K2BSA at 1997 Jamboree

After two years or more of planning, it’s been and gone. As Charles Dickens said, “it was the best of Jamborees, it was the worst of Jamborees…” (or something like that). We survived 104 degree temperatures and even higher humidity, and worked every state and 64 countries – plus a space station.

Who could forget the Mir pass? I remember walking to the tent at 4:30 in the morning, expecting a few dozen Scouts at most, to find 200 people waiting on the grass. All I could think of was “what if this thing doesn’t work?” But it did, and when we heard the voice of Mike Foale, the American Astronaut on Mir, calling us as the station rose above the horizon, it was one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in nearly 30 years of ham radio. We made the front page ofJamboree Today, and made many memories for the Scouts and leaders who were there that early morning. I think the high point was when, at mid-pass, someone pointed up and we could actually see the Mir high overhead.

Working with the Scouts was great, too. We had nearly 180 people take their tests at the Jamboree, and over 30 got their licenses. Pictured here is Chris, one of the Scouts who spent much of his time at K2BSA, making his first CW contact as a new Novice licensee, under the watchful eye of Bob Johnson, K3RC, our traffic manager. Congratulations, Chris, and all the others!

At the Merit Badge Midway, we had 580 Scouts filled out paper work at start of Radio badge – of these, 357 earned the badge, for a completion rate of over 60%, representing a tremendous effort by Bill Burns, WA6QYR, and his 17 staff members. In comparison, at the 1981 Jamboree 13 Scouts earned Radio MB at the Jamboree, with 52 partials (and K2BSA had only 8 staff members total). In 1985 39 Radio Merit Badges were awarded, and in 1989 only 14 (with about 300 partials). 1993 was our best previous Jamboree for Radio Merit Badge – 244 completions out of about 700 who started – only about 35%.

On the demonstration station side, we had record numbers of Scouts and leaders pass through (over 400 signed the guest book). We made WAS (Worked All States) by the fourth day of the Jamboree, and 64 countries. The lower country count than in previous Jamborees represents a combination of poor band conditions (at times we had only one useful band for the four HF stations) and a conscious decision to concentrate on providing the best possible demonstrations for the Scouts. Also, under the new 1993 requirements for Radio Merit Badge, the station staff was involved in teaching several badge requirements for the first time, including a requirement of making several CW contacts. Jerry Yochelson, AA2ZY, took the lead in this, and could be found most days in the “Ed Dudley Memorial Staff Lounge” (the lawn outside Ed’s trailer in back of our tent), with a crowd of Scouts.

Thanks are due to a number of manufacturers and vendors who helped make the K2BSA station a success. Yaesu, Icom and Ten-Tec loaned numerous radios, MFJ and Cushcraft came through with antennas and accessories, Belden gave us co-ax, PC Electronics loaned a pair of ATV transceivers, computers were loaned by The Computing Center in Ithaca, New York, and HRO in Woodbridge Virginia once again helped coordinate deliveries. Our HF antennas (monoband beams for 10, 15, 20 and 40) were loaned by Woodbridge Wireless, and a dipole by Jim Thompson of the Wire Works. Our repeater was loaned by Stevan Shapiro of Kendecom, the duplexers by TX/RX Systems. The American Radio Relay League gave invaluable support in the form of printing, publications and coordination (not to mention the loan of Larry Wolfgang, WR1B). Bob Bruninga helped with the APRS setup. If I’ve left anyone out, “thanks” to you, too.

We had our own “Crocodile Dundee” back again – Mark Gaynor, VK6ZEO, who provided a suitably exotic touch to the station and was a popular attraction in his own right. Mark spread Australian flags around (to the accompaniment of a recording of “Advance Australia Fair” one morning – no, “Waltzing Matilda is not the Australian national anthem), including one on the antenna of our “Jamboree Rover”, and we certainly appreciate his long trip to be on our staff.

The “Jamboree Rover” was a surprise hit, too. The “rover” was a radio controlled truck with an Amateur Television transmitter replacing the fancy body. The Scouts steered the rover by watching on a television set in the station tent. Takeoff time was 2:00 each afternoon, and we often had a line waiting to pilot the vehicle. When we first used it, the little car stayed in the rear of the tent, near the TV, but the Scouts became increasingly adventurous as the hour wore on, and by the end of the first session we had a Scout “orbit” K2BSA three times with the rover. Steven was a Scout in a motorized wheelchair who spent a lot of time chasing the rover, and being chased by it – it looked like a puppy chasing momma.

K2BSA operators monitored the repeater 24 hours a day during the Jamboree. A number of emergencies were reported during the week, from bicycle accidents, heat prostration and sprains to missing Scouts and lightning storms. The K2BSA operators handled each professionally, and all of them, and the on-site operators in the subcamps and elsewhere on staff, deserve the thanks of all of us. We were on the distribution list for the weather alerts from the Virginia National Guard weather station just next door, and must have given the weather report hundreds of times a day. Our evening net had 80+ checkins at its peak.

K2BSA was the result of two years or more of planning, and the efforts of the 43 staff and many others. A special mention should be made to my professional counterpart, Ray Moyer WD8JKV, ARRL Liason Larry Wolfgang WR1B, Station Supervisors Ed Dudley WA4ISI and Ed Walkup KJ4UK, Midway Coordinator Bill Burns WA6QYR, Traffic Manager Bob Johnson, K3RC, Special Modes Operators Chris “Mir” Anderson NK8W and Jim Ingle N4PBX, and Support Coordinator Jerry “Other” Friedman.

I wish I could thank each, individually, but a general “thank you” to all will have to suffice.

Mike Brown, WB2JWD
Chairman, 1997 K2BSA