto Lake. Can you actually blame me for giving up radio time to enjoy such a beautiful afternoon? 

Looking back toward our QTH
 Even though we are far from seeing the end of winter here in Alaska, it really won't be long before the ice begins to melt and all this solid form of water returns to liquid form. In just a few months, people will be enjoying the lake again and the sounds and smell of spring will be in the air. When this seasonal change takes place, I will end up powering off the shack and spending much more time outdoors enjoying all that Alaska has to offer.
View looking NW on Otto Lake
We enjoy camping season and are very much looking forward to hooking to our travel trailer and heading out! Rest assured, I will be dragging along my portable equipment as it serves a two-fold purpose. There are many places we travel that have no cellular service so it's reassuring when you still have a means of communication. And secondly, I will be looking forward to operating /P from various camping locations once again. It's so nice to get away to remote places where there is no man made noise for miles and miles. Like using a straight key, it's nice to travel to places where there is no cellular service, no internet and experience life as it was not so long ago. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello Phil, I enjoyed the beautifull photos from Otto Lake. The great It's nice to have some radio equipment with you when there is no other possebility of communicating to the world. It gives you a feeling of "yes I can" with minimum power. You never know if you'll need it. There are almost no places like that here. 73, Bas