Flinders Ranges National Park VKFF-176 Aroona ruins

We all enjoyed a good feed and a few more bottles of red on Friday evening at Merna Mora Station, where we stayed for 3 nights (Fri-Sun).  Merna Mora is part of a 230 sq mile sheep and cattle station located about 425 km north of Adelaide, and about 46 km north of Hawker.  About 2,500 sheep and 800 cattle are run on the property.  Merna Mora has facilities to accomodate up to 50 people.  For more information on Merna Mora, please visit their website at…..


Saturday morning, 20th June 2015, was a beautiful sunny morning.  After a cooked breakfast an enjoying a coffee in the sunshine watching the Miner birds and Honeyeaters in the flowering native plants out the front of our accomodation, we hit the road for the Flinders Ranges National Park, VKFF-176. 

The Flinders Ranges National Park is situated about 450 km north of Adelaide and is located in the central Flinders Ranges.  The park is about 95,000 hectares and includes the Heysen Range, Brachina and Bunyeroo Gorges and the amazing Wilpena Pound.  The Adnyamathanha people (meaning hills or rock people) are the traditional custodians of the Flinders Ranges.
Screenshot 2015-06-29 09.42.08

Above:- Map showing the location of the Flinders Ranges National Park.  Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

We drove north along The Outback Highway and turned right on the Brachina Gorge Road and headed east towards the park.  We briefly stopped at the interpretive signs and lookout, before venturing into the park through Brachina Gorge. Rocks exposed along the gorge are between 500 and 650 million years old and were deposited as sediments in an elongate depression known as the Adelaide Geosyncine.  This area was flooded by the sea for much of the 150 million year period, during which the sea level rose and fell many times.  Sediments were transported by rivers, and at times by glaciers, and deposited on the sea floor.  Rock strata along the gorge provide one of the most complete sedimentary records in the world for this time period.  It is truly and amazing and very spectacular drive through Brachina Gorge, with many interpretayive signs along the way.

We were fortunate enough to encounter a handful of the rare Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies as we drove through the gorge.  Sadly this little wallaby was once killed in large numbers for its pelt.  They scale cliffs and climb rocks with superb agility and can leap sizable chasms.  It was a real treat to be able to see them up close.


We continued on to the Aroona Valley, where we set up at the end of the Aroona Valley Road, at the Aroona Ruins.  The Arrona hut was built in 1925, as an outstation for Eddie Pumps.  It consisted of a four roomed dwelling with a stone fire place and a verandah running along three sides.  The house is a typical pug and pine construction.  Slabs of native pine from this area were cut and erected vertically side by side.  Chicken wire was nailed to the framework and mud or pug was flushed to fill the gaps.  The floor was rammed earth and the roof was corrugated galvanized iron sheets.  The famous Australian artists, Sir Hans Heysen stayed here in 1927 and started the first of many sketches and paintings of the Flinders Ranges.

Screenshot 2015-06-29 09.49.28

Above:- Map showing our operating spot in the park.  Map courtesy of DEWNR

John VK5BJE was keen to try his luck again on 30m and set up near the carpark.  I set up in close proximity, a little further up the hill and started off on 20m.  David VK5KC headed a bit further to the east and worked 40m.

My first contact on 20m was with Fred VK4FE who was operating from Mowbray National Park, VKFF-367 in Queensland.  Fred was calling CQ on 14.310 and was a good 5/7 signal.  I then headed down to 14.305 and called CQ and this was answered by Michael VK6MMB who was portable in Goongarrie National Park, VKFF-209.  Michael and his off side Mike VK6MB were half way through a marathon parks trip in Western Australia.  This was followed by a call from Gerard VK2IO who was mobile on his way to a SOTA summit in the Blue Mountains.  I was then called by Adam VK2YK with a strong 5/9 signal and then Mark VK4MON with a 5/8 signal, operating portable from his back yard.

I then moved up to 40m and called CQ on 7.095 and this was answered by Larry VK5LY in the Riverland with his typical strong 5/9 plus signal.  I went on to work a total of 34 stations on 40, including Fred VK4FE in Mowbray National Park and Dale VK5DC mobile near the Northern Territory/Queensland/South Australian border.

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I then decided to give 15m a go, and managed to work Cliff VK2NP, Fred VK4FAAP and Ian VK1DI.  Prior to packing up, I worked Rob VK4AAC who was portable in the Vivonne Bay Conservation Park, VKFF-811, on Kangaroo Island.

