Mokota Conservation Park

After packing up at the Hallett Hill summit, I headed back into Mount Bryan township, and then headed north for the Mokota Conservation Park (CP), which is located about 180 km north of Adelaide, and about 5 km north east of the little township of Mount Bryan.

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Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I drove out along White Hill Road, which is a dirt road, but easily passable with 2wd.  White Hill Road runs off the western side of the Goyder Highway, just outside of Mount Bryan.  As I drove out towards the park, I was surrounded by summits; Mount Bryan VK5/ SE-001 to my north; Hallett Hill VK5/ SE-004 to my west; and Mount Cone VK5/ SE-002 to my south.  I had never been to Mokota CP before, and this was s spur of the moment activation, so I didn’t know what to expect.  The land out here is quite barren, and as I headed east, the land was quite unmentionable.  It was the last place I expected to find a conservation park.

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map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I had travelled along White Hill Road for quite a few km, expecting to see a patch of scrub.  But there was none to be seen.  However, as I reached a bend in the road, out the corner of my right eye, I saw a few interpretive signs in what looked like a paddock.  It was in fact the Mokota Conservation Park.

Mokota CP is about 455 hectares in size and was the first reserve in South Australia to be acquired with the priority aim of protecting a native grassland.  The park, which was first proclaimed on 26th October, 2000,  plays an important role in protecting native grassland and is one of the largest remaining examples of an open grassy vegetation community.  It is one of the best examples of tussock grassland remaining in South Australia.   There are a number of interpretive signs in the park which give an insight into the unusually high quality grassland, including 150 indigenous flora species surrounding it.  A total of 32 of the species are of particular conservation significance to South Australia.

The park also provides habitat for about 28 native animal species, including Western Grey kangaroos, Red Kangaroos, and Euros.  It was absolutely full of Western Grey kangaroos during my visit.  They were everywhere….grazing in the grasslands, and drinking at the nearby dam.  Quite rare really, because generally on a hot day, kangaroos are seeking shelter from the sun.  But they were certainly out in large numbers whilst I visited the park.  The rare white spotted skipper butterfly is of particular interest and is listed as vulnerable.  The park also provides habitat for the Flinders worm lizard whose conservation status is listed as vulnerable at national and state levels.

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The park is in the area of the original Mackerode estate, founded by G.A. Gebhardt.  Mokota is a Maori name, chosen by L.W. GEBHARDT, meaning ‘fine view’.  Interesting that he chose a Maori name.  Prior to European settlement, the land was occupied by the Ngadjuri aboriginal people.  The area of the park had been grazed from about the 1860’s right up until 199, when the land was acquired by the South Australian Government.  I found some interesting newspaper articles from the early 1900’s re L.W. GERBHARDT.

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Above: from The Register, May 1935.  Courtesy of trove.nla.gov.au

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Above: from The Register, Sept 1919.  Courtesy of trove.nla.gov.au

I used the Yaesu FT-817nd and ran just 5 watts for this activation, and my Band Hopper 40m/20m linked dipole.  I used one of the interpretive signs to secure the 7 metre squid pole, with a few octopus straps, weighting down the ends of the dipole with some moss rocks.

I had sent out an SMS to the normal gang of park hunters prior to the activation, hoping that I would get a few calls.  I’ve found the SMS group message works really well.  Sadly at the moment, the VK5 Parks award does not have an audible alerting system like SOTA Goat or Rucksack radio.  So activators rely on any method of getting the word out that they are in a park.  Allen VK3HRA has developed parksnpeaks, but at this stage there is no audible app for mobile phones.

http://www.parksnpeaks.org

I started off on 7.105 on 40m and put out a CQ call and was greeted immediately by the normal crew: Col VK5HCF, Larry VK5LY, Brian VK5FMID, and John VK5BJE.  Col was a good 5/8 signal with his normal QRP 5 watt signal.  The other motley crew were all 5/9 or 5/9 plus.  I was also called by John VK5DJ in Millicent, David VK5NQP, and Andrew VK2UH.  It was quite a struggle with Andrew, as it was the middle of the day and the 40m band had gone to sleep.  Andrew was a good 5/6 but he was only receiving me 4/3.

