On Sunday morning, 22nd September, 2013, myself, my wife Marija, Larry VK5LY, & Ivan VK5HS, launched Ivan’s boat from Renmark and travelled upstream to Bulyong Island, part of the Murray River National Park. Larry and Ivan had told me they had always wanted to activate the island, so my visit to Renmark gave them an opportunity to do so.
The Murray River National Park is located in the Riverland region of South Australia, about 240 km north east of Adelaide. The Park covers an area of about 13,000 hectares and consists of three separate sections of land – Katarapko, Lyrup Flats, and Bulyong Island. It was proclaimed in 1991 to conserve the unique Murray wetlands and their flora and fauna, which includes the threatened Regent Parrot, Golden Bell Frog, Murray Cod, and Murray Darling Carpet Python.
The area was originally home to the Erwirung aboriginal people who were a relatively small Aboriginal group that lived on the fertile plains of the Murray. By 1851, the land surrounding Renmark was held under Pastoral Lease No. 95 by A.B. Cator. In July 1859, a portion of this lease was taken by William Finke and was subsequently divided into 2 properties named ‘Bookmark’ and ‘Chowilla’. During the 1860’s and 1870’s the leases transferred hands on a number of occasions. In 1887 the land was acquired from Bookmark Station by the Commissioner of Crown Lands for the establishment of the Renmark Irrigation Trust by the Chaffey Brothers. The Chaffey Brothers Irrigation Works Act, 1887, gave the legal right to develop 200,000 acres of land from Spring Cart Gully to the border for irrigation purposes.
At the conclustion of World War One, Bulyong Island was leased by the Returned Serviceman’s League (RSL) as part of its returned soldier repatriation program. Primarily it was used for agisting horses while they were not being used for agricultural work. During the mid 1960’s the Renmark Irrigation Trust entered into negotiations with the RSL to obtain the northern portion of the Island for use as an evaporation basin. The RSL acceded to these moves and by the late 1960’s a series of embankments and an inlet/outlet structure had been established. On the 20th June, 1991, the island was established as part of the Murray River National Park.
The Murray River NP has an abundance of wildlife including kangaroos, echidnas, sand goannas, emus, and brushtail possums. Over 140 species of birds can be located within the Park. It is a valuable breeding and refuge area for numerous birds including the Australian Reed Warbler, Little Grassbird, Superb Fairy Wren, and the threatened Regent Parrot.
During our trip up river we certainly saw a huge array of birdlife including Pelicans, rosellas, Black Swans, Cormorants, Herons, Dusky Moorhens, and Grebes.
The park’s woodlands are dominated by mallee with an understorey of saltbush and bluebush, while the flood plain and swamp areas feature River Red Gums with a tangled under storey of Lignum.
We boated upstream from Renmark to the mouth of the Bulyong Creek. Access to this Section of the Murray River NP can only be reached via boat. The Bulyong Creek is a little tributory of the Murray River. It was a beautiful day, with not a cloud in the sky and an expected top temperature in the high 20’s, so short sleeves and even shorts were in order.
We moored at Bulyong Creek and stepped onto the island which is separated from the mainland by the Ral Ral Creek. Because it was such a sunny day, we kept an ever alert vigil for snakes. There are at least 12 species of snake located here including some dangerous snakes including the King Brown. So we made as much noise as possible, hoping that this might scare any unwanted visitors off into the scrub.
We set up my 20m/40m linked dipole in an inverted vee configuration, supported by a 7m squid pole. We secured the squid pole to a ‘Bulyong Creek’ sign using some octopus straps. We rested the Yaesu FT-817nd on the Bulyong Creek sign. Ivan also set up his end fed and Codan HF transceiver.
The first contact from the park was with John VK5BJE who had a very strong signal. This was followed by Andy VK5LA, Brian VK5FMID, and Nev VK5W, all of whom had good signals. But callers were few and far between so we often took a breather and enjoyed the views whilst listening to the WIA broadcast.
Whilst on the island we had 2 Summits on the Air (SOTA) contacts. The first was with Andrew VK1NAM/p who was portable on South Black Range, VK2/ ST-006. And our second SOTA contact was with Mitch VK3FMDV who was on Flinders Peak, VK3/ VC-030.
Unfortunately we did not have as many callers as usual. This was despite the band conditions being good. Perhaps everyone was enjoying a Sunday morning sleep in.
After the activation we headed down the Bulyong Creek, and then back out onto the Murray. The Bulyong Creek was something special, and the seclusion was only spoiled by the occasional passing boat. The bird life along the Creek was amazing. Eagles, hawks, a variety of water birds, rosellas, cockatoos, and parrots, were all out enjoying the morning sun. We also saw a couple of kangaroos taking a drink on the banks of the creek, who quickly jumped back into the scrub as we approached. We also spotted a goanna just starting to scramble up a nearby gum tree, so we moored the boat and I jumped off the boat to get a photo. But the goanna was camera shy, so ever time I walked around to one side of the gum tree to take a photo, he/she decided they would crawl around to the other side. Much to the amusement of Marija, Ivan, & Larry !
We travelled further downstream along the Murray and travelled passed the Renmark foreshore, and onto Paringa and the lock, before turning back and heading back passed Renmark. Our only drama of the morning was Larry loosing his hat overboard, which was quickly retrieved.
This was a great morning & a huge thanks goes out to Ivan VK5HS and Larry VK5LY.
The following stations were worked:-
John VK5BJE; Andy VK5LA; Brian VK5FMID; Nev VK5WG; Colin VK3UBY; Andrew VK1NAM/p; Ian VK5CZ; Tony VK5ZAI; Sandra VK3LSD; Mitch, VK3FMDV; Allen Vk3HRA; Ron VK3AFW; Mike VK3XL; and Rik VK3KAN.
I have posted a video on You Tube of the activation…..