Aug272010

Sea Girt Lighthouse Transmits CQ Signal in Annual Worldwide Ham Radio Event

Published by admin at 7:22 AM under

“CQ. CQ. Calling CQ. This is special event station WR2DX – whiskey romeo 2 delta x-ray – calling from Sea Girt Lighthouse on International Lighthouse / Lightship Weekend. Calling CQ.”

DSCF1187 Participating local amateur radio operators – hams – rigged two antennas onto the railing of Sea Girt Lighthouse tower and connected them to two radio transceivers set up on the porch August 21. From there they broadcast CQ – the internationally recognized “calling any station” signal – in hopes that hams at other lighthouses and elsewhere around the world would pick up their signals and respond.

Hams at some 400 lighthouses and lightships in 50 countries were broadcasting to one another and to countless other hams joining the fun in the 17th annual International Lighthouse / Lightship Weekend. The event, first held in 1994, was the idea of two amateur radio enthusiasts in Scotland.

Promoting Goodwill

“The basic objective of the event is to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, to promote amateur radio and to foster international goodwill,” according to event organizers.

This was the sixth year hams broadcast from Sea Girt Lighthouse. It is just one of numerous special events hosted there by the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee as part of its mission to preserve the landmark’s history and to make the facility available to community non-profit groups and Sea Girt homeowners.

Some two dozen local hams from two area radio clubs – the Neptune Amateur Radio Club and the Jersey Shore Chapter of the North American DX Association – took turns working the two Sea Girt transceivers.

After sending out the CQ call, an operator would then spin the tuner up and down the shortwave frequencies designated for this event and listen in hopes of finding hams responding. Each operator was teamed with a mate who recorded details of their contacts: call letters, operator’s first name, location, strength and clarity of the signal on a 10-point scale, brief messages.

Listening In, Joining the Fun

The crackle of the radios, cryptic messages spoken into microphones or tapped out in rapid-fire dots and dashes of Morse code caught the attention of passing DSCF1191 beachgoers. Many people came up to the porch to listen in and watch the hams in action. Among them were 12-year-old Kiera Mulroy and sister Erin, 7. Kiera was familiar with ham radio, having read a book on the subject.

Under the guidance of a licensed ham, the sisters teamed up at the microphone at the transceiver on the west side of the porch to send out the CQ call on the 20-meter band. Erin would begin the CQ call, identifying the special event and the station call letters. Then Kiera would pick up and complete the call to any station.

Taking a turn at the other transceiver on the east side of the porch was Phil Martin, 15, a licensed ham operator from upstate New York who was visiting his grandmother, Kathryn Matthews, a lighthouse trustee. Phil, who has volunteered at the lighthouse as a tour guide, made several contacts over the 40-meter band. After he handed off the microphone to the next ham, Phil joined lighthouse trustee Conrad Yauch in polishing the front door knocker and handle.

Dozen States and Points East

The event was not a competition, but an exciting challenge in which all present shared in the satisfaction of making contacts and exchanging information with fellow hams near and far – some very far away. When a ham reached a state or country not previously contacted, word quickly spread across the porch and the excitement grew.

One of the first transmissions picked up loud and clear by the local hams during the listening period was a CQ signal from a lighthouse in Belgium, although the Belgian operator did not pick up Sea Girt’s response. Antenna height, radio power and especially atmospherics are factors that make signal transmission – propagation – unpredictable.

DSCF1175 The determined operators at Sea Girt Lighthouse pressed on and succeeded in reaching hams in more than a dozen states, including neighboring states as well as Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. They also connected with hams in Canada, Northern Ireland and points east.

Several lighthouses were contacted:

  • Fire Island Lighthouse (built in 1826), the first beacon many European immigrants saw in the approach to New York Harbor and Ellis Island.
  • Fort Niagara Lighthouse (1872) on the Niagara River facing Lake Ontario, at Fort Niagara.
  • Marblehead Lighthouse (1821), on Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio. It is the oldest Great Lakes lighthouse in the U.S.
  • Point Clark Lighthouse (1859), on Lake Huron, in Ontario, Canada.

