Granite Island, OC-228

Although Granite Island is not a Conservation Park, nor a National Park (it is a Recreation & Nature Park), I decided to have a bit of fun and do an Islands on the Air (IOTA activation) whilst I was staying at Victor Harbor.  I have activated an IOTA reference before as part of the International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend, when I travel to Kangaroo Island.  But this was the first time I would be operating truly portable from an island.

Granite Island is a Recreation & Nature Park under the control of National Parks South Australia.  It lies just off the coast of Victor Harbor, about 100 km south of Adelaide.  It is joined to the mainland by a 60 metre long wooden causeway.  The island is characterised by its huge granite boulders.  Many of which are coloured orange and green with lichen.  I have been over to the island dozens of times as both a child and an adult.  Victor Harbor is a real tourist mecca, as it is in close proximity to Adelaide.  And in fact between 1986-1988 I lived and worked at Victor Harbor.  It has undergone a huge amount of change since that time.

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Prior to 1994, Granite Island was designated as Crown land and was managed by the local Victor Harbor District Council.  In 1994 the island received a major facelift, courtesy of the Greater Granite Island Development Company.  Stage one of an 11 million dollar development commenced.  By January 1995, the cafe, kiosk, souvenir shop and a Penguin Centre were opened on the island.  By mid 1998, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs took control of the island.

The history of this area is very interesting.  In 1802, British explorer, Matthew Flinders, met (completely by chance) with French explorer Nicholas Baudin in what is now known as Encounter Bay at Victor Harbor.  England and France were war war at the time.  Flinders describes in his journal, how he prepared the crew of his ship, Investigator, for action.  Flinders instructed his crew to hoist a white flag of truce.  Whilst on the French ship, Le Geographe, Baudin also hoped for a peaceful encounter and hoisted the French and English flags.

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Fortunately the chance meeting was friendly and peaceful.  Flinders boarded the French ship and the two captains exchanged information about their explorations. They learned that they had been given the same task by their respective Governments, to chart the ‘unknown coast’ of Terra Australis. As a result of this meeting, Flinders named the area Encounter Bay.

Following the meeting between Flinders and Baudin, Victor Harbor became recognised for its potential for whaling and sealing.  During the early nineteenth century, Encounter Bay attracted large numbers of whales and seals, and whaling stations were established on Granite Island and the nearby Bluff (Rosetta Head) to pursue the Southern Right Whale.   The local Ramindjeri aboriginal  people were regarded as competent whalers and were employed as harpooners and whale spotters.

The whaling industry at Victor Harbor produced whale oil, which was one of South Australia’s first exports.  Encounter Bay became the most productive of the colony of South Australia’s whaling stations.  However, whale numbers dramatically decreased and during the last years, whalers were only harpooning two to three whales each winter.   By 872 the whale industry and ceased.

Although there were other harbours in the colony of South Australia, Victor Harbor was seen to be better than the other harbours.  For one, it was conveniently located to the mighty River Murray trade.  In fact there was a bid for Victor Harbor to become South Australia’s capital.  This saw the construction of Granite Island’s causeway, jetties and breakwater.  Sadly, Victor Harbor was unsuccessful in its bid to be the colony’s capital.

Shipping thrived however, with products such as wool and wheat being ferried down the River Murray by boat, and then by steam train to Victor Harbor and across to Granite Island by the horse-drawn tram, which was then loaded onto the ships bound for ports around the world.

The Granite Island causeway was constructed originally in 1864 by the South Australian Railways and was extended in 1867 to reach Granite Island.  The railway across the The Causeway continued around the northern edge of Granite Island to where the jetty was constructed.  It was not until 1894 that a passenger service was offered.

The tramway still operates today as a tourist tram and is one of the very few horse drawn tram routes remaining in public transit service anywhere in the world.  The tramway almost ceased however.  From c. 1900, the horse tramway was operated by private contractors.  But by the 1950’s the Cuaseway was in desperate need of repair.  However a dispute between the operators and the local Council saw the Causeway reconstructed in 1954 without rail tracks.   By 1956, the rail cars were disposed of, and between 1956 to 1986, a rubber tyres train provided service to the island.  I remember travelling on this.