After 90 minutes at Arrona Ruins, it was time to pack up and head off a bit further up the Brachina Gorge Road for a bite to eat.  I had a total of 43 contacts in the log.  We were planning on activating the Flinders Ranges National Park again, later in the afternoon, so I was assured of picking up 1 more QSO to qualify the park for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK4FE/p (Mowbray National Park VKFF-367)
  2. VK6MMB/p (Goongarrie National Park VKFF-209)
  3. VK2IO/m
  4. VK2YK
  5. VK4MON

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5LY
  2. VK3CWM
  3. VK5FANA
  4. VK5DC/m
  5. VK5FAJS
  6. VK3PMG
  7. VK5NQP
  8. VK5FMID
  9. VK5ZAI
  10. VK3NBV
  11. VK5ZGY
  12. VK3APC
  13. VK3FLCS
  14. VK1AT
  15. VK5IS
  16. VK5NWE
  17. VK3FEUG
  18. VK5NIG/p
  19. VK3DBP
  20. VK3PRF
  21. VK5STU/p
  22. VK2GKA
  23. VK5TW
  24. VK5FTRG
  25. VK1DI
  26. VK4FE/p (VKFF-367)
  27. VK5WG
  28. VK2NP
  29. VK5JP
  30. VK5ZX/m
  31. VK5FLEX
  32. VK2IAN
  33. VK2SL
  34. VK3TKK
  35. VK4AAC/5 (Vivonne Bay Conservation Park VKFF-811)

I worked the following stations on 15m SSB:-

  1. VK2NP
  2. VK4FAAP
  3. VK1DI



Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2011, Flinders Ranges National Park

Mount Scott VK5/ NE-111

After leaving the cafe at Copley, John VK5BJE jumped in to my Toyota Hi Lux and Marija travelled with Jenny (John’s XYL) down to Beltana.  John and I headed to Mount Scott, VK5/ NE-111 for an activation for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.  This was to be a unique summit for John and myself, and in fact this was the first time that the summit had been activated.

Mount Scott is 526 metres above sea level and is worth 2 SOTA points.  It is located on private property (Beltana Station) and is situated between the Nankabunyana Creek and the Arooma Creek which flows into the Aroona Dam.  The summit is located about 20 km west of Leigh Creek.

Screenshot 2015-06-29 08.30.12

Above:- Map showing the location of Mt Scott.  Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

John and I travelled south on The Outback Way, passed Leigh Creek towards Beltana.  We were keeping our eye out for a track on the western side of the bitumen just after passing under the power lines.  Unfortunately we had missed it, but were lucky enough to bump into a 4WD with some local lads in it, who kindly offered to take us a short distance back up the road and point out the track to us, which they did.

John and I then drove up to the summit along the track.  It was very low going.  The track is definitely 4WD only, as it is very rocky and steep for most of the way.  There were also a number of deep washaways.  It took us about 35 minutes to travel the nearly 10 km to the summit.

We reached the Mount Scott radio station tower which is on the summit just below Mount Scott and continued further on up the track towards the second smaller tower.

Screenshot 2015-06-29 08.41.03

Above:- Mount Scott topography.  Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

We stopped the 4WD just outside of the activation zone and walked a short distance further up the hill and set up the station.  As we didn’t have to walk far, we decided to take the small fold up table and chair, as the summit was very rocky and looked very uncomfortable.

John and I took turns on the mic.  I qualified the summit and after working my fifth station, Mick VK3PMG, I handed the reigns over to John.  My first four contacts were Peter VK3PF, Nev VK5WG, John VK2YW, and Don VK5NFB.  I worked a total of 12 stations on 40m in VK1, VK2, VK3, and VK5.

After John had worked 9 stations on 40m in VK2, VK3, and VK5, we then lowered the squid pole and removed the links and tried our luck on 20m.  John called CQ on 14.310 and first taker was Dave VK2BSY who was pedestrian mobile.  Dave had a beautiful 5/9 signal and was hearing us a little weaker (5/3).  I was also keen to get Dave in the log as well, so John handed me the mic.  For more information on Dave’s pedestrian mobile set up, have a look at…..


John worked 6 stations on 20m in VK2, Russ,a VK8, and Italy, before we swapped operators again.  I called CQ and this was answered by Albert S58AL in Slovenia, followed by Chris VK4BX and then John VK6NU.  I worked a further 7 stations on 20m in VK2, VK4, VK5, France, and Belgium.

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After we had worked a number of stations on 20m, we then decided to have a shot on 15m.  John called CQ on 21.250 and this was answered by Phil VK2MWP, and then Hideo JA3BOA, followed by John VK6NU, Mick VK3PMG and John VK6AG.  My first taker on 15m was Rob VK4FFAB with a 5/9 signal (5/9 received), followed by Phil VK2MWP, Mick VK3PMG, Taka JA0DCQ and Nick ZL4NY.

Local time was now about 3.30 p.m. and we still had a good drive down, and had to meet up with the girls at Beltana, before driving further south to Merna Mora.  So we packed up the gear and commenced the slow decent.  John and I were very happy with the activation.

John and I had a total of 50 contacts in the log for the activation on 20m SSB, 40m SSB, and 15m SSB into VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, VK8, Russia, Italy, Japan, Slovenia, France, and Belgium.

