Australia on 5 watts and a wire

by Alfred Gruenke PE, KB3JPP

VK2GWKIt was a cold and rainy February evening in suburban Wescosville, Pennsylvania. It was “tween” time, the time between the Super Bowl and the opening of baseball Spring Training.  This is when physical and mental activity in general slow down. February is, in general, a pretty useless month. Other than a few exceptions, it’s usually cold, wet, and miserable. The month just doesn’t have much going for it. For years I’ve been advocating going from January directly to March, skipping February entirely. However, my voice of reason has been a mere cry in the wilderness, drowned out by the forces of darkness and disparagement.

It was early Friday evening and I was home recovering from surgery.  My recovery left me with a lot of time to spend on my favorite leisure activity, globe trotting with my Elecraft K1. I fired up my ICOM IC-746PRO and the K1, Ham Radio Deluxe and on the computer. Then I went hunting for DX on 20 meters. Utilizing two receivers really makes a difference when Dxing; monitor one QSO while searching with the other. My antenna is a mere 52 ft. G5RV Junior 25 feet above the ground.

Up and down the band, I would listen to a station, check if I had worked that country or state, and then skip to another. This went on for some time. Then I heard it! A VK prefix! Any prefix that starts with the letter V (other than VE or VA) will get my attention since it’s sure to be a pretty exotic DX. I listened for a while to verify the call, “VK2GWK”. I checked the call on Yup, that’s Australia! I’d already worked VK land with 100 Watts, so I thought I’d give it a go with the K1, QRP.

After finishing his QSO he called, “CQ, CQ de VK2GWK”, and I responded. He came back, “KB3???”. I did a fist pump and repeated my call. Again he sent “KB3???”.  I repeated my call about three or four times, after which he had my call correct. My RST was a mere 339, but, as they say, a slight ripple in the cosmic ether is better than no ripple at all. His RST was a very respectable 579

VK2GWK is Henk Tobbe, New South Wales, Australia.  It’s a few miles up the coast from Sidney and 9.776 miles from Wescosville, or 1,995 miles per watt. Not bad. A few watts go a long way! I intend to apply for another 1,000 miles per watt award. Henk has a rather sophisticated website which allowed me to download an electronic QSL card. It’s nice, but I’d rather have a real card in my hand. Call me old fashioned. Besides, I don’t know if an electronic card is valid for any awards.

I don’t know if I was just lucky or whether the long-promised sun spots are coming back, but my QRP QSOs have been increasing lately. So far, I have confirmed QRP QSOs with 38 states and 62 countries. I’ve had QSOs with Oman, Nigeria, and Kiritimati, but this one is the most memorable. Just think of it, Australia, with only five watts and a wire!