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Hawaii ARES Leverages Contest Station and Winlink for 2019 Simulated Emergency Test


ARES volunteers in Hawaii took the opportunity of the 2019 Simulated Emergency Test (SET) on October 6 (UTC) to test Winlink radio messaging to the US mainland, using the KH6YY (KH6J) contest station on O’ahu. One of the premier contest stations in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, KH6YY offers a commanding propagation path over an expanse of saltwater.

“You have to start with digital modes somewhere,” ARRL Pacific Section Manager Joe Speroni, AH0A, said, conceding, “We have a long way to go.” A group of radio amateurs has developed a robust Winlink system in the Hawaiian Islands to help support communication in a natural disaster. The Amateur Radio email system is well known for its role in emergency and disaster relief communications, providing the ability for users to exchange email with attachments, photos, position reporting, weather, and information bulletins. Winlink was extensively used in the aftermath of high-impact hurricanes in the Caribbean, as well as following an earthquake in Mexico.

Hawaii boasts the most isolated population center in the world — 2,390 miles from California and 3,850 miles from Japan. Pretty much everything is DX.

KH6YY sports eight antennas, most on 90-foot towers, and nine operator positions. For the SET, the station was configured to receive traffic on 7,100 kHz (dial frequency) in PACTOR, WINMOR, ARDOP, and VARA modes. The four-element 40-meter beam was aimed at Hilo. Simulating an internet outage, the setup was used to pass received traffic to a second 20-meter gateway on 14,100.5 kHz and forwarded to a mainland gateway with internet access. 

Incoming message traffic on 40 meters would be automatically forwarded to the mainland on 20 meters. Most of the traffic went to gateways in Mexico and Texas for forwarding to the internet. One user reported receiving email confirmation that a message was received within minutes. — Thanks to Stacy Holbrook, KH6OWL



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