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Why Ham Radio Fans Want to Spend Next Summer on an Island Full of Bird Poop

Baker Island is an uninhabited US territory in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You need special permits to even visit the atoll, which has an area of less than a square mile. But it is geographically unique. Baker Island and nearby Howland Island are the only pieces of land in the UTC-12:00 time zone, just east of westernmost part of the International Date Line. That means it is the last place on earth! The last to see a new day on the clock, that is. That unique feature makes Baker Island the coveted destination for some ham radio operators who will visit in the summer of 2018.

Amateur or “ham” radio had its heyday in the early 20th century, when interested hobbyists began putting together their own wireless communication systems and taking to the airwaves to beam messages to their friends. “We were the original Facebook,” says Don Greenbaum, one of the leaders of the Baker Island team, who has been involved with the ham radio community for about 50 years.

“There are millions of hams out there still,” he continues, courtesy of enthusiasts who build radio towers in their backyards and call up their peers overseas. Some compete to see how many contacts they can make in a given weekend. Others plan involved trips, known as DX-peditions, centered around communicating from ever-more remote places. (“DX” is radio shorthand for “distant.”) Small groups of people make these trips, and tons of others take the opportunity to call them up, crossing another location off of their wireless bucket list.

Read more about Baker Island and the planned expedition at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Joann94024)


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