Murray Sunset National Park, Victoria

My third and final activation for Saturday was the Murray Sunset National Park.  This was my first of two Victorian park activations for the 2013 KRMNPA weekend.

Prior to activating the park, Marija and I headed to the town of Underbool, where we met up with Larry VK5LY and his wife Di.  After a nice cold beer, Larry loaned me one of his home brew 40m dipoles.  The VSWR on my linked dipole had been very high, so I was very appreciative of Larry’s offer of a spare antenna.

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Murray Sunset National Park is 6,330 km2 in size and is the second largest National Park in Victoria.  It is about 438 km northwest of Melbourne and is situated in the northwestern corner of Victoria, bordering South Australia  to the west and the Murray River to the north.  The Sturt Highway passes through the northern part of the park, but most of the park is in the remote area between the Sturt Highway and the Mallee Highway, west of the Calder Highway.

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Murray Sunset NP was created in 1991, and in 1999, the park was expanded to encompass Pink Lakes State Park. This is the area of the park that Marija and I activated.  The lakes are dubbed “pink” after the beta-carotene pigment that colours it in late summer, caused by the algae Dunaliella salina.  Beta-carotene is a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colourful vegetables.  Between 1916, through until 1975, this area was the site of a major salt industry.  At its peak, 10,000  tons of salt was harvested and railed from Lake Crosbie, Lake Becking, and Lake Keynyon to the nearby town of Linga.  Marija and I drove through Linga, and sadly it is a shadow of what it previously was at its boom.

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Over 600 species of plants have been recorded in the Murray Sunset National Park.  Some of the more notable plants include the Murray Lily, Silvery Emu bush, porcupine grass, and Blue leaved Mallee.  During springtime, there are numerous wildflowers including spider orchids, Azure Sun orchids, Desert Heath myrtles, and the interestingly named Poached egg daisies.

The park is home to many Australian native birds.  In fact over 300 species of birds have been documented.  The majority of the Murray Sunset NP lies within the Murray Sunset, Hattah, and Annuello Important Bird Area (IBA), identified by BirdLife International.  This is due to the fact that the agra contains mallee habitats which support numerous threatened mallee bird species, including the Malleefowl, Black eared Miner, and the Mallee Emu wren.

The park also supports a large amount of wildlife including both Western Grey and Red Kangaroos.  When we were leaving we saw a group of Western Grey’s grazing in some of the grassy area.

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Marija and I pulled into the Lake Crosbie campground which was buzzing with activity.  There were numerous campers and caravaners here.  But we did manage to find a parking spot, very close to the shores of Lake Crosbie, and set up the gear here at a table with benches, and conveniently placed under the shaded of a nearby gum tree.

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The 40m band appeared to have ‘repaired itself’ a bit since the morning.  Of course, it was a much better time of the day for the band as well.  Signals appeared much stronger.  My first contact within the park was with Peter VK3ZPF who was portable on SOTA peak, West of England Range, VK3/ VW-013, which is contained within the Kara Kara National Park (formerly known as St Arnaud Range National Park).  Peter had a beautiful strong 5/8 signal and I received 5/8 back.  Things were looking promising.  This was followed by a QSO with Joe VK3YSP and his wife Julie VK3FOWL, who were both portable in the Churchill National Park (5/9 both ways).

I then worked into VK1, VK3, & VK5.  Larry VK5LY then called in to say g’day.  He was with his wife Di, portable in Wyperfeld National Park, which I planned on activating on Sunday (5/7 both ways).  Following this I had a steady flow of callers from VK2 & VK3.

My final contact of the day was with the same station I had started off with.  That being Peter VK3ZPF who had moved, and now was portable on top of SOTA peak West if England Fire Tower, VK3/ VW-016, which was still within the Kara Kara National Park.

After 2 very enjoyable and pleasant hours in Murray Sunset NP, it was time to pack up, and head back to Pinnaroo, and catch up with Larry & Di.  I had a total of 26 QSO’s on 40m SSB.

I worked the following stations:-

Peter VK3ZPF/p; Joe VK3YSP/p; Julie VK3FOWL/p; Matt VK1MA; Ron VK3AFW; Kevin VK3EC; Tim VK5AV; Ivan VK5HS; Ian VK5CZ; Larry VK5LY/p; Brian Vk3MCD/p; Ernie VK3DET; Clive VK3FCMR; Kev VK3AKT; Bob VK3XP; Frank VK3GFS; Joe VK3YSP/p; Mal VK3AZZ; Colin VK3LO; Laurie VK3AW; Peter VK2NEO; Tim VK3MTB; Peter VK3TKK, Lloyd VK2KNS; and Peter VK3ZPF/p.