It was very slow going with not many contacts for this activation.  I put out numerous CQ calls but didn’t get any respond, so I tuned around the band and managed to make contact with Andrew VK1NAM who was on SOTA peak, Baldy Range, VK2/ ST-008.  Andrew was quite weak, 5/3, and I received a 5/1 signal report from Andrew.  But that is the beauty of operating portable.  The noise floor is generally very low and that was certainly the case in Mokota CP.  You could hear a pin drop, and thus, able to work the weakest of weak stations.

I then lowered the squid pole, and removed the crocodile clips in the linked dipole for 20m, and then raised the squid pole back into position.  I put a few calls out on 14.200 but didn’t receive any replies.  I tuned across the band and found it was very quiet, with very few stations active.  I did hear a few amateurs from the United States, but their signals were very low.  Certainly too low to even attempt to give them a call.

It was starting to creep up into the mid 30 degrees, so I decided to pack up and head back home to Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills.  I had just 8 contacts in the log on 40m SSB.  However, this was a very interesting park, and was certainly well worth a visit.

The following stations were worked:-

Col VK5HCF; Larry VK5LY; Brian VK5FMID; John VK5BJE; John VK5DJ; David VK5NQP; Andrew VK2UH; and Andrew VK1NAM/2 (SOTA)

 

References.

Cockburn, R, 2002, South Australia.  What’s in a Name?, 4th edition, Adelaide

Government of South Australia, 2003, Mokotoa Conservation Park Management Plan.

Government of South Australia, ‘Parks of the Mid North‘.

National Library of Australia, 2014, viewed 8th October 2014, <http://trove.nla.gov.au&gt;

Hallett Hill, VK5/ SE-003

My one and only activation for Saturday 4th October, 2014, was Hallett Hill, VK5/ SE-003, which is located about 180 km north of Adelaide, and about 2 km north west of the little township of Mount Bryan, in the Mid North of South Australia.

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Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I got up early and after a hearty breakfast at the Commerical Hotel at Jamestown, I headed towards New Campbell Hill, VK5/ SE-007, which is situated on the edge of the Bundaleer Forest Reserve.  However, much to my disappointment, there was a sign on the gate at Neindorf Road, stating that access was prohibited due to reforest operations.  Bugger !  So I looked at possible alternatives and was lucky enough to make contact with the land owner of Hallett Hill.  So south east I headed towards Mount Bryan.

Hallett Hill is an easy summit to access.  It is located on private property, so please obtain permission from the land owner prior to entry.  Details can be found on the SOTA site.  I had activated this summit with Ian VK5CZ in July 2013, but it appears we entered the summit from the northern end via another land owner’s property.  This time I travelled out along the Mokota Road, at the southern end of the Mount Bryan township.  Upon reaching the T junction, turn left onto Collinsville Road.  A few km up on your right you will reach a set of double gates with various signs on them including ‘High Voltage.  Authorised personnel only.  Keep out‘.  This is where you access the summit.  The dirt road will take you to the ridge line, where you need to travel north to the actual summit.

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map courtesy of googlemaps.com

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map courtesy of googlemaps.com

I used a wire fence and post to secure the 7 m squid pole, with some octopus straps.  As this was the 2nd year anniversary of the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program) in South Australia, I had the SOTA flag flying proudly.  And it was certainly flying!  As expected, the wind was very strong on the top of the hill.  After all, I was set up amongst a wind farm.  Again, for this activation I ran the Yaesu FT-817nd and 5 watts and the linked dipole.

I propped on 7.090 on 40 m and called CQ and this was responded to immediately by Larry VK5LY with a very strong 5/9 plus signal from The Riverland.  This was followed by SOTA stalwart, Peter VK3FPSR, Adam VK2YK, and then the ever reliable Col VK5HCF at Mount Gambier.  A steady flow of callers from VK2, VK3, and VK5 followed.  The band appeared to be very good, with excellent signals coming in from both locally and the eastern states.  And I was receiving good signals back from as far afield as New South Wales, with my 5 watts.

Sadly, there was a large amount of noise on 40m, most likely generated by the wind turbines.  It was about a strength 3 at times, and was a really annoying squealing sound.  So any low signals were quite difficult to copy, if not impossible.

