In touch via radio waves

Amateur radio operator and New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters Otago branch president...
Amateur radio operator and New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters Otago branch president David Mulder uses radio equipment at his Dunedin home to stay connected during the Covid-19 lockdown. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Amateur radio activity has flourished since the Covid-19 lockdown began.

Keen Dunedin operator David Mulder has noticed people increasingly using this means of keeping in touch with far-flung friends.

Some amateur radio operators, including Cliff Gray, who lives near Balclutha, are also taking part in a months-long New Zealand-based marathon event which began at the weekend.

Operators aim to achieve at least four successful communication connections (called QSOs) a day with fellow operators in New Zealand or overseas.

They receive awards based on how long they can maintain that tally over the days and months.

The "ZL2AL 2020 Activity Marathon" runs until December 31 and honours the late veteran Napier radio operator Lee Jennings.

Asked about dealing with the coronavirus lockdown, one Dunedin operator joked on Monday that amateur radio operators (also called "hams") had already been "maintaining self-isolation for a hundred years".

Another said the lockdown should not prove too difficult and he would simply take his bed into his radio shack transmission area.

The month would pass quickly as he devoted time to one of his favourite activities.

Mr Mulder, who is the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters (NZART) Otago branch president, said he had mainly been discussing lockdown-related matters with fellow New Zealand operators and friends on amateur radio.

However, he was aware some people had talked to ham operators overseas, including in the United States where the coronavirus death toll is rapidly mounting.

"It's interesting to get other people's feelings and situations, and their lockdowns, how they're coping and what they're saying," he said.

The NZART branch could not hold its usual Wednesday night meetings in South Dunedin, but was meeting virtually via the radio waves instead during the lockdown.

New Zealand amateurs were taking a serious view of their obligations under the lockdown, and were helping to support potentially isolated fellow operators by keeping in touch, and sharing friendly words.

"Other people are sharing the same situation.

"It's giving some comfort that we can."

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