For Australia Day (Monday 26th January 2015) I headed down to the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide, where I activated Black Bullock Hill, VK5/ SE-016 as part of the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. The summit is the highest point of the Fleurieu Peninusla, and is located near the little town of Delamere, about 100 km south of Adelaide.
Map courtesy of mapcarta.com
This is not a ‘traditional’ summit, in that it is not a hill or mountain. But it is the highest point on the Fleurieu Peninusla, and qualifies for the SOTA program under the 150 prominence rule.
I have activated the summit two times previously. In fact it was my first ever SOTA activation, way back in March, 2013. For more information on those activations, please have a look at my previous posts…..
map courtesy of mapcarta.com
It is a beautiful drive from my home in the Adelaide Hills, down to the summit. I got up early though to miserable weather. It was raining, and I was worried that I might have to cancel the activation. This was weather that we are certainly not used to on Australia Day in the middle of Summer.
Above- the view from my front yard, first thing in the morning. Not good!
Anyway I packed the car and headed off through Echunga, on to Meadows, and then on to Willunga via Brookman Road, travelling passed the beautiful pine forests. They were still packing up the marquees at the top of Willunga Hill where they held the King of the Mountain for the Tour Down Under cycling event. From there I cut across to Myponga through Pages Flat, and then travelled south until I reached the towns of Yankalilla and Normanville. I then travelled south along the Main South Road, following the coastline and the amazing views, until heading back inland to Second Valley. This is truly, very beautiful countryside. From there I reached the little town of Delamere, where I turned left onto Range Road and headed east. Once I reached Three Bridges Road I turned right and headed south until I reached the intersection of Three Bridges Road, Dog Trap Road, and Tent Rock Road. The summit is located on the south eastern corner of this intersection. I encountered numerous kangaroos along the way, so it was slow going. This resulted in me, having to pull over and amend my alert on SOTAWatch, delaying the activation by one hour.
As I had sought approval from the land owner prior to heading to the summit, I parked my car down Dog Trap Road, and walked up to the summit, and with some care, climbed the electric fence and approached the trig point, which is just a short distance inside the fenceline. It is hidden a little by the thick scrub on the eastern side of the road. It was here at the trig point, that I set up my equipment. For this activation I used my Yaesu FT-817nd, 5 watts output power, and the 40m/20m linked dipole supported on a 7 metre telescopic squid pole. I powered the radio with a 12 volt 4 ah SLAB battery. I secured the squid pole to a squid pole holder, with the assistance of an octopus strap. And for this activation, I used the special AX prefix to celebrate Australia Day.
No creature comforts here at the summit. I sat alongside the trig point, with my back propped up against the trig. At home, amongst the ants and the other creepy crawlies. And the weather was miserable. Although it had stopped raining, it was freezing cold. The Southern Ocean was in sight, and the breeze off there was very chilly. The nearest land to the south is Antarctica, so no wonder it is a cold spot. Unfortunately, the issue of no rain was not to last. And as I found out during the activation, there were a few times I had to seek shelter underneath my bothy bag.
Image courtesy of mapcarta.com
Prior to calling CQ I had a quick look around the band and soon found Col VK5HCF calling CQ from the Piccanninie Ponds Conservation Park in the South East of South Australia. I was aware that Col and Tom VK5EE were going to venture out that morning for the activation, and I was hoping to get them in the log for the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award. Only trouble was, Col was virtually unreadable. He was so low down and faint, that I didn’t even bother calling because I didn’t think I would get through. This was very disapointing, as I was hoping to work Col whilst he was in the Conservation Park. But things were to only get worse.
I then found John VK5BJE, calling CQ from the Belair National Park in the Adelaide Hills. John was the second VK5 Parks activator that I knew as going to be out and about that morning. And he too was so low down, that again I didn’t bother even trying to make the contact. In fact, John’s signal was even lower than Col’s. This was not a good start to the morning’s proceedings.
