After the Apocalypse
Chapter 35: Calling America
by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue
Four days into Arkwright's listening project, there was a real sense of disillusionment around the Hawaiian radio room. After nearly 100 hours of continuous monitoring, no intelligible signals had been received. Even the known Russian government bands, which had been the target of special attention from the beginning, had remained silent to the Hawaiian listeners. Nonetheless, the importance of the quest had taken hold across the campus, and there was no doubt that the project would continue. Exactly what would justify calling it off wasn't clear to anyone.
This radio silence was not for lack of trying on the part of Winter Camp. Mark made it a point to broadcast a brief message every hour on the hour during Winter Camp daylight, which meant that some 60 beacons had gone out. While it was no surprise that no response had been received, the continuing silence from the rest of the world did nothing for morale.
"I wish we had some idea where anyone else might be," Dan said. "It would be a better use of this gear if we could target our broadcasts a little better."
"Let's think about this logically, then," said Mark. "If the world has been destroyed-reasonable assumption, that-then it's probably the work of the Russians or the Chinese. A lot then depends on what kind of response we were able to launch before the bombs hit America."
The words came easily, but the shudder which followed was something new. Somehow saying out loud that America had been bombed-even though it didn't qualify as news-still had an impact bordering on the devastating.
"In any event, our best bets for receiving any messages probably come from those government stations. Unfortunately, that probably calls for a different set of shortwave bands. As far as contacting anybody in that corner of the world-well, we probably don't want to be doing that. No sense in inviting any unfriendly activity."
"How's your Chinese, Mark?" asked Tom.
"Nonexistent. Fortunately, since anyone on the ham bands is likely to know Morse code, that won't be an obstacle. To continue: If we look within America for a more friendly reception, it's a crapshoot. No avoiding that. There's really no way to predict where any survivors might be. I mean, I don't think anyone would have guessed that D-A would have been a safe haven during a nuclear event, yet here we are. Even more than that, who would have thought we'd survive in the middle of what appears to be a blown-out area?"
"Okay, so where would we think other pockets of survivors might be? Even if we wouldn't have predicted here, maybe we could have predicted some places," said Joe.
"North," said Lee.
"Yeah. To the north. Like Canada. I suppose a lot of southern Canada might have been hit or affected by the attack on the U.S., but northern Canada might have been spared."
"Right!" said Mark, catching on. "That's why we talked about placing our thousand-year time capsule in northern Canada-we guessed that it might remain undisturbed up there. Of course, we didn't have nuclear war in mind, but…you might be on to something."
"So can we redirect the antennas that way?" asked Joe.
"That's tricky, but not impossible," said Mark. "The thing is, I don't know how much improvement we'll get out of that. The antenna we've managed to put together is kind of omnidirectional. It's not like AM radio, where you can get better reception based on how you turn the receiver."
"Worth a try, though?" asked Lee.
"Sure. Can't hurt."
North was quickly determined, and Dan and Joe climbed back to the roof to reorient the antenna. Whether it would be an improvement was anybody's guess, but there was again the reassuring feeling that something was being done.
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