I worked the following stations:-

Screenshot 2015-06-29 08.26.07

Gammon Ranges National Park VKFF-189

Friday the 19th June 2015 was ‘take two’ for the Gammon Ranges National Park, VKFF-189.  This was to be a unique park for me for both the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program and the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award.

Screenshot 2015-06-28 19.44.40

Above:- Map showing the location of the park.  Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

Marija and I travelled south along The Outback Highway towards Copley.  On the way south I had a chat with Mark VK6BSA who was mobile on his way in to work again (5/9 both ways) and Steve VK3HK who was also mobile.  I also spoke with Bill VK5MBD at Red Hill.

The Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park, which is about 660 km north of Adelaide, was proclaimed in 1970, and forms part of the traditional country of the Adnyamathanha people.  The park is rich with cultural significance.  The park is 1,257.23 km2 (485.4 sq mi) in size.  Over 900 plant and 200 fauna species have been recorded in the park, including some rare and endangered species.  The park is remote and has many contrasts, including deep gorges and chasms, towering mountains, tree-lined creeks and freshwater springs.  The park encompasses some of the most rugged and spectacular country in South Australia.

Marija and I drove out from Copley through magnificent countryside.  The road out to the park is dirt but is in good condition and is a distance of about 70 km.

We stopped briefly at Nepabunna, a small aboriginal community on the doorstep of the Gammons.  Originally established as a mission in the 1930’s, the community became a council in 1998 and has a population of about 50 people.

We continued east along the Copley Road, into the park, until we reach Italowie Gorge.  We found a nice little area close to the McKinlay Creek and set up here.  Interestingly, the bushman, R.M. Williams is reputed to have learnt everything he knew about boot-making and leather from another man he met while camping in Italalowie Gap.  R.m. Williams later became a millionaire and a renowned clothing brand carries his name.

Again, for this activation I ran my Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts and the 40m/20m linked dipole.  For 15m I used a simple 1/2 wave 15m dipole.

Screenshot 2015-06-28 19.49.29

Above:- Map showing our operating spot.  Map courtesy of National Parks SA.

I started calling CQ on 7.095 and it wasn’t long before I had my first taker.  It was Bill VK5MBD at Red Hill with a very strong 5/9 plus signal, followed by Jess VK6JES, Brian VK5FMID at Mount Gambier, and Jim VK1AT.  I had a good steady flow of callers on 40m from around Australia: VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6 and VK7 worked.  This included some of the usual QRP suspects including Greg VK5GJ running just 4 watts (5/8 sent and 5/9 received).  Both David VK5KC and John VK5BJE called me from Farina in the throws of packing up and hitting the road.

After working 26 stations on 20m, I lowered the squid pole and put up the 1/2 wave 15m dipole and called CQ on 21.250.  My call was answered by Bill VK5MBD, who despite being very weak (5/1) was very workable.  This was followed by John VK6NU, Grant VK5VGC and Albert S58AL.  Yes Slovenia.  I couldn’t believe it.  I did not expect to work into Europe at 10.10 a.m.  And Albert and I heard each other perfectly.  In fact I was stronger to Albert than he was to me (5/3 sent and 5/7 received).

It was at this time that Marija and I were visited by two of the local rangers.  We explained to them what we were doing and assured them that we were not crazy, trying to catch squid in the creek with the squid pole.  They were quite interested in what we were doing and the hobby in general.

I then put up the 40m/20m linked dipole again and called CQ on 14.310.  But I only had the solitary caller there, and that was Bill VK5MBD, who again was weak (5/1), but again very workable.  There was no man made noise at all out here in the middle of nowhere.  I just wish it was like that at home.

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I returned to 40m for a short time, calling CQ on 7.098, which was answered by park stalwart Mick VK3PMG, followed by Adrian VK5FANA, David VK5HYZ and then Ian VK5IS.  I worked a further 17 Australian stations in VK2, VK4, & VK4.  This included John VK2KJO who called in from nearby Arkaroola.  John and Sue had travelled through earlier.

After 2 hours in the park I had a total of 52 contacts in the log.  We packed up and headed back in to Copley.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5MBD
  2. VK6JES
  3. VK5FMID
  4. VK1AT
  5. VK5GJ
  6. VK5HS
  7. VK5HCF
  8. VK3PF
  9. VK7ALH
  10. VK5RM
  11. VK5DC/m
  12. VK5KC/p
  13. VK3FQSO
  14. VK5BJE/p
  15. VK2FJPR
  16. VK3FLCS
  17. VK5LY
  18. VK4FFAB
  19. VK3TKK
  20. VK5WG
  21. VK3DBP
  22. VK3YAR
  23. VK5TN
  24. VK5GJ
  25. VK5VGC
  26. VK7MK
  27. VK3PMG
  28. VK5FANA
  29. VK5HYZ
  30. VK5IS
  31. VK3FMAA/m
  32. VK5FAJS
  33. VK5KAF
  34. VK5NRG
  35. VK2KJO
  36. VK5ZA/m
  37. VK5JK
  38. VK5ZK
  39. VK2IO
  40. VK4CPS
  41. VK2MJB
  42. VK3BHR
  43. VK3OHM
  44. VK5LDM
  45. VK3PR
  46. VK3HP
  47. VK5GI

