I am a casual QRP DX’er. In these days of SDR, Panadapters, and all sorts of high-tech strategies for spotting stations on the air in real-time (i.e., reverse beacons, DX clusters, alerts, skimmers, etc.), my personal preference is still to scan the bands with a finger in the dimple of the VFO knob (a significant contribution to my quota of required daily exercise…), listen by ear to the radio speaker, let the signals surprise me and then reply in old Morse code by manually operating a key (straight or paddle).
QRP and with a small antenna I have little chance of breaking through any pile-up, and often waste little time trying to call a station that is already being chased by many. Instead I hope to stumble over a rare station that has just started to call CQ and be able to log it before it is spotted, the pile-up begins and it starts to operate split.
This has happened a few times, but perhaps the most notable occasion was one year ago, on the evening of December 21 2014, when in the 17m band I was able to contact RI1ANR, the Novolazarevskaya Station in Queen Maud Land, Antartica, Grid JB59TE at a distance of quasi 15,000 miles almost due South. This was not the only time I was able to break the 1,000 miles per watt “barrier”, but it was – and still remains – a personal record distance while operating from Ottawa, Canada. I was leisurely scanning the 17m band and had just exchanged reports with Dave WN4AFP in South Carolina at 18.079 MHz. As I moved down the dial, at 18.074 MHz. and 23:01z, I heard a fast CQ at a solid 559: RI1ANR. “Neat” – I thought – Russia!”, as I sent them my callsign. There were several other stations trying to call them, but nothing like a pile-up, and they were not operating split. I got a reply at my third try and the OP gave me a report of 579, I replied with a 599 RST and we exchange 73’s. Later, as I entered it in the log, I realized that I had reached continental Antartica.
I was using the ICOM 703-Plus at 5W with a 43-Ft. quasi-vertical endfed wire, while at the other end the RI1ANR Team (Oleg/UA1PBA/ZS1ANF, Slava/RD3MX and Alex/UA1PAW) was using a Yaesu FT-1000MP Mark-V Field with an ACOM-1000 amplifier, and their antenna was a 3-El SteppIR Yagi for 14-28 MHz, on a 10-meter mast with rotator (planted in the ice sheet).