Amateur Radio – Radio Contacts can be Learning Experiences

One of my favorite aspects of amateur radio is learning. It isn’t the type of learning that most people would associate with learning from amateur radio, though.  When many think of learning from amateur radio, they think of learning about the science of radio and electronics or learning from the technical side of the hobby.  There is much more to learn from amateur radio however – you can learn about other parts of the world, you can learn about places you might never have the opportunity to visit, and you can learn about the history of the world.  My experiences on 15 and 20 Meters on Saturday afternoon are a good example.

On 20 Meters, I made a contest contact with VE3ZF in the Ontario QSO Party.  VE3ZF was identifying their location as Manitoulin Island.  Among the things I like to “collect” in amateur are islands but I didn’t even know where Manitoulin Island much less how to spell it.  A Google search on VE3ZF gave me the correct spelling of the island and a subsequent search turned up plenty of information on the island and a tweet about the contact yielded a reply from one of my motor sport tweeps, @SteveWittich, who grew up nearby and knew about the island (a good example of why amateur radio and social media are a great combination, and a good argument for mixing interests in a single Twitter account).  Manitoulin Island is a large island in Lake Huron in the Canadian Province of Ontario.  The largest lake island in the world, Manitoulin Island sounds like a fascinating place.  Not only is it an example of beautiful and interesting geology, it is where you’ll find Lake Manitou, the largest lake in a freshwater island in the world.  It is an archaeological gold mine as well, with discoveries of cultures from 10,000 BCE to 2,000 BCE.  As a blend of outdoor fun, natural beauty, and history, it definitely sounds like a place I’d like to visit one day!

I also like to “collect” special event stations and unusual callsigns on amateur radio; on 15 Meters I heard TE1856 and immediately knew it was as station I had to put in the logbook.  After a number of tries, I made contact and the operator, Jerry, identified it as a special event station honoring “The Route of the Heroes.”  The QRZ Page for TE1856 described “The Route of the Heroes” as the route taken by Costa Rican forces when they campaigned against filibusters in 1856.  Despite having an avid interest in history, I’ve never studied or read a lot about Central and South American history so I was interested in finding out more.  It turns out that the episode TE1856 is honoring was an expedition of 3,000 men led by Costa Rican  President Juan Rafael Mora against the American filibuster William Walker, who was trying to expand US Manifest Destiny into Central America.  Mora’s expedition inflicted defeat on Walker’s forces and prevented him expanding his conquests from Nicaragua into Costa Rica.  My contact with TE1856 has sparked an interest in this event and the history of Central America; I think I’ll be looking for and adding books about it to my reading list!

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