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK5MBD

The following stations were worked on 15m SSB:-

  1. VK5MBD
  2. VK6NU
  3. VK5VGC
  4. S58AL

After returning to Copley we called in to the Copley Bush Bakery and Quandong Cafe, where Marija and I caught up with John and Jenny.  We enjoyed a nice cappucinno and a warm home backed Quandong pie with cream (each that is).  We then continued south to Leigh Creek, for a quick stop and then on to our next activation, Mount Scott, VK5/ NE-111.





National Parks South AUstralia, 2015, Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges National Park.

Wikipedia, 2015, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepabunna,_South_Australia&gt;, viewed 28th June 2015

VK100ANZAC at Farina on Thursday

After breakfast, Marija and I travelled back out to Farina from Lyndhurst.  It was another beautiful morning, with relatively clear skies and thankfully no rain.  We set up again at the rear of the old Post Office.  Sadly, this was to be an exceptionally slow day on the radio.

I was set up and ready to go by 8.50 a.m. and headed to 7.073 and the morning South Aussie net, where I spoke with Gary VK5ZK, Rick VK5BGN, and Ian VK5IS.  All with great signals.

I then went up to 7.095 where I called CQ and this was answered by Ivan VK5HS in the Riverland with a good 5/9 signal, followed by Jeff VK5JK at Victor Habor (also 5/9), and then Allan in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, followed by Al VK7AN portable on the east coast of Tasmania.

But it was very slow going, with long periods of calling CQ with no takers.  After working just 15 stations on 40m, I headed up to 20m.  I called CQ on 14.250 and this was answered by Norm VK4ANB (5/8 sent and 5/7 received), then Bill VK5MBD, followed by Karl VK2GKA.  During this time I had a number of visitors to the station again, including some members of the Farina Restoration Group, and a lady whose brother was a ham.

I worked just 3 stations on 20m and decided to take the opportunity of having a look around historic Farina with Marija.  Many of the tourists had either left or were leaving.  But the Farina Restoration Group volunteers were still busy manning the underground bakery and restoring some of the buildings.  And yes, I did pay the bakery a visit again.  The underground wood fired baked pasties and apple/cinnamon scrolls were extremely yummy.

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After a 2 and 1/2 break from the radio, I went back to 20m and called CQ again.  But nothing much had changed.  It was very slow going with just 4 takers in VK1, VK3, VK4, and VK5.  So I headed back to 40m and worked Larry VK5LY in the Riverland, Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula, and Brian VK5FMID in Mount Gambier.

So I tried my luck on 15m and called CQ on 21.250 but sadly had no takers.  So it was back to 20m again where I found the band to be almost dead and very flat.  I booked in to the ANZA DX Net and worked VK2, VK3, VK4, VK4, USA, New Zealand, and the Marshall Islands.  At the end of the net I called CQ on 14.250 and this was responded to by John VK3JLS, followed by Ian VK6DW, and then Noel VK3NDX.

The 20m band was clearly down (now I know why, because of the solar flares & CME’s).  Peter G2YT called me and he was only a 5/7.  Peter is normally an exceptionally strong signal on 20m and to my great disapointment Peter gave me a 2/1 signal report.  Other than Peter, the only other DX stations I worked on 20m was Joe EA8DAJ in the Canary Islands, and Jim KA3UNQ in Maryland USA.

So after working just 14 stations on 20m I tried 15m and called CQ on 21.250.  This was answered by Geoff VK6FNLW and then JR6BF in Japan.  But it was time to pack up.  It was approaching 5.00 p.m. and we had planned to travel into Lyndhurst that night for a meal at the pub.

So at the end of a rather disapointing day I had a total of 54 contacts in the log.

Making my total contacts from Farina……….162.

I was rewarded with an amazing sunset at Farina as I was packing up.


