The magic of amateur radio from VE6KD

Above: North Central Alberta Amateur Radio Club (NCAARC) member Herman Reintjesway was using the 40-metre band and seven megahertz to communicate using Morse Code.

Below: David Gervais with one of the many awards received from the Radio Amateurs of Canada — Canada Day Contest for those operating under Multi-Operator Multi-Transmitter.

– Lucie Roy Photos

by Lucie Roy

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Located just outside Morinville David Gervais is proud of his antennas as he describes their usage. The 10-mete, 15-m, 40-m antennas and 160 Dipole, as well as the 80-m Phased Verticals and the KLM Tribander are all his doing. Hosting club members from the North Central Alberta Amateur Radio Club (NCAARC) with their equipment is his way to promote amateur radio.

Vehicles are parked outside, and the garage is the coffee and meeting space with an extension built onto the garage where they gather and speak to people from around the world.

Gervais also hosts the annual Canada Day Contest, the Canadian Winter Contest, the RAC Winter Contest and RAC Canada Day Contest. Visiting Gervais in the room filled with much activity, one will hear the sounds of the Vibroplex Morse Code Keys. The Vibrokeyer single lever paddles of the dots and dashes, dit and dash of Morse Code, the International phonetic alphabet and the confirmation of the amateur call sign prefix to be logged in.

“Sometimes I will sit back and just look at the achievements I have done, you know, with amateur radio,” Gervais said. “You talk to people all over the world. There is a fellow that gives me a call every Monday night from New Zealand and we have been talking for the last 15 years.”

Gervais has been in the pastime for 35 years, having gotten his license in the 1980s. He’s made a number of friendships, including a doctor who got his radio license at the same time. “We became very good friends over the air,” he said. “We decided he was coming over to see me and brought his family. Then we decided we’d go visit them too in San Diego.”

Gervais said he had always been interested in amateur radio, and always been interested in electronics. “There is something about electronics; it is the magic of radio,” he said. “You know — just to think here — the way the boys are talking; they have an antenna there, and an antenna there and they are talking to somebody else which has a similar antenna. It could be 50 miles away. It could be 5000 miles away, or it could be across the ocean where they skip zones, like Australia and New Zealand to here. We are here we have to bounce three times before we can get to their antenna.”

Broad hobby and uses

Ham radios can be used anywhere on earth bouncing signals off the ionosphere. The hobby brings people from all walks of life together; they have doctors, teachers, photographers, IT managers and young members.

Gervais said the club also do public safety events, including the Tour de l’Alberta and did the St. Albert Public Safety Open House for the first time in June. NCAARC President Steve Pedersen (VE6STE) Ernie Clintberg (VE6EC) and Steve Johnston (VE6CYR) provided assistance with their demonstrations. Their mission is to provide communications services in times of disaster, civil emergencies, community events and when requested.

With the instant communications at everyone fingerprints and all the modern devices, technology fails from time to time Gervais said. Some people experience cell phone unreliability in a disaster. When there is no power at the cell towers, there is no cell service. This is where ham operators jump to action. A ham with a car battery and an emergency antenna inside his roof is on the air. Before cell phones, hams were making phone calls from their cars and handheld radios, calling in traffic accidents and making contact at home.

Those involved call it a fun hobby and Community service provider, but it is not one wildly popular with younger hobbyists. Gervais said the average NCAARC member was in their 50s. But among the 48 members is Gervais’ 21-year-old grandson Adrian and 13-year-old Blake Freeman, who is eager to get his license.

”We need the young people as much as possible,” Gervais said, adding he is also a designated examiner for the certificate, which have been made much simpler. The exam is 100 multiple choice questions, a far cry from the essay questions and diagrams Gervais had when he went for his license in the 1980s.

The Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) is the non-profit organization of radio enthusiasts in Canada. To obtain more info and an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate you may contact the Amateur Radio Service Centre or the NCAARC in St. Albert at http://www.ncaarc.ca.

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