So with a fair degree of disapointment, I found 7.105 to be clear and put out a CQ call. This was immediately answered by Amanda VK3FQSO with a nice strong 5/8 signal from Wedderburn. And this was followed by Julie VK3FOWL, also 5/8, and then Bandor AX3FKSA who was also 5/8. Three Foundation call,s running 10 watts, with excellent signals. It appeared that the further afield stations were coming in well. But there was no close in propagation. My fourth qualifying contact for the summit, was with John, AX2YW in Wagga Wagga who was a very strong 5/9.
My 7th contact in the log, was Mike, VK6MB in Perth, Western Australia, who was a very nice 5/8 signal, some 2,700 km away. Mike gave me a 4/4 signal report from my 5 watts. Not great, but we still made the contact on 40m, which is not always possible at such great distance. It is always a challenge to get the VK6 boys on 40m.
A few QSOs later I was called my Peter AX3PF/7 who was portable in Narawntapu National Park in northern Tasmania. Peter was a nice strong 5/8 signal from his portable set up. And then a few QSOs later I had another National Park in the log. This time it was Marshall AX3MRG who was portable in the Lake Eildon National Park in central Victoria (5/5 sent and 5/6 received).
When things started to slow down a little on 7.105, I took the opportunity of tuning around the band, and I was very pleased I did, because I found Col VK5HCF on 7.100, calling CQ. And this time he was readable. Not a lot better. But at least readable from Piccanninie Ponds Conservation Park. Col and I exchanged 5/1 signal reports. Not strong signals, but one of the benefits of working portable. You can ‘hear a pin drop’ so you can generally work the weakest of signals. If only it was like that at home!
I then went to 7.090 and called CQ and worked a further 19 stations in VK1, VK3, VK5, & VK7. This included my first summit to summit of the morning. This was with Ian VK1DI who was portable on SOTA peak, Mount Majura, VK1/ AC-034 (5/3 both ways). A few QSOs later I was called by Tony VK3CAT/p, who was portable on SOTA summit, Mount Bride, VK3/ VC-009, near Warburton (5/7 both ways).
Again, when things slowed down on 7.090, I took the opportunity of having a look around the 40m band again. And again, I was rewarded with doing this, because I found John VK5BJE calling CQ from the Belair National Park. And not only had John’s signal improved. It had improved dramaticlally. It had gone from being virtually undetectable, to now a good strong 5/8. John and I were so happy to make the contact (5/8 sent and 5/9 received).
I then worked Tom AX5AA (VK5EE) in the Piccanninie Ponds Conservation Park, on 7.100. Again, Tom’s signal had gone from being very faint, to a good strong 5/8. The 40m band was certainly doing some peculiar things.
I then found Reuben VK7FREU, calling CQ on 7.080 from SOTA summit Mount Wellington, VK7/ SC-001. After working Reuben, I also spoke to his Dad, Justin VK7TW, who was on the summit with Reuben. Again, not strong signals. But very comfortable contacts, due to non existant man made noise floor.
I then went to 7.085 and worked a further 8 stations in VK3, VK3, & VK5 before the UTC rollover, including Gerard AX2IO who was mobile. The 40m band was certainly behaving peculiarly, but was still allowing for some very good contacts into the eastern states.
After the UTC rollover I called CQ on 7.090 and worked a total of 20 stations in VK3 & VK5. This included Peter VK3PF/7 in the Narawntapu National Park, Tony AX3CAT on VK3/ VC-009, Marshall AX3MRG at Horseshoe Bend in the Lake Eildon National Park, and Tom AX5AA & Col VK5HCF, both in the Ewens Ponds Conservation Park.
Another highlight was working Amanda VK3FQSO who was running QRP on just 500 milliwatts. Amanda was a very nice 5/5 signal despite the very low power.
I also gave 20m a quick shot and worked a total of 5 stations there in VK2, VK4, & VK6. This included Gerard AX2IO who was mobile.
So, after 2 and a half hours on the summit, I had a total of 74 contacts in the log, including one South Australian National Park, two South Australian Conservation Parks, one Victorian National Park, one Tasmanian National Park, and three Summit to Summit contacts. I was very happy. It was time to pack up, and head off to my next activation, which was the Talisker Conservation Park.
The following stations were worked:-