From left to right, Tim Mayfield, Jimmy Dunn, Sam Timberlake, Scott Somerset do a test run at Smith Mountain Fire Tower on Oct. 25. The club will broadcast this Saturday starting at 9 a.m. and will run until shortly before dark. | Betsy Iler
From left to right, Tim Mayfield, Jimmy Dunn, Sam Timberlake, Scott Somerset do a test run at Smith Mountain Fire Tower on Oct. 25. The club will broadcast this Saturday starting at 9 a.m. and will run until shortly before dark. | Betsy Iler

Archived Story

Local amateur radio club preps for weekend summit

Published 6:48pm Monday, November 4, 2013

The National Weather Service is predicting partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the upper 60s for Saturday’s ham radio special event at Smith Mountain. About a dozen members of the Lake Martin Amateur Radio Club (LMARC), in cooperation with the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association, will operate from two temporary stations at the base of the Smith Mountain fire tower to commemorate the first anniversary of tower’s rededication.
“The weather has been ideal,” declared Scott Somerset, LMARC member and organizer of the event. “We want to talk to as many other amateurs as we can in as many different locations as we can. Smith Mountain is a prime location for transmitting because of the height. That makes it for ideal radio communications. We would more than welcome the public to come and observe. Watch us operate and see what ham radio is all about.”
Somerset said the organization will mount antennae on the fire tower but will not impede the public’s access to the tower or trails during the vent.
“We want to promote the tower and ham radio simultaneously,” he said.
The special event recently was designated by the American Radio Relay League and has been advertised in ham radio publications and on related websites. The League issued a special call sign, which LMARC operators will use Saturday to contact radio operators from far and wide.
“We were able to talk with someone from Nova Scotia and another person from California,” Somerset said following a practice set up last month.
During the event, LMARC members will provide contact information to those operators they talk with; those operators will send cards confirming their contact, and LMARC will send each of them a certificate.
“A lot of ham radio operators are certificate hunters. They collect them,” Somerset explained. “Special events are not so common. We’re lucky everything has fallen into place for this one.”
Nov. 9 is the anniversary of the rededication of Smith Mountain’s fire tower, which recently was restored and opened to the public. The historic date is the basis of the club’s request for a special call sign associated with the broadcast event.
“You have to apply for the call sign,” Somerset explained. “Anything that is of a historic nature, that’s the kind of thing that they really go for. Usually it takes 60 to 90 days for a special event to show up in the database, but this one showed up within 48 hours.”
The specially designated call sign for Saturday’s event is N (November) 4 (designates Southeast U.S. region) F (Fire tower).
Somerset said he became interested in amateur radio when he was 8 or 9 years old.
“My dad gave me a crystal radio set, which works by the radio wave power in the air. It picked up three or four stations, but it was fascinating to me how energy could be transported through the air,” he said. “Maybe some kid somewhere will dial in on Nov. 9 or come by Smith Mountain and get interested in radio. The view is fantastic, and the hiking trail is great. We just think it’s a great way to merge this high elevation with ham radio.”
The club will broadcast from 9 a.m. until shortly before dark. For more information, contact Somerset at 256-825-6118 or find him on the radio with the call sign KC4Z.

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