Museum Ships Weekend

Several Amateur Radio groups from the West Gulf Division participated in Museum Ships Weekend June 2nd and 3rd.

More than 50 amateur radio “hams” in the Galveston-Houston area descended on Seawolf Park this weekend to activate the radio rooms on two historic ships there — submarine USS Cavalla and destroyer escort USS Stewart.

One unique aspect of the event involved the use of amateur radio satellites orbiting above the earth. Hams from the Brazos Valley Club used portable transceivers and handheld antennas to transmit a radio signal to a satellite as it passed over Galveston and relayed that to another ham station thousands of miles away — in one instance, to the USS Nautilus, in Groton, Conn., the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, whose first captain sent the historic message, “Underway on nuclear power.”

This year, 99 museum ships worldwide participated, using mainly voice and Morse code, while hams around the world attempted to contact them.  The Seawolf Park operation is unique, as it is only one of two locations in the annual event that has two ships on the air from the same location.

Much of the radio equipment on these old ships no longer works due to age and lack of parts. So, we bring our own radio gear on board, but sometimes we are still able to use the original antennas on the ships.

We exchanged contacts this weekend with more than 1,000 amateur radio operators throughout the United States and Canada, and as far away as Australia from Seawolf Park. It is an almost perfect venue for radio operations due to its proximity to salt water and lack of obstructions.

As the park is a public facility, all club activities were performed in full view of park visitors who were free to observe and ask questions.  Brazos Valley volunteers also acted as guides inside the ship to explain the sights and sounds of radio communication. It certainly added a new dimension to the park.

With the Galveston-based tall ship Elissa participating for the first time, the Brazos Valley club decided to sponsor its own Texas Navy certificate for confirmed contacts with all five Texas based museum ships.

The club will verify the eligibility and award the certificate by comparing the log entries of the other participating ships. In addition to the Brazos Valley Club KK5W, operating from the Cavalla and Stewart, the ham groups included the Tidelands Amateur Radio Society representing the Elissa, N5E, the Battleship Texas Amateur Radio Station on the USS Texas in Laporte, NA5DV, and the South Texas Amateur Radio Club operating from the USS Lexington, W5LEX, in Corpus Christi.

Additionally, the U.S.S. Batfish/U.S.S. Oklahoma Amateur Radio Club hosted a special event radio station as part of the annual “Museum Ships Weekend” event created by the amateur radio club affiliated with the U.S.S. New Jersey (BB62). This event promoted the hobby of amateur radio as well as the preservation of the heritage of sailing ships around the world.  Past and present U.S. warships and warship museums, as well as merchant and passenger vessel museums from other countries participated in this weekend event.

Radio operators at this event used multiple amateur radio frequencies to contact other ships, as well as other amateur radio operators around the world, by voice, Morse code and computer.  The contacts that this club made included radio operators in Moscow, Northern Africa, Hawaii, New Zealand, and an operator flying above Arizona at 38,000 feet.

A group of students from the Viking Radio Club, a middle school radio club from Lawton Okla., were among the principal operators making contacts. Eight students, ranging in age from 11 to 15, camped out aboard the submarine for the weekend and enjoyed their time talking to people from all over the world.

(contributed by Ron Litt, K5HM, Bravos Valley ARC and Paul Goulet, KC5CYY, Viking ARC)

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