My first park for Sunday morning, 7th June 2015 was the Ewens Ponds Conservation Park which is situated about 36 km south east of Mount Gambier. This was my only planned park activation for the day, but as it turned out, I also ventured over to Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park after this activation. Ewen Ponds was another unique park for me for both the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award, and the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.
Above:- Map showing the location of the park. Map courtesy of mapcarta.com
Ewens Ponds Conservation Park was constituted in 1976 and covers a small area of about 24 hectares. The park contains spring fed limestone ponds which are linked by shallow channels. The channels actually connect three basin shaped ponds which are about 10 metres deep. The clarity of the water enables water plants to grow underwater to a depth of about 6 metres. Many of these plants are not found growing fully submerged underwater anywhere else in the world.
The ponds are very popular with scuba divers and snorkellers. The minimum qualification for divers is ‘open water’. In fact whilst I was set up, a couple arrived to go scuba diving in the ponds. Due to the cold water and the potential for damage to the aquatic environment, swimming is not allowed.
The ponds have a large fish population including the endangered Gold Pygmy Perch. In fact the ponds are one of only three recorded locations for the Gold Pygmy Perch. The ponds are also home to populations of flatworms, freshwater crayfish, and mussels, and the larva of the carnivorous caddis fly.
The history behind the discovery of the ponds is extremely interesting. The first European associated with the area was Thoms Ewens. His dog chased a kangaroo into one of the ponds. The land surrounding the ponds was gradually cleared for agricultural purposes and dairy farming. A drainage system was constructed to draw water from the ponds for land sold for soldier settlement programs after the Second World War. In 1978 a trout farm was established utilising the waters flowing through Ewens Ponds.
Above:- My operating spot. Image courtesy of mapcarta.com
After setting up, I decided to head up to the WWFF calling frequency of 7.144. It was only 8.20 a.m. and there was still quite a bit of DX on the band. It was quite difficult to find a clear frequency below 7.100. I called CQ on 7.144 and this was answered by Andy VK5AKH who was mobile at Kingston on Murray with a very strong 5/9 signal. This was followed by Tony VK5FTVR, and then Mark VK5QI who was also mobile up in the Riverland for the Canoe Marathon.
Conditions on 40m were exceptionally good and I had a nice little park pile up going for quite a while with callers from VK2, VK3, VK5, VK6 & ZL. I was quite surprised when I head Ken ZL4KD amongst all the park hunters calling me. Ken had a very good 5/7 signal coming into Ewens Ponds from Christchurch.
It was also nice to get a couple of the regular QRP hunters in the log. They were Adrian VK5FANA running his typical 5 watts from the Yorke Peninsula (5/9 both ways), and Amanda VK3FQSO running 500 milliwatts (5/8 sent and 5/9 received).
At about 2335 UTC I took a break to have a chat to the diver and his wife who had arrived at Ewens Ponds. It was interesting to hear their comments about how the water within the ponds had become cloudier over the years, possibly due to run off from the surrounding farms.
By the time I had got back to the radio, the WIA broadcast had commenced on 7.140, so I headed back down the band and found Nigel VK5NIG calling CQ for the VK Shires Contest. I gave Nigel a signal report and my Shire code which was GD5, and then headed for 7.100 and started calling CQ. Most of the European DX had disappeared at this time. My CQ call was answered by Brian VK5FMID at nearby Mount Gambier, and this was followed by Joe VK3YSP. After the UTC rollover I was called by Mark VK1EM, Dave VK2BDR, John VK5FMJC and Julie VK3FOWL who was mobile.
I went on to work a further 25 stations on 7.100 in VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK6. The band was working perfectly, with great signals coming in from across Australia. I had a few interesting contacts including Rob VK4AAB/5 on Kangaroo Island OC-139, and Ian VK5CZ who was portable on SOTA peak, Hallett Hill VK5-SE-003.
I also tried 20m and called CQ on 14.310 and this was answered by Paul VK2KKT, Peter VK6RZ, and David VK4DPM, all of whom were 5/9 to the South East of South AUstralia.
After a little over 90 minutes operating, I had a total of 66 contacts in the log. I had qualified another park for the WWFF program. It was time to pack up and head off to Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park. I wanted to sneak in that activation prior to getting back to Mount Gambier for the SERG Convention.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
National Parks South Australia, 2015, <http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Limestone_Coast/Ewens_Ponds_Conservation_Park>, viewed 12th June 2015
Natural Resources Group, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 1994, Small Inland Parks of the South East Management Plan.
Wikipedia, 2015, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ewens_Ponds>, viewed 12th June 2015