Early on Tuesday morning (3rd February 2015) I headed north towards Crystal Brook, which is about 200 km north of Adelaide. I had booked in to stay for 3 nights at the Crystal Brook Caravan Park. My main reason for heading there was to meet up with a number of the amateurs from the Mid North of South Australia, and deliver a presentation on the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award and also the World Wide Fora Fauna (WWFF) program. Along the way on the first day, I had planned to activate three summits for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. The first was South Hummocks, VK5/ SE-017, which is located about 29 km by road from Port Wakefield, and about 126 km north of Adelaide.
image courtesy of mapcarta.com
South Hummocks is 330 metres above sea level and is worth 1 SOTA point. The summit is located on private property, so a few days before heading there, I sought approval from the land owner, Colwyn Millard (his contact details can be found in the SOTA database). The summit is clearly visible as you travel towards Port Wakefield along the Port Wakefield Road (A1). It may not be the tallest of summits, but it is certainly very prominent after travelling the vast flat plains north of Adelaide, as you head towards Port Wakefield.
This was to be my second activation of South Hummocks. I first activated the hill back in April, 2013 with Andy VK5AKH. In fact, South Hummocks was one of my first ever SOTA activations. For more information on that activation, please have a look at my previous post at…..
The summit is located in the Hummocks Range, which is a range of hills which commence just north of the apex of Gulf St Vincent, near the little settlements of South Hummocks and Kulpara. The Hummocks Range stretches to its northern end where it merges with the Barunga Range at Barunga Gap, about 10 km west of Snowtown. The Hummocks and Barunga Ranges form part of a number of low lying ridgelines occurring in the Mid North region of South Australia.
This southern part of the Hummocks Range has not yet been impacted by windfarms. The Hummocks Range is the primary source of water catchment for Lake Bumbunga, which is located a little further north, near the town of Lochiel. The primary land use for the surrounding area is stock grazing and cereal cropping.
Although much of the surrounding area has been cleared for grazing and cereal production, there are still patches of scrub to be found. In fact, quite a bit of remnant scrub remains on the summit itself. A variety of native animals, birds, and reptiles can be found including Western grey kangaroos, the Flinders Worm lizard, and the Peregrine Falcon. Whilst I was on the summit I observed a number of Euros, but they were just too quick to catch on camera. I also observed a Wedge Tailed eagle sailing along the ridgeline, obviously in search of breakfast.
image courtesy of http://www.openstreetmap.org/
The South Hummocks region has a rich agricultural history, and at one stage had a large population. Some of the early pastoralists included Charles Burney Young and Edmund Bowman. South Hummocks had a railway station, and even had its own football team back in the early 20th century.
above:- Charles Burney Young. Image courtesy of Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia
above:-Edmund Bowman. Image courtesy of Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia
I found the following from the South Australian Weekly Chronicle, dated the 9th April, 1887.
image courtesy of trove.nla.gov.au
And this one from the South Australian Weekly Chronicle, dated the 2nd day of July 1887.
How do you get to the summit? If you are travelling north, enter Port Wakefield, and then after leaving the town, take the turnoff to the Yorke Peninsula just out of town. This is the Copper Coast Highway. Continue along the Copper Coast Highway for a number of km, and then turn right onto Balaklava Road. A short distance up you will reach Pump Station Road. Turn left here and continue for a number of km north on Pump Station Road. Before you reach Millards Road (on your left), you will see some double gates on your right. The gate has ‘Private Sanctuary’ written on it. This is where you enter the private property. PLEASE ensure you have permission prior to entry. And please close the gates behind you if you find them closed.
I followed the fenceline up through the paddock. The first part of the drive through the paddock can be undertaken using a conventional vehicle. But you will then reach a sign which says ‘Engaged 4WD only’. Please take notice of the sign, and engage 4WD if you have it. You will never make it up the track if you don’t, as it becomes very rocky and slippery. If you don’t have a 4WD, leave your car here at this point and walk the rest of the way. It is about a 20 minute walk up the track from here to the trig point. I continued on up the track and went all the way to the communications tower at the end of the track, where I had a photo stop. I then drove back down the track and parked the 4WD, and then walked uphill again, over the fenceline and into the scrub to the trig point.
