Shortwave radio demo part of lighthouse weekend

Paul Hutchings
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Amateur radio enthusiast Michael Newton was at the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse over the weekend to demonstrate a shortwave radio as part of International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend.

ROCKY HARBOUR — Two amateur radio enthusiasts were on hand at the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse over the weekend to demonstrate that a technology some might call obsolete is just as viable as ever.

Shortwave radio was social networking before Twitter, or cellphone use before cellphones, according to radio operators Michael Newton and David McLennon.

A nearby marker board at the demonstration site sported a list of countries the pair has contacted so far that day, including several areas in the United States, Scotland, Denmark and other overseas locations.

With text messaging and Internet technology better than ever, it might not seem like a stretch to speak with people in other countries anymore. But McLennon said it takes more to send out messages than people realize, and those relying solely upon Internet technology are out of luck during a power outage or server malfunctions.

Shortwave radios, he said, can be operated on battery power, with very little setup — an antenna and a power button, and no need of a cell tower.

“Shortwave radios were useful in getting information out during (the attacks of) Sept. 11, 2001, as well as during hurricane Katrina. Lots of emergency situations call for shortwave,” said McLennon, as he fiddles with the knobs on his 15-year-old radio.

“With very little equipment and energy you can speak with anyone, anywhere, in any situation.”

Newton’s newer, more portable radio came complete with rechargeable batteries and needs only about five watts of power.

“People are surprised when I tell them how little power it takes,” Newton said proudly. “It’s always available and there’s camaraderie in amateur radio. You can spark up friendships with people from other countries easily.”

Meanwhile locally, McLennon is part of a short wave radio club that is seeing an increase in numbers over the years.

“A lot of baby boomers seem to be coming along and are becoming interested in it as they retire and need a hobby,” he said. “We’re seeing interest from some younger people as well. They see it as something different.”

This is the first year the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse took part in the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend, which saw almost 50 countries involved. The Rocky Harbour facility was the only western Newfoundland lighthouse taking part, with two others in the province — Cape Pine and Cape Race — also involved.

Organizations: International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend

Geographic location: ROCKY HARBOUR, United States, Scotland Denmark Newfoundland Cape Pine Cape Race

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Recent comments

  • Michael Newton
    August 27, 2013 - 05:30

    Talking about ham radio being obsolete; all ISS crews, including Chris Hadfield are ham radio operators and they have ham frequencies open on the ISS constantly , same thing for the shuttle. Also there are a number of satellites circling the earth that are exclusively amateur radio designed.

  • Obsolete
    August 20, 2013 - 08:19

    I read this article about obsolete technology and I have to laugh because the mill whistle is going nuts again. Like the short wave radio, the whistle too is obsolete. It's an indication as to why the mill cannot survive, it's using 19th century technology in a 21st century world.

    • Army Ham
      August 21, 2013 - 18:31

      Obsolete? Not quite, it's actually a mainstay and will be for quite a long time. Shortwave radio is used quite regularly in Armed Forces, Embassies and other Government, Marine, Aviation all around the world. The reason for this is because nobody can rely solely on satellites and other technology today as they all add many things that can go wrong. The business market on shortwave radio is still going quite strong. Just because shortwave radio has been around for centuries does not make it obsolete, it just works. Even morse code is still being used in the military today, again it just works.