On Saturday morning (1st September 2018) I headed out to the Monarto Conservation Park VKFF-0828 to activate the park using the special call of VI5MARCONI. I have been allocated use of this call for the next week, and as the noise floor at home seems to be ever increasing, I decided to go portable.
I have activated Monarto many times in the past and have qualified it over and over, but it is a nice handy park just 30 km down the road from home. And importantly it is a park which I can drive into, which I needed to take into account this particular morning, as the weather was very average, with regular shower activity.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Monarto Conservation Park. Map courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
VI5MARCONI is a special call to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first direct wireless messages from the United Kingdom which were received in Australia, and broadcast on 22nd September 1918. The messages were transmitted from Wales in the UK, and were received at the home of Ernest Fisk, the Managing Director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited (A.W.A.) in Sydney, New South Wales.
VI-MARCONI calls in all States/Territories will be active during September 2018. On 22nd September 2018, the call of VK100MARCONI will be operational by members of the Hornsby and Districts Amateur Radio Club.
Above:- News article from The North Western Courier, NSW, 23rd Sept 1918. Image courtesy of Trove.
Sir Ernest Fisk was born on 8th August 1886 at Sunbury, Middlesex, England. In July 1913 he founded Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA) Limited, with exclusive rights throughout Australasia to the patents, ‘present and future’, of both Marconi and Telefunken. He became the Director of this organisation in 1916 and the Chairman in 1932. He was knighted on 11th May 1937.
Above:- Sir Ernest Fisk. c/o www.portrait.gov.au
The messages sent in 1918 originated from the Marconi station at Waunfawr, near Caernarfon in Wales. The station was in use between 1912 and 1938 and was for many years the most important long wave station in Britain, handling imperial and international communications.
Above:- the Marconi station at Waunfawr. Image courtesy of http://www.coflein.gov.uk/
Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi, was born on 25th April 1874 at Palazzo Marescalchi, Bologna, Italy. He is credited as the inventor of radio, and shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy”.
Above:- Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi. Image courtesy of Wikipeida.
The transmissions to Australia required a 400 kilowatt long wave transmitter which Marconi claimed at the time was the biggest in the world. Powered from a nearby hydroelectric power station, the Waunfawr transmitter was located on the top of the Cefn-du Mountain in Snowdonia and coupled to ten 400 foot masts. Locals remarked that snow never settled near the site due to the heat from the power and transmission lines, a snowless Snowdonia.
Above:- Marconi’s transmitting station at Waunfawr. Image courtesy of Pinterest.
Two messages were sent in the early hours of 22nd September 1918, one from the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. W.M. “Billy” Hughes, and a second from the Minister for the Navy, Sir Joseph Cook, who had accompanied Hughes.
Prime Minister Hughes had been in the UK reviewing the Australian Armed Forces in Amiens, France. This was a politically sensitive visit due to the horrific losses suffered by both Australians and other Commonwealth and allied forces, largely felt due to poor British leadership and decision making.
It should be noted that neither Prime Minister Hughes or Minister Cook were present during those wee hours. Their messages had been sent the previous day by wireless and cable from London.
The first message, sent at 0315 UTC or 1.15 p.m. Sydney time, from Prime Minister Hughes read as follows:-
“I have just returned from a visit to the battlefields where the glorious valour and dash of the Australian troops saved Amiens and forced back the legions of the enemy, filled with greater admiration than ever for these glorious men and more convinced than ever that it is the duty of their fellow-citizens to keep these magnificent battalions up to their full strength. W.M. Hughes, Prime Minister.”
Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes
The second message was sent at 0325 UTC or 1.25pm Sydney time from the Minister for the Navy, Sir Joseph Cook, read as follows:-
“Royal Australian Navy is magnificently bearing its part in the great struggle. Spirit of sailors and soldiers alike is beyond praise. Recent hard fighting brilliantly successful but makes reinforcements imperative. Australia hardly realises the wonderful reputation which our men have won. Every effort being constantly made here to dispose of Australia’s surplus products. Joseph Cook, Minister for Navy.”
Sir Joseph Cook
The messages were received by Fisk at his Experimental Wireless Station at ‘Logan Brae’, Pymble, an adjacent suburb to Wahroonga, New South Wales, with apparatus designed and manufactured in Sydney by himself and the Staff of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
Above:- Sir Ernest Fisk’s home and antenna tower at Wahroonga. Image c/o http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/
Ernest Fisk’s home was located on the corner of Stuart and Cleveland Streets. The eqipment in the photo below was assembled for the reception of the radio messages. Ernest Fisk can be seen in the centre of the photograph demonstrating the equipment.
