At the dawn of the 20th century, the "new telegraphy", "wireless" or "radio" created the "Age of Electrics" and sparked the imagination of many who built crystal radio receivers and spark-gap transmitters. Most were self-taught and derided as "amateurs" or "ham-fisted" operators (referring to a bad Morse code sender/operator) by the commercial wireless operators After the RMS TITANIC disaster (1912), federal governments found ways to blame "hams" for causing interference and confusion during the rescue, adding to the trauma of the disaster. This was mostly untrue, but scapegoats were needed to satisfy the public's demand for heads to roll, and the amateurs were forced up to the "useless" shortwave radio frequencies above 200 metres, but they would have the last laugh, and go on to discover that the "useless" shortwaves could travel around the world because of the then unknown Ionosphere which makes long distance, shortwave communications possible (beyond the line of sight). Today's Amateur Radio operators have access to huge chunks of the radio spectrum, and over the past century various radio customs evolved: one was/is to exchange confirmation of two-way contact or one-way reception using postcards called "QSL" cards. Hams began to hold radio contests, commemorate special local, regional and national events, and formed national and international organizations working closely with federal governments.
As a commercial (or utility) station, VBA Thunder Bay, can't actively solicit contacts on the marine bands, but our coast guard Amateur Radio station VE3VBA can on the Ham bands! My coworker Lori, VE3VAI, obtained an Special Event Station (SES) callsign from Industry Canada (for the month of November 2010), and we used "CG3MUG" since "CG" stands for "Coast Guard" and "MUG" was the original Marconi station's radio callsign. The "3" identifies the province of Ontario.
Lori, VE3VAI, working contacts from the VE3SAO 55 Plus Centre radio room. We couldn’ t use voice modes at VE3VBA during certain times
of the week, but the NWO Seniors ARC
invited us to use their facilities.
Lori turned out to be a natural contester and worked large
Lakehead ARC club
member Brad, VE3MXJ, operating the CG3MUG position at Thunder Bay MCTS centre (VE3VBA) during one of the few times
we could use voice (so as not to bother the coast guard radio operators!). Brad is another "natural" and helped out on two weekends
with logging and working large pileups.
Many thanks to Doug, VE3EFC, for providing his LOGSTER Internet/network logging program and for all the support he provided. Thank
you to the NWO Seniors Amateur Radio Club (VE3SAO) and those members who gave up their operating time so we could use the facilities
and who also stopped by to help with logging: Dick and Joan, VE3WOT and VE3WOS; Mike, VE3EDX, and Bob, VE3RVA. It was a lot of fun,
but a very, very long month, however Lori was a lean, mean pile-up operating machine! We had a total of nearly 3100 contacts from
around the world, and worked over 40 different countries, 49 states (just couldn’ t get North Dakota), and most provinces and territories
(except for Yukon and Nunavut). The digital and voice modes used were PSK31, RTTY, and CW, with 20m SSB for most of our voice contacts
(only a few were made on VHF repeaters) and CQ100.
Our equipment and antennas were varied. We used Yaesu and Kenwood transceivers,
verticals, loops, dipoles and beams,but never ran more than 200 watts for SSB, and most digital contacts were made using less than
50 watts. The band conditions weren't the best, but the 20m pileups were sometimes overwhelming and lasted for hours! Having only
a small cadre of operators and limited over operating time kept our overall contact total low, but we wanted to work as many modes
as possible so we didn't favour one over the other.
Above: A small collage of just a few of the hundreds of QSL cards received (via snail mail) from the Amateur Radio Stations (ARS) and SWL'ers (shortwave radio listeners) who worked CG3MUG. Each is as varied as the individual who sent it, and many are small works of art and/or very informative; usually a picture is on the front and contact information printed on the back. It was great to put MUG back on the air 100 years to the month when the station first began operations! 73.
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