A monthly publication of the Meridian Amateur Radio Club April 2014


 Bible Verse

Mat 5:23-24 / "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (NIV)



Next MARC Business Meeting

The next business meeting will be held at the Checker Board Restaurant on Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 beginning at 10 A.M. Come join us for breakfast, coffee and fellowship.



New Operators

Editor note: My apologies to Eldon and our new operators for not getting this in last month’s newsletter. W5YI holds a test session on the 2nd Tuesday every month at 7:00pm.

FYI: On 03/11/2014 Tuesday night the W5YI test session yielded two (2) new amateur radio operators! Patrick Peairs of Lauderdale, MS and Jonathan Sheppard of Collinsville, MS both pass their Technician Class test and are now new HAMS! Please congratulate these new HAMs when heard on the air!


Regards, Eldon
(601) 604-2063



The Scott County Broadband HamNet project

I am happy to report that Scott County EC, Jody Phillips, KC5IIW and I tested his and my portable mesh nodes yesterday morning at Farris park in Morton, where the Morton Day in the Park is going to be held on May 3rd.

Our nodes were over a quarter of a mile apart. Jody successfully transmitted live color video from his node to mine. He was using a short stubby antenna and I had a dish. I laid the dish on the ground facing sideways while hooking up the computer and node. His node popped up with 94% before I could pick up the dish, put it on the pole, and face it toward him. He said he was getting 100% on me. When I lifted the dish up at about six feet and turned it toward him I got him at 100%. I turned it 180 degrees away from him and he said he was getting me at 79%.

The video he transmitted to my laptop was just as vivid on my laptop as it was on his laptop which was connected to the camera. His camera only cost $35 and had a built in web server.

We were both very excited to see it work. We plan to transmit video of the finish line of the bike race at Morton Day in the Park to a projector screen under our booth a quarter mile away. We will probably use either a dish or yagi on both nodes during the race.

We used inverters plugged into our vehicles on Saturday, but plan to use battery back up with solar charging at the event.

After the race is over I would like to move the camera node to a location where it can transmit live video of the performers on the stage back to our booth.

One neat thing is that the receiving node can tilt and pan the camera from its remote location.

We plan to start providing this, never before offered in Mississippi, Amateur Radio service to other races, parades, and events in central Mississippi. This will not only provide a new service to the community, and be good publicity for the the Scott County Amateur Radio Club, but will also keep the Scott County ARES Team in practice for deploying portable nodes during emergencies or disasters.

During an emergency or disaster our team members would be capable of transmitting live video from the scenes of the emergency or disaster to the County EOC or to an Incident Command Post. If a picture is worth a thousand words, and taped video is worth ten thousand words, then live video should be worth a hundred thousand words, at least during an emergency situation.

We owe a great deal of our success to ARRL Delta Division Assistant Director, Dr. Frank Howell, K4FMH, for getting us started on this journey, keeping us focused, providing equipment, motivation, and encouragement.

We welcome each of you to visit our booth at the Morton Day in the Park to view our mesh node in operation. We will also be running a special event station on HF Phone, HF Digital and 2 Meters, handing out ARRL brochures and giving a VE Session.

Blessings and 73, Rez

Rez Johnson, K1REZ
District Emergency Coordinator
District Six (East Central Mississippi



McLeod and Rez's Adventure Chasing the Balloon

Dear Ham Friends, Here is the long version of McLeod and Caleb and my adventure chasing the Old Town Middle School High Altitude Balloon which was launched on Friday morning.

The balloon, which normally goes up about 90,000 feet, busted early, around 64,000 feet and came down in a swamp near highway 21 just south of Sebastopol, a good bit short of its projected target near Union, MS, where we were going to wait for it.

We could hear the recorded voice beacon on 146.565 simplex while the balloon was high in the air, but after it landed we lost the signal. We drove toward the last APRS coordinates and as we got closer we started hearing the beacon again.

Based on the height and speed of travel and direction at its last beacon my son, McLeod, W5JMJ calculated it's probably landing point. Our calculations were very close to the last SPOT satellite coordinate beacon.

Robert Errington, KF5IZ, was already in the area on his first balloon chase. So we met up with him and together we searched for the closest entry point into the woods.

McLeod and I drove back to the area where we had received the strongest signal of the beacon and Robert followed us.

We parked our car near Hurricane Creek off highway 21 since that was the closest parking spot we could find. The coordinates were approximately 0.39 miles into the woods / swamp from the best parking location.

I typed the coordinates into my handheld GPS receiver and Robert and my sons McLeod and Caleb and I hiked into the swamp. We soon discovered we were going to be blocked by a deep creek full of water. We scouted the area for a suitable crossing point while waiting for the school kids and their teachers, who arrived about an hour later.

After they arrived I led the entourage into the woods.

We pretty much tripled that original 0.33 mile distance during our winding hike attempting to get around swollen creeks looking for a better route.

Eventually I decided there was no easy path and that we would just have to go through the deep creeks, briar patches, and cane brakes and proceeded on a path mostly straight toward the coordinates.

