Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Handiham World for 24 September 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

Don't count Morse code down & out just yet!

Yes, yes, we've all heard about how Morse is completely outdated and should be hidden away like that crazy old uncle who lives in the attic. But once in awhile we are reminded that code is still a viable mode of operation, and can even be pretty handy in an emergency. Just such a scenario unfolded last Sunday in the rugged terrain of Glacier National Park in Montana, in a mountain pass where cell phone service is problematic, if it exists at all. A look at a map of Glacier shows winding roads, and plenty of places where there are no roads at all. If you look at a map of Kansas, you see straight roads, because there are no mountains in that mostly flat state. People who live in mountainous territory learn quickly that VHF and UHF signals cannot be counted upon to travel great distances as they do in Kansas! HF signals, on the other hand, can make the trip over hills and mountains, bouncing off the ionosphere to come down hundreds of miles away. In recent years, portable HF transceivers have become popular backpacking rigs, and can accompany hikers on wilderness trips without weighing them down. A length of wire to throw over a tree can serve as an easy and effective antenna. Sideband can be a bit of a challenge with these portable QRP rigs, but CW (Morse) is a natural, since it is a very effective low-power mode. Read the following story and then get out that code practice oscillator!

map of rugged Glacier National Park (US National Park Service)

Ham radio to the rescue - Morse code message gets through

Morse code and a small, portable, battery-operated transmitter came in pretty handy for a man with a broken leg in Glacier Park. The accident happened in Buck Creek Pass east of Glacier Peak.

According to the HeraldNet news, "Six hundred miles away in Bozeman, Montana, Robert Williams was testing his ham radio Sunday when he heard the call signal W-7-A-U."

A man in the hiking party had broken his leg and needed help. Williams followed through with a call to authorities for assistance.