History Related Amateur Radio Special Events Stations for August 2018

Each month, there are always some History related Amateur Radio Special Event Stations; I picked three to write about for August 2018. To be more accurate, two of them are organizations which are being commemorated by multiple stations: the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) Anniversary and the Citizens Conservation Corps (CCC). Many are familiar with the USCG and its lifesaving role on the coasts and waterways of the nation (among other roles), but I imagine more than a few aren’t familiar with the CCC; it was a program that helped put people to work during the Great Depression and is just as deserving of recognition as one of our military services is. The third event that is being commemorated by a special event station this month is the flight of a US Navy blimp to the Arctic. It was part of a dual mission utilizing the latest technology of the era and some of the oldest aviation technology.

On the weekend of 4/5 August, a number of amateur radio stations and groups will be operating special event stations in honor of the US Coast Guard’s 228th Anniversary. On 4 August 1790, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton to form the United States Revenue Cutter Service, charged with enforcing customs laws. Since there was no United States Navy at the time (it wasn’t re-established until 1798), the Cutter Service also took on additional duties (some of which they still carry out today) as coastal defense, rescue, government transport, and mail transport. In 1915, the Cutter Revenue Service was merged with the United States Lifesaving Service to create the United States Coast Guard. In 1939, the Coast Guard took on additional duties when United States Lighthouse Service was brought under its control. In 1942, the Coast Guard picked up more responsibilities when the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation was put under their control. As a result of these mergers and transfers, the Coast Guard became a multi-role agency with search and rescue, regulatory, and law enforcement duties. Because it can be transferred to military control during wartime, the Coast Guard is also considered one of the nation’s armed forces. During both World War I and World War II, it was transferred to the control of Navy Department and transferred back to the Treasury Department after the wars. After the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the Coast Guard was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard has a significant presence in coastal Georgia, with stations in Savannah and Brunswick, at the port facilities in Savannah and Brunswick, and with Coast Guard Air Station Savannah at Hunter AAF in Savannah.

Citizens Conservation Corps on the Air (CCC on the Air) is 11/12 August (it takes place each year on the second full weekend of August). Amateur radio operators and groups across the country will be setting up and operating from the sites CCC camps and public works projects built by the CCC to honor the work of the Corps and the men it employed. The CCC was was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal work relief programs. Between the years of 1933 and 1942, the CCC employed men between the ages of 17 and 28 as unskilled manual laborers to conserve and improve local, state, and federal government owned lands. It served two purposes; it put many unemployed men back to work and improved government lands for the public. One of the most popular of the New Deal programs to relieve unemployment caused by the Great Depression, it also had a lasting impact on the country. Many of the state and federal parks and historic sites we have today are here because of the work the CCC did in reforestation, building programs, and infrastructure improvements. In coastal Georgia, CCC projects included (among many others) Fort Stewart, Fort Pulaski, McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport, the St. Simons Island Coast Guard Station, and the Okefenokee NWR. Look for participating stations on or around 3.550 CW and 3.950 LSB, 7.050 CW and 7.250 LSB, 14.050 CW and 14.250 USB, 21.050 CW and 21.250 USB, and 28.050 CW and 28.350 USB.

On 18 August 2018, the Shea Naval Aviation Museum Amateur Radio Club, W1NAS in South Weymouth, MA will be commemorating the 60th anniversary of the flight of the US Navy blimp Snow Goose from Naval Air Station South Weymouth to Resolute Bay on the Arctic Circle. Prior to finding the listing for this special event station, I didn’t know anything about this flight; while researching it online, I didn’t find much and what I did find seems to conflict with some of the information in the listing on the ARRL’s website (see next paragraph). In late July and August 1958, the ZPG-2 Airship Snow Goose and its crew made the flight for the purpose of evaluating lighter-than-air craft for supporting Arctic science and military missions. The flight took Snow Goose and crew from South Weymouth to Akron, OH to Fort Churchill in Manitoba, Canada to Resolute Bay where they then flew to Ice Island T-3. It was the first airship to fly into the Arctic Circle since it was done by the Graf Zeppelin in July 1931. The flight was 4,700 miles long and the airship never went above 2,100 ft. above sea level. Snow Goose‘s mission was successful, but ultimately it was for naught because the Navy ended that era of airship operations in 1961. W1NAS will be operating on or near 14.250 USB and 7.250 LSB. QSL via Steve Cohn, W1OD, 10 Hemlock Terrace, Randolph, MA 02368.

Both the ARRL listing and one of the sources I found indicate that the Snow Goose‘s mission was concurrent with the USS Nautilus‘s Arctic mission in August 1958. The conflict comes in where the ARRL listing states that the Snow Goose and USS Nautilus maintained communications with each other. Multiple book reviews of Arctic Mission: 90 North by Airship and Submarine by William Althoff, however, state that the two missions were not aware of each other because the Nautilus’ mission was secret whereas the Snow Goose‘s was public (just because the public was told the two missions weren’t’ aware of each, however, doesn’t mean they weren’t – it wouldn’t surprise me if they did maintain communications). The reviews of Arctic Mission also indicate that both missions were a response to the Soviet Union’s Sputnik launch. If you’re interested, the Lighter Than Air Society has a wonderful account of the flight by one of the crew members.  I’m really interested in trying to find out more about this flight, including getting a copy of Althoff’s book if I can find an inexpensive one!

