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Continuous Calling in a Pileup – What’s Going On?

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 35 from the DX University™

Listening casually to a large pileup often makes one wonder: If a DX station actually did come back to some of those calling, how would they ever hear. They seem to be transmitting continuously! Even if they are all using QSK, their listening window is very, very short. Maybe they are practicing “Beacon DXing,” (Beacon DXing is where you put your keyer in the beacon mode and it transmits your call continuously in a pileup until your call shows up in the online log, whereupon you turn it off and go back to the football game. It’s a joke, folks! Or is it?)

Of course, these guys do listen briefly once in a while, but then they start up again with very little hesitation. These seem to be situations where “when in doubt, call” is employed. It’s sort of like fishing: You can’t catch a fish if your line is out of the water.” (Of course, that’s a philosophy for beginning fishermen.) This is a marginal technique of course, and really does little more than disrupt the operations. It’s more of a philosophy for beginning DXers.

But I wonder: Why they continue to call when it seems obvious that the call is not for them? One possibility is that it’s NOT obvious to them. Perhaps they didn’t hear who was called. Perhaps they didn’t even hear the station return a call – they may be calling out of sync and never heard the DX station start transmitting again. But many times, these stations call every time the DX operator stops sending, no matter what part of the QSO is taking place. If they start calling just after the DX stations stops sending they must be hearing him.  You just have to wonder. It may just be flailing for lack of any other viable technique.

Or maybe it has something do to with the way the DX operator is handling partials? If the DX op is picking out just two letters or even one, stations with just that letter or two will call again. Or, they may feel that short of a complete call, anything with a question mark (?) is fair game.

Recently, several DX ops have used an old technique that can be very challenging for DXers. Using this technique, the DX op will pick up two or maybe just one letter and send that letter – nothing else – especially no “?”. The idea is that if just those ops with that short letter or combination of letters will come back, and/or even a moderate percentage of the others will stop, enough QRM will go away for the QSO to take place. The DXpedition operator should not dwell long on partials as it can destroy the all-important rhythm. I have used this technique often, and I can testify that it does work well.

Of course, if you are listening on the caller end of this pileup, it sounds really bad. What you might hear is a characteristic of my favorite pileup: Controlled Chaos. So once again, what is really important may not be what a pileup sounds like, but whether it is producing the desired results – a high QSO rate and accuracy.

The point is that one’s perception of a pileup is just that; one’s perception. There are actually many different perceptions that are not obvious to others. What you hear might not be what others hear. Think about it.

*The DX University™ is a daylong learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. These weekly articles published in the WeeklyDX™ are archived in the pages of The DX University along with other useful information for DXers and DXpeditioners.  For more information on these topics, see www.dxuniversity.com