JA CQ Magazine and DX “Celebrities”

It’s been just over 90 days since I returned from E51AMF/E51ADD.  The memories are still just as vividly and indelibly etched in my skull, but I haven’t been good about sharing them here.  Instead of aiming for long-form updates, I endeavor to share snippets and may stumble upon inspiration along the way.

As I reflected on my return trip, this hobby has brought me in touch with incredible people around the world.  Even given my meager number of contacts, I was floored by the outpouring of gratitude for new-bandmodes, ATNOs, or even just the opportunity to make a contact.  While this was surprising to me, I understood it.  I’ve done the ATNO dance a couple hundred times and totally get it.

What I didn’t expect was the minor celebrity status.  The DX news cycle was surprisingly rabid and chased every tidbit I shared on Twitter.  I was ‘interviewed’ by email by Oku-San (JK1KSB) and Hiro-San (JA4DND) from JA CQ Magazine for the March 2017 issue (excerpt – PDF).  I provided an update for both the High Band and Low Band sections.  I was thrilled to share a page with W0YK (P49X) who I met solely because of my trip.  He’s referred to me as a “reverse elmer” – easily the most flattering thing that’s been said about me in this hobby, to date.

My celebrity status led me to one conclusion.  The ham radio titans were also people just like me.  Of course they’re more knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced than I.  At some point, they were just as flattered and confused about the whirlwind of talk about them.

Reflections on Radio and My Trip

As I departed Manihiki on the little Embrair 110, I found found myself reflecting on my time on the atoll, the people I met, my experiences, and my first real DXPedition.  I scrambled to retain the incredibly positive and optimistic feelings I had.

This tiny little island has left an indelible mark on me and the time off the air will have a lasting effect, far beyond anything I had expected. In this context, I won’t expound on that topic to any great length, but there are a few things I’d like to share with DXers and DXPeditioners.

I’m a new ham and this hobby has provided me with life experiences that I simply could not have expected. My goal in this prologue is solely to encourage reflection on the art of radio and encourage hams to take a more active stance in furthering it.

The US agency that governs our use of RF spectrum, (the FCC) states that the sole purpose of amateur radio is to “foster international goodwill.” Over the course of the last year, I have learned that this purpose is an apt goal and that we have been provided with a unique opportunity to do that. There are hams everywhere. This fraternity has afforded me tremendous gateways into their knowledge, their experiences, and into their lives. I can only endeavor to do the same for others, in the future.

On this trip, I made new friends. I established enduring friendships with people around the globe. Some of these were fellow DXers trying finding the right conditions to get in my logbook, some were with those that reached out to help in unexpected ways, and some with those that tried new things solely because I was doing them. These friendships span across the gap of modern communications and the RF technology I’ve learned to love so much. I used low latency satellite back-hauled WiFi on one of the most remote islands on the planet. Hams sprung out of Twitter and Skype with signal reports from an informal pilot network in France, Bulgaria, Germany, Japan, the US, and neighboring islands. I came out here with support from a small existing team, hams back home that I knew “had my back.” I left with a whole new one, hams I hope to meet in person someday.


During the mid-day propagation hole (more on that in a later post), I spent time with an older ham who has been off the air for a long time. Our early conversations were focused on orienting him to his new radio, getting him re-familiarized with abbreviations and prosigns, etiquette, and technique. As he became more proficient, he would operate on his own and I’d just answer questions. Over time, our conversation shifted to the history of the island, local plants, and his life on the island. My time with him were the most rewarding moments on the island. Watching him complete his first CW QSO in more than 20 years, calling CQ and having someone come back, and listening to him talk about how much he loves the island.

I came to an island I never would have known about had I not been a ham. I interact with intelligent, creative, and thoughtful people I would never meet were I not a ham. I spent time with a man that opened up a view into his life, because we are hams.

I had an incredible experience, because of my interest in this silly hobby.

Magic Incantation to Redeem IRCs

Up until this DXPedition, I’d only received on IRC (International Reply Coupon) and simply passed it on to another JA who’s confirmation I wanted.  With the flood of E51AMF QSL cards, I received a pile of IRCs and needed a mechanism to redeem them.  Coincidentally, Dan – W7WA, posted to the Western Washington DX Club’s Yahoo Group (“reflector”) that he’d been successful doing so, last week.  He shared the magic incantation:

On their touch screen ask the clerk to proceed as follows:
Sales => More => Exchanges => Foreign IRC

I visited our tiny little post-office and muttered the magic words.  Indeed, they are redeemable for stamps or stamped envelopes at the rate of $1.15/IRC.  The postmaster, who was curious enough to come out of his office to observe the transaction, said that they will likely track the value of one Global Forever stamp (currently $1.15). The magic phrase (“Sales, More, Exchanges, Foreign IRC”) was exactly what they needed.  It turned a blank stare into “no problem!”  3 minutes had I left with 12 moon-themed global forever stamps (plus the 200 I bought!)


E51AMF – K7ADD Confirmed

Having returned from E51AMF in the North Cook Islands, I was incredibly excited to see my own confirmation.  I used the expensive WiFi on-site to remote my home station’s Flex 6500 and make a barefoot RTTY contact.  I gave myself bi-directional 599s, but the K7ADD me was probably 459 – took a number of repeated calls to make sure I felt right about logging it.  That’s right, I gave myself an ATNO.

Many more posts about this trip forthcoming.  An incredible trip and there’s so much I experienced and learned on my first DXPedition.

ARRL Logbook of the World Status Report
Generated at 2017-02-23 21:05:28
for k7add
QSL SINCE: 2017-02-23 20:52:42

<APP_LoTW_LASTQSL:19>2017-02-23 21:03:22


Date Time Call Band Mode Station Call Result
2017-01-22 04:23:00 E51AMF 30M RTTY K7ADD new confirmation for North Cook Islands: entity, RTTY, 30M

LotW operations: 6 QSLs processed, 6 log entries updated, 0 errors

A DXCC A Year Keeps the Doctor Away

One of the visualizations on Club Log is the DXCC Timeline view. It’s shocking how much DX I worked in my first 5 months on the air (2013) with an IC-7000 and a G5RV at 20 feet. 2014 saw me addition of the Hexbeam on the roof and the AL80B and not much travel. Throughout 2015 and 2016, I traveled a ton and spent much of my shack time refining the setup, instead of on the air. Even still, my ongoing goal will be to work (and confirm) a full DXCC every year.

If I include portable operations from Estonia and Slovenia, 2016 was the most successful year, yet.

Maybe someday I’ll figure out why I have >11k QSOs in the log and Club Log, no matter how many times I reload my ADIF, shows 9625 QSOs.