The ARRL Letter for 16 January reports that the Winter Field Day Association (WFDA) sponsors the 2019 running of Winter Field Day, January 26 – 27 (that is, this weekend). WFDA says that the ability to conduct emergency communication in a winter environment is just as important as the preparation and practice that take place each summer, but with some additional unique operational concerns.
“We believe that maintaining your operational skills should not be limited to fair-weather scenarios,” WFDA said in announcing this year’s event. “The addition of Winter Field Day will enhance those already important skills of those who generously volunteer their time and equipment to these organizations. Preparedness is the key to a professional and timely response during any event, and this is what local and state authorities are expecting when they reach out to emergency service groups that offer their services.” The event is open to all radio amateurs.
Members of the Warren County Radio Club will activate Maxim Memorial Station W1AW during 2019 Winter Field Day. Club members will work a rotating 24-hour operating schedule to ensure the most band/mode coverage.
Grant ZS1GS sent me a piece from the South China Morning Post, reporting on a giant experimental radio antenna on a piece of land almost five times the size of New York City, according to researchers involved in the highly controversial project.
The Wireless Electromagnetic Method (WEM) project took 13 years to build but researchers said that it was finally ready to emit extremely low frequency radio waves, also known as ELF waves. Those waves have been linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation-affiliated International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Although the project has civilian applications – officially it will be used for earthquake and mineral detection and forms part of China’s 11th five-year plan – it could also play a crucial role in military communications.
Scientists said that its transmissions could be picked up by a submarine lurking hundreds of metres under the sea, thus reducing the vessel’s risk of having to resurface to receive transmissions.
The project follows the construction of China’s first military-grade Super Low Frequency transmission station in 2009.
The next year, a Chinese nuclear submarine successfully communicated with the station from deep water – making China the third country in the world to have established such a submarine communication system, after the United States and Russia.
But the Chinese navy is eager to expand its capacity and has been pouring resources into the more advanced ELF radio technology, which allows submarines to communicate with the command centre from a greater depth and is harder to disrupt.
The Chinese government, however, has played down the importance of the facility, which occupies some 3,700 sq km of land, in information released to the public.
Apart from the need to protect an important strategic asset, some researchers said that the secrecy was to avoid causing public alarm.
The antenna would emit ELF signals with a frequency of between 0.1 and 300 hertz, the researchers said.
The exact site of the facility has not been disclosed, but information available in Chinese research journals suggests it is in the Huazhong region, an area in central China that includes Hubei, Henan and Hunan provinces and is home to more than 230 million people – greater than the population of Brazil.
Project WEM’s main surface structure is a pair of high voltage power supply lines stretching from north to south, and east to west on steel lattice towers, which form a cross that is 60km wide and 80km to 100km long.
At the end of each power line, thick copper wire goes underground through a deep borehole. Two power stations generate strong currents and electrify the ground in slow, repeating pulses, turning the earth underfoot into an active source of electromagnetic radiation.
The radio pulses not only pass through the atmosphere, but travel through the Earth’s crust as well, with a range of up to 3,500km, according to the project scientists.
A sensitive receiver within that range, which is roughly the distance between China and Singapore or Guam, would be able to pick up these signals.
The closer to the power source, the stronger the pulses.
The radar will be difficult for spy satellites to detect because it will appear no different to an ordinary power grid, although a radar expert said it might be possible to detect its emissions and use those to determine the location.
The inland location of the new facility would also make it harder for an enemy to attack, compared with a facility located on the coast.
But the project has caused concern among some academics, who worry about the possible impact on public health.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation, has previously warned that ELF waves are “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
Numerous epidemiological and experimental studies conducted by researchers around the world have linked long-term ELF exposure to an increased risk of childhood leukaemia.
In a 500-page report constantly updated since 2007, the WHO has documented a large number of academic investigations linking ELF radiation to a range of illnesses including delusions, sleep deprivation, stress, depression, breast and brain tumours, miscarriages and suicide.
Though many results remain inconclusive, the WHO said the implementation of precautionary procedures to reduce exposure was “reasonable and warranted”.
China is not the first country doing this. Other countries conducted similar projects long ago.”
In 1968, the US Navy proposed Project Sanguine, a giant ELF antenna that would have covered two-fifths of the state of Wisconsin to enable undersea communications with submarines.
The project was terminated due to massive protest by residents.
The US Navy built a smaller transmitter, the Wisconsin Test Facility, with two 45km power lines in the Clam Lake area, a place with a low population density. The station emitted ELF waves at 76 hertz and was decommissioned over a decade ago.
In the 1980s the Soviet Union constructed Zevs, a considerably more powerful facility on the Kola Peninsula inside the Arctic Circle.
The Zevs antenna was powered by two 60km electric lines and had a main frequency tuned at 82 hertz. The radio waves it produced were believed powerful enough to reach Russian nuclear submarines hidden deep under the Arctic ice cap.
Unfortunately I don’t have a back garden big enough to accommodate an antenna 60km by 60km in size, so I don’t expect to hear these signals at my station!
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.