Photo Credit: Leonard Laub via Unsplash
Amateur or “ham” radio has a rich history in Newfoundland and Labrador. It gives us the ability to transmit messages over long distances without wires or the internet. In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless radio transmission from Signal Hill. From this monumental event sprang the Newfoundland Radio Club. This club persisted until 1959 when it was dissolved, and the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs was formed in its place. SONRA is still active today.
The term “amateur” does not indicate the level of expertise of the operator and instead indicates the fact that it is illegal to use ham radio for commercial purposes or profit. Amateur radio can be used for entertainment and as a hobby for SONRA members. It is also essential for transmitting and receiving communications across the province during emergencies such as natural disasters or devastating weather. During Snowmaggedon in 2020, SONRA used amateur radio to aid in notifying emergency services when communities on the Burin Peninsula lost the ability to communicate with each other through phone and internet. While the loss of communication during an emergency can be devastating, SONRA members are able and willing to aid those in need with their expertise in amateur radio. Learning how to identify an amateur radio operator in your neighbourhood in case of an emergency is part of the training that SONRA is happy to provide to members of the public at their open meetings. The easiest way to identify an amateur radio operator is by their VO license plate, meaning they are available to help in case of emergencies and their vehicle is likely equipped with ham radio equipment.
SONRA hosts a variety of “nets” in the province daily. A net is a gathering of ham radio operators through a local repeater system or on a pre-determined radio frequency. Amateur radio can be a rewarding and exciting hobby, however, before using ham radio you must take an exam to receive your certification. SONRA occasionally hosts courses to educate and increase the comfort level of fellow amateur radio enthusiasts and prospective members. The Society of Newfoundland Radio amateurs also celebrates occasions such as Field Day and International Marconi Day along with a yearly awards ceremony for its members.
For those who are interested in learning more about amateur radio and SONRA, you can visit their website here. If you want to become a member of the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs, you can contact them for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amateur radio has its roots firmly planted in Newfoundland and Canadian culture. The preservation of the practice of using ham radio is crucial for cultural and historical purposes. Most importantly, amateur radio operators can save lives and decrease local panic by transmitting important information during weather emergencies or the breakdown of modern communication methods.