The Battery VK5/ NE-055 and Mt Remarkable National Park

Following our activation of the Whyalla Conservation Park, Marija and I continued on to the little town of Melrose, which is nestled below the impressive Mount Remarkable summit, in the southern Flinders Ranges.  From Whyalla we travelled north to Port Augusta and then travelled south along Highway A1 (Augusta Highway).  We then turned left onto Horrocks Pass Road/Main North Road, and travelled towards Wilmington.

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On the way to Wilmington we passed through Horrocks Pass, and we stopped off at the monument for John Horrocks, after which the pass was named.  This is well worth a look.  The story of Horrocks is a very interesting one.  John Ainsworth Horrocks (1818-1846) was a pastoralist and explorer.  In 1846, Horrocks led an expedition of 6, for a planned 4 month expedition to search for new agricultural lands near Lake Torrens.  Between the 16th-19th August 1846, the expedition crossed the Flinders Ranges via Horrocks Pass.  Horrocks and his team travelled with a camel, two carts, six horses, and twelve goats.  Horrocks noted that the camel was very temperamental, often biting the humans and goats.

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Image courtesy of images.slsa.sa.gov.au

However, the camel was able to carry up to 350 pounds (158.7 kg), which was vital for the anticipated trek across some very arid land.  On September 1st, Horrocks was preparing to shoot a bird on the shores of Lake Dutton.  While Horrocks was reloading his gun, the kneeling camel moved, which resulted in Horrocks catching the cock of the gun.  The gun discharged, resulting in Horrocks loosing the middle fingers of his right hand and a row of teeth.  Horrocks subsequently died of his wounds , about 3 weeks later, on September 23rd.  And what of the naughty camel?  Horrocks had ordered that it be shot.

After leaving the Horrocks monument, we continued east and detoured to Hancock’s lookout.  This is well worth taking the 7 km drive on the dirt road from the bitumen.  On the way we saw numerous emus feeding in the farmer’s paddocks.  Fortunately, none of them ventured out in front of the vehicle.  Hancock’s lookout offers spectacular views of Spencer Gulf and the Port Augusta area.

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After Hancock’s lookout, we continued on to Wilmington and then travelled south on Horrocks Highway/Main North Road to Melrose.  We had booked in to stay for one night at the Melrose cabins which are run by the Melrose Hotel.  This is the second time we have stayed here, and we highly recommend the cabins.  They are well priced, clean and comfortable.

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After lunch at the cabin, which consisted of schnitzel, roast potatoes, pumpkin, roast carrots, and salad, courtesy of my loving mother in law, we headed back out for our second activation for Saturday 27th December, 2014, which was The Battery, VK5/ NE-055, which is located within the Mount Remarkable National Park.  So a triple whammy.  A SOTA summit, a WWFF (VKFF) park, and a VK5 Parks award park.

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Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

Marija and I travelled north along Horrocks Highway/Main North Road and then turned left onto Alligator Gorge Road and travelled south west until we reached the entrance to the Mount Remarkable National Park.  We continued south west through the park until we reached Alligator Lodge which was on our left.  Directly opposite is a campground, which is blocked off for vehicles.  Look for Gate 5.  There is also a sign here indicating that The Battery is 4.5 km away (the summit is a bit further).  We parked the car on the south eastern side of the road and commenced the walk down the 4WD track towards the summit.

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map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I would describe the walk as moderate but still quite taxing.  The first 4 km involves a few inclines.  However it is the last 1 km that is the hardest.  There are some steep inclines and lots of rocks.  The ground is very unsteady under foot.  In many parts, the authorities have placed mesh to prevent slipping.  But there are some spectacular views along the way, and once you reach the top, you are rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside and Spencer Gulf.   The track is quite well signposted.

Mount Remarkable National Park is located about 45 km north of Port Pirie.  Access to the park is either via the Augusta Highway via Mambray Creek, via Melrose, or via Alligator Gorge (our route).  A fee of $10.00 is charged for vehicular entry, which we paid the night before online.  Please note, that park entry fees now need to be paid online prior to visiting the park.  Cash payments are no longer an option in this park.

The park is 16,000 hectares in size and stretches from the coastal plain adjacent to Spencer Gulf, across the ranges, to Mount Remarkable on the edge of the Willochra Plain in the east.  The park is full of kangaroos, Euros, Emus, and other wildlife.

The summit, Mount Remarkable, was named by explorer, Edward John Eyre in June 1840.  The local aboriginal Nukunu people, refer to it was ‘Wangyarra’.  The word ‘aara’ meaning running water.  Alligator Groge and Mambray Creek were dedicated as National Pleasure Resports in 1952.  These areas were added to and became managed by the National Parks Commission during the 1960’s.  Following the enactment of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1972, Alligator Gorge, Mambray Creek and Mount Remarkable were proclaimed as the Mount Remarkable National Park.  Additional portions of land have been added to the park since that time.

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The Battery is 765 metres above sea level and is worth 4 points.  This was the first time I had activated this summit.  It had only been activated previously by Ian VK5CZ in June 2013 and April 2014.

For this activation I ran my little Yaesu FT-817nd, 5 watts and my 40m/20m linked dipole, supported on a 7 metre squid pole.  Marija and I improvised and used a fallen tree branch to secure the squid pole to, with the assistance of some octopus straps.

My first contact was with Greg VK5GJ who responded to my ‘is the frequency in use’ call on 7.095.  Greg was running QRP 5 watts but was a lovely 5/9 to the Flinders Ranges.  In the shack with Greg was Norm VK5GI, also running QRP.  This was followed by Amanda VK3FQSO, and then Joe VK3YSP and wife Julie VK3FOWL who were portable in the Burrowa Pine Mountain National Park.  I always get a bit of a kick when I work a National Park activator, so it was great to get Joe and Julie in the log.

A steady flow of callers then followed from Vk2, VK3, & VK5.  Conditions appeared to be reasonable, however there was a little bit of QSB on the 40m band.  After working a total of 31 stations on 40m, I lowered the squid pole and removed the links for operation on the 20m band.  My first contact on 20m ssb was with Gerard VK2IO who was portable at Gosford, running 12 watts from his Elecraft KX3.  This was followed by Peter VK5KLV at nearby Port Augusta and then Cliff VK2CCJ.  Cliff was pleased to get me in the log, as he told me that he was unable to hear me on 40m.

After a little over an hour on the summit, I had a total of 39 contacts in the log from VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, & VK7 on both 40m ssb and 20m ssb.

The following stations were worked:-

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Below is a quick video of the activation…..

References.

Australian Dictionary of Biography, <http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/horrocks-john-ainsworth-12989&gt;, viewed 29th December 2014

Mount Remarkable National Park brochure, Department for Environment and Heritage, 2006.

Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Remarkable_National_Park&gt;, viewed 29th December 2014

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