Above:- Receiving equipment for the first radio message from England to Australia. Image courtesy of National Archives of Australia
A monument was erected to mark the occasion and was unveiled by Fisk in 1938. The pictures below were taken by Jo Harris on the occasion of the 75th anniversary. An interesting feature of the celebration was a speech by Marconi, delivered in Paris, and transmitted through London to Australia, by wireless telephone.
Above:- The Monument in Sydney. Courtesy of www.rttonline.com
Above:- Inscription on the monument. Courtesy of www.rttonline.com
At a time when the fastest form of communication was a relay of telegraph messages, instantaneous wireless communications from the UK to Australia was a major technological achievement.
As the weather was a little inclement, I operated from the vehicle for this activation, which meant that the activation only counted for VKFF/WWFF, and not the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award. I used the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts output, and the 20/40/80m linked dipole.
I kicked off the activation by calling CQ on 7.144 on the 40m band. First in the log was Graeme VK3PGK/m, followed by Grant VK2LX, Peter VK3PF, and then Peter VK3ZPF/p who was activating SOTA peak Mount Macedon VK3/ VC-007 located in the Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972. But it was really slow going on the band, so with just 11 contacts in the log I headed to the 80m band.
I self spotted on parksnpeaks and called CQ on 3.610. This was answered by David VK5PL, followed by John VK5BJE, Barry VK5BW, and Adrian VK5FANA. John and Barry were kind enough to place a call out on the Crafers repeater to advise people that I was on air. Adrian also put a call out on the local Yorke Peninsula/Mid North repeater VK5RLH.
I ended up logging 13 stations on 80m including a Park to Park with Nick VK3ANL/p in the Mount Ridley Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2156. Twelve of the thirteen contacts on 80m were with VK5 stations.
I then moved back to 40m and found Nick VK3ANL/p on 7.144. I logged Nick Park to Park and then moved down the band to 7.135 where I called CQ. Peter VK3TKK/m gave me a shout, followed by Geoff VK3SQ, and then Gerard VK2IO/p who was activating a SOTA peak VK2/ IL-006. A call or so later I was called by Mark VK4SMA/p who was activating Bunyaville Conservation Park VKFF-1493. This was followed by Wade VK1MIC/ and Matthew VK1FVOL/2 who were activating SOTA peak VK2/SM-052 in the Gourock National Park VKFF-0212.
Three calls later I was called by Tex VK1TX who was using the special VI1MARCONI call. Tex had a booming 5/9 plus signal. Five QSOs later I had another Park to Park contact in the log, this time with Peter VK3ZPF/p who was activating the Macedon Flora Reserve VKFF-2374.
I logged a further 5 stations before callers dried up. I then headed to 14.310 on the 20m band and called CQ for around 5 minutes, but those calls went unanswered. So I headed back to 40m where I logged 11 stations on 7.144, including my good wife Marija VK5FMAZ. To complete the activation I logged Gerard VK2IO/p who was activating SOTA peak Mount Wanganderry VK2/ IL-003.
I had a total of 56 contacts in the log and it was time to head home. Thankyou to everyone who called, and many thanks to those who took the time to spot me. Thanks also to VK5BJE, VK5BW, and VK5FANA who put out calls on the local VK5 repeaters.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK3ZPF/p (SOTA Mount Macedon VK3/ VC-007 & Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972)
- VK3ANL/p (Mount Ridley Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2156)
- VK2IO/p (SOTA VK2/ IL-006)
- VK4SMA/p (Bunyaville Conservation Park VKFF-1493)
- VK1MIC/2 (SOTA VK2/ SM-052 &Gourock National Park VKFF-0212)
- VK1FVOL/2 (SOTA VK2/ SM-052 &Gourock National Park VKFF-0212)
- VK3ZPF/p (Macedon Flora Reserve VKFF-2374)
- VK2IO/p (SOTA Mount Wanganderry VK2/ IL-003)
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
- VK3ANL/p (Mount Ridley Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2156)
Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2018, <http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fisk-sir-ernest-thomas-6177>, viewed 3rd September 2018
QRZ.com, <https://www.qrz.com/lookup>, viewed 1st September 2018
VK2DYM, <http://www.qsl.net/vk2dym/radio/Marconi.htm>, viewed 1st September 2018
<http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/405838/details/marconi-long-wave-transmitting-station-waunfawr-transmitting-station-plas-y-celyn-cefn-du>, viewed 1st September 2018
Trove, <https://trove.nla.gov.au/>, viewed 3rd September 2018
Wikipedia, 2018, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Fisk>, viewed 3rd September 2018
Wikipedia, 2018, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guglielmo_Marconi>, viewed 3rd September 2018
Wireless Heritage Special Interest Group, <https://www.rttonline.com/documents/marconi_fisk_heritage_article.pdf>, viewed 3rd September 2018