...The radios we'll always remember

GERTRUDE AND ME

by Harry N9CQX


N9CQX Chicago Radio Memories 0 Comments 05/07/2022  

Posted By: Robert Nickels (W9RAN)
Post Date: 05/07/2022

 

One of the top pop songs of 1963, "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto, expanded the awareness many US teenagers had of other cultures.   At the same time, others like Harry N9CQX got a first-hand introduction to the wider world, courtesty of Uncle Sam.   In this blog, Harry describes his experience in the Coast Guard, and in particular with "Gertrude"...


 

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I entered the US Coast Guard Reserves on May 9th 1963. The reserve program was called 6 by 8 and that meant 6 months active duty and 8 years total time in the reserves. The regular enlistment was for 4 years of active duty.

 

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I was fortunate enough to pass a test that qualified me to attend Sonar school. My total electronics training up to that time consisted of self-study. A neighbor gave up after barely starting on a deForest home study course and passed it to me. I read the materials and built the course training kits.

 

Sonar training was conducted for six months (I had to extend my active-duty time) in Key West FL at the Navy Base, Fleet Sonar School. A major part of the training was electronics. The deForest home study course must have worked on me because I ended up on the honor roll at school.

 

The final few weeks of Sonar school were the most fun. We cruised out into the Atlantic, on the Coast Guard Cutter, Androscoggin. We got to operate the Sonar gear as well as other CIC (combat information center) equipment. It was anti-submarine warfare training time and we played hide-and-seek type maneuvers with the Navy submarines. The sea in that area contained thermoclines or layers of temperature variant waters. The subs were harder to track because the thermoclines would bend the Sonar waves providing good submarine hiding spots. Our simulated depth charges were packets of dye tossed overboard. When it was requested of them, the subs would reveal their location by discharging a bunch of bubbles.

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What did Gertrude have to do with all of this? Well, we communicated with the submerged submarines with Gertrude. That was the nickname for the AN/UQC-1 Control Head that utilized our Sonar stack and transducer at low power. It was a single sideband receiver-transceiver. It converted voice frequencies of 250 to 3000 cycles to upper sideband frequencies of 8338 to 11088 cycles and the lower sideband was suppressed. The submarines had a similar set up to talk back. It sounded very weird. It was kind of like sideband but it was audio not RF and very distorted as it travelled through the sea water.

 

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There have been many changes and improvements with underwater transmissions since my time in the Coast Guard. I see that a new system for underwater communication has been instituted as of 2017. It is nicknamed Janus. It utilizes digital communication although it is also at acoustic frequencies. The rated distance of the early Gertrude was only 12,000 yards. The Janus system is good for 28 kilometers or 17 miles. 


   

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