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Seamen saved by Churdan youth


Posted By: Don Wherry (email)
Date: 2/4/2011 at 15:56:51

Don Wherry was 15 years old when he made ham history in a farmhouse near Churdan, Iowa. Don had built his own rig, set up his own little shack in an unused corner of his house and spent much of his spare time there.

One evening, after his homework was finished, he spun the dials of his rig, just listening, waiting to make a contact. Suddenly he heard a distress call from a Norwegian whaling ship that was rapidly sinking in the icy seas north of the Arctic Circle. He listened and listened. No one was picking up the ship's SOS.

Alert to the danger, Don sent out signals of his own, calling CQ for any other ham in range, asking for his message to be relayed immediately to the United States Coast Guard. Before an hour had passed, Don was in touch with a New Jersey ham, who got in touch with a nearby Coast Guard station, who in turn contacted another whaling vessel near the sinking ship. This second vessel, near as it was, had not heard the distress signal due to poor atmospheric conditions. Now it sped to the rescue.

Why is a ham special? Don Wherry received a hero's award for his alertness in a time of emergency.

- excerpted from "Hamming It Up!"
by Arthur Henley
p. 45, Boys'Life (magazine), May, 1968


Don Wherry, an Iowa boy, was idly twirling the dial on his set one night when he picked up an SOS from a Norwegian whaling ship sinking in icy seas north of the Arctic Circle. Don relayed the SOS and the ship's position to a ham in New Jersey, who notified the U. S. Coast Guard. Within an hour another whaler in the vicinity, whose wireless operator had not heard the emergency signal, was speeding to the rescue.

All hands were saved - and a hero's medal went to Don Wherry.

- excerpted from p. 286, "Worldwide Adventure - Person to Person"
by Edwin L. Chinnock
p. 105, Popolar Mechanics (magazine), November, 1960


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