On Thursday I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5ZK
  2. VK5BGN
  3. VK5IS
  4. VK5HS
  5. VK5JK
  6. VK5FD
  7. VK7AN/p
  8. VK5FMJC
  9. VK5VGC
  10. VK5TW
  11. VK3YW/m
  12. VK5KLD
  13. VK5DC/p
  14. VK5KPR
  15. VK5MBD
  16. VK5LY
  17. VK5FANA
  18. VK5FMID

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK4ANB
  2. VK5MBD
  3. VK2GKA
  4. VK4VI
  5. VK5HS
  6. VK1MCK
  7. VK3VIN
  8. VK4CC
  9. K7INA
  10. VK4SWE
  11. VK7XX
  12. VK4TD
  13. ZL2BAQ
  14. VK3IDM
  15. VK4NH/8
  16. VK2CV
  17. ZL1PWD
  18. K5KT
  19. V73/WW6RG
  20. ZL1ANF
  21. VK4EU
  22. AE7KI
  23. VK3JLS
  24. VK6DW
  25. VK3NDX
  26. VK2VU
  27. VK6TDF/m
  28. G2YT
  29. VK3GH
  30. VK4WM
  31. EA8DAJ
  32. VK2MI
  33. VK3JL
  34. KA3UNQ
  35. VK1TX
  36. VK1UU

I worked the following stations on 15m SSB:-

  1. VK6FNLW
  2. JR6BF

Here is a short video of our activation at Farina…..

VK100ANZAC at Farina on Wednesday

I woke up on Wednesday morning, a little concerned about the weather.  I hadn’t heard any rain overnight, so with a degree of nervousness, I poked my head out of the cabin door to have a look at the weather.  I was pleasantly surprised to see generally clear skies, even though it was only 7.00 a.m.  But I still hadn’t heard from David or John.  So I headed out to the HiLux and put out a call on 7.095 but didn’t hear back from my two missing mates.  So I headed back inside and had some breakfast and a shower, and by 7.40 a.m. Marija and I were on the road.

Screenshot 2015-06-28 10.32.30Above:- Map showing the location of Farina in the north of South Australia.  Map courtesy of mapcarta.com 

As a group we had intended to activate the Lake Eyre National Park, VKFF-276, but roads north of Marree were closed, so that put a halt to that.  Plus, our other 4 travelling companions were ‘MIA’.  So Marija and I decided to activate the Gammon Ranges National Park.  On the way south towards Copley, I fired up the Icom IC-7000 in the vehicle and spoke with Alan VK5FAJS at Mount Gambier (5/9 both ways), followed by a contact with Mark VK6BSA who was mobile on his way in to work.  Mark had a very nice 5/9 signal and he reciprocated with a 5/9 for me.  The Codan 9350 antenna seemed to be working well.

I then moved up to 7.098 and called CQ and much to my pleasure, this was responded to by David VK5KC.  He had and John were on the move and were heading north.  The Warrioota Creek level had dramatically dropped overnight.  I now felt a lot better.

As David & John and crew were going to head to Leigh Creek for a shower, Marija and I had a bit of time up our sleeve so we decided the activation of Gammon Ranges was a goer.  It was slow going along the bitumen as there was a lot of wildlife and stock on the road, including sheep, horses, kangaroos and emus.

Upon reaching Copley we took the time to have a look at the tourist info boards.  Copley was originally called Leigh Creek after a nearby pastoral holding, and was surveyed in 1891.  It was officially named Copley after William Copley, Commissioner of Crown Lands.  The Great Northern Railway made its way to the town in 1881.

Whilst in Copley we caught up with John VK2KJO and his wife Sue who had also pulled into the town, hoping to head out the Gammon Ranges as well.  And they were the bearers of bad news, advising that the road out to the Gammons was closed.  After a chat with John and Sue we headed out to the Copley Road which heads out to Nepabunna and the Gammons.  Sure enough, it was closed due to all the recent rain.  Marija and I were very disapointed.

So Marija and I headed south to Leigh Creek and caught up with the rest of the gang and had morning tea at the Open Cut Cafe and Visitor Centre.

John and Joy wanted to do a bit of washing, so Marija and I headed back north along the Outback Highway (Bandioota Road), and stopped briefly to view the Leigh Creek coal fields.  Sadly the viewing platform for the coal fields no longer exists.  We also stopped for a photo opportunity, as there was a magnificent Wedge Tailed Eagle in a tree not far off the road.  We continued north and stopped at the ochre pits, just north of Lyndhurst.  Aboriginal people traded ochre from Lyndhurst and other nearby quarries within the Lake Eyre region for items such as pituri (native tobacco), spinifex resin, and stone axe heads.

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We continued north on the road between Lyndhurst and Marree, and turned left into the dirt track leading to Farina.  Farina is a ghost town and is situated about 620 km north of Adelaide.  Farina is a Latin name meaning Farinaceous or flour.  Farina was surveyed in 1876 by W.H. Cornish and R. Peachey, on a reserve baned Government Gums or Gums Waterhole.  It was laid out in the pattern first used by Colonel William Light.  Farina had 432 allotments of a 1/4 acre each and 88 suburban blocks ranging in size from 5 acres to 11 acres.  Farina was officially proclaimed on the 21st day of March, 1878.

