A week or so ago I received an email from Chris VK4FR who suggested we have a Friday evening twilight activation session. So Friday the 16th January, 2015 was decided upon to be the inaugural activation afternoon/evening.
I headed to the Mount Boothby Conservation Park (CP) in South East South Australia. I had often seen this park off in the distance as I was traversing the Dukes and Princes Highways (Hwy), and had seen it a number of times on maps. But I had never visited the park, as access is via 4WD only. So now that I have the Toyota Hi Lux, I thought why not pay the park a visit.
The park is located about 14 km west of the little town of Culburra, and about 180 km south east of Adelaide. You can access the park either via the Dukes Hwy or the Princes Hwy.
Map courtesy of mapcarta.com
Mount Boothby CP comprises an area of about 4,045 hectares, and is the fourth largest area of remnant vegetation in the South East Region. It contains a variety of habitats and supports at least two species of conservation significance, namely the metallic sun -orchid and MalleFowl (and I saw them see below). The park consists of undulating limestone ridges overlain with sand, with vary in height from 20 to 120 metres above sea level. Granite outcrops occur on the dune sides, with the most prominent of these being Mount Boothby, which is 129 metres above sea level. Sadly it falls short of qualifying for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.
Image courtesy of http://en-au.topographic-map.com/
The park contains two major vegetation types: Open Woodland, containing Eucalyptus diversifolia and Eucalyptus leptophylla; and Open Heath containing Banksia ornata. The scrub is certainly very thick. It is a beautiful park.
The park is home to a large amount of native fauna including short-beaked echidnas, western grey kangaroos, and the vulnerable malle fowl which breeds in the park. I only saw one kangaroo. And that was on my way to the park. He was sheltering from the afternoon heat underneath a gum tree.
For more information on the park, and also the area the park is located in, please have a look at…..
Map courtesy of mapcarta.com
I drove to the park via the Dukes Highway through the towns of Coomandook, Yumali, Ki Ki, and Coonalpyn. Now there are some interesting names! Once I reached the little town of Culburra, I stopped to stretch my legs. It is worth a stop here to have a read of the history on what was once a thriving town. There is a parking bay here with interpretive signs, detailing the history of the town. Culburra is an aboriginal word meaning ‘lots of sand’. Culburra was once a thriving self supporting township with a community owned weighbridge, sheep and cattle yards, and a railway siding from where thousands of tons of handpicked stumps were hand loaded and trucked away. Today, the railway station has gone (demolished) and only a handful of houses remain.
After a short break, I turned right onto Boothby Road and travelled south west. Interestingly, there is a sign on Boothby Road stating ‘Mt Boothby National Park’. The park is a Conservation Park, not a National Park.
Boothby Road is bitumen for about 1 km and then turns to dirt just outside of Culburra. But the road is in excellent condition, and there are absolutely no problems for conventional vehicles. I continued along Boothby Road and actually passed the Conservation Park which was on my right. I initially missed the entrance. Don’t blink, because you will miss it! The entrance is about 1 km south west of Lowe Road. There is a gate which is hidden by the scrub and a well camoflauged Conservation Park sign on the roadway. Once you enter the gate, there is another park sign which is a little easier to view.
On the way to the park I stopped off to have a look at the monument for the Gold Escort route. It was along this track, that Commissioner Alexander Tolmer, lead the first of 18 Police escorts which under various Commanders, transported from Mount Alexander in Victoria, to Adelaide, about 328,509 ounces of gold, between March 1852 to December 1853.
When the Bullion Act of January 1852 was passed, Commissioner Tolmer suggested an overland gold escort service from Victoria to South Australia. It was designed to reverse the drain of currency from the colony during the gold rush. Tolmer left with the first escort on 10 February and returned a month later with gold worth £21,000. The service lasted until December 1853, a month after his supersession as Commissioner.
There is an interesting drive you can do through the gold escort area in South Australia. For more information, have a look at the following…..
image courtesy of http://gutenberg.net.au/
So after getting lost, I was running late for my activation. And I got a little too excited as well, which placed me even further late. By excited, I am referring to seeing about 6 or 7 endangered/vulnerable MalleFowl as I entered the park. When I saw the first one, I had to look twice, to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was looking at. Sure enough it was a MalleeFowl. And then a bit further along the track, there were more. They didn’t hang around long enough for me to get fantastic photographs, but I did manage a few through the windscreen. You can see those below in the slideshow.
The MalleeFowl is a stocky bird, which is about the size of a domestic chicken. They are a shy, wary, and solitary bird. Although they are very active, they are seldom seen, as they freeze if they are disturbed, relying on their intricately patterned plumage to render themselves invisible. Either that, or they silently and rapidly disapear into the scrub.
There is a MalleeFowl Preservation Group. More information can be found at…..
image courtesy of wikipedia.org
I drove about 3 km along the 4WD track into the park. The track I took was the one which travels through the centre of the park. There are two other tracks which travel along the eastern and southern coundaries. I did not quite make the very top, as I was already running late. So I turned the 4WD around facing back down the track, and I set up my gear on the southern side of the track, under the shade of a small native shrub. It was a pretty warm day, so I was making as much noise as possible to scare off any snakes.
Prior to calling CQ, I tuned around the band hoping to find some of the other park activators. And on 7.105 I found Arno VK5ZAR who was portable in the Angove Conservation Park, in the north eastern suburbs of Adelaide. Arno was literally pounding in to the south east, with a 5/9 plus signal. After speaking with Arno, I ventured down the band and found 7.088 clear. I chose this rather strange frequency, as the Kandos Group was still running on 7.093, so I wanted to stay clear of them and avoid causing QRM. My first contact after calling CQ was with Robin Vk5TN at Mount Gambier, followed by Barry VK5BW at Bridgewater, and then Peter VK3PF. All with great signals.