On 25/26 August, KD7ZDO, Clackamas County Amateur Radio Emergency Services in Oregon City, OR will be commemorating the End of the Oregon Trail’s 175th Anniversary.

In addition to these special events, the weekend of 18/19 August is International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW), which along with Museum Ships on the Air Weekend, is one of my favorite amateur radio events of the year. It isn’t unusual for lighthouses and lightships to be landmarks, historic sites, or museums, so ILLW is also a History related event. There is a huge list of participants in this event, so you’re likely to be able to add more than one lighthouse or lightship to you log over the weekend.

A Visit to the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

St Augustine, FL – On Wednesday, I visited the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in St Augustine, FL. It was a dismal day, but I truly enjoyed the visit despite getting soaked. More than just a lighthouse, this museum is well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. In addition to the lighthouse and the keepers’ house, the museum carries on the art of boat building using historical plans and traditional techniques. They also operate the independent Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), which studies St Augustine area shipwrecks, including locating the wrecks, diving on them, and raising and conserving artifacts from them. Take the time to take one of the guided tours, the volunteers are very knowledgeable and give you some insight into the maritime history of the area, the lives of the Lightkeepers, and give you an explanation of what the LAMP program is up to.

The current lighthouse replaces a lighthouse that was built in the 1820s but fell into the sea due to shore erosion. Knowing that the previous lighthouse wasn’t going to last much longer, construction began on the current one in 1871 and it was lit in 1874. It has been restored to its 1888 colors and appearance.


The St Augustine Lighthouse


Lightkeepers’ office and oil room of the St Augustine Lighthouse


The St Augustine Lighthouse


Oil storage for the St Augustine Lighthouse used before electric light


This was the bucket used to carry oil from the oil storage to the light at the top of the tower. The bucket held 5 gallons of oil and weighed 30 lbs; it had to be carried up 219 steps every 2.5 hours


The Lightkeepers’ house at the St Augustine Lighthouse


The Lightkeepers’ house at the St Augustine Lighthouse


Model of the original St Augustine Lighthouse


Boat building at the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum


British yawl at the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum awaiting restoration by the boat builders


British yawl under construction by the boat builders at the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum (note the steam box in back for bending the planking)


Intern working on artifact conservation in the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program conservation lab


Cannon recovered from the wreck of the British sloop Industry by the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program


Mobile HF in Savannah; 6 August 2017

Savannah – I’m at home in Savannah for a few days and Sunday ended up being laundry day. The plan of the day was to enjoy the day’s IMSA racing live for a change instead of catching up via YouTube or the DVR a few days later, but I had some time between finishing laundry and the races starting… what was I to do? I found a nice shady spot at a local park and fired up the mobile station. All I heard on 40 Meters (& MHz) were nets and 20 Meters (14 MHz) had terrible QSB (fading), but I found two lighthouse stations and a museum ship station to put in the log. I may not have logged a bunch of stations, but I had three good QSOs that combined my love of Amateur Radio and History.

I love logging historic ships like the USS Olympia and today was the second time I’ve had the honor of logging her. She’s truly a historic ship  – she was Dewey’s flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay and afterward served in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. She served as a training ship at the Naval Academy and as a barracks ship in Charleston, SC before being recommissioned for service in World War I. She is now the oldest steel USN warship afloat and is the only remaining USN vessel from the Spanish American War. The Independence Seaport Museum is now conducting fundraising to dry dock and repair her hull; I hope they succeed because she deserves to be saved and continue serving as a reminder of one of the forgotten periods of our history.



Weekend Radio – 20/21 August 2016

Savannah – I haven’t had the opportunity to play radio recently, but this weekend I had a lot of fun receiving and transmitting. On the scanning side, it was a fairly active MilAir weekend and on the amateur radio side of things, it was International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend (ILLW) so the airwaves were a target rich environment on my weekend off.

The North American QSO Party took place on Saturday so I delayed my amateur radio activity to Sunday. For one thing I’m not really interested in contesting, but the main reason was that I wanted to hunt lighthouses during ILLW and I figured that the QSO Party would make it difficult to find and work them with the mobile station. The decision to wait turned out to be a good one. While it isn’t unusual for a few fighters from MCAS Beaufort to work out of Savannah on the weekends, this weekend saw 8 at Savannah IAP flying sorties offshore. Four also worked out of Charleston, SC flying sorties into the area offshore of Savannah. TBOLT 51-54 (F/A-18C, VMFA-251) and BENGAL 41-44 (F/A-18D, VMFA-224) flew out of Savannah against SNIPER 11-14 (F-5, VMFT-401) flying out of Charleston in various combinations. At times, there were 8-12 fighters in W-137 on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon! In addition to the F/A-18s, a gaggle of T-6As from the 14th FW were at Savannah IAP as MAFIA ## and VALOR ##.