By 1882 the narrow gauge railway had reached Government Gums.  This year also saw a severe grought, but despite this, optimists hoped that the town would become the centre of a vast agricultural storehouse.  The railway soon became known as the Transcontinteal Railway and the Great Northern Railway.

By 1888, Farina’s population had reached about 100, with about 30 houses in the town.  The town grew quickly and soon had two hotels, a church, hospital, and a school.  Farina’s population which at one point reached more than 400 people, supported several shops, including those of Manfield and Bell.

Today, Farina is a ghose town, with many of the old stone buildings, being lovingly restored by the Farina Resoration Group.

For more information on Farina and the Farina Restoration Group, have a look at the following…..


There is also a very good video from the ABC’s Landline program on Farina.  Please click on the link below…..


Our reason for activating as VK100ANZAC from Farina was to commemorate the 75 year anniversary of a secret mission undertaken by two Australians and two Englishmen, to rescue the DeGaulle family from German occupied France during WW2.  The pilot of the aircraft flown in that mission was John Napier Bell, who came from Farina.


At 2.55 a.m. on the 18th June, 1940, an amphibious Walrus aircraft, took to the sky from Mount Batten, near Plymouth in England.  There were four men aboard the plane: a crew of three and a special passenger, British Intelligence officer Captain Norman Hope.  The crew consisted of an Australian pilot, Flight Lieutenant John Napier Bell, an Australian navigator, Sergeant Charles William Harris, and a British wireless electrical mechanic, Corporal Bernard Nowell. As they left Plymouth in the early hours of the morning, the crew were totally unaware of their mission and destination.  It was the role of Captain Hope to brief the crew following their take off. What was their mission? To fly to the French coast and rescue the family of General Charles De Gaulle.  Following the invasion of France by the Germans in May 1940, De Gaulle instructed his wife to take their three children and leave their home near Rheims, and travel to Brittany.   There, safe passage to England would be arranged.  It is reported that De Gaulle flew to London and met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and asked him to assist in the rescue of his family from Carantec on the coast of the English Channel, where they had sought refuge with an Aunt.

However, there are no known official records to confirm this meeting.  What is known is that at 9.00 p.m. on the 17th  June, 1940 a ‘green form’ (authority for a flight) was received at Mount Batten Station at Plymouth.  It originated from Admiral Dunbar-Nasmith the Commander in Chief Western Approaches.  It stated: “One Walrus to proceed with Admiralty passenger from Plymouth sound to north coast Brittany at earliest 18/6. Passenger will give details of destination on arrival about 2359/17.  Aircraft to be fully armed and to keep defence watch at all time especially water borne. Return to base upon completion.” 

At about 4.30 a.m. on the 18th June, locals in the small village of Ploudaniel were awoken by the sound of a low flying aircraft.  It was the Walrus.  There is speculation that the plane may have been shot at.  But what is known is that the plane subsequently crashed at Kerbiquet adjacent to Ploudaniel, and all 4 on board were killed.  They were buried at the Ploudaniel churchyard, Ploudaniel, Brittany, France.


Above:- John Napier Bell’s headstone.  Photo courtesy of http://www.aircrewremembered.com

Since 1940, each year the people from Ploudaniel honour the crew with a special service at the crash site and the local church grave site. So who were the crew and specifically the Captain? John Napier Bell was born on the 25th day of April, 1916 at Largs Bay South, South Australia, to parents John ‘Jack’ Henry Bell and Eva Annie Bell.  Coincidentally, this was the same day that the Australian Government declared that day to be called Anzac Day.  On leaving school, Bell helped his father to run Mansfield’s Store (later renamed as Bell’s Store) at Farina in the Far North of South Australia.  Bell became an Air Force Cadet in July 1935 and in July 1936 at age 20, he was appointed Pilot Officer.  In April 1937 he was promoted to Flying Officer.

Screenshot 2015-06-28 18.21.45

Above:- Bell’s store in Farina, c. 1930.  Image courtesy of State Library of South Australia

Farina was a buzz with activity.  We saw numerous vehicles with vans entering into the old town and the camping area, with number plates representative from all around Australia.  Marija and I set up the amateur radio station behind the old Post Office, which is on the main dirt road entering Farina.  We decided it was a good operating spot, as people entering Farina could see us in clear view, but it was behind the old Post Office, so it didn’t inhibit those that wanted to admire the beautiful old building.  For the activation I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts and the 40m/20m linked dipole, supported on the 7 metre squid pole.  Power to the radio was supplied by a 44 amp hour power pack.  As it was quite a sunny day, the solar panels were deployed to provide some extra grunt to the battery.

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I started off on 40m and called CQ on 7.095.  Our very first station in the log for VK100ANZAC at Farina was Karl VK2GKA who had a lovely 5/9 signal.  This was followed by Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula running just 5 watts.  And Jeff VK5IU/8 portable at Alice Springs then called with a nice 5/8-9 signal, followed by John VK6FABC who although very weak, was extremely readable.  The noise floor at Farina was very low so I was able to hear John very clearly.  I was very pleased with the first four contacts coming from all around Australia.

