What time is it?

So… what time is it?  Well, I might know now cause of my watch, computer, atomic clock on the wall or just by turning on the TV, but what if I needed to know the time if I were away from all of these luxuries?  And even if I did have a watch on my wrist, just how accurate is it? 

Last year, I found myself in the mountains of Haiti operating my radio station completely portable.  I had my battery for my radio, a head lamp for my illumination and a stenographers book for my logging.  I did bring along a battery operated alarm clock for time keeping.  One problem I encountered was the battery was dead when I intended on using it.  No problem!  I brought extras!  Now that problem was solved, what time was it?  This piece of info was pretty important being that I was about to start logging QSO’s!

Long story short, I was off by about 10 mins on the first night.  I only noticed it when I was receiving multiple QSL cards that confirmed this error once I returned back home.  When I opened the first card, I thought it was the other operators error.  When I opened the second, third, fourth and fifth, well…  maybe it was me.

Granted, I was able to adjust my times and log somewhat close to the correct time but later did I learn, there was a better way out there to be incredibly accurate!

Browsing around the bands, I hit the “Band” button on my 857 a few times.  I kept coming across the frequency of 10.000.  All I heard was a very annoying sound and some clicks.  I thought it was some short of RFI so I passed right on by it and found my intended band and frequency.  One night, I came across the same frequency (10.000) and I heard a voice on it.  I listened for a while and it sounded like it was an announcement for UTC!  How NEAT!

Upon further investigation, you can hear pretty much the same info on 2.500, 5.000, 10.000, 15.000, 20.000!  Come to find out, this is broadcasted from Colorado and Hawaii for the most accurate time!  (Check out http://www.nist.gov/pml/div688/broadcast.cfm)

Granted, its not the most entertaining broadcast to listen to but would have saved me a bit of problems if I had used this before my first QSO to synchronize my clock with the time on one of the above frequencies.

Now, I must surrender a bit of info for anyone who is concerned about the accuracy of this broadcast.  It is NOT entirely accurate.  These frequencies are broadcast in the HF spectrum of RF.  Therefore, propagation is a factor to the strength and the delay of the received signals.  After finding these frequencies, I have yet to discover any difficulties hearing the signals.  As far as the delay, the above website warns that if the signal is bouncing between the earth and the ionosphere, the delay could be as much as 1 millisecond, increasing with your distance from the transmitter.  It goes on to say that with most users in the US, the delay will be under 10 milliseconds (1/100th of a second).  As long as you are ok with these variances, you’ll be ok…

Wonder how 911 centers and automatic time-setting clocks receive their signals???  Same way!  There is a digital time code also transmitted that will set the clocks automatically and keep them set!

Now ya know!  I am sure there are all kinds of helpful uses for this bit of info.  In my case, I’ll always go back to these frequencies before I start my logging just to ensure that my times are accurate from ANYWHERE!  Good thing is that the frequencies are pretty easy to remember too!

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