Some more DX activators

On Sunday night, 19th January, 2014, I stayed up a little late again to work some DX on 15m.  And when the 15m band went quiet I decided to venture over to 20m to have a listen.  And I am pleased I did.  I managed to work some more European SOTA activators on the short path, and also two more WorldWide Flora and Fauna activators from Europe.

My first contact was with Mike, OE4MXB who was portable on SOTA peak, Geschriebenstein, OE/ BL-001 and Irott-kö, HA/ ND-001.  Why 2 summits ?  Mike was on the Austrian and Hungarian border.  This is the highest mountain of the Koszeg Mountain Range.  It is 884 metres above sea level according to Austrian sources, but Hungarian references mostly place the summit at 883 metres.  SOTA shows the OE/ BL-001 summit to be 884 metres ASL and worth 2 SOTA points, while HA/ ND-001 is shown as 882 metres ASL and worth 8 points.  Either way, it is the highest mountain of Western Hungary and of Burgenland.

The summit’s former names were Fenyőhegy and Szálkő.  Its present name (Írottkő in Hungarian, and Geschriebenstein in German) can be translated as ‘written stone’.  It is believed this is derived   from border stones with inscriptions between the properties of the Batthyany and Esterhazy  families.  On the summit, there is an observation tower built in 1913 which stands exactly on the border between Austria and Hungary.

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The photograph below, is of a stone located within the lookout tower.  Its left side is in Austria (denoted by the Ö for Österreich), while the right side is in Hungary (denoted by an M for Magyarország, cannot be seen in the photo).

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Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Since December 2007 the Austrian-Hungarian border can be crossed without formalities as Hungary joined the Schengen Agreement.  The closest towns on the Austrian side of the border are Rechnitz and Lockenhaus.  On the Hungarian side of the border, the closest municipality is Velem and the closest town is Koszeg.   

Mike was very strong with a genuine 5/9 signal coming into VK on the short path.  With such a great signal, as you would expect, Mike had quite a big pile up.  But I persisted and got though and received a 5/7 signal report from Mike.  Mike was running 150 watts, from a Yaesu FT-857 into a mono band vertical.

Below is a video of Mike’s activation…..

My second contact was with Jana DG5WU who was portable on SOTA peak, Wank, DL/ EW-001.  The summit which is pronounced as vanjk, is 1,780 metres above sea level and is worth 6 points.  It is located in the German (Alpine) Association and is in the Estergebirge/Walchenseeberge Region. It is situated in the Loisach valley, near to the Austrian border in the southwestern Ester Mountains range.

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Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The summit can be reached via a cable car system called the Wankbahn which generally operates during the summer season, or via an extensive network of paths.  Construction of the cable car system commenced in 1928, and commenced service in 1929.  It is 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long and rises from 740 metres (2,430 ft) to 1,750 metres (5,740 ft) above sea level.

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A 1930 poster of the cable car.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The mountain has a grassy summit, that offers spectacular views over Gamisch-Partenkirchen and the surrounding region.  A cross can be found at the top of the summit which was established in July, 1904 by the Werdenfelser Heimat Partenkirchen Society.   Nearby is an observatory and the Wank-Haus, also known as the Alois Huber Haus, which is a mountain hut built in 1911, that provides accommodation and meals for visitors to the summit.

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The summit is a popular destination for paragliders.  The paragliding enthusiast take off from the summit plateau and fly south into the Gamisch-Patenkirchen valley or to peaks in the Wettersteingebirge.  The thermals make the summit particularly popular, as they enable paragliders to make exceptionally long flights when conditions are favourable.

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I had actually heard Jana before Mike, but unfortunately Jana’s signal was very low and she was working a big pile up from Europe.  I tried calling numerous times but just couldn’t get though.  And Jana was that low that I wasn’t quite sure if I could get a signal report back from her anyway.  After working Mike, I decided to go back and have another listen.  Jana’s signal had come up a little and I was more confident this time that  I would be able to receive a signal report from her.

Jana was still busy working lots of Europeans, but I patiently waited for a break in the callers, and snuck in my call sign.  To my surprise, Jana called me in and gave me a 5/7 signal report.  Sadly Jana’s signal was still 3/3 (an honest signal report).  But I could hear her, and that is all that mattered.