Not long after setting up, David & Joy, and John & Jenny had arrived at Farina.  They headed to the camground and after settling in fired up the radio and operated from there.

After working 46 stations on 40m, I headed over to 20m and called CQ on 14.250 and this was answered by Tony VK2RI who was portable at Botany Bay.  I worked another 3 VK stations in VK7 & VK3.  And it was at this time that two families approached me and were curious in what I was doing.  So I put down the mic and gladly explained to them the hobby of amateur radio and the reason for us being at Farina.  They seemed to be very interested and continued talking for about 20 minutes.


By time I had got back onto 14.250 some other VK’s were on the frequency so I headed down the band and found 14.243 clear and called CQ again.  This time my CQ call was answered by the first DX station, IU2EFB in Italy with a good 5/7 signal.  Local South Australia time was only 2.12 p.m. so long path into Europe was still opening up.  This was followed by a call from Peter VK3CFA and Alex VK4TE.  I then had another visitor to the station and again took the time to explain the hobby and why we were activating at Farina.  In fact, this trend continued for most of the day with a lot of visitors, including a crew from Chanel Seven who did a little bit of filming whilst I was operating.

I remained on 20m until about 0630 UTC (4.00 p.m. SA local time) before going QRT.  There was a planned commemorative service at the Farina War Memorial at 5.00 p.m. so I wanted to freshen up a bit and pack up the gear before that started.  I had a total of 42 stations in the log on 40m SSB and a total of 49 stations in the log on 20m SSB.  Unfortunately, it was not as busy on the bands as I would have liked.  Countries worked were Australia, Italy, USA, Belgium, Switzerland, England, Spain, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, and Hawaii.

At 5.00 p.m. we attended at the memorial service held at the War Memorial.  There were quite a few people in attendance, including members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).  Sadly, the planned fly over by the Orion PC3 did not occur (apparently it was redployed?).

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After the service, we all regrouped at the campground and decided what we were going to do for dinner.  We had planned on going to the Lyndhurst Hotel for tea, but the Farina Restoration Group were hosting a camp oven dinner, so that sounded like a good idea.

Me, being the crazy radio addict, I headed back to the Old Post Office and set up again.  I had promised Roy VK7ROY that I would book in to the 7130 DX Net if possible.  I was set up a little early, so I warmed up 7.130 for Roy and worked into Queensland, New Zealand, Tasmania, Western Australia and Victoria, before the 7130 DX Net commenced at 0930 UTC (7.00 p.m. SA local time).  Unfortuntaley just before the Net commenced, some JA’s came up on the frequency and they were extremely strong, making it incredibly difficult.  So the Net moved to 7.133, but it wasn’t long before we were swamped with QRM again.  A station came up on 7.135 from Honduras and he was very much in demand.  Sadly, the Net shut down early due to all the QRM,  But before it did close, I was able to work a total of 5 stations on the Net in Tasmania, New Zealand, Western Australia, Queensland, and the USA.

After the net I moved up to 7.145 and called CQ a number of times, but only worked a further 3 stations in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

So I packed up and headed back to the campsite where we set up my linked dipole for 20/40/80 metres, and we made a few contacts on 80 metres, enjoying the warmth of an open fire and a few glasses of red.

Thanks to Adrian VK5FANA for posting on the VK5 Parks Facebook site that we would not be activating the park.

Thankyou to Adrian VK5FAJH who placed us up on the VK5 Parks Yahoo group.

And thankyou to those that took the time to spot us on the DX Cluster.

So, it was the end of day one at Farina, and I had a total of 108 contacts in the log.  Marija and I headed back to the Lyndhurst Hotel.  On the way I fired up the IC7000 in the Hi Lux and booked in to the Southern Cross DX Net and worked W1FDY in Virginia, KC2KU in Florida, W9WJ in Illinois, W5IZ in Texas, AI4JU in Florida, and W4AZB in Tennessee.

