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2012 Brought Increase in DXCC Applications, ARRL QSL Bureau Card Processing


With the coming of more sunspots comes more DX. And when more amateurs work DX, the ARRL’s Membership and Volunteer Programs Department -- especially the DXCC Desk and the ARRL Incoming and Outgoing QSL Bureaus -- goes into high gear.

“In 2012, we saw an increase in the number of cards received from ARRL members that were sent to foreign QSL bureaus, as well as the number of cards we sent out to the bureaus,” said Membership and Volunteer Programs Administrative Manager Sharon Taratula. “In addition, the number of DXCC applications -- including those for initial awards and endorsements -- also increased.”

In 2011, the DXCC Desk processed 11,173 applications for initial awards and endorsements; these comprised 1,305,376 QSOs. In 2012, the DXCC Desk processed 14,301 applications, comprising 1,491,661 QSOs. “This represents a 14 percent increase in the number of QSOs and a 28 percent increase in the number of applications,” Taratula explained.

As the number of DXCC applications has increased, so has the number of QSL cards passing through the ARRL Outgoing QSL Bureau. “Through December 31, 2012, the ARRL Outgoing QSL Bureau received 808,500 cards destined for foreign QSL bureaus from ARRL members in the US,” Taratula said. “This represents an increase of 1 percent over the 2011 number of about 802,500 cards. In 2012, the ARRL shipped 731,440 cards -- or close to 5000 pounds of cards -- to foreign bureaus.”

How the Bureaus Work

Each day, QSL cards are delivered to the Outgoing QSL Bureau where they are placed in dated bins. They are then sorted by country prefix and processed according to the date they were received in the Bureau. Each week, volunteers assist Outgoing QSL Bureau Associate Rose-Anne Lawrence, KB1DMW, in packing up the cards for the most active bureaus and preparing them for shipment.

Within the US, the ARRL Incoming QSL Service is made up of numerous call area bureaus, with one bureau serving each call area. These call area bureaus -- headed up by an Area Incoming Manager -- act as central clearing houses for QSL cards arriving from foreign countries. Volunteers at ARRL Headquarters sort all the incoming cards according to the number in a call sign and then send all the cards to the appropriate call area bureau. Volunteers within each bureau then sort the cards according to the first letter in a call sign’s suffix. The cards are then sent to those in the call area who participate in the Incoming QSL Service.

For example, cards destined for ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, would be delivered to the Area 3 Incoming Manager, because Craigie’s call sign has a 3 in it. Her cards would then be sent to the person in that call area bureau responsible for sorting cards with a K, as the first letter in her suffix is a K. The cards are then delivered to Craigie. While amateurs must be an ARRL member to take advantage of the Outgoing QSL Bureau, membership is not required to receive cards from the Incoming QSL Service.

“There is a definite cycle here in the Bureau,” Lawrence said. “We keep busy all year long, but it really gears up in the fall, right around Thanksgiving weekend. It tapers off a little in the spring after contest season. Hams really do love their QSL cards, and we get to see so many beautiful ones pass through the Bureau.”

Lawrence receives help in the Bureau from volunteers, most notably Lisa Zeug, K1UQT, and Michael Zeug, W1YM, Area 1 letter sorters from Massachusetts who also help out in the Membership and Volunteer Programs Department. Richard Lawrence, KB1DMX, and David Kaplan, WA1OUI, help with all parts of the Bureau operation at Headquarters. John Meyer, K9QVB -- the Area 9 Incoming Manager -- comes all the way from Illinois each May every to spend a week at Headquarters slotting cards.



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