In 1986, South Australia celebrated its 150th Jubilee.  Prior to this, a fund was established for special projects to mark the Jubilee.  Reinstatement of the horse tram was nominated as such a project, and the bid for the return of the horse tram was successful.   Replica tram cars were built, tracks were relaid and on the 14th June, 1986, the horse tram service from Victor Harbor to Granite Island, recommenced.

Granite Island Recreation & Nature Park is open daily between sunrise to sunset.  The park is home to a colony of about 150 Little Penguins.  Guided tours take place each evening at dusk.  Due to recent issues with people disturbing the penguin colony, the park closes at sunset.  Believe it or not, some penguins have even been beaten to death or left severely injured by vandals on the island.  What possess some people, I do not know !

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There are a number of walks around the island, including the interpretative Kaiki Walk where you can see some of the spectacular coastline of the island.  You can also try your hand at fishing off the jetty, the breakwater or the causeway.  And if it is a hot day, like it was when we visited the island, there is an assortment of cold drinks, ice cream and food at the cafe and restaurant.  There is also the Penguin Centre, which unfortunately we did not get to see due to time constraints.

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Marija and I set up the gear right on the top of the island, overlooking Victor Harbor to our north and the Southern Ocean to our south.  There was a slight breeze, but it had been a very hot day and was still warm.  Our operating position was off the main tourist track, so there was plenty of room to stretch out the legs of the 20m/40m linked dipole.

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My first contact was with Graham VK5KGP who is a resident of beautiful Victor Harbor.  As was to be expected, Graham was extremely strong, and almost knocked me off the top of the island.  This was followed by Larry VK5LY in the Riverland, Stu VK5STU, and then Basil VK5BK.  Craig VK5CE who is located at nearby Middleton then called in and was kind enough to spot me on the DX cluster.

I also spoke with Andy VK5AKH and Theo VK5MTM who were operating portable at Myponga.

After working 22 VK’s on 40m SSB, I decided to QSY to 20m SSB and try my luck.  Craig VK5CE was my first contact and kindly spotted me again on the DX cluster.  I managed to squeeze in just a few DX contacts….I1BSN, EA3NW, UA3AKO, and ZL3LF.  But it was really hard going.  I had to pedal really fast…..I will definitely bring the bigger Yaesu & bigger battery next time, so I can run more power !

So after a little bit of disappointment, I then went back to 40m SSB and worked Joe VK3YSP and Julie VK3FOWL who were portable in the Port Campbell National Park.  They were on their Christmas trip around Victoria, activating multiple National Parks as part of the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA) and WorldWide Flora & Fauna (WFF).  I went on to work a further 15 stations in VK & ZL on 40m SSB.

I was going to check into the 7.130 DX Net, but the Chinese ? Over the Horizon radar was 5/9 + and it was just not worth the heartache.

After 2 & 1/2 hours in the sun, I had a total of 47 QSO’s in the log and I had pushed my luck enough with the XYL and it was approaching sunset, so it was time to pack up and head back to Victor Harbor for dinner.  I made 39 contacts on 40m SSB and 8 contacts on 20m SSB.

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

Graham VK5KGP; Larry VK5LY; Stu VK5STU; Basil VK5BK; Craig VK5CE; Nev VK5WG; John VK5DJ; Andy VK5AKH/p; Bernard VK3AMB; Theo VKMTM/p; Ian VK5CZ; Steve VK3SN; Luke VK3HJ; Brian VK5FMID; Shaun VK5FAKV; Tom VK5EE; Allen VK3HRA; Adam VK2YK/3; Frank VK3GFS; Peter VK3TQ; Nick VK2DX; Matt VK2DAG; Joe VK3YSP/p; Julie VK3FOWL/p; Tim VK5AV; Rod VK5VRB; Tom VK5FTRG; Peter VK3PAH; Graham VK5WK; Craig VK3NCR/p; James VK1DR; Peter VK5NAQ; Paul VK7CC; Marshall VK3MRG/p; Don VK7DON; David VK5DGR; Mal VK5MJ; Brian ZL2ASH; and Colin VK4FAAS.

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

Craig VK5CE; Matt VK2DAG; I1BSN; EA3WN; UK3AKO; ZL3LF; Andy VK5AKH/p; and Mark VK6AR.

