Ok. So I had to check out the Titanic Museum Attraction’s special event this past weekend in honor of the 99th anniversary of the sinking of a great ship! I was curious to discover what it means to be a HAM radio operator and why these great men and women enjoy this type of communication?
We decided to take the kids on Saturday afternoon after a much needed visit to Andy’s for some delicious frozen custard. My kids had Andy’s gift cards and much to my surprise they had enough money to pay for their parents. What a treat!
Anyway, we headed to our favorite museum to get educated on this mysterious HAM Radio event. What I quickly learned from this dedicated bunch was that this communication is HIGHLY important to the United States Government. If we were to lose all power in the US due to some terrible disaster, these guys would be on the “front line” of communication between the people and the government.
Back in 1912, when the Titanic set sail, the form of this communciation was called “wireless” communication. If you visit the Titanic Museum Attraction any day of the year, you will get to see authentic 1912 telegraph equipment in the Marconi Room which is identical to that installed in Titanic’s wireless room. It is valued at $250,000. This primitive system was the ship’s only link to the world and a popular means for passengers to send messages home.
Two men employed by the Marconi Company worked in this small windowless room near the bridge. Their main job was to receive and send messages by radio waves using Morse code. Little did they know they would soon be tapping out one of the first SOS signals from a ship in distress.
Morse code, by the way, is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment. There was actually a man at this HAM event that was conducting Morse code conversations! It was fascinating to watch him.
According to Wikipedia, there is an estimated two million people throughout the world who are regularly involved with amateur radio. One of the gentlemen that we met at this event said that he also uses this system when he is chasing storms. He goes out and searches for Tornadoes around the United States and then sends radio messages to the local news stations to inform them of their location. Apparently, news stations depend on these amateur radio users for their “Eyes on the Storms”.
I also learned that you must be licensed to receive clearance to use the different radio frequencies that are available. There are different levels of education and certification that you can achieve that give you permission to be on more and more frequencies. The Springfield group at the Titanic this weekend had spoken with folks in Ireland, Africa, and even Antarctica!
The most interesting fact that I learned while talking with these very friendly operators, was that their families were also involved in this hobby. Wives and children train to operate these radios and get certified so that they can travel as families. Once per year, groups from all over the US gather together for a RALLY where they practice emergency response protocol in case of a US emergency. They bring their families and have a great time too.
I just love the way our attraction continues to apply 21st Century technology and events to help educate us on the sinking of the Titanic. It is so important that we understand history and why things happened in the past, so that we can make changes to better our future.
If you want to learn more about how you can become a HAM radio operator, visit http://www.smarc.org/ .
Thank you Titanic Museum Attraction for providing an attraction that is fun for kids and highly educational. For more on the Titanic’s education programs, visit http://www.titanicattraction.com/titanic-education-guide.php. Knowledge is power.