My third contact was with the Silesian Amateur Radio Group, operating as SP9YFF for the World Castles Award at Rabsztyn Castle WCA-SP0832 and for World Wide Flora & Fauna (WWFF) at Krajobrazowy Orlich GniazdSPFF-093.

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Translated to English, Krajobrazowy Orlich Gniazd means Eagle’s Nest Landscape Park.  It is a protected area in south western Poland, consisting of 597 km2, and was established in 1980.  It covers much of the area of the Trail of the Eagle’s Nest.  The trail passes by some 25 medieval castles called the Eagles’ Nests, built on large tall rocks by the order of King Casimir III the Great (1310-1370).  This includes Rabsztyn Castle.  The area is visited by approximately 400,000 visitors per year.

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I got through to SP9YGG first time I called which was really encouraging.  The club were using 100 watts, and a multi band dipole at 8 metres from the ground and had a very nice 5/7 signal.  I received a 5/9 signal report.

My fourth contact was with Juergen OE4JHW who was portable on OE/ BL-001 and HA/ ND-001.  He was doing a dual activation with Mike, OE4MXB.  Jueergen had a beautiful strong 5/8 signal and I received a 5/9 signal report back.  I had a good chat with Juergen, who then called for any other VK Chasers.  Sadly there weren’t any.  This is the second time that I have now worked Juergen on a summit.

And my final portable contact was with Levi YO2MNC who was operating portable as part of the WWFF program in Drocea de lângă, YOFF-258, in ROMANIA   I had stumbled across Levi by accident.  I heard him asking if the frequency was in use and when he started calling CQ I gave him a call.  Levi’s response when I called him was priceless.  When he heard me call he said, “Oh my god….Australia”.  Levi told me that I was his first ever VK from a WWFF activation.  He said “I am very very glad”.  I was really pleased to get Levi in the log.

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Photos courtesy of YO2MNC

During the evening I also heard SOTA activators OE5RTP and OE5IRO from AUSTRIA.  But they were working an Italian station who was portable for the Italian Abbeys award, and then QSY’d, and I could not find them after that.

I also heard EB2GKK who was portable on a SOTA summit in SPAIN.  But I didn’t call him as his signal was so weak, that I didn’t think we would be able to exchange signal reports.

Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park

On Saturday morning, 18th January, 2014, my wife Marija, and I headed off to the Barossa Valley, for Marija to get her hair done by a friend.  So I tagged along with the intention of activating a new park, the Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park.

Kaiserstuhl CP is located about 12 km south-east of Tanunda in the Barossa Valley.  It is 390 hectares in size and was dedicated in 1978 to protect one of the last remnants of native vegetation in the Barosa Valley region.  It also protects important seasonal creek and wetland habitats.

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The park is located about 15 km from the devastating bush fires from last week that swept through the Eden Valley destroying about 5 homes.  On Saturday morning before leaving home, I mulled over whether I should activate the park.  Based on info from people in the area, I decided that it was safe to activate the park.  The fire threat had significantly reduced the night before, and we were going to be sufficiently far enough away from any fire activity.

The area where the park was located was discovered in the mid 19th century by the prominent naturalists, H.H. Behr, F.J.H Von Muller, J.G.O. Tepper, and J. Menge.  The Tanunda Creek Bullock Track originally crossed the creek several times within the park but was closed around 1885 in favour of the more direct route along Tanunda Creek Road.  I accessed the park via Tanunda Creek Road.

A plaque within the park records the bequest to the Field Naturalists’ Society of South Australia by Mr Leo Wakem Nicholls (1894-1971).  Nicholls was a keen bushwalker whose bequest to the Field Naturalists Society of S.A. enabled that organisation to contribute $30,000 towards the purchase in 1978 of the park.  The official dedication ceremony took place in December, 1983.

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The park includes granite features such as Horse Head Rock.   Weathering and erosion have produced this rock formation which, as the name suggests, resembles a horse’s head.  Capped Rock, a horizontal rock slab perched on a vertical outcrop, is another interesting feature within the park.