I have posted a video of the activation on You Tube…..

Scott Conservation Park

My second activation for Friday 27th December, was the Scott Conservation Park.  This is located just a short distance from my first activation at the Cox Scrub Conservation Park.  In fact it is about 4 km south, after travelling along the Bull Creek Road, and then along Deep Creek Road.

Scott Conservation Park (not to be confused with Scott Creek CP or Mount Scott CP) is located about 75 km south of Adelaide, and is 210 hectares in size.  The park is relatively flat and consists of Blue and Pink gum woodlands.


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I could not find a lot of information on the internet on the park.  It looks like it is one of those little secrets on the Fleurieu Peninsula, which might not be a bad thing.  There are a number of walks in the park including the Watercourse Hike, and Orchid Hike, and they are both rated as easy.


There is a wide range of vegetation within the park and there were many of the native plants in flower during our visit.  The park consists of forest, woodland, and heathland.  The park contains a wide variety of animals including Western Grey kangaroos, Ringtail Possums, and Western Pygmy-possums.  A huge amount of bird life is also found in the park including the endangered Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and Diamond Firetail.

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Marija and I found a carpark (gate 1) on Gould Road, and set up the equipment there.  It was a nice shaded area out of the very hot sun.  There was also a convenient fire track/break, which allowed me to run out the legs of the 40m/20m linked dipole and a permapine post/railing to attach the squid pole to.


After switching on the FT-817nd to 40m, I heard Ian VK1DI/2 on SOTA peak VK2/ SE-049, calling CQ.  So I gave Ian a call and he was my first contact in Scott CP.  I then moved to 7.095 and called CQ and was soon Hunted by Brian VK5FMID, followed by keen Park Hunter Larry VK5LY and then Graham VK5KGP.  A steady flow of callers followed from VK3 & VK5.


After things had slowed down on 40m, I changed bands to 20m.  The 20m band was really quite, with very little activity.  I did hear  few Latin American stations but their signal strengths were well down.  I tried calling CQ on 14.330 on 20m, but there were no takers.  So it was time to pack up the gear again and head off to Victor Harbor.

I worked the following stations:-

Ian VK1DI/2; Brian VK5FMID; Larry VK5LY; Graham VK5KGP; Bernard VK3AMB; Col VK5HCF; Tom VK5FTRG; Norm VK5GI; Ian VK5CZ; Allen VK3HRA; Tom VK5EE; Nick VK3ANL; Don VK5NFB; Nev VK5WG; and Steve VK3MEG

Cox Scrub Conservation Park

On Friday morning, 27th December, 2013, my wife Marija and I headed down to Victor Harbor, on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula, where we planned to stay 2 nights.  And I even had ‘permission’ to activate some parks, so I didn’t need to be asked twice.

We left home in the Adelaide Hills early in the morning, and our first stop on the way down to Victor Harbor was the Cox Scrub Conservation Park, which is situated about  40 km south from my home, about 70 km south of Adelaide and about 8 km south of the little town of Ashbourne (which has a great pub by the way, called The Greenman Inn).  The park is accessed off the Bull Creek Road, which was formerly known as the Adelaide to Goolwa Road.


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The Fleurieu Peninsula was named by French explorer Nicholas Baudin, after the eminent French explorer Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu.  Way back in 1802, Matthew Flinders, the English navigator, and Nicholas Baudin mapped the southern coast of Australia.  Flinders surveyed the area from the west, while Nicholas Baudin surveyed from the east.  Flinders and Baudin met at a point near the mouth of the Murray River.  Flinders named the bay where they met as Encounter Bay.


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Cox Creek Conservation Park is a large park, and comprises 544 hectares of open shrubby vegetation with a drought hardy under storey.  It is one of the larger parks on the Fleurieu Peninsula.  It was acquired in 1969 and was dedicated as a South Australian Conservation Park on the 5th day of March, 1970.  Prior to being declared a conservation park, the majority of the land was owned by Mr. V. Cox, who was apiarist at Ashbourne.  He preserved the park in its natural state for the over wintering of his honey bees.  The land was purchased from Mr Cox in 1969 on condition that he be allowed to keep bees in the park for as long as he required.  This right was withdrawn following his death.  In 1977 and then again in 1982, further smaller additions to the park were made.

