A history of amateur radio in Newfoundland – the muse

Photo credit: Leonard Laub via Unsplash

Amateur or “amateur” radio has a rich history in Newfoundland and Labrador. It gives us the ability to transmit messages over long distances without wireless or the Internet. In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless radio transmission from Signal Hill. From this monumental event was born 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 rather indicates the fact that it is illegal to use amateur radio for commercial or profit purposes. 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 conditions. During Snowmaggedon in 2020, SONRA used amateur radio to help notify emergency services when communities on the Burin Peninsula lost the ability to communicate with each other by phone and the internet. While the loss of communication during an emergency can be devastating, SONRA members are able and willing to help those in need with their amateur radio expertise. Learning how to identify an amateur radio operator in your neighborhood in an emergency is part of the training SONRA is happy to provide to members of the public at their public meetings. The easiest way to identify an amateur radio operator is by using their VO license plate, which means they are available to help in an emergency and their vehicle is likely equipped with amateur radio equipment. .

SONRA hosts a variety of “nets” in the province on a daily basis. A network is a gathering of amateur radio operators via a local repeater system or on a predetermined radio frequency. Amateur radio can be a rewarding and exciting hobby, however, before using amateur radio you must pass an exam to receive your certification. SONRA occasionally organizes courses to educate and increase the comfort level of other amateur radio enthusiasts and potential members. The Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs also celebrates such occasions as Field Day and International Marconi Day as well as an annual awards ceremony for its members.

For those who want to learn more about Amateur Radio and SONRA, you can visit their website here. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs, you can contact them for more information at info@sonra.ca.

Amateur radio has its roots firmly rooted in Newfoundland and Canadian culture. Preserving the practice of using amateur radio is crucial for cultural and historical purposes. Most importantly, amateur radio operators can save lives and reduce local panic by transmitting important information in the event of a weather emergency or failure of modern communication methods.


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