Contact was also made with a lighthouse in Maine, although the transmission cut out before the lighthouse could be identified.

Hello, Russia

Several times during the day, veteran hams turned off the microphones and plugged in their keys to transmit Morse code, which has the advantage of traveling farther than voice transmissions.

In the final hour of broadcasting, a ham working the 40-meter band scored the most distant contacts in quick succession. Working the key, he tapped out the CQ signal ( • – – • – • – ).

The signal bounced from the lighthouse porch up to the tower antenna and then skipped all the way to central Europe, eliciting a response from a ham in Russia. A few minutes later, the local ham was conversing by Morse code with a second ham operator in Russia.

Sharing the Sea Girt Story

Each contact was kept short, lasting only a minute or two, so that hams could get onto their next contact. During the brief exchange of technical information DSCF1184 and location details, Sea Girt Lighthouse was identified as US00036. Each participating lighthouse had a different numeric designation.

The local operators, equipped with the same factsheet that tour guides use during Sunday tours, imparted a few historic Sea Girt Lighthouse details (built in 1896, 4th order Fresnel lens, projected its beacon 15 miles, illuminated a blind spot midway between Navesink and Barnegat Lighthouses).

73 and QSL

In the tradition of amateur radio, each operator ended a transmission either saying or taping out in Morse code the number “73,” which is ham shorthand for “best wishes.”

In the days that followed, yet another tradition was observed – the mailed exchange of QSL reply cards between operators who made contact during the event. Many hams proudly display their QSL cards in their radio shacks at home.

A QSL card is confirmation of a completed transmission. The hams who transmitted from Sea Girt Lighthouse appropriately sent their contacts picture postcards of the 114-year-old landmark.



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Aug102010

Military Children Take Break From Summer Camp Fun To Polish Lighthouse Artifacts

Published by admin at 1:40 AM under

Picture 053Some two dozen children of military servicemen and women took time out of a fun week of summer camp at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt to themselves provide selfless service, undertaking a cleanup project at Sea Girt Lighthouse.

Borough Administrator Al Bunting, a retired Army National Guard colonel, first contacted the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee (SGLCC) to propose that the youngsters “clean up the yard at the lighthouse … pull weeds, etc. and then get a tour.”

SGLCC trustees always appreciate and need volunteers and are eager to give visitors tours as part of the mission to preserve the lighthouse and its history.

No Weeds, Lots of Brass

Before saying yes to the campers’ offer to weed the lawn, lighthouse trustee Bill Dunn toured the grounds and discovered there were no weeds to pull. The grounds are well maintained by the volunteers of the Holly Club, who meet regularly at the lighthouse and by landscaper Fred H. McGrath Jr., an SGLCC member who generously provides his lawn-cutting services free of charge.

Trustee Conrad Yauch had the solution, reporting there was plenty of brass needing polishing. The project was presented to Marie Durling, summer camp  activities coordinator, who responded the children were ready and eager for the challenge. “The kids are looking forward to the trip,” she reported.

During their week of camp, the youngsters got a taste of the military life of their parents by living in the barracks at the National Guard base, following a full schedule under the direction of their counselors, exercising and playing sports and games on the camp grounds, eating in the mess hall, exploring the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey at the camp. And there was plenty of time to swim in the ocean, relax on the beach, barbecue, and go on educational excursions, like the one that brought them to Sea Girt Lighthouse.

Reporting for Duty

Twenty-two children, ages 13 and 14, and several chaperones arrived at Sea Girt Lighthouse mid-afternoon Tuesday, July 13. They were smartly dressed in the Picture 055camp t-shirt and matching caps reading: New Jersey National Guard Youth Camp. This is the 16th year the youth camp has been in operation.

The day of the lighthouse visit was entirely devoted to community service. That morning, the campers had been to Sea Girt Public Library, which is housed in the old train station. At the library, they helped sort books for an upcoming book sale. In the 1960s and 1970s, the library had been housed in the lighthouse.

At the lighthouse, the campers were greeted and welcomed by SGLCC president Jerry Hayward and trustees Bill Dunn and Conrad Yauch.

