Local club participates in annual Field Day exercise
Amateur radio operator talks about Field Day
Chris Ancelet, president of the Acadiana Amateur Radio Association, talks about Field Day, an annual emergency exercise.
Like everyone in 2018, Chris Ancelet can get information about anything just by tapping on his cell phone screen. But Ancelet can also reach the world on a radio station and antennas that he put together with his own hands.
He contacted 109 countries, including a volcanic island in the Indian Ocean more than 10,000 miles from his home in Acadia Parish. He reached New Jersey using a tenth of a watt, less energy than it takes to run a nightlight.
Ancelet finds these exchanges on amateur or “amateur” radio more enriching than Google and its iPhone.
“I think amateur radio is just going back a few notches,” said Ancelet, 41. “You have to work to make some of those contacts. It’s amazing what you can do with very little power and a wire antenna in the air.
“There is a lot of science related to it. But you can go from hearing nothing to hearing things all over the world.
Ancelet and members of the Acadiana Amateur Radio Association are attending Field Day, an annual event sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, on Saturday. For 24 hours, amateur radio operators run their stations outdoors on generators and try to contact as many stations as possible.
The AARA, a Lafayette-based ham club, will operate a Field Day station, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Steve Webre Farm in Church Point. The site is open to the public.
Besides camping and camaraderie, Field Day allows radio amateurs to hone their radio skills that have proven to be vital in an emergency. When hurricanes, tornadoes and floods cut off electricity, cell phones, and the internet, amateur radio operators can still communicate around the world, using minimal equipment.
When Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico’s electricity and telephone services last year, ham radio was the only communication link with the outside world. Ancelet enjoyed this aspect of his radio hobby.
“When a big storm hits the area, your cell phone will not work,” Ancelet said. “I don’t need to have power.
“I can open the hood of my truck, hook some crocodile clips to the battery posts, and I can speak in five minutes. In Puerto Rico, the only way they could pass health and wellness traffic was through old, analog-style technology. It just doesn’t fail.
Ancelet is president of the AARA, which meets on the first Thursday of each month at the Lafayette Science Museum. The club often runs classes to help newcomers get their licenses.
Ancelet strives to bring young hams into the hobby.
“I wish a younger generation would come in and enjoy the science, the camaraderie behind it. It’s just fun. There are so many facets.
“If you just want to talk on a portable radio and talk on repeaters to people within a 30 mile radius, that’s very possible. If you want to talk to someone halfway around the world with 10 watts of power, that’s also very doable. If you don’t want to talk at all, we have the digital modes where you can basically send text messages.
“There is a bit for everyone, if people just wanted to give it a chance.”
Want to go?
What: Field day with the Acadiana Amateur Radio Association
When: Starts at 1 p.m., Saturday
Or: Ferme Webre, 1529, rue Beaugh, Pointe de l’Eglise