Is Alaska a Country?

qsl_cardsMany radio hams exchange QSL cards to provide written confirmation of a radio contact. Some radio amateurs just like to collect the cards while others are working to achieve various operating awards. (One alternative to paper QSLs is to use an electronic verification system such as the ARRL Logbook of the World.) For US hams, a fun practice is to keep track of the states that you’ve contacted and eventually earn the Worked All States Award. Another popular activity is keeping track of how many countries you’ve worked and then obtain the DX Century Club (DXCC) Award.

Recently I came across an online discussion of what qualifies as a separate country in the amateur radio world. The confusion point was that Alaska was showing up in logging software as a “country”. It turns out it counts as both a state and a country. The generally accepted countries list is established by the DXCC award. Actually, the correct term is entities, not countries, but in normal conversation people seem to use countries. The DXCC award is earned by confirming a minimum of 100 countries, I mean entities.

Back to the issue of Alaska — it clearly is one of the 50 United States, so you’ll need to work it to achieve Worked All States (WAS). It is geographically separated from the lower 48 states, so it is also considered a separate country. The same is true for Hawaii — counts as a state and a country.

To find out what counts as a country, you need to check the DXCC Country List. A peek at this list reveals that these US possessions are all considered separate countries for DXCC purposes:

K,W,N, AA-AK# United States of America
KG4# Guantanamo Bay
KH0# Mariana Is.
KH1# Baker & Howland Is.
KH2#* Guam
KH3#* Johnston I.
KH4# Midway I.
KH5# Palmyra & Jarvis Is.
KH5K# Kingman Reef
KH6,7#* Hawaii
KH7K# Kure I.
KH8#* American Samoa
KH8#* Swains I.
KH9# Wake I.
KL,AL,NL, WL#* Alaska
KP1# Navassa I.
KP2#* Virgin Is.
KP3,4#* Puerto Rico
KP5# Desecheo I.

So there are 19 countries, just inside US territory. The DXCC Rules (PDF) that define a country are complex, a mix of geographical and political considerations. I won’t even try to explain it here. Currently, there are a total of 340 DXCC entities and some of the more serious DXers have managed to contact them all. Be aware that as the political boundaries change, countries can be added or deleted from the list.

73, Bob K0NR