Amateur Radio Enthusiasts: Arthur CollinsAmateur Radio Enthusiasts: Arthur Collins

Radio transmission has played a crucial part in the success of many expeditions and explorations. In some cases radio has been used to summon help, in others it has simply been a means of contact, of sending back scientific and other information which might otherwise be lost if the expedition were to fail.

In 1924 a 31 year old John Reinartz was recruited as a radio operator for an expedition whose primary purpose was to complete a hydrographic survey of the region lying between Alaska and the North Pole. Reinartz had written a lot of articles for radio magazines and achieved the record for long distance transmission when he communicated with a radio ham (6TB) in Santa Monica. McMillan, the leader of the expedition and a veteran explorer had been convinced of the need to bring radio along, so he had Reinartz design the equipment and join the expedition as a radio operator on board the Bowdoin, one of the two ships making the journey. The other, the Peary, carried three aeroplanes and a contingent of the Navy, including a Lt Commander Richard E. Byrd. At the time little was known about the region around the Pole and part of the purpose of the expedition was to discover whether there was a vast landmass there or whether the ice was merely frozen ocean. In addition to Reinartz, the Evening Independent of June 17th 1925 reported that E.F. MacDonald of Chicago, President of the radio Broadcasters League of America was to assist with communications.

In far off Iowa, the expedition attracted the attention of Arthur Collins, a 14 year old radio enthusiast. Collins and Reinhardt had experimented in the use of short wave together, but when the MacMillan expedition set off from the coast of Maine intending to make regular contact with a receiving station in Washington DC, their signal was not received with any consistency. In Iowa however, Arthur Collins was able to both send and receive transmission from the expedition, using equipment he had constructed himself.

Each night he received messages from Reinhart in code on the twenty meter band. Then he took the information to the local telegraph office and relayed it to the receiving station in Washington. Not surprisingly, Arthur Collins, at only 15 years old, became a celebrity, even more so when Lt Command (later Admiral) Byrd claimed to have become the first person to fly over the North Pole.

Collins began to receive queries from other radio operators. Just how had he been able to make contact with the McMillan expedition? What did his homemade equipment consist of?

A couple of years later and using only 10 watts of power Collins and two friends ran numerous experiments in the use of short wave with the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC, then after studying electronics at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Coe College in Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa, Arthur Collins set up the Collins Radio Company in the basement of his parents house.

The rest, as they say is history. The Collins Radio Company went on to many 'firsts' in the radio world providing the radio equipment for Admiral Byrd's Antarctic expeditions (in 1934) , creating the first airborne radio for the airship 'Enterprise'(1934), becoming the first to observe a lunar eclipse by Radio Astronomy in 1949, flying over the North Pole while talking to another airplane at the South Pole(1956) and providing the communications equipment for the Mercury and later the Apollo space craft.

Arthur Collins died in 1987 by which time he had been awarded the Secretary of the Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award Citation (1962), the Iowa Broadcasters Association Distinguished Service Award (1966) and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's David Sarnoff Award (1979) He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1968 and received the Electronics Industries Association's Medal of Honor in 1980. The company he founded as Collins Radio continues today as Rockwell Collins.
by David Thorson
References and Bibliography
If you would like to learn more about CB radio or 10 meter radio you can visit us at 10 meter radios have gained popularity as they offer greater power than a traditional CB radio.
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