I managed two summit to summit contacts on 40m prior to the UTC rollover.  That was with Mark VK3ASC who was portable on Mount Elliot, VK3/ VE-151.  Mark had a good 5/7 signal, and he reciprocated with a 5/8 signal report for me.  A few contacts later, I was called by Peter VK3PF who was portable on Mount Hooghly, VK3/ VT-049.  Peter was very low down (5/2), but fortunately at the time he called, the noise being generated by the wind turbines was low and we were able to make the contact.

After working a total of 26 stations on 40m SSB, I QSYd to 14.310 on 20m SSB and started calling CQ.  My first contact on 20m was with Mike VK6MB, who was a little weak (5/3).  I received a 4/3 signal report from Mike in Perth.  Not bad really, considering the distance is nearly 2,600 km.  This was followed by Ian VK1DI, VK7LTD, Matt VK1MA, Ian VK5CZ and Lee VK2LEE.  All had good strong signals.  I remained on 20m for the UTC rollover and worked a further 10 stations.  This included a summit to summit contact with Peter VK3PF on Mount Hooghly, VK3/ VT-049.

I then moved back to 40m to give the SOTA chasers on 40m a chance to pick up another 4 points.  First taker there again was Larry VK5LY, followed by Tony VK3CAT and then Nigel VK5NIG.  I went on to work a total of 31 stations on 40m SSB after the UTC rollover.

This included a few summit to summit contacts.  The first being with Mitch VK3XDM who was portable on Mount Rosea, VK3/ VW-003.  Mitch’s signal was a good solid 5/7 and I received a 5/8 report from Mitch.  Immediately following this, Glen VK3YY called in from Mount Ritchie, VK3/ VC-003 (5/5 both ways).  I then spoke with Rob VK2QR who was portable on Mount Jackson, VK2/ SW-003.  As always, Rob had a good signal (5/7 both ways).  My final summit to summit contact on 40m SSB was with Andrew VK1NAM/2 who was portable on Baldy Range, VK2/ ST-008.  Andrew as an excellent 5/8 signal and I received a 5/9 signal report from Andrew.

I had been patiently waiting for Paul VK1ATP/7 who was on SOTA peak, VK7/ NE-003, to come up on 20m.  I had heard him talking with Andrew VK1NAM on 40m, but sadly, due to the wind turbine noise, he was just too weak to work.  Just before I was about to pack up, the SOTA Goat app bleated on my i-phone, and it was a spot for Paul on 14.310.  I had already lowered the squid pole, and removed the crocodile clips in anticipation.  Paul was a beautiful 5/4 signal coming in, and I was fortunate enough to make my first ever VK7 SOTA contact.  And a summit to summit to boot.  I was very happy.

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After about 90 minutes on the hill, it was time to pack up and head off.  I had a total of 73 contacts on 40m SSB and 20m SSB in the log.

The following stations were worked:-

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Brownhill Range, VK5/ SE-004

My last Summits on the Air ((SOTA) activation for Friday 3rd October, 2014, was Brownhill Range, VK5/ SE-004, which is located about 212 km north of Adelaide, and about 5 km south east of Jamestown, in the Mid North of South Australia.  I last activated this summit in July 2013, so another 4 points as a SOTA activator were there for the taking.

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Access to the summit is via Seven Trees Road.  Turn onto the Booborowie Road, from the Wilkins Highway (Jamestown to Hallet Road).  Travel about 5 km south along the Booborowie Road and you will see The Willows Road, on your right.  Travel west along The Willows Road until you reach the T junction with Seven Trees Road.  Turn left onto Seven Trees Road.  Diagonally opposite the power plant, you will see some double gates with various signs on the gates including ‘Unauthorised access.  Tresspassers will be prosecuted‘.  This is the access point to the summit.  The summit is located on private property, so please obtain permission prior to access.

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The Brownhill wind farm consists of 45 Suzlon S88 turbines each of a rated 2.1 megawatt (MW) for a total of around 95 MW.  It is adjacent to an existing 180 MW gas fired peaking power plant. The wind farm construction was carried out by Suzlon Energy Australia Pty. Ltd.   This site utilises an innovative rock anchor solution to support the turbines using only one third of the concrete and reinforcement required in traditional foundations.

