The sound of waves by the bayside - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views


My understanding of sound transmission pretty well stops at two jam tins on a tightly-stretched length of string, so having a conversation with someone whose passion is communicating through invisible airwaves was bound to be educational.

Ralf Finke is the President of the Bayside District Amateur Radio Society Inc. (BDARS), a Redland-based organisation that boasts a membership of about 80, regular coffee and club meetings, radio connection competitions and training to certification level for the interested but – like me – uninformed.

Ralf says that while amateur radio seems to be mainly a mature male-oriented interest the society welcomes women members, as well as young folk.

“Our club runs on-air meetings (Jamborees of the Air) with Scouts and Girl Guide groups from our area, so they can communicate with other groups around the world – and the response is always really enthusiastic,” Ralf says. This special event will again take place in October.

“When we’re broadcasting from a public place such as a park or open public area, we are often approached by people who express surprise that amateur broadcasting is still a really popular hobby. It has a lot of things to recommend it; It’s not gender or age specific, it’s portable and it’s very economical – you can pay up to five thousand dollars for a top of the range radio or do what I did initially – pick up a second-hand twenty-dollar handset. You can opt for a short wave mantle set to just listen in, or you can join the conversation with a pocket-sized two-way radio – a “walkie-talkie” once you have obtained your license.

Ralf says that to accommodate members’ lifestyles, meetings are staggered throughout the month, held on week days and evenings and also on Saturday afternoons.

For members who like a bit of an edge to their broadcasting there are frequent contests, arranged by world-wide groups such as the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) and run by the individual clubs. The contests can be local, Australia-wide or global and the winner is the Operator or Club who generally reaches the greatest distance and makes the most contacts with other competitors in a set time.

“Contestants can be out in the field, at their clubhouse or at their homes,” Ralf says. “On one particular contest held each year, the rules specify that the contesting Club, needs to operate within a certain distance of a registered lighthouse or a lightship.”

An interesting fact; broadcasting over or near salt water intensifies the radio’s broadcast range and allows the signal to travel further. Another interesting fact for the non-cognoscenti is that globally-accessible HF (high frequency), on which most competitions are run, can be split into different modes; AM (amplitude modulation) and SSB (Single Side Band) for voice, as well as Digital and CW (carrier wave) for transmitting in Morse Code. Ralf says that CW is still a very popular pastime; the group has six members proficient in Morse Code.

The BDARS group meets at the Redland Museum in Smith St. Cleveland and as Ralf says: “To join, you don’t need any prior knowledge, training or equipment – you just have to be interested in giving it a try!” Sounds good to me.

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