The Regional Review

Volume I - No. 5

November, 1938


By W. C. Hilgedick,
Associate Radio Engineer.

radio headquarters
Radio Headquarters in the Great Smokies

The use of two-way radio sending and receiving sets has been developed in the National Park Service so that there now are 24 radio-equipped areas in the United States and Alaska. The park having the most extensive radio system of all these areas is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That system consists of 33 sets located in the park headquarters, lookout towers, warden stations and CCC camps. The installations include four wind generator stations upon which the Great Smokies is doing valuable research work toward making them applicable to other parks. Utilization of radio has furnished the parks with highly satisfactory communication during many critical emergency periods, such as forest fires, floods, and searches for lost persons. A fire season has not gone by in the Great Smokies since radio has been used but that the sets are taken into the field many times to report to headquarters the status of a potentially large forest fire. Sometimes the call is for more help-which is dispatched immediately--thus eliminating those precious moments that would be used by a messenger running back from the fire to the nearest telephone to make his report.

Searching parties, consisting of separated groups, have been tied together by radio, thus making coordination possible. Such an incident as this occurred in Rocky Mountain Park last June when a search was made for a lost four-year-old boy.

An odd incident is recalled that happened in the Great Smokies when the man with the radio set was the one who became lost. Radio Technician Allen and his party lost their way one rainy day when taking a short-cut from the Pinnacle Ridge fire near Pickens Gap. He set the radio up, called the lookout tower, and asked where he was. After describing how he got there, the tower man, a native of the region, advised him which way to go. The party did this and in a few hours came out on Hazel Creek.

Our new field sets are not difficult to pack. Complete with antenna and power supply, they weigh only 21 pounds, and are contained in a metal box about the size of an overnight bag. They can be carried either by a handle on the top of the case, or by strapping them to a packer-Nelson type of packboard when it is desired to have both hands free.

Usually, these small sets have a range of 25 or 35 miles. Yet, during favorable periods such as the early morning hours up to 9 a.m., or the winter months when no static is present, we communicate 200 miles reliably, day in and day out.

An outstanding demonstration of long distance communication with one of these sets occurred when an expedition down the Colorado River talked each day for two months to the Grand Canyon South Rim headquarters station. Our busiest radio stations are two of the headquarters type sets connecting Isle Royale headquarters on Mott Island in Lake Superior with the mainland office in Houghton, Michigan. During the month of August these stations handled a total of 864 messages, containing 23,472 words.

The last park to be radio-equipped was Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska to which two of the headquarters type sets were shipped last February.

The larger of our types of sets conforms with standard products manufactured by many companies, but the small field set is unique and has been accepted as one of the best of its type now being made. Radio broadcasting companies, power companies, expeditions, and others requiring radio to connect their main station or headquarters with outlying isolated points have shown a decided interest in acquiring them for their use. Such indications make field technicians feel that the Service is keeping abreast with the rapid advance of radio developments.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002