One Tree Hill, VK3/ VS-036

My final SOTA activation for Saturday 7th September, 2013, was One Tree Hill, VK3/ VS-036, which is situated just to the north west of Ararat in western Victoria, about 205 km west of Melbourne.  It was about a 90 minute drive to Ararat from Mount Rouse.  The summit is 569 metres above sea level and is worth 2 SOTA points.

Ararat is one of favourite towns in western Victoria.  It is a former gold-mining town, situated within a rich pastoral, wine and fruit growing district between Stawell and Beaufort.   Ararat’s main street is a typical wide and attractive country town main street.  A number of elaborate and historical buildings grace the streets of the town, including the Town Hall and Shire Hall in Barkly Street, both built in the late 1800s. Other places of historical interest include the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre, the Langi Morgala Museum located in the former wool store, and J Ward, which originally served as the Ararat County Gaol until 1887 when it was then turned into an institution for the criminally insane, and Aradale Mental Hospital.

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Europeans first settled in the Grampians region in the 1840s after surveyor Thomas Mitchell passed through the area in 1836. In 1841, Horatio Wills, on his way to selecting country further south, wrote in his diary, “like the Ark we rested” and named a nearby hill Mt Ararat.  It is from this entry and the nearby Mount that the town takes its name. The Post Office opened 1 February 1856 although known as Cathcart until 31 August 1857.

In 1857, a party of Chinese miners en route to the Central Victorian gold fields struck gold at the Canton Lead which marked the beginning of great growth in Ararat.

One Tree Hill was an easy summit to access, as there is a bitumen road going all the way to the top, to the Pioneer Lookout.  Surprisingly enough this road is called One Tree Hill Road !  Fancy that !  At the end of the bitumen there is a large parking area for the lookout which overlooks Ararat.  The actual summit is a bit further on from this parking area.  There is a dirt track called One Tree Hill Track, which takes you further to the north and the location of the actual summit, which is amongst the scrub on the western side of the track.  The track is rough in parts but is passable with care in a 2wd.

One Tree Hill

The summit is located within the Ararat Regional Park, which is made up of three separate, easily accessible blocks.  The Ararat Hills block (820 hectares) boasts panoramic views from Pioneer Lookout and a rich gold mining history, the Dunneworthy block (2,670 hectares) is made up of gentle terrain to the north, and Bradys Block (180 hectares) is a rich ironbark forest in the Norval-Cathcart area.

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The park can also be easily explored on foot or bicycle on the extensive network of tracks.

The park contains over 200 native plant species including 34 species of delicately flowered orchids.  Eucalypt trees dominate the vegetation, with Red Stringybark and Long-leaf Box predominant in the hilly areas and Yellow Gum and Yellow Box occupying the flats.  On the park’s main ridge at One Tree Hill, a stand of very old, large Messmate Stringybark trees are of botanical interest.  In spring time, flowers of the Golden Wattle swathe the hills in gold.

A large amount of wildlife can be found in the park including Grey Kangaroos, Swamp Wallabies, echidnas, Brush-tailed Possums and Sugar Gliders.

Birdlife includes rowdy flocks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, beautiful Rainbow Birds, Long-billed Corellas and Galahs, the majestic Wedge-tailed Eagle and the ground feeding Common Bronzewing and Red-rumped Parrot.

Prior to European settlement, the Ararat region was occupied by Aboriginal people of Parn Balug clan. This was one of over 40 clans comprising the Djab Wurrung language group whose territory covered a large part of south-west Victoria, including portions of the Grampians.

With the arrival of the first squatters and their flocks in the early 1840s, the Parn Balug’s traditional lifestyle, social and cultural structures were affected by disease and conflict and their numbers rapidly declined.  Gold was discovered at Ararat in 1857. The park contains relics of gold mining activity including shallow mine shafts, a mining dam and water races.

From the lookout there are spectacular views to the east over the town of Ararat, and out to the west.  There are great views of the Grampians, Mount Langi Ghiran, and Mount Cole.  This area is cleared of trees which assists with the views.  As you travel down One Tree Hill Track, the view to the east and west is obscured a lot more by trees and scrub.

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I parked the car at the lookout and walked down the track to the operating position within the Activation zone.  There are plenty of options for securing the dipole, as there are large gum trees all over the summit.  Not really sure why it is called One Tree Hill, as the summit is completely covered in trees ?

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I started off on 40m first, on the usual frequency of 7.090, and it wasn’t long before I had the usual hungry SOTA hunters.  I had a handful of qrp callers again including Andrew VK2ONZ, Andrew VK1NAM, Mark VK5QI/m, and Andrew VK3ARR.  All had very nice signals.  Conditions appeared to be very good on 40m.  The only annoyance was the Over The Horizon Radar which was quite strong.