The park also includes a short section of the Finnis River.  In the south eastern corner of the park there is a steep sided valley which contains a spring fed creek.  and there is also a winter swamp area near the main carpark off Bull Creek Road, and this was full of water when Marija and I visited.

The famous Heysen trail runs very close to the western boundary of the park.  Coles Crossing campsite on the western side of the park, offers trekers along the Heysen trail, a place to rest their weary bones.

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The February 1983 Ash Wednesday fires ravaged the park.  All but a small 5 hectare section in the south western corner of the park, was totally burnt out during the devastating bush fires which claimed 28 lives in South Australia (47 in Victoria) and destroyed about 2,300 homes in SA & Victoria.

There are a variety of birds located in the park (of the feathered variety), including Rainbow lorikeets, Eastern Spinebill, Golden Whistler,Black-shouldered kite, and yellow-tailed black cockatoos.  In fact over 80 species of birds have been recorded in the park.

Also located within the park are at least 15 species of mammals, 11 species of reptiles, and 6 species of frogs. Mammals include the echidna, and the endangered and vulnerable Southern-brown bandicoot.  While reptiles located within the park include Rosenberg’s Goanna.

Over 350 plant species have been recorded in Cox Scrub, with dominant species being Eucalyptus Pink Gum, Cup Gum, and Brown Stringy Bark.  In the north western corner of the park, there are a large number of Sugar Gums, and these were planted when then park was privately owned, to provide additional nectar for bees.


The park was burnt significantly during a recent scrub fire in May, 2013.  The fire which started off as controlled burn off, destroyed over 350 hectares of the park.  And there were clear signs of the fire, with the vegetation trying to slowly recover.  It is really quite amazing how the bush can recover from such an event.  I wonder how much wildlife was lost though as a result of the fire ?

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I set up the gear in the carpark utilising the fence line to secure the 7m squid pole.  I made myself comfortable on the deck chair with the table, and put out a call on 7.095 to be greeted by a hungry pack of Park Hunters.  First cab off the rank was Graham VK5KGP with a very strong signal.  This was followed by Larry VK5LY who was mobile, and then David VK5DGR who was running just 2 watts and a magnetic loop antenna, under the carport of his home in Adelaide.  This was followed by a steady flow of callers from VK3 & VK5.



Whilst in the park I managed a few SOTA contacts on 20m SSB, including Andrew VK1NAM who was portable on Mount Stromlo VK1/ AC-043 (5/2 both ways), and only my 2nd ever Queensland SOTA contact with Dave VK4OZY who was portable on Mount Mary Smokes VK4/ SE-041 (5/7 sent & 5/6 received).  The contacts with Andrew & Dave were a real added bonus.

Whilst operating I was also approached by a young guy who was in the carpark in his Toyota Coaster travelling around SA with his girlfriend.  He was extremely interested in amateur radio and told me that he was an avid short wave listener.  I gave him my contact details and who knows, maybe when he gets back home to the Northern Territory, he might get his amateur licence.  he was certainly keen when I told him that CW was no longer compulsory.

After about 90 minutes in the park, it was time to pack up and head off to Scott Conservation Park.  I had 20 QSO’s in the log (18 on 40m SSB and 2 on 20m SSB).

I worked the following stations:-

Graham VK5KGP; Larry VK5LY/m; David VK5DGR (qrp); Brian VK5FMID; Ray VK3HSR; Bill VK5MBD; Col VK5HCF (qrp); Tom VK5EE (qrp); Tom VK5FTRG; Nick VK3ANL; Paul VK5FUZZ; Bernard VK3AMB; Allen VK3HRA; Bruce VK3IG; Ron VK3AFW; Nev VK5WG; Brian VK3MCD/2; Rohan VK5FVBR; Andrew VK1NAM/p (SOTA); and Dave VK4OZY/p (SOTA.


Friends of Cox Scrub Conservation Park 2012, Friends of Cox Scrub Conservation Park, Ashbourne, South Australia, viewed 30th December 2013, <;

South Australian Tourism Commission 2013, South australian Tourism Commission, Adelaide, South Australia, viewed 30th December 2013, <http://;

Wikimapia, 2013, viewed 30th December, 2013, <;