Don Miller, W9WNV

I finally had a chance to catch up on the recent two-part interview with Don Miller – now AE6IY but formerly W9WNV – from the pages of CQ Magazine. Paul Ewing, N6PSE handled the interview and article (Sept-Oct 2015) and did a fine job, though there wasn’t really much new information to add to Don’s amazing adventures.

Miller operated in those early days before the DXCC program had adopted strict rules. Jumping on a boat and operating ham radio from some faraway island wasn’t common and you could count on one hand the names of those adventurous souls who regularly did that. The game was new and the rules not yet fully baked. Notions that what Don did damaged the DX community are complete nonsense. The bleatings of miserable old goats whose complaints have faded to mere footnotes in antiquity.

But not Don. He is legend. Adventure, courage, amazing radio skills in the days of marginal hardware along with paper and pencil logging. And no spotting networks…

I’ve met Miller twice and have previously written about him and the pioneering days of DXpeditions. Count me a fan. I’m unimpressed with feckless old guys sitting around their shacks, never more than twenty feet from food, while “chasing” DX. The heroes and legends of DX are those who courageously travel to desolate and often dangerous places. And, there’s something about the simplicity of a 1960’s era DXpedition that, to me, shames the modern operation with helicopter landings, tons of supplies and hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment.

I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about W9WNV and I’m impressed. For all I know, Southern Cross might have been written about Miller and Swain’s Pacific adventures…

Got out of town on a boat goin’ to Southern islands
Sailing a reach before a followin’ sea
She was makin’ for the trades on the outside
And the downhill run to Papeete
Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of the waterline nicely making way

The CQ Magazine interview provides a glimpse into the life of a ham radio legend. If you want more, I suggest you download and listen to Don tell his story in his own voice. It’s amazing. You can find the audio files (MP3) and more about W9WNV in the DokuFunk archive online:

Author: Jeff Davis