The ARRL International DX CW and the Conundrum of the Three Tees

After two months (my last contest had been the “RAC Winter Day” in mid-December) I returned to the 30-35 (sometimes even 40) wpm craze that, these days, is a DX CW contest: over the weekend I participated in the “ARRL International DX CW”.

Operating S&P, with the ICOM 703 outputting 5 Watts into an end-fed wire up a maple tree, I was able to log 145 DX contacts and collect 84 multipliers. This was a few more than the 117 QSOs I logged in 2016 for a respectable 3rd. place among 11 QRP Canadian stations.

Sending was via the Bencher BY2 paddle with which – if needed and even at 30 wpm – I can correct an error in the reception of my callsign or perhaps send and extra “TU” – even a “73” – or just a quick “ee” to those who struggle with my QRP signal.

A big surprise was to be able to log stations in all 5 HF bands (10m-80m). Under current propagation conditions I was expecting the 10m band to remain completely closed and the 15m band to be very poor. Instead, the 15m band remained opened from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, and a several PY stations answered my QRP call in the 10m band. 8P in the 80m band was a bonus. Also a new DXCC (V3) found its way into my logs (124 DXCC entities worked with 108 confirmed in LoTW).

As part of the contest exchange all DX stations were sending their PWR as the number of Watts output by their transmitters. Most were using the usual abbreviations, but one station insisted in sending the PWR in the form of three Tees: “TTT” (the abbreviation for “000”). I listen with intent and it was definitely “TTT”. Was it an unusual abbreviation for “1000” or perhaps a long “E” for “E00” instead of “500”? Or had this station really found a way for sending electro-magnetic waves into the ionosphere using zero output power? Likely, with no transmitter at all, which would revolutionize not only Amateur-Radio but all Thermodynamics as we know it… And if so – and this is the big conundrum – why send three “T’s” when a single one would have sufficed…?