I have uploaded a video of this activation to You Tube.  It can be found at…..

Peebinga Conservation Park

Off to my 2nd activation of Saturday 16th November.  And this was to be Peebinga Conservation Park, which is located about 240 km east of Adelaide, and just 10 km west from the Victorian border.  It is located about 37 km north of the town of Peebinga.

Peebinga Conservation Park which is about 3.400 hectares in size, was reserved to conserve the habitat of the rare Western Whipbird.  Vegetation in the park varies as some of it has been cleared and remains grassland. The rest is characterised by low stabilised dunes with open scrub cover featuring Ridge-fruited and Slender-leaved Mallee with Warty Cypress over Broom Bush.  The higher areas have Square-fruited, Red and White Mallees.  A total of 150 native flora species have been recorded in the park, including 14 of conservation significance.

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The ecological value of the park was formally recognised back in 1940, when Peebinga Flora and Fauna Reserve was dedicated.  It was renamed following proclamation was a conservation park in 1977.

The park is recognised by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area.  This is due to the fact that it supports a relatively large population of Malleefowl.  The park previously had a population of Eastern Mallee subspecies of the Western Whipbird, which sadly, is now locally extinct.  The declining species of Black shouldered Kite, and Tawny crowned Honeyeater are also found within the park.

Numerous native animals also call the park home, including Western Grey Kangaroos and Echidnas.  A total of 97 native fauna species have been recorded in the park.

A total of 23 reptile species have been recorded within Peebinga CP, including the regionally rare Rough-nosed Blind Snake and the State rare Bardick, which is a small venomous snake morphologically similar to a death adder that attains a maximum length of 70 cm.

Marija and I accessed the eastern side of the park via Conservation Road.  The road is dirt and is in good condition.  Everything was going well, until I came around a sharp corner which bordered the park, and the hard gravelk surface suddenly turned to very soft sand.  After some cursing and some swearing, I managed to get the Ford Falcon out of a rather precarious situation.  We decided to park the car and activate the park at this location.

Fortunately there was some shade offered by small gum trees.  It was great to sit under these and escape the sun.  The temperature was rapidly increasing and there was no breeze to speak of.

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Conditions here on 40m SSB were really hard going.  The band was certainly not in great shape, and my antenna was also playing up.  The VSWR was showing as really high.  However I did manage some interesting contacts including a handful of VK3 Park QSO’s.  My first contact was with Larry who was portable in Hatte Kulkyne National Park.  Larry kindly offered to meet me over the Victorian border, and provide me with a 40m dipole.

My last 2 contacts of the day were with Bernard VK3AMB who was portable in the Organ Pipes National Park, and Nick VK3ANL who was portable in the Mornington Peninsula National Park.

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So after just 30 minutes in the park, it was time to pack up and head off across the border into Victoria to meet up with Larry and his wife Di.  I had a total of 9 contacts in the log on 40m SSB.

I worked the following stations:-

Larry VK5LY/p; Kevin VK3EC; Peter VK3PF; John VK5BJE; Ivan VK5HS; Andrew VK2UH; Tim VK5AV; Bernard VK3AMB/p; and Nick VL3ANL/p.

Karte Conservation Park

The Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA) weekend was held between Friday 15th – Sunday 17th November, 2013.  So my wife Marija and I booked in to the Pinnaroo cabins, near the South Australian and Victorian border, with the intention to activate 2 South Australian Conservation Parks and 2 Victorian National Parks over the weekend.

The first activation was the Karte Conservation Park, which is situated about 30 km north west of Pinnaroo, which in turn is about 250 km north east of Adelaide.  We activated the park on Saturday morning (16th November) and accessed the park by travelling out of Pinnarroo along the Parilla Wells Road and then onto the Karte Road.  We located the campground on the eastern side of the park, and set up the equipment there.  The short dirt road leading into the park is well sign posted and is easily accessible to 2wd vehicles.  The dirt track leading to the campground is about 250 metres in length from the roadway.