You will need to keep a good eye out for the trig point for South Hummocks, as it is not easy to spot. As you travel north along the track, keep an eye out for a star dropper which is painted blue at the top. There is also a piece of yellow tape attached to the top strand of barbed wire on the fence at this point, and another piece of yellow tape tied around a nearby tree.
The original trig is no longer at the site. It was there when I last activated the summit in April 2013, but sadly, as is the case with many trigs around South Australia, it is no longer in existence. All that remains of the trig are some of the pieces of rusty metal, lying amongst the scrub. There are two blue poles at the trig site. There is also a small pile of rocks, no doubt attributed to visitors to the summit.
I ran the Yaesu FT-817 and 5 watts for this activation, and the SOTA Beams 40m/20m linked dipole. By the time I had set up the gear, I was just 20 minutes later than my estimated time of activation of 2200 hours UTC (8.30 a.m.). I tuned to 7.090, which was my nominated starting point, and called CQ and this was immediately answered by Ian VK5IS in Beetaloo Valley (5/9 both ways), then Jim VK5KOB in Elizabeth (5/9 both ways), and then Geoff VK5HEL in Murray Bridge (5/9 both ways). My fourth and qualifying contact for the summit, was with John VK5FMJC in Crystal Brook (5/9 sent and 5/8 received). Propagation locally seemed to be very good.
My next contact, was my first interstate contact for the summit. It was Fred VK3DAC, north east of Melbourne, who was a good 5/9 signal to South Hummocks. Fred reciprocated with a 5/2 signal report for me. I went on to work 16 stations on 40m SSB before heading off to 20m. Those stations worked were in VK3, VK5, VK6 & VK7. It was very pleasing to get Mike VK6MB from Perth in the log on 40m (5/7 sent and 4/2 received). And also John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga (5/8 sent and 5/5 received). I often struggle with Mike and John on 40m at this time of the day. But this day we made it easily. And to top it off, I made contact with Peter VK3PF/7, on holidays down in Tasmania. Peter was on his way to activate a summit. Peter was very weak, 5/1, but very readable, due to the non existant man made noise floor on the summit.
I then lowered the squid pole and removed the links in the 40m/20m linked dipole, and called CQ on 14.310. Larry VK5LY was kind enough to spot me on SOTA Watch before I QSY’d, so by the time I had got to 20m, there were a few stations there waiting for me. It highlights the benefit of spotting! My first contact on 20m was with Mike VK6MB. He was the same signal strength here on 20m (5/7) as he was on the 40m band. My signal report had also remained the same (4/2), but Mike reported that the 20m band was a lot quieter for him than 40m. My next caller was Peter VK4JD in Jimboomba with a very strong 5/9 signal, and then to my surprise, John VK5BJE in the Adelaide Hills, who was 5/9. John gave me a 5/8-9 signal report. This contact surprised me a bit, as we were only @ 120 km apart, and normally this is far too close for good propagation on 20m.
After working 7 stations on 20m SSB in VK2, VK4, VK5, & VK6, I moved back to 40m where I put out a few final CQ calls. My first taker upon returning to 40m was Rex VK7MO, with a very nice 5/9 signal from near Hobart in Tasmania. This was followed by Mal VK5MJ in The Riverland, Phil VK3BHR and finally Adrian VK5FANA on the lower Yorke Peninsula, running QRP 5 watts (5/9 both ways).
After activating the summit for about 45 minutes, I had a total of 27 contacts in the log on 40m SSB and 20m SSB. It was time to pack up and head off to my next summit, Bumbunga Hill.
Although South Hummocks is worth just 1 SOTA point, for me the summit highlights the fun that SOTA is. South Hummocks is an easy summit to access, and despite being only 330m ASL, it offers sensational views of the surrounding countryside. The wildlife is also well worth the trip.
The following stations were worked:-
Aldersley, D, 1923, ‘Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia’.
Wikipedia, 2015, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummocks_Range>, viewed 7th February 2015
Wind Prospect Pty Ltd, 2003, ‘Environmental Statement, Proposed Barunga Wind Farm Hummocks & Barunga Ranges’.