On Friday night (1st May 2015) after checking in to my motel I drove east out of Renmark along the Sturt Highway and headed into the Cooltong Conservation Park, via Santos Road. This was to be another unique park for me as an activator for both the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award and the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.
Cooltong Conservation Park is situated about 250 km north east of Adelaide, and is located between Renmark and Berri. Cooltong is a large park. It is 3,681 hectares in size and was dedicated to preserve quality males vegetation and habitat for the mallee bird species that frequent the area, in particular the Malleefowl. The park is a typical mallee park, with undulating dunes and shales. The park is accessible to conventional vehicles, however some sections of the park are only accessible by 4WD.
I drove a few km into the park and found a little track off to the east and in turn a nice clearing in the scrub. It was an ideal spot to set up. It was slow going into the park as it was fully dark (6.30 p.m.) and the local wildlife was out in force, including the kangaroos.
Above:- My operating spot. Image courtesy of mapcarta.com
The entire 40m band above 7.135 was decimated by the Over the Horizon Radar (OTHR). This made it totally impossible to operate in that portion of the band. The OTHR radar was still audible on 7.135, but I couldn’t go any lower on the band, as the 7.130 DX Net would kick off at 0930 UTC, and everything below 7.130 was taken up by stations from South East Asia.
Below is a video of the radar…..
So I called CQ on 7.135 and it wasn’t long, before the hungry park hunters started to respond. First up was Theo VK3AP with a nice 5/9 plus signal, followed by three regular park hunters: Andrew VK1NAM, Dave VK3VCE and John VK5BJE. Local Renmark resident and mate of mine, Ivan VK5HS then called in. Interestingly Ivan said he could not hear the radar and thought the noise I was hearing might be something generated out of my vehicle. I assured him that it was definitely the OTHR.
Some of the usual QRP suspects called in for this activation. They were Adrian VK5FANA on 5 watts from the Yorke Peninsula (4/6 sent and 5/7 received), and also Peter VK3PF running 5 watts (5/9 both ways). I was also called by Adrian VK4FBMW running 5 watts. Unfortunately the JA QRM was also quite heavy on the frequency, but still, I was able to copy Adrian well with his QRP signal (4/7 sent and 5/8 received).
I also worked some stations outside of VK. They were John Zl2BH in Blenheim in New Zealand, and Ken ZL4KD in Christchurch. Ken informed me that he had seen me spotted on parksnpeaks and had decided to give me a call, and that I was his first ever VK5 Conservation Park contact. I was very pleased to have Ken in the log.
It was a beautiful mild evening in the park. The moon was out and due to the cloud cover, it had a very distinctive ring around it. There were quite a few bumps and crashes in the scrub whilst I was operating and I had the occasional fleeting glimpse of some of the local kangaroos.
Within the park I did see some signs that surveillance cameras were in operation. I thought this may have been due to bird trapping, but as I later found out, it is due to the dumping of rubbish. It never ceases to amaze me how poorly some people treat our environment.
I worked 38 stations on 7.135 and then at 8.10 p.m. I decided to head down to the 7.130 DX Net which is held on 7.130 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I worked a total of 6 stations on the net, bringing me to my required 44 contacts for the global WWFF program. I was very pleased to work the special New Zealand ANZAC call, ZL100ANZAC on the net, and also Brian ZL2ASH in Wellington.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
Department of Environment and Heritage, 2011. Parks of the Riverland.