Beacon from the top
by Antony Chazapis
The Skinakas Observatory is located in the heart of Crete; almost at the center of the island and on a peak of its highest mountain, Psiloritis. The setting is truly unique: the rocky surroundings, the roaring wind, and the freezing cold in the middle of the summer are captivating. I had visited the site twice before, when I was a student at the University of Crete. I knew that visitors were only accepted five times a year – on certain Sundays during spring and summer. The road leading to the observatory is covered with ice the rest of the year anyway.
I was lucky this year to be on the island during one of these five days. Visiting hours are in the afternoon, so after a lunch full of traditional delicacies at Anogia, we drove to the top. A lot of people were already there. The researchers from the university were showing around the facilities, explaining, and answering to questions.
After the tour, I got out to try out my new handheld radio – a Yaesu VX-8GE. I was surprised to find out that I could easily access the Athens-area repeaters, over 300 km away. I also tried an APRS beacon, which was picked up by a gateway on the other side of the Aegean Sea and forwarded to the Internet, before finding its way back to me, through the mobile network, on my phone. A round trip of several hundred kilometers, using three different networks, in seconds. Interesting.