I read in the Daily Dx a moment ago that Peter Watson, ZL3GQ, passed away on
March 27th. Most of us knew of Peter's stroke in December as reported by W4ZV
here on the 160M reflector.
As many did thereafter, I wrote a letter to Peter and his wonderful wife Maire
and included a copy of my book "Dx'ing On the Edge" for Peter to read while in
About a week after having sent it off to ZL, I received a really upbeat e-mail
from Peter himself. In it he told me that he was on the mend and making
steady progress. He also noted that he had indeed read the book and had
enjoyed reading once again about his early exploits on Topband.
Peter went on to say that he had not realized, until having read the book,
that he had been making history with some of his early Topband contacts from
ZL including his making of the first ZL to VS6 qso, for example.
Personally, Peter's passing is a bit of a shock to me as I really thought he
would make it back from the brink. I even worked him during the ARRL CW DX
Test this past February. Perhaps he was just pushing the memory quadrants on
his keyer, but it sure sounded like the Peter I knew of old when he called me
on 160M at his sunset and when I later worked him the next afternoon on 10CW.
He was running the pile on 10CW about as well as ever and it registered to me
at the time that he must have been doing pretty well in order to have been
able to work a pileup so efficiently - especially following a stroke which he
said had almost killed him. Those were my last qso's with him.
In 1986 I spent four days with Peter and Maire at his home on the outskirts of
Christchurch. He lived on about a 5.5 acre spread as I recall, essentially
level land, with a homebrew tower and quad. A picture of it appears in
"Dx'ing On the Edge". On 160M he used a flattop dipole at about 100 feet.
While there, Peter and I worked the CQ 160M CW Test together and made about
155 qso's. Those were some of the toughest QSO's imaginable and I understood
from the experience what it is REALLY LIKE to work 160M so far away from the
major population centers of the world. It ain't easy - even when the other
guys sound LOUD, you can call and call FOREVER without stations hearing you -
especially in a contest when local QRM levels are high here in the USA!
It was January then, with flowers in full-bloom and I had a wonderful time
visiting and chatting with Peter. We travelled around together for 2 days and
he explained why it was nearly impossible in ZL to acquire mountaintop real
estate. He noted that even his parcel came with certain requirements,
including the raising of various farm animals, including sheep, goats, etc. of
which I remember many. I remember he said it had to do with each family being
something of an "economic unit" in ZL, at least in the eyes of the ZL Federal
Operating the 160M contest was very special from Peter's. I recorded almost
the entire 42 hours and used several segments on the audio CD which is a
companion piece to "Dx'ing On the Edge". My memory is a bit faded about all
the details of that test, but three things about it do stick out in my mind
1) K2EK's signal being copiable for 45 minutes before any other W/K the first
2) The ENORMOUS opening into Western Europe at ZL sunset/ European sunrise the
3) W8JI's signal nearing pinning the S-meter at sunrise time in Ohio on Sunday
During the following May of1986, Peter came to the US to attend the FOC Dinner
in Hartford, CT. As a result, even though really pooped from the Hartford
festivities, Peter and Maire drove 100 miles down to Dutchess County to spend
a day with us and I was delighted he did. While here, I took him over to see
Bill Gioia's (K2EK) mountaintop QTH 6 miles down the road from me and Peter
was noticeably impressed with the view to the West from Bill's location.
Peter even remembered the occasion of the "searchlight" propagation we had
heard together the previous January. He commented that it was easy to see why
Bill was so loud given the spectacular view to the West from that place!
We also visited Dave, W2YV, just up the road and it was Dave who was "honored"
to have ZL3GQ in HIS YARD that day looking at HIS ANTENNAS!
As are many, I am truly saddened to hear of Peter's passing. Peter was a
special person and I shall always remember him fondly. I trust many others
in the 160M fraternity will as well.
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