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Sunday, June 17, 2007
Hamming-A Real Yawner for Most

A Typical CW (Morse code call) on the Ham Radio

On our first South Pacific Ocean tuna trip, I was an Advanced Class Amateur Radio Operator with the call sign, N7LHJ. The “N” identifies you as American, and the “7” locates you in the Northwest section which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah. The final three letters are issued in the order the license is earned. This call sign was difficult to send because the last three letters are all four dits & dahs. A “dit” is a dot, short, and a “dah” is a dash” or long. N7LHJ was tapped on our straight key as: dah dit, dah dah dit dit dit, dit dah dit dit, dit dit dit dit, dit dah dah dah. Tapping call sign was usually preceded by a CQ, CQ, CQ de N7LHJ. Basically this worldwide format of CW/Morse Code is easy to understand unless the station is sending at over 20 words per minute. Most expert CW’ers are very fast and leave me in the dust. At that point in time I could copy 20 wpm but send at about 15 wpm because of the rough weather and the limitations of a straight key.

Ham radio operators have QSO’s or conversations in Morse code on certain parts of the amateur radio bands. I liked twenty meters (14000 MHz -14500 MHz) because it was usually open to somewhere. A QSO has a usual format which determines the credibility of the contact. Some locations in the world are very rare to contact such as Bouvet Island.

First you give a signal report. 599 is a perfect signal report. Then you give your name, and then your QTH or location. In your log, the time is recorded also in Zulu time which is the same as Greenwich Mean Time. Hams use shorthand which now is similar to text messaging. An actual QSO on the Papa George went like this:

14049 MHz 14:12Z 3/27/1993 33 S Latitude X 162 W. Longitude


Them: N7LHJ de SM5AXB ur 549, ur RST is 549 my name is boes boes QTH QTH is nykoping Nykoping pse ur name bk

Me: Tnx fer rpt ur 559 559 name hr is holly holly QTH is south pacific ocean on fishing boat on fishing boat bk

Them: N7LHJ de SM5AXB, Ok on Holly bt my tx is 120RX WX is sunny. OK tnx fer QSO es gd luck 73 de SM5AXB bk

Me: SM5AXB de N7LHJ OK fb tnx fer QSO boes 88 de N7LHJ

Some other contacts made that day were with:

V63DJ, FK8GA – George in New Caledonia

YU7EA- Val - Serbia

UB5ZEP- Boris in Nicolav, Ukraine

UB5JPU –Yuri in Yalta

JA2RC- Japan

ZL2BNI- Nelson, NZ

HC8A- Rick – Galapagos Islands

LY1TR – Lithuania

Sending and receiving Morse code sounds dorky to say the least especially when you mostly just send signal reports, locations, weather reports, and names. After that it’s transmitters and antennas. Like any hobby, many hams spend lots of time perfecting their ham stations and bragging rights are truly warranted. Most of all, I enjoyed listening to hams all over the world from our isolated position, and it was a geography lesson to find the different countries in our atlas. In the ham world it is called hunting for DX, or making a contact with a rare country like Bouvet.

One particular QSO in Hawaii, an eyeball or face to face contact, was especially interesting. Steve and I had visited WWVH on the south coast of Kauai and noticed a tall ham antenna in a town on the way back to Poipu. We parked the rental car and walked through the neighborhood. As we were gazing up at the 80 ft or so tower with an array of antennas attached, the owner came out and invited us in. He and his wife were tour guides around the island of Kauai and his main hobby was hamming. He was a student and friend of the famous ham, KH6IJ, Katashi Nose. One entire room was given over to ham memorabilia….special QSL cards, certificates of awards, etc. We appreciated how much time and effort went into achieving these awards, and that is one reason he invited us in. All hams are family anywhere in the world.


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