I travelled up the dirt road towards the top of the hills, through some gates, and then south along the ridge line to reach the remnants of the trig point.  If you do access this summit, please remember to shut the gates, as cattle are kept in the paddocks amongst the wind turbines.  The trig point now consists of three blue painted poles set amongst a clump of moss rocks.  The views from here are truly grand, with a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding countryside.  To adhere to the ‘activation zone’ rule for SOTA, I parked my car down the hill and walked up to the trig point.

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Much to my displeasure, the trig point was absolutely alive with flies and bugs.  Not really sure why.  I guess they just wanted to call it home for the afternoon, and join me in a SOTA activation.  Even the ‘Aerogard’ didn’t keep them away!  The photo below is looking south east from the summit, and you can clearly see the very active flies and bugs, which were relentless!

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I ran the little Yaesu FT-817nd again for this operation, running just QRP, 5 watts.  My antenna was the Band Hopper 20m/40m linked dipole which I supported on the 7 metre squid pole.  I used one of the trig point poles as an anchoring point for the squid pole, securing it with some octopus straps.  Fortunately, the breeze had dropped and it was beautiful late afternoon on the summit.  This was in stark contrast to my previous activation of this summit in July, 2013, when there was a howling westerly wind blowing.

One other thing different this time around, was that the noise floor was very low.  Last time I activated this summit, there was a terrible squealing noise on the band, apparently generated by the wind turbines.  But fortunately, the band was very quiet today.

Prior to calling CQ, I checked my phone and saw that Brian VK3MCD, was portable on SOTA peak, Mount Stanley, VK3/ VE-126, near Beechworth in north east Victoria.  So I turned the radio on and tuned to 7.085 and there was Brian with a very nice 5/8 signal.  After working Brian ‘summit to summit’, I tuned down to 7.080 and put out a CQ call and was greeted by Tony VK3CAT.  This was followed by Larry VK5LY and my fourth qualifying contact was with Greg VK5ZGY who was mobile at Mount Gambier in the South East of South Australia.

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The regular crowd of SOTA chasers then called in, from VK1, VK2, VK3, and VK5.  Band conditions appeared to be quite good, with very good signals coming in locally from VK5, and from the eastern states.  However, there didn’t seem to be the same number of SOTA chasers as normal.  However, it was a weekday, and most people in Australia were either still at work or about to finish work.

After working a total of 21 stations on 40m SSB, I lowered the squid pole and removed the links from the dipole and then raised the squid pole back to its 7 metre limit.  I was keeping a close eye on SOTAWatch on my iPhone and saw that there were a number of intended SOTA activations from the United Kingdom and Europe.  So I was hoping for some ‘DX summit to summit’ contacts whilst I was on Brownhill Range.

One of those was Klaus DF2GN, who was portable on SOTA peak, Hohenkarpfen, DM/ BW-074.  I saw Klaus had been spotted on 14.130, so I tuned down the band to that frequency and heard Klaus well, with a very good strong 5/8 signal.  Klaus had posted that he was suffering from high VSWR when operating higher in the band, and thus the reason for being all the way down here.  However, there was clearly no issue with Klaus’ antenna, as his signal was very strong.  My only problem was, Klaus had a big pile up going, from both Europe and Australia.  I called a number of times but just couldn’t break through the Australians calling him.  After about 10 attempts, I heard Klaus come back to my call.  Elation!  Klaus gave me a 5/7 signal report, which I was very pleased with considering my 5 watts.

Hohenkarpfen summit is 912 metres above sea level, and is worth 10 points.  It is an extinct volcano and is located near Spaichingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

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Image courtesy of http://www.panoramio.com

I then saw a spot for Barry, M0IML, who was portable on Dettling Hill, G/ SE-013.  So I quickly tuned up to 14.327.5 and I was pleased to hear Barry coming through quite well, at about 5/4.  Fortunately Barry was not quite as busy as Klaus, and it only took a few calls for Barry to respond with a 4/4 signal report for me.  I was really excited…another ‘DX summit to summit’.

Dettling Hill is 200 metres above sea level and is worth 1 SOTA point.  It forms part of the North Downs in Kent, a ridge of chalk hills.  The summit is located north east of Maidstone, and is situated in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The name, taken from the village of Detling that sit at the foot of the hill, derives from Old English and means “hill at the settlement of the family of a man called Dyttel”.

