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Titanic "SOS" Distress Call, April 15, 1912.
Collectable Key Images
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Now that you are an amateur radio operator and enjoying the Basic Qualification's operating privileges, you now may want to explore the many HF modes of operation available.

HF radio communications opens the door to the whole world. There is no need for repeaters, satellites, or dependence on public or commercial communication infrastructures.

HF modes of operation (SSB, CW, RTTY, AMTOR, etc.) enables you to talk, send Morse code and digital communications to other hams living in other parts of Canada or distant countries.

HF provides opportunities to make new friends with other hams over the air, keep in touch with family members living apart, and participating in a HF NET, which enables a group of hams near, or far to talk together on the same frequency. Often one will hear hams talking about visiting or entertaining DX operators, and their weekly schedules that have been enjoyed year after year.

These public service and special interest nets makes it possible to send emergency or personal messages to other parts of Canada and foreign countries.  

Amateur radio operators on HF are known for chasing DXCC countries and collecting QSL cards from these contacts for their shack walls or albums. Many work towards earning prestigious DX awards. These are often reported in the ARRL DXCC YEARBOOK and well known amateur radio magazines around the world. 


Some ham groups mix their enjoyment of travelling with DX HF operations and are often spotted on DX Packet Clusters and/or listed in DX Bulletins on web sites. The thrill of holding a frequency and working a deep DX pileup from some distant country or island is so enjoyed that many repeat this kind of operation over and over again. Thousands of contacts can be made in just a few days. 


For those who enjoy friendly competition, contests are great fun. Contests also provide a means to improve one's operating abilities in sometimes less than desirable propagation conditions. Scores submitted are posted in popular amateur radio magazines.


Field Day is held every year on the fourth full weekend in June. Perhaps you already belong to an Amateur Radio Club and have witnessed club members working HF on CW, Phone, RTTY, Satellite, and QRP, etc.While everyone enjoys friendly competition with other clubs to see who can make the most points, the real purpose of field day is to set up radio stations that operate outdoors and use emergency power sources. This is a great opportunity for hams to work together and learn from one another! 


Morse Code Qualification exams are no longer required to get access to HF bands. However, do not let this stop you from learning and enjoying Morse! Practice a little each day.

In Canada, all that is required to operate on HF amateur radio bands is to pass successfully the Industry Canada Basic Qualification Ham Radio Exam.


  • Morse Code Courses
  • Morse Tapes
  • Computer Morse Code Software Program Websites (download)
  • CW Elmers (Mentors)
  • W1AW Code Practice Schedule - listen on HF Transceiver at club or friend's home http://www.arrl.org/w1aw.html
  • Listen to HF CW transmissions on the bands
  • Buy or borrow a straight key and practice at home. Use amateur radio books for text material.

Morse Code should be thought of as a means to open new doors to the amateur radio world. Many foreign speaking radio operators who may not be proficient in speaking English, actually prefer morse code as it is easier to communicate in written English. Many local amateurs also prefer the code. Excluding Morse code would reduce your chance of meeting them.

Other amateurs prefer Morse code simply because signals can be copied easier than voice in poor propagation or crowded QRM signal conditions. It enables you make a contact that would otherwise be impossible and adds to the enjoyment of the hobby.

Do not be intimidated by those high-speed operators you may hear, as everybody must start somewhere. Listen and try to copy the 10 words per minute chat below. With some practice you too may shout with satisfaction "I DID IT!".


  • Click here to listen to a morse code conversation in Real Audio format.

    Titanic Radio Room SOS Call!

    Click here:  TITANIC "SOS", April 15, 1912!

    Click to view: TitanicRadio Room

    Thank you to Gordon Sanders VE7SGS/VA7XG of Parksville, BC for sharing the following details.

    Most people don't know what the distress call from the Titanic sounded like to the various ship radio operators on duty that night.

    The Titanic used old fashioned spark telegraph transmission. Spark signals were created with an electric spark and so they sounded much like lightning static or just noisy hash.

    Supposedly, a young Englishman heard the distress call and went with the news to the local pub where he wasn't believed.

    The late Mort Neff, of Michigan Outdoors TV fame, was a young amateur radio operator living in Boston at the time and he heard the Titanic!

    Now YOU can hear a simulation of what the distress message sounded like on an old fashioned receiving headset by clicking the above link.

    Some CW enthusiasts enjoy collecting keys. The following is a very small sample of keys used by hams over the years and at present.

    The designer, Theodore Mc Elroy, used this "bug", also known as the 1938 Mac Key on July 2, 1939 to win the world's fastest CW title based on the 24 Dot Word reception at 75.2 WPM. 
    The RMS Q ELIZ Key was used on the maiden voyage of Queen Elizabeth in 1940. On March 3, 1940 the Queen Elizabeth with a crew of 398 headed to sea. Once at sea Captain Townley was ordered to sail to New York from England where she would be safe from Nazi saboteurs and bombs. In November 1940, she sailed for Singapore and was soon certified to carry 15,000 troops on the Atlantic shuttle route between 13th of November to 1946.
    Paul Dow of Winnipeg, Canada manufactured both a straight and tilted Dow Key beginning around 1949 onwards. The tilted "bug" illustrated here has both its support structure and contact posts for dit and dah tilted to the right to make the operator more comfortable when sending CW. 
    The modern Bencher paddles are available in two models - the iambic BY series, and the non-iambic ST series. If you are new to using paddles and electronic keyers, you are advised to use the iambic paddle BY - 2 shown in photograph.


    Looking forward to hearing you on the HF bands calling CQ CQ CQ


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