Local nonagenarian John J Bautista made history last year when acquired the record of being the first ever amateur radio contact between Gibraltar and the Republic of China.
A task he managed to do on the “highly capricious band of 6 metres (50MHz),” he told the Chronicle.
He was awarded a trophy for an amateur Radio special radio event that formed part of the Royal Air Force Amateur Radio Society’s celebrations to commemorate the RAF 100th Anniversary in 2018.
The event “entails going on the air on amateur radio to communicate either by voice or by radio telegraphy – Morse Code- with a special code sign,” said Mr Bautista.
The specific code sign for Gibraltar is ZB2 and Mr Bautista’s call sign is ZB2EO and for the RAF the call sign ZB2RAF is used.
“The aim is to work as many stations worldwide as you can,” Mr Bautista explained. He took part in the event from April 1 to May 27 and despite the shorter length of time than other participants he managed to attain the G2LR trophy. G2LR is the call sign of the donator in England.
Making contact with all countries and entities in Europe, the six continents and with 101 different countries across the world as well as the amateur station in China.
“I did not know about the trophy, I just went on the air to put ZB2RAF on the map and the trophy was awarded co-jointly with the Gibraltar Amateur Radio Society,” said Mr Bautista.
Some of the members of the society operated in Morse code but mainly they were on Single Side Band (SSB), which his radiotelephony – voice.
Mr Bautista was radio telegraphy exclusively.
“Although it was a joint award, I was given custody of the trophy because I was the one who made the most contacts,” he said.
“Not so much from Gibraltar but from the whole world.”
“With special stations in The Falklands, Malta, the RAF base in Cyprus, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Australia,” he said naming just some of the places he contacted.
On a normal day, Mr Bautista would contact someone anywhere in the world and the conversations would include introducing himself, talk about the weather, tell them what his amateur radio experiences over the decades have been.
The chat is like a normal conversation, where jokes are also told, but the rules dictate that the topic of politics has to be avoided. An operator can lose their license if they speak about politics.
Mr Bautista has been an amateur radio man for 35 years and he has connected with some of the over million amateur radio stations all over the world including people in Japan, China, Russia, North America and South America to name a few.
“They remember me more than I can remember them,” the 90 year old admits.
“They know me by my call sign and so when I make initial contact they say ‘Hello John, long time no see, glad to see you again’, but, of course I have made thousands and thousands of contacts I can’t remember everyone.”
Mr Bautista has not been on the air since the RAF event last year, but aims to get back with his own call sign in March when the British Commonwealth contest (British Empire Radio Union – BERU) will be held.
During this competition, a user tries to communicate with every British Commonwealth country and to get as many contacts as possible.
“But, in a contest like that the contact is very brief,” Mr Bautista explains.
“We just make a signal report and most likely say my name is John, but there is no need because from previous years they know my name.”
They reply giving him a contact number and a serial number, indicating the number of contacts that person has made prior to Mr Bautista contacting them.
“The aim of it is to get as many contacts as possible. But, it’s not so much about winning the contest, although I have won it as a team member in 1999, it just taking part in it,” he said.
“Let me put it this way, it’s about ‘putting Gibraltar on the map’, again.”
Mr Bautista learnt Morse Code when he was in the Boy Scouts before the war, in those days the code could be transmitted at a rate of six to seven words a minute.
“After that I joined the Air Force and I became a radio telegraphy wireless operator and the speed that we have to attain was plus 22 words a minute. But, now with electronic keys instead of a brass we can reach up to 40-50 words a minute,” he said.
“I can do about 45 words a minute plus.”
Main pic by Johnny Bugeja