Set up in his recreational vehicle, Gordon Wherry spun the dial of one of two radio setups, searching for someone to make contact with.
Wherry, along with a handful of others, were set up in the Edinburgh Pioneer Village to take part in the annual Amateur Radio Field Day held June 22. The goal? To make contact with as many different fellow operators as possible.
The day is observed across the United States and Canada and has become a bit of a competition. The radios are set up to run off auxiliary power, using a generator and, in order to boost their signal, the club set up an extendable tower in the park. Ron Hendricks, club treasurer and secretary, took about an hour and a half to set up.
During events like this, Hendricks said it’s amazing the different people you can make contact with. A couple years, during the annual Hamboree event where Boy Scouts across the country get on radios and try to make contact with people, the local troop made contact with fellow scouts aboard the U.S.S. Iowa, which was stationed in California at the time.
In addition to Wherry’s set up, Jason Joens was hard at work working on an additional “get on the air” setup, which can be used by unlicensed operators.
“We can use that for any guest that can come in and want to make contacts,” he said. “It’s a good balance of setting up good communication and helping bring it to the masses.”
Jones County’s Amateur Radio Club was founded 40 years ago and there’s a lot that being an operator allows people to do, from communicating with emergency services, storm chasing, to sending images and even watching slow-scan television. You can even go to outer space.
“In ham radio, you can…shoot a signal off of the moon and receive it in another part of the world,” Hendricks said.
Joens said he’d talk Doug Wheelock, who used to head up the International Space Station and a frequent radio user.
Much like the different aspects of amateur radio, what draws each person to take it up can vary.
Joens said while he dabbled in amateur radio when he was younger with his dad, he really got into it about 11 years ago when he helped an operator in Martelle take care of his station after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
“He became a mentor to me. He taught me everything I know,” Joens said.
Wherry first got his license back in 1972 after talking via cb radios for years and holds the highest licensure possible, the “extra class.” Over the years, he’s made confirmed contacts with people in 263 different countries.
Hendricks said he first got interested in amateur radio during the floods of the early 1990s, when he’d hear information coming across the scanner that never made the news. The night before he tested for his license he’ll remember forever. As he was trying to cram for his license, it was June 17, 1994, and it was the night of the famed O.J. Simpson Bronco chase.
Jones County’s crew features just less than 30 members and meets the first Wednesday of every month in the community room at the Jones County courthouse at 6:30 p.m.