International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend
Aids to maritime navigation have been around since the days when the Vikings lit fires on cliff tops to guide their long boats back home from sorties into foreign lands. As time progressed these aids developed into more sophisticated structures named lighthouses. At the same time radio communication came into being with the introduction of Morse Code and wireless communication between ships and land based stations and thus became part of maritime safety methods. In Scotland the Stevenson family of engineers revolutionised the construction of lighthouses not only on land but on rocks offshore. They introduce fresnel lenses for the revolving light beams along with the mechanisms to make these lenses rotate. These lighthouses were manned by a special group of people who relished the solitude of living at a remote light station and who, at times, were required to assist in the saving of lives when disaster struck a passing vessel.
To commemorate these magnificent structures and the keepers who maintained them, the Ayr Amateur Radio Group in Scotland started an annual event which developed into an international gathering of amateur radio operators in over 40 countries and which is now titled the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend (ILLW). It is held on the Third Full Weekend of August along with International Lighthouse Day. As the event has grown so has the interest of the media to the extent that news releases and documentary articles are appearing in newspapers and television shows around the world. YouTube also has numerous clips from participants available for viewing.
The objective of ILLW events is stated as "to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, to promote amateur radio and to foster International goodwill". Unfortunately for our world lighthouses, technology has replaced their need as navigation aids and a number have fallen into disrepair and have become the victims of vandalism. The weekend event aims to bring these lighthouse to the attention of the public in the hope that some will become protected and restored to their former glory.
This article may be regarded as advertising and for that we admit guilt because it is the advertising of the plight of lighthouses and recognition of their keepers that this event is all about. It is not a contest or a profit making event but a fun weekend designed to create world wide goodwill and harmony.
The basic format of the event is that a local amateur radio club will set up a radio station either in, or near to, a lighthouse. They will then operate from that station over the whole or part of the weekend. The goal is to contact other amateur stations, particularly those operating from other lighthouse sites. To enable participants to be aware of which lighthouses are "on the air", a complete list of entrants is maintained on the ILLW web site, http://illw.net. Entry is via an on-line form and the details contained on the form are transferred to the web site. Each lighthouse is numbered to enable identification during difficult radio conditions. Details of where to send QSL cards are also shown. Completing an entry form is not compulsory but it does assist other operators to know who is active during the weekend.
- "Purpose" Official ILLW web site