I was only 5 minute drive from the motel, so I decided to have a ‘play’ on 20m.  I started calling CQ SOTA on 14.170 but was soon drowned out by some Russian stations, so I decided to tune around the band.  I heard my good friend Dick, G4ICP who was portable in the salt marshes with his ‘roach pole’  Dick was not all that strong but I decided to give him a call, and surprisingly enough Dick came back to me.  We were having a good chat until a VK & a G station decided to come up just 2 kc away, and that was the end of that.

I then worked into Spain and England again, and then decided to call CQ again.  Luke KK7XX came back to my call and after an enjoyable QSO with him, Luke offered to put me on the cluster, which resulted in me working another very good mate of mine in the UK, Phil 2E0UDX.  He was a good 5/8 and Phil gave me a 5/4 back with my 5 watts.  This was followed by another good mate of mine calling in, Marnix OP7M in Belgium.  Marnix was an excellent 5/9 signal.  Although Marnix was struggling a bit and reading me just 4/4, we still had a good chat.  This was followed by calls from Tony CT1FFB in Portugal; Jos using a special call of OO4ATK in Belgium; Bert DB6ZU in Germany; Mike GW4XSX in Wales; Curtis KP4EJ in Puerto Rico.  My last two contacts for the afternoon on 20m were with Masa JR5JAQ in Japan; and Steve VK4KUS.

The sun was setting and it was time to pack up my gear and head for the motel, for some dinner and a few beers and some rest before tomorrow’s activations.

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After nearly 2 hours on the summit, I had worked 37 stations, including 12 DX stations in Europe, the UK, Puerto Rico, and Japan.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

Brad VK2HAV; Col VK5HCF; Peter VK3PF/m; Mark VK3DEE; David VK7XT; Rhett VK3GHZ; Bill VK3LY; Peter VK3FPSR; Mark VK3PI; Ed VK2JI; Dale VK5FSCK; Al VK1RX; Darren VK2NNN; Andrew VK2ONZ/qrp; Rod VK5FTTC; Tim VK5AV; Andrew VK1NAM/qrp; Brian VK3MCD; Bernard VK3AMB;  Fred VK3JM; Marshall VK3MRG; Tony VK3CAT; Mark VK5QI/m/qrp; & Andrew VK3ARR/qrp.

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

Dick G4ICP/p; EA2DT; Chris G0UNJ; Luke KK7XX; Phil 2E0UDX; Marnix OP7M; Tony CT1FFB; Jos OO4ATK; DB6ZU; GW4XSX; Curtis KP4EJ; JR5JAQ; and Steve VK4KUS.

I have placed a video on You Tube of this activation.

Mount Rouse, VK3/ VS-048

My second summit of the Saturday was Mount Rouse, VK3/ VS-048, which is situated near the little town of Penshurst, and about 275 km west of Melbourne.  Penshurst is just a small town with a population of about 500 people, and is the centre of a large dairying, agricultural and pastoral district.  The town is situated near the foot of Mount Rouse, which is an extinct volcanoe.  It was about a 35 km drive from my previous activation at Mt Napier.

Mount Rouse was named after the Colonial Under Secretary of New South Wales.  The summit was known as ‘Collorer‘ by the local Nareeb Nareeb and Kolor Aborigines.  The local aboriginal tribes gathered food from the local area and fresh water from nearby natural springs and creeks.  The Kolor aboriginals built substantial huts for their shelter in the winter, preferring the open countryside in the warmer months.

The famous explorer, Major Thomas Mitchell, who sighted Mount Rouse during his ‘Australia Felix‘ expedition of 1837, also encountered two of the aforementioned dwellings which he described as ‘two very substantial huts‘. On a rainy day he expressed a desire to ‘return if possible, to pass the night there, for I began to learn that such huts, with a good fire between them, made comfortable quarters in bad weather.’ From atop Mount Napier he noted: ‘Smoke arose from many parts of the lower country, and showed that the inhabitants were very generally scattered over its surface. We could now look on such fires with indifference, so harmless were these natives, compared with those of the Darling, and the smoke, now ascended in equal abundance from the furthest verge of the horizon.’

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A man called John Cox was the first settler to take up land at Mount Rouse, and he established a sheep station by 1840.  There were also others that held leases on land in the surrounding district, and the local aboriginals soon found their food sources destroyed or driven out by clearing and the introduction of European stock.  During times of necessity they turned to the Europeans stock for food.  As a result they found themselves subject to retaliatory raids by white landowners and there were numerous episodes of killing and bloodshed.