The children and their counselors were escorted into the first-floor meeting room, which like all the rooms in the lighthouse contains mounted displays of artifacts that present the history of the building and the keepers and their families and then the U.S. Coast Guardsmen who lived there and helped mariners and the nation by providing navigational aid and during the Coast Guard era in World War II coastal defense.

How appropriate it was then that the children of service men and women are came to provide community service at Sea Girt Lighthouse. The children followed the example of their parents who through their military service contribute so much to the nation and their fellow Americans.

While for most it was their first visit to a lighthouse, it must have felt familiar to the military children. During its many years of active duty, the lighthouse was a federal government installation, first operated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service then the Coast Guard. The American flag hung at the east side of the room. On the walls were the flags and ensigns of both services, as well as photos of keepers in their naval style uniforms and Coasties in their distinctive uniforms.

The children immediately felt comfortable and right at home. They were seated at three long tables atop which were a rare U.S. Life Saving Service lantern, an oil lantern once used by a Sea Girt keeper in the days before the building was electrified, a historic ship lantern, a door knocker, a coal scuttle, and several lamps and trays.

Mission Completed

Picture 069Each child had an item to clean. On a few of the bigger items, such as the ship’s lantern, two or three children worked together. They were issued small cups of polish, protective gloves and polishing cloths.

A sunny, warm day, all the windows were opened to capture the sea breezes. The fans circulated the air. The children kept cool as they sipped chilled bottled water as they work.

They diligently polished the tarnished artifacts and within an hour had them gleaming. The trustees marveled at the transformation. Mr. Hayward thanked them for their initiative, willingness to help and hard work.

The children were pleased to know that the items would be going back into the display and viewed by the many visitors who followed them to Sea Girt Lighthouse for tours.

V.I.P. Tour

Having successfully completed their mission, the campers earned some r&r. They and their counselors were guided throughout the lighthouse from the keeper’s office and into every room of the family quarters. Before they were finished, each child made it into the lantern room at the very top of the tower.

Capturing the attention of the youngsters were the 1939 order of President Roosevelt transferring control order all lighthouses from the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard, the December 8, 1941 alert from Coast Guard headquarters to all units that the U.S. is “now in a state of war” and photos of the Coasties stationed at Sea Girt during the war. Also of interest was the photo of Sea Girt’s first keeper, Abraham Wolf, a retired Army officer who had served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

After the tour, each camper was given picture postcards of Sea Girt Lighthouse as keepsakes and to send to friends and family.

Before departing, the children signed the guest book, which has the names and hometowns of visitors from across America and around the world.



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Aug092010

Sea Girt Lighthouse Print

Published by admin at 6:41 AM under

SEA GIRT LIGHTHOUSE PRINT CONTINUES LIMITED EDITION SERIES

A signed, limited edition art poster of the historic Sea Girt Lighthouse was unveiled at the annual meeting of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee. The poster is the second in what is planned to be an annual series of collector prints of the shore landmark.

SGL_POSTER_2010

The dramatic vertical image of the 114-year-old lighthouse, which is an artistically enhanced photograph, focuses on the lighthouse tower, drawing the viewer’s attention up the sturdy red-brick square structure to the octagonal lantern room to settle on the beacon projecting a guiding light. The three-line text reads: Sea Girt / Lighthouse ’10 / Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee.

Robert Varcoe, a lighthouse trustee who conceived of the annual series of art prints to raise funds for the lighthouse, is the photographer and designer of this year’s poster and the 2009 inaugural poster.

The 2010 poster, measuring 11x17 inches, is printed on heavy, coated stock paper and is limited to 100 copies. Each print is signed and numbered by Mr. Varcoe.

Copies are available at the lighthouse during Sunday tours, selling for $15 each – with all proceeds going to the lighthouse. They can also be ordered through the mail by sending a check for $21 for purchase, postage and handling to the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, P.O. Box 83, Sea Girt, NJ 08750.

A few copies of the 2009 poster are also available for purchase. Last year’s print features the lighthouse tower and lantern room in four images, all based on the same photo but each subtly altered from the others in tint and tone as if to collectively show the lighthouse at the ready to guide passing ships at all hours and in all weather conditions.



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