Chances of a Lifetime!

Chances of a Lifetime!
The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 37 from the DX University™*
There’s a great piece in the last ARRL propagation report from Tad Cook, K7RA. Tad reminisces about previous sunspot cycles back to Cycle 19, which peaked in during the summer of 1958. Cycle 19 peaked at a three month smoothed sunspot number of 201.3 centered in March, 1958. Exactly when it peaked really wasn’t too important though; conditions were excellent for several years on either side of the peak.
As I mentioned in a previous article, I was in high school in the late fifties during the peak of cycle 19. Although licensed in 1953, I didn’t begin chasing DX until the summer of 1956. My license instructor, Ted Davis, W6BJH – still very active – brought lots of DX QSL cards to class from cycle 18. That did it! I had to have some of those cards. As soon as I got my General Class license, I was on 20M CW with a 40M dipole at about 15 feet above the ground. No 15M, no 10M, just 20M CW. During the first two months of my DXing, I learned how to listen for the weak ones. I eventually found some good DX and was not really surprised when I was able to work it – low power, poor antenna and all.
In fact, I had no idea. Although the cycle 19 peak was more than a year off, I had no trouble working DX. I had no idea that 90 watts was low power. I had no idea that my dipole wasn’t much of an antenna. I was working DX!
I did know that 20M CW was the place to be to work DX. DXpeditions such as they were always opened up on 20M CW. A high school friend, K6ZJU (KN6ZJU) was working DX on 15M with a two-element Yagi about 6 feet above his bedroom roof. Dennis and I would listen to Radio Peking on 15.06 mHz 20 dB over S9 talking about the “Great Leap Forward.” Another friend, K6TNM would come to chemistry class telling me about the stuff that he worked the day before. He was always working JAs and ZSs. Yeah, that’s greatOM.I work that stuff, too. The bands are pretty good.
I had no idea. In fact, at that point, I had never heard of sunspots. I didn’t know what the solar flux was, and it didn’t mean much to me when the friend from chem class told me that he was working those JAs and ZSs on 6M!
Later in his article, Tad mentioned that those who witnessed cycle 19 were probably disappointed when cycle 20 came along. I wasn’t! I had no idea what to expect, and later, I picked a great time to go to school bottom of the cycle. Cycle 20 peaked at only110 in 1968 – about the same as cycle 23 which peaked in 2000-2001. (I knew 6M was open toEurope when the corner office onMain Street was empty until about 10-11 in the mornings.Europe was on 6M!)
When I returned toWyoming, I got interested in 160M. I had pretty good luck with better antennas for receiving and transmitting – until – the sunspots came back. Funny thing, though 160M hasn’t been all that bad. Cycle 24 hasn’t panned out very well for the high bands, but hey! There’s always cycle 25.
So, get your low-band antennas tuned up and ready to go. And in the mean time, we’re hearing theMiddle Eastand Southern Asia Long Path on 10M out here in the West this week. This is the long path season, and the flux is up around 140. But, this might be the last of this kind of propagation opportunity we’ll hear for a long time – maybe ever.
*The DX University™ is a series of learning sessions for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. Plans are now being made for DX University sessions at Visaliain 2013. This year, the DX University will consist of two half-day sessions, one beginning DXing and one Advanced DXing. These sessions will be co-sponsored by DXU and the Northern California DX Club, sponsor of this year’s International DX Convention. Make your reservations now!
These weekly articles published in the WeeklyDX™ are archived in the pages of The DX University. For more information on these topics and on “Best Practices for DXers and DXpeditioners,” see