Scouts take to the airwaves

MORE than 130 Scouts from the NSW North Coast yesterday tuned in to one of the biggest-ever "chat rooms".

Scouts from around the world took part in an annual Jamboree of the Air over the weekend - an event pioneered by ham-radio operators to allow Scouts to talk to others in different countries but which has expanded to embrace internet chat via computers.

Scout leader Tony Ryder helped supervise the scouts who had camped under canvas at his property at Wardrop Valley.

He said they came from as far afield as Ballina, Casino and Kyogle for a weekend of international communications and "had a ball".

About 30 per cent of the scouts at the event, Mr Ryder said, were now female, which had become typical of jamborees in Australia.

Many of them combined the latest in wireless laptop computer communications with traditional scouting skills that involved roughing it in bush conditions.

The 47th Jamboree On The Air (JOTA) and 8th Jamboree On The Internet was an annual event where Scouts all over the world contact each other using amateur radio.

To participate in JOTA, Scout groups had to find a licensed amateur radio operator who would supply all the equipment plus his/her expertise, usually at no charge.

According to Scouts, JOTA can be set up anywhere in Australia ? even with just a wire antenna slung from the branches of a gum tree and a radio run off a car battery.

This year's 47th Jamboree on the Air was an annual event in which an estimated half-million Scouts and guides all over the world make contact with each other by means of amateur radio. Many of them also chose to use the internet.

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