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How do you pronounce Karte ?  Well, during the activation, I was corrected by Larry VK5LY, because I was pronouncing the park as (Kart).  Larry informed me that it was (Kart-ay).  Very French and toffy !  But I have since found that Karte (pronounced Kartee) is an aboriginal word meaning thick, low scrub.  So it is not quite the exotic French influence that we thought.

Karte Conservation Park which protects 3,565 hectares of mallee vegetation, was first proclaimed in 1969 as Karte National Park.  It was later renamed as Karte Conservation Park following proclamation as a conservation park in 1977.  The park comprises of thick low scrub covering steep sand dunes which rise up to 40 metres.  Although I must say that they give the impression that they are much higher.  Sadly, not quite high enough to be a SOTA peak, although they do have definite prominence over the surrounding terrain.  Other than thick and dense Mallee scrub, the park also contains Mallee Cyprus pines, wattles, and broombush.

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The park contains a large amount of wildlife.  In fact if you look carefully at the sandy soil, you can see quite a few signs of their presence.  Marija and I spotted quite a few kangaroo paw prints.  Native animals that inhabit the park include western grey kangaroos, echidnas, and flat tailed dunnarts.  What is a dunnart ?  Dunnarts are strange looking narrow footed marsupials which are the size of a mouse.

Karte Conservation Park is also home to a large variety of bird life.  Over 40 species of birds can be found here, including Ringneck Parrots (of which we say many), Malleefowl, Whipbirds, Galahs, Thornbills, Weebills and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.

During the early twentieth century much of the surrounding land was cleared except for those areas that were unsuitable for agriculture.  This includes the area that is now known as Karte CP.  The sand dunes were deemed to be unsuitable for agriculture.

At the campground we found a strategically placed timber table and benches, which was just perfect to call the shack, and attach the squid pole to.  The morning was already warm, with no breeze.  And there was no shade at the table, so we quickly set up to avoid the heat.

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I switched the radio on and tuned to 7.100 and placed a number of CQ calls, but sadly there were no takers.  So I tuned down the band and found John VK2AWJ/3 who was portable in the Terrick Terrick National Park, talking with Joe VK3YSP who was portable in the Churchill National Park.  So I called up to say hello to John and Joe, and also Joe’s wife Julie, VK3FOWL, who is newly licenced.

I heard John VK5BJE call in to say hello to John, Joe, & Julie, but his signal was extremely low (no better than 5/3).  In fact he was not really moving the meter on the 817nd.  This was strange, because John normal rockets in wherever I am.

I managed a few more park contacts prior to heading off to the next park.  That included Larry VK5LY/3 who was portable in Hattah Kulkyne National Park, and Tony VK3VTH who was portable in Mount Eccles National Park.

And to my listening pleasure, prior to dismantling the gear, I was subsequently called by John VK5BJE, who was now obviously peddling faster, because his signal had come up to a good 5/8.  The 40m band was certainly moving around a lot !

And to top of a fun activation I was called by Nick VK3ANL who was portable on SOTA peak, Arthurs Seat, VK3/ VC-031, and I then worked Ben VK3FTRV who was on top of SOTA peak, Redmans Bluff, VK3/ VW-002, within the Grampians National Park.

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At the end of the activation, Marija and I went for a walk along the 1.5 km Karte Youth Hike, within the park.  It commences and finishes at the campgrounds and winds its way through the scrub and up to the top of one of the higher sand dunes.  The walk takes about 45 minutes return, and was constructed in 1988 by students at the Pinaroo Area School as part of the Bicentennial Project.  There are Interpretive signs along the walking trail which provide an insight into the importance of the areas remaining vegetation.  The signs explain how certain plants, ranging from small ground cover species to large trees, have an important part to play in the mallee.  There are very good views from the top across the park and the seemingly endless farmland which stretches off to the horizon.

In fact, over 83 native flora species have been recorded within the park, including 4 which are of conservation significance.  The Inland Green-comb Spirder-orchid, which is nationally endangered, is also found within the park. 

So after about an hour on air, I had managed an unlucky 13 contacts on 40m SSB.

The following stations were worked:-

John VK2AWJ/3; Joe VK3YSP/p; Julie VK3FOWL/p; Peter VK3PF; Owen VK7OR; Larry VK5LY/p; John VK5BJE; Ian VK5CZ; Mal VK3AZZ; Tony VK3VTH/p; Bill VK5MBD; Nick VK3ANL/p; and Ben VK3FTRV/p.