WINNIPEG – Since the 1930′s thousands of amateur radio enthusiast have gathered around the world for their annual Field Day.
“To me it’s my favorite part of the whole year,” said amateur radio operator Jerry Spring.
Spring got his amateur radio license when he was 15-years-old and he has been hooked sending Morse code messages around the globe ever since.
“There’s something about hearing your call sign come back to you from some far off part of the world that you’ve never visited or never even heard of before, somewhere in deep dark Africa or Australia,” said Spring.
While these amateur radio hobbyists, known as hams, sent messages for fun Saturday, they can also play a pivotal role during disasters when other means of communication fail.
“You name any major natural disaster in the last probably 30 years and amateur radio has provided a supporting role in that,” said Field Day coordinator Jim Sutton.
“I was involved in the flood last year in Calgary and there were messages being passed to the hospitals and things like that when all the power’s down in certain places and it was ham radio that did the job,” said Spring.
But radio hams don’t just try to contact others on earth, they reach even further.
On field day astronauts on the International Space Station went out of their way to talk to as many hams as they could. Like Peter Toth, who contacted astronauts on the space station in December.
“They asked me what the temperature was where I’m at and I told them I live just north of Winnipeg and I told them it was -35 C and they said you can keep it, I said thanks. A few seconds later the signal started fading so it was a brief conversation but it was cool,” said Toth.
Last year nearly 40,000 amateur radio operators across North America took part in Field Day.
The 24-hour event hosted by the Winnipeg Amateur Radio Club runs until Sunday afternoon at the Canadian Mennonite University.