The park is home to native birds such as blue wrens, parrots, honeyeaters, finches and thornbills.  In the late afternoon or early morning, western grey kangaroos can be seen in the open grassland areas of the park, while Euros can occasionally be seen on the rocky ridges of the higher sections of the park.  Other animals to be found in the park include echidnas, possums, bats, and a variety of snakes and lizards.

About 400 plant species are supported within the park.  The park was principally established to preserve the most northerly occurrence of the brown stringybark, Eucalyptus baxteri. Their multi-stemmed, mallee-like appearance is the result of earlier, regular trimming to provide wood for the Nuriootpa brick kilns.

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Large blue gums, river red gums, native pines and sheoaks provide shady cover for the diverse understorey of yaccas, wattles, tea-trees and silver banksias.   Many of the banksias were out in flower during my visit to the park.  Many plants, such as lavender grevilleas and fringe myrtles flower in spring. The green flowered hairy correa is an unusual plant that grows in the shelter of the large granite outcrops. The rare prickly tree violet also occurs in the park and is often mistaken for the African boxthorn. This native plant provides protected nesting sites for small birds.

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You may see mistletoe growing on the eucalypts, acacias and casuarinas in the park. These are parasitic native plants, which provide food and shelter for many bird species. The lichens growing on the rocks are also an important part of the ecosystem helping to weather the rocks to form soil.

I ran a little late in getting to the park and setting up.  Mostly because we travelled all the way along Rifle Range Road, on the western side of the park, only to find that the road fell short of the park.  So we then drove all the way back and around to Bethany, and then up Menglers Hill Road, and access the park on the eastern side of Tanunda Creek Road.

There is a gate at this point to enter the park, and I set up the station just inside the park boundary near the gate.  There is a walking track from here which leads to an interpretative sign and some walking tracks through the park.  Soon after setting up David arrived, and Marija headed off for her hairdressing appointment.

I was running behind schedule and I knew the Hunters would be getting hungry, so I quickly jumped onto 40m, only to realise a little later that I had not secured the ends of the dipole.  Nether mind.  It still worked.  My first QSO was with Brian VK5FMID at Mount Gambier, followed by Col VK5HCF also in Mount Gambier, and then Dave VK3VCE near Echuca.  After working 6 stations, I handed over the mic to David, who made contact with 8 stations in VK3 & VK5.  Despite the fact that wee were not on a summit, David had his little fluffy goat as his mascot.  I then took over the reigns again & spoke with Larry VK5LY and Ian VK5CZ prior to the UTC roll over.

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After the UTC rollover I worked a further 7 stations before again handing the mic over to David, whilst I went for a walk through the park.  David worked a further 6 stations in VK3 & VK5, including Mark VK5QI who was portable in Deep Creek Conservation Park.  The VK5 Parks award allows ‘Hunters’ to work activators for points every UTC day.  So a few operators called us back for a second bite at the cherry.

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The weather was starting to warm up, band conditions were fading, and Marija had arrived to pick me up.  So it was time to pack up the gear and head home.  This was a beautiful park and a good fun activation with David.

A total of 29 QSO’s were made on 40m SSB.

The following stations were worked by me, VK5PAS:-

Before UTC roll over:- Brian VK5FMID; Col VK5HCF; Dave VK3VCE; Paul VK5FUZZ; Andrew VK5KET; Bill VK5MBD; Larry VK5LY; & Ian VK5CZ.

And after UTC roll over:- Larry VK5LY; Basil VK5BK; Dale VK5DC; Mike VK5MCB; Mal VK3AZZ; & Ian VK3VIN.

The following stations were worked by David, VK5NQP:-

Before UTC roll over:- Kevin VK3VEK; Brian VK5FMID; Bill VK5MBD; Joe VK3YSP; Julie VK3FOWL; Larry VK5LY, Dennis VK5LDM; Graham VK5KGP

And after UTC roll over:- Larry VK5LY; Maitland VK5AO; Ian VK5CZ; Nev VK5WG; Bob VK5AK; Frank VK3GFS; & Mark VK5QI/p.