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