Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Forget Twitter - 'Hams' Say Radio Is the Disaster Survivor; Radio Clubs around the Nation Worked through the Weekend in Training

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Forget Twitter - 'Hams' Say Radio Is the Disaster Survivor; Radio Clubs around the Nation Worked through the Weekend in Training

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT SOERGEL

ORANGE PARK - In the days when it was only birds who twittered, it was ham radio operators who were reaching out to unseen strangers around the world. And on Sunday some of them gathered in a junior high portable classroom to do it yet again.

These ham radio operators, members of the Orange Park Amateur Radio Club, were mostly graying. Some were unshaven, and some had been up all night. But their enthusiasm was undiminished: Get one talking, and you're in for a long, spirited conversation.

Roy Ashkenaz, 55, of Mandarin, heard that morning from the international space station. Jake Jacobs, 65, of Fleming Island, spoke of the hams he'd met from Tahiti to Monaco to Japan. Dan Weisenburger, 61, of Lake Asbury, told how he sent messages all Saturday, then returned at midnight Sunday to make 150 more contacts in the wee hours of the morning.

And they'll tell you about the time on Jay Leno's show when some ham radio operators using old-fashioned Morse code sent messages faster then a couple of teenage phone texters. "They smoked those kids," said Weisenburger. "It wasn't even close."

Ham operators have been doing it for decades, anyway, reaching out to others with a CQ (some say it means seeking you), and signing off with a BCNU ... well, just sound that one out.

The Orange Park club was one of some 1,400 clubs around North America that spent the weekend trying to reach as many other operators as it could. It's meant to be for training in case of a disaster, so they were using a generator to power their radios and had set up a portable antennae. Volunteer ham radio operators - working from portable, mobile stations - are often the only way to communicate with the outside world after power goes out in a disaster, man-made or natural. Indeed, many at the field day had worked hurricanes before, after Hugo and others. …

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