P.E.I. ham radio operators celebrate Marconi Day in international event

Sitting in the Marconi Museum in Cape Bear, P.E.I., George Dewar fiddles with the knob on his radio, trying to get a clear signal, to communicate with people many kilometres away.

Participants worldwide broadcasted from locations with a connection to Marconi

George Dewar spent hours making contact with people throughout the world during an event celebrating Guglielmo Marconi's birthday. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Sitting in the Marconi Museum in Cape Bear, P.E.I., George Dewar fiddles with the knob on his radio, trying to get a clear signal to communicate with people, some of whom are thousands of kilometres away.

Dewar and his friend Bernard Cormier are taking part in a 24-hour worldwide event to celebrate the birthday of Guglielmo Marconi, the person who pioneered long distance radio transmission.

The event is organized annually by the Cornish Amateur Radio Club in the U.K. To register, groups must transmit from a location that has a connection to Marconi. Over the course of 24 hours, those groups attempt to make contact with each other.

George Dewar and Bernard Cormier spent hours switching between frequencies, trying to make contact with people. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Dewar said he was excited to operate at the Marconi Museum, next to the Cape Bear Lighthouse. The location was once a Marconi station.

"You're part of history coming here," Dewar said.

Transmitting around the world

Ham radio is a big hobby for Dewar and Cormier. They get together about once a month to operate, often at lighthouses. Cormier lives in New Brunswick, but often travels to P.E.I, largely because of the many lighthouses.

This is the first time either of them has taken part in the Marconi Day event.

The museum at Cape Bear was once a Marconi station. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

More than 70 groups from countries such as Uruguay, Scotland and the U.S. set up stations to transmit for the occasion.

There were a total of five Canadian groups registered, including one in Cape Breton, and two in Newfoundland.

Contact with another Marconi group

Dewar and Cormier set up in Cape Bear early Friday evening for the event  that officially began at 9 p.m. Cormier camped out at the museum overnight and the pair spent many hours listening to different frequencies and sending out messages in the hopes someone somewhere would hear them.

They made dozens of contacts around the world, but it wasn't until around 1 p.m. on Saturday that they made their first Marconi connection with a station in Pennsylvania.

Bernard Cormier says he participated in the event for fun, rather than as a competition. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Groups that make contact with 15 other Marconi groups can get a certificate from the event's organizers, but Dewar and Cormier said they weren't too concerned about trying to get that recognition.

"It's basically a get together more than a competitive thing," Cormier said.

'Proud to be here'

The pair said they also enjoyed making contact with other ham operators who weren't connected with Marconi Day. Dewar said the operators were especially excited to learn where the pair was transmitting from.

"When you tell people you're at a lighthouse, International Marconi Day, oh boy, some of them, they think this is absolutely great. And you see, we keep a log of each call, and probably in their log book they'll make a little note about how this call was special," Dewar said.

The former Marconi station is next to the Cape Bear Lighthouse. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Cape Bear was the first station in Canada to receive a distress signal from the Titanic in 1912. Cape Race in Newfoundland also received the call, but at the time Newfoundland was not part of Canada. For these radio enthusiasts, that makes the spot extra special.

"For us it's so proud to be here, because the lighthouse was here at the time. And it's just one of these things where we just love the nostalgia," Cormier said.

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