The G5RV for the home amateur radio station came out of its tree during a recent thunderstorm, so even at home in Savannah, I’m now limited to the mobile station for HF, so late on Sunday morning I fired up the mobile station and went hunting for lighthouses as a “stationary mobile.” Like the Museum Ship weekend, the ILLW is a great way to blend my interests in radio and history. Before it got hot and humid (and I decided to retreat to the air conditioning indoors), I came across four lighthouses around the Great Lakes and New England on 20 Meters and worked a non-lighthouse station, TI2CC in Costa Rica on 17 Meters.

  1. W9CQO – Kevich Light (US 0193) in Grafton, WI, activated by the Ozaukee Radio Club, Op: Tom
  2. W1PBR – Pemaquid Point Light (US 0124) in Bristol, ME, activated by the Pen Bay Amateur Radio Club
  3. KC8VC – Peninsula Point Light (US 0209) in Bay de Noc, MI, activated by the Mich-A-Con Amateur Radio Club, Op: Skip
  4. WN8HCV – Pointe Aux Barques Light, USA 0105) in Port Hope, MI, activated by the Robinson Township Contest Club, Op: Greg

By the way, in another mix of radio and history, Bill, K4WP will be operating from Fort Pulaski near Savannah on Thursday, 25 August as part of National Parks on the Air for the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. 25 August is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service, so there should be a lot of NPOTA activity. I won’t be in town to take part in the activation at Fort Pulaski, but I will be getting on the air from the mobile down in Brunswick hunting for some NPOTA stations. If you’re in or near Savannah on Thursday, do try to stop by Fort Pulaski if you can, it will be a big day with free admission and many activities, demonstrations, and programs.

Coastal Amateur Radio Society to Activate the Tybee Island Lighthouse on 21 April 2014

CARS logo 1inThe Coastal Amateur Radio Society will be activating the Tybee Island Lighthouse (USA  864) on Monday, 21 April 2014 as part of the Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society‘s 2014 Spring Lites QSO Party.  Operations should begin around 0900 local/1300 UTC and they will operate throughout the day as W4LHS on 40, 20, 15, and 10 Meters as band conditions allow.  The stations will be temporary ones on the lighthouse grounds utilizing a variety of radios and antennas including a hex beam, SteppIR vertical, and wire antennas.  This operation was originally planned for Saturday, 19 April 2014 but “Orange Crush” is also scheduled for that weekend so the club took the decision to make other plans because it would be difficult for both operators and visitors to get on and off the island.  It would be akin to trying to operate a special event station in downtown Savannah on St. Patrick’s Day!  Other options to operate on the weekend, including operating from the St. Simons Island Lighthouse, were explored but in the end operating on Monday was the best option as the QSO Party lasts through Tuesday, 22 April 2014.

Tybee Island Lighthouse (Photo from the CARS Facebook page)
Tybee Island Lighthouse (Photo from the CARS Facebook page)

The Tybee Island Lighthouse is one of seven existing United States colonial-era lighthouses, surviving today in a modified form.  Located on the north end of Tybee Island by the entrance to the Savannah River, it was first built in 1736 at the order of General James Oglethorpe. The lighthouse was destroyed and rebuilt a number of times due to weather and erosion and was eventually burned and the lens removed by Confederate forces when they abandoned it during the Civil War and retreated to Fort Pulaski (which you pass on the way out to Tybee Island on US 80) in 1862.  After the Civil War, the was rebuilt and modified a number of times over the years.  In 1999, a major restoration project was begun and the Tybee Island Historical Society took possession of the lighthouse in 2002.  It continues to be an active navigational aid to this day.

Tybee Island Light Station as seen from atop Battery Garland of Fort Screven
Tybee Island Light Station as seen from atop Battery Garland of Fort Screven

If you’re able, feel free to drop by and visit the station and the lighthouse.  The Tybee Island Lighthouse truly is an area landmark, you’ll easily see it as you approach and drive onto Tybee Island.  You’ll also pass by Fort Pulaski and the Cockspur Island lighthouse on your way out.  This is an excellent opportunity to draw attention to Tybee Island, the Lighthouse, and the Savannah area to the rest of the country and the world through amateur radio.  It’s also a great way to promote the rich maritime history of the Tybee Island and Savannah area.

The lighthouse is about a 20 minute drive from the intersection of Victory Drive and Skidaway Road in Savannah.  Take Victory Drive (which is also US 80) east from Skidaway through Thunderbolt and past Whitemarsh Island to Tybee Island.  From US 80 on Tybee Island turn north onto Polk St, then turn east on Fort Avenue, continue onto Taylor St, then turn south on Meddin Drive and you’ll see the lighthouse.