© Guardian photo by Steve Sharratt
Jeff Briggs, at the helm of his amateur radio shack near St. Peter’s, will be the first Islander to represent Canada at world finals.
MONTICELLO — When the snow is howling around his north shore property, Jeff Briggs grabs a coffee, heads for his shack and talks to the world.
Tucked away in his shorefront basement here, Briggs brings the world to his door with an amateur radio set up that can reach every corner of the globe.
A wall covered in power amplifiers and radio frequency tuners are connected to a bank of computers and lights.
“It’s something I’ve been doing since I was 10,” says the transplanted American who, with his wife, now calls the Island his home.
“You can learn so much from talking to others.”
And with about two-million-plus amateur radio operators around the world, there’s no shortage of chatter on the line.
Briggs dons the headphones, hands me a pair as well, and begins to work his magic. Turning the dials on the frequency amps to clear away the squelch, he hits the button.
“This is VY2ZM (call sign) from Prince Edward Island,” he says into his headphone microphone. “A fine day here in this part of the world and I have a guest with me here in the shack that I am introducing to amateur radio.”
Within seconds, the feedback fills the airwaves and Briggs picks a callback to chat with. Five minutes later and the former Navy vet has chatted with fellow hobbyists in Latvia, Germany, Belgium and Greece.
In a way, it’s like Facebook with headphones, but Briggs is a staunch believer that amateur radio will never fade away like a weak signal.
“If the communications system as we know it today ever went down, there would be millions of amateurs around the world getting the word out,’’ says Briggs, who acknowledges how amateur radio ops are often called to assist in emergency situations.
His radio signal to Latvia or England, or even Japan, comes in loud and clear largely due to the fact that outside his seaside home and 115-acre property near St. Peter’s are 11 antenna systems covering almost the entire radio bandwidth possible.
The antenna towers range in height from 50 to 140 feet high and were erected by Briggs and his wife, Miriam. The couple relocated to Canada from Massachusetts and became permanent residents about seven years ago.
“One reason we purchased this site is because radio waves bounce off salt water so well and I can reach practically anyone in the world,’’ he says, sporting a wall full of awards, a hall of fame distinction in his field, and a self-penned book on the world cracked by Marconi.
But the real excitement pending is that he’s heading to compete in the world radio team championships. He is team leader for Eastern Canada and he’s the first person ever to represent the Island.
“I’m very proud about this … and my team partner is my son, Patrick . . . we’ll be the only father and son team in the competition.”
It’s like the World Cup of radio. Briggs, ranked as one of the highest scoring operators in the world, is off to Boston for the 24-hour competition (no sleep) where he hopes to win the crown.
Scoring points is the objective of the event by knowing your signals, call signs, bandwidths and when to seek out those “ghost” signal frequencies to score points.
Even if he doesn’t win, it’s the sport, participation and fellowship that has kept him coming back year after year to finals around the world.
“But this will likely be my last,’’ he says while providing a tour of his antenna farm.
“Like anyone, you know when it’s time to step away from the competition.”