Detling_Hill

Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org

After working Barry I found a clear frequency on 14.295 and put out a CQ call.  Much to my surprise, the first taker was Mikel EA2CW, who was portable on SOTA peak, Ganguren, EA2/ BI-055.  Mikel was coming through at signal strength 5/5.  Following Mikel, I received a call from Marcial, EA2BDS who was also on Ganguren, EA2/ BI-055.

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Image courtesy of http://www.summitpost.org

ea2cw_operating

EA2CW-P

A handful of stations followed on 14.295 including Viktor HA5LV, Paul VK2KTT, Dave VK4DD and Mike VK6MB.  But I then saw a spot for Mike 2E0YYY who was portable on Shining Tor, G/ SP-004.  So as it had gone a little quiet with callers, I quickly tuned to 14.285 and made contact with Mike who was a good 5/3 signal (5/3 received from Mike).  Mike is the most prolific DX SOTA activator that I have worked.

wildboarclough_from_shining_tor

Image courtesy of http://www.knowledge.me.uk

The SOTA goat app then bleated on my i-phone, alerting me to Allan, GW4VPX who was portage on Mynydd y Betws, GW/ SW-028, on 14.280.  I put a few calls out to Allan before being answered with a 4/4 signal report.  Alan was a good 5/3 signal coming in to Brownhill Range.  Mynydd y Betws is 374 metres above sea level and is worth 1 SOTA point.

Mynydd_y_Betws_-_geograph.org.uk_-_272296

Image courtesy of en.wikepedia.com

I then went back to 14.295 and put out some CQ calls, and Adam VK2YK responded.  This was followed by Hans OE7PHI.  And then to my surprise I received a call from Martin OE5REO who was portable on SOTA peak, Grillenparz, OE/ OO-316.  Although Martin was not strong, and was only 5/1, he was perfectly readable due to the very low noise floor on the summit.  I received a 3/1 signal report from Martin.  Now I was really excited.  This was my 9th summit to summit contact for the activation, and my 7th DX summit to summit.  Grillenparz is 842 metres above sea level, and is with 2 SOTA points.  Martin was running just 10 watts into a linked dipole on a 6 metre mast.

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Above: a previous activation at grillenparz by OE5REO.  Image courtesy of http://oe5reo.blogspot.com.au

A number of DX stations followed from Austria and Germany.  Sadly, an Italian station came up on 14.297 and was causing just too much QRM for me to continue on 14.295.  So I tuned around the band and found another clear frequency on 14.191 and put out another CQ call, to be greeted by Albert S58AL.  This was followed by a number of DX stations from Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, and Sweden.  All probably due to Albert’s efforts of placing me on the DX cluster.  Many thanks Albert.  There was also an original spot from OO2T (vanity call of ON5SWA).  Thanks Francois ‘Swa’.  Spots on the DX cluster are always extremely helpful.

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I even got a call from my old mate Marnix, OP7M, who had seen me spotted on the DX cluster.  I stayed with Marnix and his wife Martine, and son Goan, during my recent Europe trip.  So it was a real pleasure to make contact with him.  Particularly when conditions were so good.  Marnix was an excellent 5/9 signal and with my tiny 5 watts I received a 5/7 signal report from Marnix.

One of the strongest signals of the afternoon was that of Steve, G0KIK.  Steve had an excellent 5/9 plus signal coming in, and I received a 5/76 signal report.  Steve also placed me on the DX cluster.  Thanks Steve.

After the DX slowed down on 20m, I then went back to 40m and worked some of the stragglers, including Sam VK2AFA, Ian VK5CZ, Nigel VK5NIG and Rod VK5VRB.

So after 2 hours on Brownhill Range, it was time to head back to the hotel at Jamestown.  I had a total of 57 contacts on 40m SSB and 20m SSB, including 9 summit to summit QSOs.  I was very happy.

The following stations were worked:-

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

 

References.

Summits on the Air, 2014, viewed 7th October 2014, <http://www.sotadata.org.uk&gt;

Wikipedia, 2014, viewed 7th October 2014, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallett_Wind_Farm&gt;

Wikipedia, 2014, viewed 7th October 2014, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detling_Hill&gt;