Due to the decline in the Aboriginal population the New South Wales Government established a number of reservations.  Mount Rouse was chosen as one of those.  As a result John Cox was forced to remove his stock from the land and an Aboriginal Protectorate was opened.  Despite this, conflict continued and diseases introduced into Australia by Europeans ravaged the indigenous peoples. Thus, within a few years, the Aboriginal population was so diminished that the reserve closed.

Mount Rouse is a massive accumulation of scoria rising 100 m above the surrounding volcanic plain.  It is worth 1 SOTA point.  It is built mainly of red and brown scoria with thin interbedded basalt lava flows. The scoria forms an arcuate mound opening towards the south-west and giving the appearance of a breached cone.  To the south of the main scoria cone is a deep circular crater with a small lake and a smaller shallow crater rimmed with basalt.  The scoria is the youngest element of an eruption point that produced the longest lava flows known in the Newer Volcanics Province in Victoria.  The flows followed shallow, gently sloping river courses and eventually united to extend at least 60 km south of Mount Rouse. A thin basalt lava flow contained in the scoria cone has been dated at approximately 1.8 million years, conflicting with dates of only 0.3 to 0.45 million years obtained from the end of the Mount Rouse flows near Port Fairy 60 km to the south. The scoria cone is the highest relief in the area and is an important vantage point to view the lavas and adjacent volcanoes of Mount Eccles and Mount Napier.

Unfortunately quarrying has removed a significant portion of the scoria and has left large pits that visiually detract from the overall beauty of the summit.  Tree planting has obscured some of the geological features, such as the crater within the big scoria cone.

Upon arrival at the summit it was very wet.  The weather was really threatening with regular showers which at times were quite heavy.  But fortunately I did not have to walk far to get to the summit, and retreat back to the car if required.  I put on the back pack and I then walked up the stairs to the summit, and set up my gear in a hurry to try to avoid the weather.

Initially the summit was completely fogged in and I really couldn’t see any views at all.  But the weather slowyl cleared a little bit and was able to see the little town of Penshurst just below the summit.  Whilst I set up the gear I was carefully watched by 2 little euros (wallabies) who appeared to be very tame, and quite often came up within only 5 metres.

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There is a communications tower at the summit and also a fire spotting tower.  I was a little concerned with the towers and the possibility of noise, but once I had turned the radio on I was pleasantly surprised.  The noise floor was very low.  There was a strategically placed wooden bench on the summit in close proximity to the trig point and this was obviously the pick of the operating positions.  Not only did I use the bench to sit on, but I also attached the 7m squid pole to the bench using some octopus straps.

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My first contact on the summit was with Col VK5HCF who had his usual strong qrp signal, and this was followed by Peter VK3PF who was mobile.  My 3rd contact of the summit was a ‘Summit to Summit’ QSO with Glen VK3YY who was portable on Federation Range.  By contacting Glen I had tipped over the 250 point mark for the Summit to Summit certificate.  My 4th qualifying QSO was with Andy VK5LA in the SA Riverland with a very strong 5/9 signal.

It was about this point that the showers started to get a bit heavier, so I grabbed the bothy bag and climbed inside to stay dry.

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Due to the weather I only stayed on the summit for 30 minutes, but in that time I managed 16 QSO’s on 40m SSB into VK1, VK2, VK3, & VK5.  Only 2 qrp stations called in this time around.  Andrew VK3ARR who was becoming a regular qrp caller (5/4 sent and 5/5 received), and Andrew VK2UH who was qrp with just 5 watts (5/8 both ways).

The following stations were worked:-

Col VK5HCF; Peter Vk3PF/m; Glen VK3YY/p; Andy VK5LA; Matt VK1MA/m; Tony VK3CAT; Tim VK5AV; Warren VK3BYD; ANdrew VK3ARR/qrp; Bernard VK3AMB; Peter VK3FPSR; Rhett VK3GHZ; ANdrew VK2UH/qrp; Ron VK3AFW; Brian VK3MCD; and Mark VK7FMPR.

I have posted a video of this activation on You Tube.

Mount Napier, VK3/ VS-046

My first Victorian summit of the trip was Mount Napier, VK3/ VS-046.

After my 2 night stay at Mount Gambier, on Saturday 7th September, 2013, I headed over the Victorian border along the Princes Highway towards Heywood.  I then headed towards MacArthur and north along the Hamilton-Port Fairy Road.  It was about a 2 hour drive from Mount Gambier.

