QRP SSB Magic in the 15-Meter Band

The 15 Meter Band is a surprising band. It is supposed to share some of the DX of the 10-Meter band as well as the reliability of the 20-Meter band. The F-2 layer of the ionosphere is primarily involved in the return of 15-Meter electromagnetic waves back to Earth, particularly during daylight when the Sun is close to the maximum of its cycle. However, it is also known to open during solar minima and permit low-power contacts even beyond the hours of peak sunlight.

Lately, I have been avoiding SSB contests but this last weekend was the “CQ WW DX SSB 2017” and I could not resist firing up the ICOM 703 just to get an idea – or so I thought – on how the top bands were behaving. The Sun is mid-path between the maximum of its 24th cycle (in 2014) and its expected minimum (in 2020) and I was readily expecting all bands above 20-Meter to show poor conditions.

In the 10-Meter band there were no surprises: it was deadly closed. However, even before tuning the antenna for the 15-Meter band I could already hear loud SSB signals reproducing the human voice. Some signals were a full 5-9. From there to want to see if those stations could receive my QRP signal there was just a small step: grabbing the microphone and speaking into it. By the time CR6K replied with a “59-14” and I answered “59-04” there was no way back.

The last entries in the 15-Meter band in my logs had been in February and in CW (in the ARRL DX CW 2017) and the last SSB contact in this same band had been logged in October 2016 (in the CQ WW DX SSB 2016). During the contest the SFI remained at 76 (SN=23), the Geomagnetic Field remained very quiet (K=1) and the 15-Meter band was expected to show “poor” propagation conditions both ant night and during daytime. In spite of some QSB (almost unavoidable in 15-Meter) after 2.4 hours – much to my surprise – I had logged 45 SSB contacts in 8 CQ zones (mostly 14, 15 and 08, but also, 33, 13, 3 and one in zone 11 (CX2DX in Las Piedras, Depto. de Canelones, Uruguay – 5,712 miles apart, hence applicable towards a “Thousand-Mile-Per-Watt Award” given the 5 Watts in my antenna).

The following picture shows a map with the location of the stations worked:

Map CQ WW DX SSB 2017

I hope this spell of 15-Meter propagation will continue during the next month, while I operate as CX7RT with the 21-foot long “Mini-W3EDP” (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/the-mini-14th-w3edp-a-special-design-for-a-balcony-down-south/) as my main HF antenna…