The balloon had gone down in the middle of a swamp, swollen from the recent rain storms and completely enclosed by two deep creeks with numerous shallower creeks running through out it.

We trudged through tons of mud, several knee and waist deep creek crossings, large briar patches, machete cutting our way through thick cane brakes and sloshing through a large boggy swamp.

Finally, at about 200 feet away according to my GPS receiver, I spotted the balloon in the tree tops ahead. I pointed it out to my son, McLeod, and told him not to tell the school kids following us, but to let them spot it on their own.

I then turned around and told them we were getting close and to start looking up in the trees and within a few minutes one of the girls yelled out that she had spotted it. Almost as quickly several others yelled out that they saw it too.

The coordinates McLeod had calculated were about 15 feet away from the tree it landed in (which is well within my handheld GPS' Receiver's margin of error). The last SPOT satellite beacon was about 20 feet from the tree. So it must have sent its last signal just before landing in the tree. And McLeod's predictions were pretty much "spot on" to pun the word

Since the coordinates took us directly to the balloon we did not have to use our handheld yagis and attenuators and conventional RF Direction Finding skills to locate it. But we did periodically use an HT and the body-shielding method to see where the nulls were and if the voice beacon (which was getting louder) was in fact in the direction the GPS coordinates were taking us. It was.

The balloon and its payload were resting on the tops of three very tall oak trees. The effort to cut down the trees proved that the lightweight chainsaw was no match for the trees and was abandoned. A group plans to go back on Sunday (before the predicted storms come through) to try again with a larger chainsaw. Until then the payload remains on the tree tops.

We made the long hike back the way we came in, through swamp, creeks, briars, mud and cane break. We were all soaking wet and pretty much covered with mud. Some of us more than others. :-)

After cleaning up a little bit and re hydrating McLeod and I headed for home. As we drove off we could still hear the beacon on 146.565, the recorded voice of the school girl giving out information about the balloon launch. As we started getting out of range I wondered how long the beacon battery would last.

A good time was had by all in spite of the arduous hike.

This was McLeod and my third balloon chase and each time we have been the first to find it for them.

Today I am recuperating with sore muscles and dozens of cuts and scratches from blazing the way through the briar patches. McLeod, having the advantage of youth, is not sore, nor tired and is ready to go again.

The leaders of the Scott County Amateur Radio Club have decided that they would like to sponsor a balloon launch and chase at a school in Scott County next year.

Rez and McLeod's Balloon Chasing Adventure Part Two:

Since we were not able to recover the balloon on Friday, and subsequent efforts by others failed on Saturday, McLeod and I were asked to come back out on Sunday afternoon to assist in the retrieval of the balloon's payload.

The payload contained expensive equipment and the science experiments the Old Town Middle School students had placed on it.

It also contained two rare and collectable Geocoins, which Bill Richardson, the science and technology teacher had placed in the payload as an extra incentive for my son and I, avid geocachers, to be the first to find the balloon.

We usually reserve Sundays for church and rest, but since major storms and rain were coming Sunday night and Monday, which would turn the swamp into a lake, as well as make the creeks completely impassable, we decided to help them out after church.

We drove back to the landing zone, and hiked in bringing a spud gun and air pump with us

We didn't need a GPS this time because the path was well worn with many foot prints in the mud and cleared bamboo and briars from when I cut the trail in on Friday.

The others were already at ground zero when we arrived.

Bill used the spud gun to shoot a plug attached to fishing line up above and over the balloon's payload string which was hanging between two trees. After several missed shots and bouncing the plug off a few tree limbs we finally got it over the string.

We pulled up a stronger cord and used that to pull the parachute end down low enough to where it could be grabbed by hand.

Pulling down hard on the parachute broke the end of the payload string which was still stuck in the top of another tree and brought most of the payload boxes falling to the ground.

We had to use a chainsaw to cut down a large tree (with permission of the land owner) to recover the last box of the payload, because it was completely entangled in branches.

All of the payloads were recovered and the still camera and video camera removed.

There was a brief ceremony awarding McLeod and me the Geocoins which had rode in the payload, for being the first to find the balloon.

We hauled all the gear back out to our trucks and headed back home.

Vincent Webb, a popular Storm Chaser who is also a meteorologist and weatherman for WLBT, was a part of the team on both Friday and Sunday. He took a bunch of photographs and video and also had a video camera on board the payload. He is putting together a brief segment on the balloon launch, chase, and recovery to be aired on WLBT at a future date.

We had an amazing and fun adventure and can't wait to see the video so we can see the even more amazing adventure our Geocoins traveled on as the made it up over 64,000 feet into near space.

Today I suspect there are a bunch of excited kids at Old Town Middle school delving into their science projects to see what effect the travel into near a space had on them.


Blessings and 73, Rez

Rez Johnson, K1REZ
District Emergency Coordinator
District Six (East Central Mississippi)

Mississippi Digital Amateur Radio Club

Muddy Balloon Chase



Ham Nation URL

This is a link to Ham Nation for those that are interested.

Gary White, KF5MWE
AEC Clarke County, MS


Have a great month

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