Ham Radio Contesting: Something for Every Operator

In our contesting post each month, OnAllBands likes to hit on some of the opportunities that might be off our readers’ radar screens. Some of these are unique activation events or ongoing pursuits that truly showcase the diversity of amateur radio. Earlier this month, we highlighted the first Masonic Lodges on the Air contest (September 25), in which hams are encouraged to activate and contact Masonic lodges by SSB. It’s open to all operators (you don’t have to be a Mason to join in the fun), and plans are to make it an annual contest.

These types of events are great ways to promote amateur radio and bring attention to organizations, natural treasures, historic sites, lesser-traveled locations, and just about anything that offers an opportunity to get on the air. Examples include breweries, state courthouses, museum ships, Wal-Mart parking lots, beaches, and, most recently, mines. Click for details on the fledgling Mines on the Air (MOTA) program started by John, WJ0NF. Of utmost importance is activating these sites as safely as possible and making sure they’re not on private land. Read more about mine activation requirements here.

Here are a few more programs that provide ample opportunities for activators and chasers:

Islands On The Air (IOTA): The IOTA program was established in 1964 to encourage amateur radio operators to contact stations located on the world’s 1,200 or so island groups. It is administered by Islands On The Air Ltd in partnership with the Radio Society of Great Britain.

In July, the Russian Robinson Club had plans to activate two rare Aleutian Islands: Adak Island (IOTA NA-039) in the Andreanof Islands chain, and Kiska Island (IOTA NA-070) in the Rat Islands chain. Due to a series of setbacks, the DXpedition was cut short, but thousands of hams were still able to put Adak Island in their log books, including a number of those who took advantage of favorable 6 meter conditions.

IOTA enthusiasts strive to make contact with as many island groups as possible, including Chukchi Sea Coast East group, Hokkaido’s Coastal Islands, Estremadura Province group, Vesteralen Islands/Troms County South group, Niedersachsen State group, and many others.

For complete rules, lists of islands, the most-wanted island groups and more, visit the official IOTA website.

U.S. Islands on the Air: Formed in 1994, the US Islands (USI) Awards Program gives hams across the country the chance to activate and chase a range of river, lake, and ocean shore islands, from the ones everyone knows (Manhattan, Maui, Key West) to spots perhaps only familiar to the peripatetic amateur operator (Cow, Bartoo, Beacon Rock).

More than 3,300 islands dotting all 50 states, territories, and protectorates give hams ample opportunity to take an affordable mini-vacation and become the Big Station on the Air as avid island chasers vie for honors such as the USI Honor Roll (QSOs with 100 islands and protectorates); Work All State Islands Award; and Work Ten Award (10 islands from one state). Read all the rules here, including what qualifies as an island under USI criteria.

Summits on the Air: The fun of ham radio reaches new heights with Summits on the Air (SOTA), a program that encourages amateur radio enthusiasts to operate from atop the world’s hills and peaks.

Before you activate a summit, read these FAQs and get familiar with the official SOTA website. It’s free to register. Certificates and trophies—the “Mountain Goat” and “Shack Sloth”—are awarded for elite performers.

Lighthouses: The Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society (ARLHS), founded in 2000 by Jim Weidner, K2JXW, has been devoted to highlighting maritime communications, amateur radio, lighthouses, and lightships for more than two decades.

From the ARLHS website, “Its members travel to lighthouses around the world where they operate amateur radio equipment at or near the light.”

The organization works “to promote public awareness of the role ham radio and light beacons have played in assisting and maintaining safety at sea; preserve the heritage and history of lighthouses and lightships; aid in preserving those lights in danger of destruction or decay; and recognize the keepers of the lights as maritime heroes.”

The group also maintains the World List of Lights—a collection of more than 15,500 lighthouses in 234 amateur radio call areas. Find the entire list here. Lighthouse enthusiasts recently participated in the 24th annual International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend (ILLW) August 20-21, activating 291 lighthouses throughout the world, from Cape Wrath in Scotland to Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Parks on the Air℠: If you enjoy operating in the great outdoors, Parks on the Air (POTA) provides opportunities to advance your portable deployment skills, win awards, rag-chew with like-minded hams, and take in some spectacular views.

Check out POTA’s website for available sites in the U.S. and internationally, information on becoming an Activator or a Hunter, awards, active spots, FAQs, maps, and everything you need to know about getting the most out of this program, which was “inspired  by the outstanding work of Sean Kutzko, KX9X, and Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, from the ARRL in 2016.” While you’re at it, check out Sean’s OnAllBands blogs on Power Options for Portable Ops, Low-Power Operating: How to Do More with Less, and Your First Pileup: Techniques for Success.

World Castle Award: Started in 2009 by a group of Russian amateur radio operators under the umbrella of the International Castles On The Air (COTA) organization, the World Castles Award is designed to consolidate “radiohams from different countries for activation and popularization of historical objects—castles, fortresses etc. all over the world.” Further, it encourages hams to promote these unique structures and draw attention to neglected castles and forts that are in need of renovation. Recently activated locations include Castello di Caslano, Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery; Chateau de Bellaire-Le Motte.

Get the full story at the WCA’s official website.

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