Mount Napier summit is located within the Mount Napier State Park, and is located about 270 km west of Melbourne, and about 17 km south of Hamilton.  Mount Napier is one of the youngest volcanoes in Australia, which erupted about 32,000 years ago.  The Mount Napier State Park consists of about 2,800 hectares, and along with nearby Mt Eccles, is the largest natural area on the volcanic plains of western Victoria.  Mount Napier State Park was first reserved for public purposes in 1921 and covered an area of about 139 hectares, including the summit and part of the Manna gum woodland.  This area together with adjacent public land was reserved as a State Park in 1987.

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Mount Napier was climbed and named by explorer, Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836, during his expedition through ‘Australia Felix’.

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Mount Napier has a composite lava shield with a superimposed scoria cone.  The cone rises 500 feet (150 m) above the surrounding plains to an elevation of 1,440 feet (440 m), making it the highest point on the Western District Plains of Victoria.  Mount Napier is part of the Newer Volcanics Province, which is the youngest volcanic centre in Australia.  The Newer Volcanics Province covers an area of 6,000 square miles (15,000 square km) and contains over 400 vents.

The Mount Napier Lava Flow followed the Harman Valley west from the volcano, and then south towards nearby Mount Eccles which is 25 km south-west of Mount Napier.   Lava blisters or tumuli occur along the flow, and these are house-sized mounds of basalt rocks.  The blisters are the best developed in Australia and uncommon in the rest of the world.  They are formed by the pressure of liquid lava pushing up against the crust.   Several caves and lava tubes can also be found at nearby Byaduk.

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The native vegetation of Mount Napier State Park, on the western side of the mountain, varies from grassy woodland to tall open forest dominated by Manna Gum, Blackwood, Austral Bracken, and Common Tussock Grass.  This hosts a variety of native fauna, including birds, marsupials and mammals, including bats.

The park’s fauna is diverse, with 27 native mammal and 127 native bird species recorded including kangaroos, koalas, Common Brushtail possums, and the endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

I parked the car at the base of the summit, and walked the remaining 3 km along a very good track to the summit, which took me about 30 minutes.  There are 2 benches along the way should you require a rest, which is exactly what I did.  I sat back and took in the tranquility of the park and admired the views.  The weather was a bit threatening, but at least I had the bothy bag in my backpack.

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After reaching the summit I took another breather and admired the views in all directions.  There is a memorial cairn and plaque at the top to commemorate Major Thomas Mitchell who climbed and named the hill, way back in 1836.  There is also a trig point.

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The weather was getting worse, and it was quite windy with very light showers, so I attached the 7m squid pole to the trig point and ran the coax over to the concrete and stone cairn and tried to hide behind that from the weather, with some degree of success.  I weighted down the ends of the dipole with some rocks that I found on the summit.  There are no trees.

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My first 4 qualifying QSO’s were with Larry VK5LY, Ron VK3AFW, Tony VK3CAT running qrp, and Marshall VK3MRG/p.  This was followed by a constant flow of the regular SOTA chasers.  My 8th contact on the hill was with John VK5BJE who was portable in the Litte Desert National Park in western Victoria, as part of the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award.  This was a park I was scheduled to activate the following Tuesday.  John had a terrific strong 5/9 signal.

Whilst on the hill I managed 3 ‘Summit to Summit’ contacts’ with Peter VK3PF who was portable on VK3/ VG-064; Brian VK3MCD who was portable near Boroka Lookout VK3/ VW-007; and Allen VK3HRA who was portable on Galore Hill VK2/ RI-047.  This was my first ever Summit to Summit with a VK2 activator.

I stayed on the summit for about 45 minutes, but the weather was getting worse, with heavier showers, so I decided it was time to head down and back to the warmth of the car.  I ended up with 36 QSO’s on 40m SSB.

The following stations were worked:- Larry VK5LY; Ron VK3AFW; Tony VK3CAT/qrp; Marshall VK3MRG/p; Bernard VK3AMB/qrp; Ian VK5IS/qrp; Peter VK3FPSR; John VK5BJE/p; ANdrew VK2UH/qrp; Peter VK3PF/qrp; Brian VK3MCD/p; John VK5NJ/qrp; Glen VK3YY/m; Andrew VK2ONZ; Rod VK5FTTC; ANdrew VK3ARR/qrp; Mark VK3PI; Matt VK1MA; Colin VK3UBY; Mark VK1MDC; Andy VK5LA; Mark VK3DEE; VK3TKK; Ed VK2JI; Lou VK3ALB; VK3FMPB; Warren VK3BYD; Greg VK2FGJWp//qrp; Andrew VK1NAM; David VK5NQP; Allen VK3HRA/p; Terry VK5ATN; Tim VK5AV; Dave VK2JDS; Dave VK3VCE; and John VK5DJ.