My fifth contact was with Chris VK4FR/5 who was portable in the Ferguson Conservation Park in the Mount Lofty Ranges. Chris had a beautiful 5/9 signal. I was very happy, as this was my second Park to Park contact from Mount Boothby.
I went on to work a total of 34 stations in VK2, VK3, VK5, and VK7, until a VK2 station came up on 7.090. It was clear that he had a ‘sched’ with a VK4 friend, and they were not going to move for anyone. The VK4 was very low down to me, but the VK2 station (I won’t mention his call here) was 5/9 plus, and was causing just too much bleedover for me to continue on 7.093. Despite some prompting from some stations that I had worked, they did not move. Anyway, it was a chance for me to stretch my legs, and enjoy the view.
It is worth mentioning that I had some excellent QRP contacts prior to going for a walk. They included Nev VK5WG using his X1M on 5 watts, Amanda running just 1/2 watt (Amanda was 5/8-9 with QSB), and Roy VK5NRG running 5 watts.
After a break of about 10 minutes, I returned to 40m and this time I called CQ on 7.095. I worked a further 3 stations in VK3. Sadly, despite the band being in good condition, there were not a lot of takers. I then ventured over to 20m after lowering the squid pole and removing the links in the dipole. On 20m I worked Mic FK8IK in New Caledonia, Dave G3MWV in England, and Lauro IK4GRO in Italy. I then heard my old mate Marnix OP7M calling CQ on 14.273. I called Marnix about 4 or 5 times but could not make the contact. In fact Marnix could not hear me at all. On my 3rd call to him, another European station came up to tell Marnix that I was calling. But, as I say, sadly we could not make it. Next time perhaps.
I returned to 40m and started calling CQ a little higher up on the band, on 7.135. My first taker to my great pleasure was Nigel VK5NIG who was portable in the Port Gawler Conservation Park, north of Adelaide. Nigel had an excellent 5/9 signal. I worked a further 22 stations in VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5. This included Steve VK2FSLC. I was very pleased to be Steve’s very first ever contact on amateur radio. Initially it was a struggle with Steve, as the QSB and the static crashes were bad. But as if magic occurred, his signal came up to a good readable 5/7 and we had a good QSO. Welcome to amateur radio Steve.
I stayed for one round on the 7.130 DX Net as well, and managed to sneak in some 40m DX contacts. This included William FO5JV in French Polynesia, Brian ZL2ASH in New Zealand, and Caleb ZL2ML in New Zealand. On the DX Net I also spoke with keen park activators and hunters, Rob VK4FFAB and Doug VK2FMIA, which was good.
So after 3 hours in Mount Boothby CP, I had a total of 62 contacts in the log. This was a very enjoyable activation. It was a new park for me (a unique). I had 3 Park to Park contacts in the log. And a bit of DX. I had given my 4WD a run. And I had seen the vulnerable/endangered MalleFowl. I would have liked to have stuck around a little longer, but I had to negotiate the 4WD track out of the park and then a 90 minute drive home, avoiding the kangaroos.
Thanks to Chris VK4FR/5 for suggesting such an evening. The next Summer twilight activation afternoon/evening, will be held on Friday 30th January 2015, from around 4.30 p.,m. onwards.
The following stations were worked on 40m ssb:-
- Arno VK5ZAR/p (Angove CP)
- Robin VK5TN
- Barry VK5BW
- Peter VK3PF
- Chris VK4FR/5 (Ferguson CP)
- Nev VK5WG
- Amanda VK3FQSO
- Les VK5KLV
- Joe VK3YSP
- Tony VK3CAT
- Peter VK5KPR
- Adrian VK5FANA
- Fred VK3DAC
- Peter VK3NAD
- Ian VK3VIN
- Al VK7AN
- Julie VK3FOWL
- Ray VK3NBL/p
- Jeff VK5JK
- Nigel VK5NIG
- Alex VK7FALX
- Brian VK5FMID
- Keith VK5FEKH
- Roy VK5NRG
- Larry VK5LY
- Arno VK5ZAR/p (2nd contact)
- Peter VK3TKK/m
- Col VK5HCF
- Mark VK7MK
- Tom VK5FTRG/m
- John VK2AWJ
- Tony VK3KKP/m
- Don VK5NFB
- Kev VK3VEK
- Nick VK3FCCK
- Andrew VK3ARR
- Ray VK3FQ
- Nigel VK5NIG/p (Port Gawler CP)
- Peter VK7LCW
- Steve VK2FSLC
- George VK4GSF
- Peter VK3FSAN
- Andrew VK7AD
- Kevin VK3BPH
- Chris VK5FCHM
- Steve VK7FMTX
- Cliff VK2CCJ
- Richard VK2XRC/3
- Terry VK3FAIE
- Peter VK5JP
- Peter VK5FLEX
- Mal VK5MJ
- William FO5JV
- Rob VK4FFAB
- Doug VK2FMIA
- Paul VK7CC
- Mark VK1EM
- Caleb ZL2ML
The following stations were worked on 20m ssb:-
- Mic FK8IK
- Dave G3MWV
- Lauro IK4GRO
Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2015, <http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tolmer-alexander-4728>, viewed 17th January 2015
Department for Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs, ‘Mount Boothyby Conservation Park Management Plan’, February 1999
Wikipedia, 2015, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culburra,_South_Australia>, viewed 17th January 2015