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5000 Days of QRP QSO's

Column #84 by John, K3WWP - April 12 is an interesting date in spaceflight history as was recently pointed out to me by Larry W2LJ. April 12, 1960 - Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to orbit the earth. April 12, 1970 - One day before the famous and oft quoted words "Houston, we have a problem." That in regard to the explosion aboard the Apollo 13 spacecraft. April 12, 1981 - The first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia issuing in the STS era of re-usable spacecrafts.

Why did I mention all that? Well, April 12, 2008 is a very special personal date for me. It's the day on which I made a QSO using QRP/CW/simple wire antennas for the 5,000th consecutive day. That streak began unknowingly back on August 5, 1994 when I worked KG9N/C6A. Ever since then I got on the air long enough each day to make at least one such QSO. Actually in the 5,000 days I made some 47,500 QSO's or an average of 9.5 QSO's per day - again ALL with QRP/CW/simple wire antennas. Of those QSO's, some 13,400+ were DX QSO's, i.e. with countries other than the USA and Canada. In my log for the streak are some 14,500 unique call signs meaning I contacted that many different hams in the streak.

I think this shows that such a minimal setup really does work, despite the skepticism of some hams who have never tried it. That's why I'm making the streak the topic of this column. Along the way it has encouraged many hams, who for one reason or other can't use high power and big antennas, to still get on the HF CW bands and have a lot of fun. Hopefully this column will do the same for still more hams. I've never sought any personal glory from the streak. I've kept it up for just a couple reasons. One being that it certainly does demonstrate the extreme efficiency and usefulness of CW in this day when CW is being shunned by so many hams who've never experienced the delight of using the mode. Also I do it just because it is a personal challenge to myself which helps me keep active on the bands, and it is just plain and simply a lot of fun.

The streak was suggested by my friend Eric (later to become KB3BFQ). He and I are both sports fans and of course there are a lot of streaks in sports. Eric wondered how a streak could be applied to ham radio and thought maybe to see how many consecutive days a QSO could be made. We added the qualification that it must be made with QRP/CW/simple wire antennas, and the rest is history now. I can say it can be done for at least 5,000 consecutive days, Eric.

I've never done anything special to keep the streak going. By that, I mean I never checked into nets nor made skeds for my QSO's. I have made a few skeds along the way for other reasons, but not to extend the streak. And on days when I did make such sked QSO's I always made it a point to get another QSO in addition.

All QSO's were simply the result of getting on the bands and calling CQ, answering some one else's CQ, or entering a sprint or contest.

My friend Tom WY3H recently interviewed me about the streak for another ham radio publication, and one of the toughest questions he asked was what were my most memorable moments in the streak. There are just so many, I find it hard to narrow it down to just a few.

One thing that always comes to mind is having VK6HQ near Perth, Australia answer my 30M QSO not once, but on 3 separate occasions. Perth is just about as far from Kittanning as you can get without going into outer space. There are many QSO's with rare, hard to work DX countries that come to mind. Some that I got a special kick out of were JT1DA in Mongolia, 5A1A in Libya, VQ9QM & VQ9IO in Chagos Is., and well probably a couple other dozen I won't list here to save space.

Some other special things during the streak were as follows in no particular order:

June 12, 1996 - Worked W4HG in NC on 10,12,15,17,20,30,40, and 80 meters in a half hour.
November 2, 1997 - Missed a clean sweep in the SS by not getting YT and NE.
November 7, 1999 - 412 QSO's in the SS - my busiest day.
April 21, 2000 - WAC in 6 consecutive QSO's on 5 different bands - RV9CP-20M, VK4XA-17M, UX1MM-10M, W5UJA-15M, YV6AZC-12M, and EA8ALP-20M.
March 21, 2000 - 23 DX QSO's - none in a contest.
July 15, 2000 - the last day in a streak of 154 consecutive days with at least one DX QSO.
May 30, 2005 - My first time ever operating portable in the field - The Hootowl Sprint with Tom WY3H.

Again here I could go on forever with highlights, but I won't lest it get boring. For those of you not yet bored, I refer you to my web site for more details.

Finally, again I repeat the bottom line purpose of the streak is to prove that QRP/CW/simple wire antennas are a viable way of making QSO's on the ham bands. I think the streak proves that.

Thanks to all who have followed the streak over the years and sent along their comments, 100% of them in a positive vein. I have no intention of ending the streak of my own free will. It will take something beyond my control to bring it to an end.

Till next issue, all the best and give QRP a try if you haven't done so. You may be surprised at what you can do with it. 73 de John K3WWP -30-