I have added a video to You Tube of this activation.

Talk to South East Radio Group

On Friday evening, 6th September, 2013, I delivered a presentation to the South East Radio Group (SERG) on:-

  • Summits on the Air
  • VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award
  • Keith Roget Memorial National & Conservation Parks Award
  • World Wide Flora & Fauna.

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About 15 guys from SA & Victoria were in attendance at the SERG clubrooms.

Thanks to Col VK5HCF who facilitated my attendance.  It was great to catch up with a lot of the fellas and meet them in person.

 

Carpenter Rocks Conservation Park

My last activation for Friday was the Carpenter Rocks Conservation Park which is located on the Lower South East coast, approximately 40 kilometres south-west of Mount Gambier, and 452 km SE of Adelaide.  The park conserves unique coastal habitat in the Lower South East and protect important flora and fauna species, including some of national and international significance.

Carpenter Rocks Conservation Park protects 30.5 hectares of coastal habitat, which was purchased with the assistance of the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust.   A number of threatened species and plant communities are conserved within the park.  The park protects part of the only known population of Carpenter Rocks Manna Gum and provides significant roosting habitat for the Orange-bellied Parrot, which is critically endangered at a national level.

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The land comprising the reserve is significant for the local Aboriginal Boandik people, with one site of significance located in Carpenter Rocks Conservation Park and another two sites within close proximity.

Carpenter Rocks Conservation Park was proclaimed on 6 September 2001 under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 with a section 43 proclamation providing for existing and future rights for exploration and mining under the Petroleum Act 2000.  The South Australian Government purchased the land with the assistance of the Australian Government through the National Reserve System Program of the Natural Heritage Trust and a contribution from the Nature Foundation SA Inc.

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To access the park you need to travel along Carpenter Rocks Road, into the little seaside township of Carpenter Rocks.  Then turn left onto Pelican Point Road and travel south east.  You will find a small clearance in the scrub a short distance down on the left, and this is where you enter the park.  You will drive into a small clearing and this is where the park sign is located.  There is a track which then follows a dog leg around to the left and follows the power lines through the park.

Carpenter Rocks map

Carpenter Rocks is a small coastal ton which faces the Southern Ocean and is renowned for its rugged coastline which provides exceptional fishing and diving locations.  Carpenter Rocks supports a significant southern rock lobster industry and Bucks Bay provides a safe haven for the many fishing boats moored there.

Lieutenant James Grant, when on board the HMS Lady Nelson, was the first known British person to view land known today as south eastern South Australia.   On 3 December 1800, he sighted what at first he thought was four unconnected islands, but on a closer look realized they were two mountains and two capes.  One of these he named Cape Banks, just west of today’s township, after English Botanist  Joseph Banks.

On 4 April 1802 the French explorer Nicholas Baudin aboard the ship Geographe noticed the area and made the observation:

“Along the beach we could make out a continuos line of rocks which stretched a little way out to sea and over which the breakers pounded with extraordinary force.  This was the cause of the incessant noise which we could hear”.

The origin of the name is not clear.  There is some suggestion that it was named after Dutch explorer, Captain Pierter Carpentier.  It is also suggested that it was originally called ‘Les Carpentiers’ by Baudin, alluding to their indented and serrated nature, which reminded Baudin of a carpenters saw.

I set up a few hundred metres down the track in a clearing.  The scrub in the park is very very thick, and there are not too many positions to put up a dipole.  I set up my fold up table & deck chair and strapped the 7m squid pole to a shrub and stretched out the legs of the dipole, tying them to shrubs.

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My first contact from the Carpenter Rocks CP was another ‘park to Park’ contact with Larry VK5LY who was operating from the Danggali Conservation Park.  Larry had a great 5/8 signal.  I also managed a SOTA contact with Allen VK3HRA who was on the top of Mount Ida, VK3/ VU-009 (5/8 signal reports both ways).

After about 40 minutes in the park it was time to pack up, and head back to Mount Gambier for my presentation to the South East Radio Group.

The following stations were worked:-

Larry VK5LY/p; Ian VK5CZ; Col VK5HCF; Colin VK3UBY; Tony VK3CAT; Bernard VK3AMB; John VK5DJ; Tony VK5ZAI; Graham VK5KGP; John VK2FALL; Greg VK3UT; Wayne VK2PDW; Ivan VK5HS/m; and Allen VK3HRA/p.