DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX

The Maltese Manager

One of the Local QRPers came hippity-hopping up the hill the other day, this one with a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face. We were happy to see this, for often we have to console the disenchanted ones, or listen to a tale of woe that often defies explanation. The QRPer looked at us and then sat down. "It's over", he said confidently, "it's all over and we can get on with real DXing! What a relief!" We looked down over the village for a few moments, trying to decide how to proceed. We took a deep breath and asked the inevitable question: "What's over?"

"Cycle 22", the QRPer responded without hesitation. "There's no doubt about it. The sunspots are returning and so will the DX! The signs are everywhere. The Flat Days of DXing are over! Cycle 23 has begun" We looked at the QRPer for a moment and then said, "What makes you so sure? The flux hasn't moved in months. Why do you think it's going to start now. We might be in for another year of this." The QRPer looked at us in disbelief: "Aren't you the one who's the eternal optimist, Buster? Now that I have evidence things are going to improve, you doubt me? Why, I was talking to that QSL manager in Malta yesterday on 20-metres. The one who manages the station for Antarctica. He assured me that things were improving. He should know. He says the QSLs he has handled in September and October are only about half the volume of those in June and July."

At this point we were at a complete loss. "What does a decrease in the number of QSLs handled by the Maltese Manager have to do with the solar flux?" we asked, curious to see how the QRPer was going to handle this. "Simple", the QRPer replied, "the propagation has shifted from north-south to east-west. That's a sure sign that the ionospheric conditions have changed. And this guy from Malta says he's been around long enough to know propagation and DXing. He says that since his station in the Antarctic isn't being worked, it's a sure sign the new cycle has begun. You can't argue with that! And he said he was going to Morocco too for the next DX contest. Said that with the beginning of the new cycle, he was sure to win first place in Africa, too! He's going to set up a killer station in Rabat or Casablanca. What do you think of that?"

Son of a Gun! We knew who the manager in Malta was, and we were about as confident in him as Sam Spade had been of the authenticity of Kasper Gutman's falcon! Just as we were about to try and explain this to the QRPer, Sunspot Louie came by and sat down. We got up and got a glass of iced tea for the both of them. We decided to let Louie handle the situation . . . after all, if Sunspot Louie can't explain propagation theory, who could? So we watched as the QRPer told the story to Louie, complete with arm waving, finger pointing and the confidence of the young-and-knowing.

Louie looked at the QRPer intently and then said, "That's absolutely correct! I've been watching the position and behavior of the sunspots these past few months. The folks at the JPL in Pasadena and the NASA scientists are all saying the same thing. The Great Days of DXing are near. I wasn't going to make this public for a few more months, but you've got the inside track from the Maltese Manager. And when he flashes up that station in Morocco, there will be DX for all! Be prepared!" The QRPer leapt to his feet and looked at us with the I-told-you-so grin. "DX IS!" he shouted, as he ran down the hill and off to the DX club meeting to share his new-found knowledge.

We sat there with Sunspot Louie for a few minutes, then looked over at him. It was clear both of us had been watching too much late-night TV and not tuning the bands enough! Louie's face broke into a broad grin for a split second. Then with a straight face he looked us right in the eye and said, "The stuff dreams are made of." Son of a Gun! What else could we do? We both got up and walked across the yard. We had to say it: "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

73/DX Paul VE1DX

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