Charly Harpole went to Andaman Island to pursue his hobby. He found himself in the middle of a crisis.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the most sought after contacts for amateur radio operators. So when the National Institute of Amateur Radio-sponsored DXpedition to Andaman and Nicobar Islands took to the air early in December there was a lot of excitement among operators trying to earn their DXCC award. When American operator Charly Harpole visited the expedition in Port Blair he expected to be helping his fellow amateurs. Then the tsunami hit.
According to ARRL Bharathi Prasad, the expedition leader, shifted to handling health and welfare messages. Amateur radio operators have a long history of lending a hand during natural disasters. (eg the 2001 Gujarat quake) Another member of the expedition, S Ram Mohan, set up a station on Nicobar Island. According to Horey Majumdar of the Calcutta VHF Amateur Radio Society "The Amateur Radio station from Nicobar is perhaps playing the most vital part in what is turning out to be the world’s largest disaster operation… Hams from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and even Israel are checking into the VU emergency nets and extending their fullest cooperation in the truest spirit of Amateur Radio."
After the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat Majumdar was handling health and welfare messages – passing on information to concerned relatives. In one case the news wasn’t good. "It was extremely difficult for me to convey to their family that this person, his wife and 7-month-old daughter didn’t make it," Majumdar said. "There must have been thousands of families like this."
Many bloggers wish there was something they could do besides posting details for donations to relief agencies. But for most hams the situation is similar.The most useful thing they can do is keep the frequencies clear.