I worked the following stations at Farina on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2GKA
  2. VK5FANA
  3. VK5IU/p (Alice Springs)
  4. VK6FABC
  5. VK5KC/m
  6. VK4AAC/5
  7. VK5KAA
  8. VK5BJE/p
  9. VK5NAQ
  10. VK7ALH
  11. VK3XPT/m
  12. VK5HOS
  13. VK6POP/2
  14. VK3CWM
  15. VK7FGGT
  16. VK5FAJS
  17. VK5ZGY/m
  18. VK5KAF
  19. VK5BGN
  20. VK4UA
  21. VK5AAR
  22. VK4E
  23. VK5TW
  24. VK5FMID
  25. VK3PF
  26. VK3OB
  27. VK2SS
  28. VK3FGMO
  29. VK3TJK
  30. VK3FQSO
  31. VK5KLV
  32. VK2EXA
  33. VK3NBL
  34. VK2VU
  35. VK5FAJH
  36. VK3MC
  37. VK7EK
  38. VK3CRK/4
  39. VK3MEK
  40. VK2MJB
  41. VK4GSF
  42. VK3OW
  43. VK4MON
  44. ZL3TV/m
  45. VK4FBMW
  46. VK7LDK/4
  47. VK6ATS
  48. VK3FCAN/m
  49. VK4BR
  50. ZL1HX
  51. VK7ROY
  52. ZL2ALK
  53. VK6LCK
  54. VK4FAAS
  55. W1OW
  56. VK2QM
  57. VK3FSPG
  58. VK5FMID
  59. VK2FMIA

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK2RI/p
  2. VK7GG/m
  3. VK3GMM
  4. VK3TJK
  5. IU2EFB
  6. VK3CFA
  7. VK4TE
  8. VK3MRH
  9. VK3VBC/m
  10. VK2VU
  11. VK2GE
  12. W5THT
  13. VK7ALH
  14. VK4QO
  15. VK4JWT
  16. VK3NBV
  17. VK4KWQ
  18. VK2HL/p
  19. VK2HOT
  20. VK5PET
  21. VK3VBI
  22. IK4DDI
  23. VK6PII
  24. OP7M
  25. HB9RDE
  26. NJ1Z
  27. G2YT
  28. WB4JSB
  29. EA3HHD
  30. VK3UP
  31. VK3MBW
  32. VK7BC
  33. VK4RF
  34. VK4OZI
  35. VK3FT
  36. VK6LCK
  37. VK2YK
  38. VK2MI
  39. VK6AAV
  40. DL1WM
  41. VK3GMC
  42. VK3XS
  43. XE1H
  44. VK3MEG
  45. ZL2MM
  46. VK6ATS
  47. VK3PRF
  48. VK2NRB
  49. KH6XM


South Australian Tourism Commission, 2015, <http://www.southaustralia.com/info.aspx?id=9002305&gt;, viewed 29th June 2015

Heading north to Farina

It was an early start for us all on Tuesday 16th June, 2015.  We had a long drive ahead of us from Quorn, up to the old ghost town of Farina in the Far North of South Australia……about 300 km north of Argadells.  The weather had turned nasty again, with quite a bit of rain and generally very gloomy.  I was feeling incredibly frustrated.  We had driven all this way and the Gods had conspired against us.  And there was absolutely nothing I could do to alter the situation, other than take a deep breath as Marija told me.

Our day started off with a nice warm shower, and Marija and I then went to collect the eggs from the chooks.  Judy and Malcolm from Argadells had gone down to Adelaide for a few days so we agreed to collect the eggs.  We returned to the Overseers Cottage and enjoyed some fresh fried eggs on toast.

After breakfast we drove down to the campgound and caught up with John & Jenny, and David & Joy.  They were still packing up their gear and the vans.  As the weather was miserable, and we had some dirt roads to travel on, we agree that Marija and I would head off and act as ‘forward scouts’.  So with a tinge of sadness we left Argadells.  We had enjoyed a fantastic 3 nights here and all of us would highly recommend Argadells to anyone intending on coming up this way to the southern Flinders Ranges.


Marija and I drove north along the Arden Vale Road, and stopped off briefly to have a look at the Wyacca memorial to honour the Francis family who arrived in the area in the 1880’s.  We then stopped briefly at Proby’s grave.  Hugh Proby took up the pastoral lease of Kanyaka in July 1851, and drowned whilst crossing the nearby Willochra Creek in August 1852.  We continued on, passing through the Kanyaka Creek which had a bit of water flowing through it, and then on to the Simmonston Ruins.  Simmonston was surveyed in 1872 on one of six major routes proposed for the railway line north from Quorn.  An advertisement of the time said the following:

‘There are few allotments in this splendidly situated town for sale.  I would advise intending buyers to make their bargains at once, or they will lose the opportunity of getting an allotment in the healthiest town in the Colony’.

Two buildings were commenced in 1880, one a two storey hotel and the other a general store.  However, before construction was completed, word was received that the railway line would go to the east of the ranges.  So, Simminston died before it had lived and became ‘the town that never was’.

After reaching the bitumen, we headed north on the Outback Highway (Bandoota Road) towards the town of Hawker.  We stopped briefly again to have a look at the amazing Kanyaka Ruins which are located about 42 km north of Quorn.  It was just a shame that it was drizzling with rain, and our walk around the ruins was cut short as the heavens absolutely opened up.  The Kanyaka ruins is very much worth stopping off for a look.

The buildings at Kanyaka include remnants of a stable and harness room, a woolshed and an overseer’s cottage.   The Kanyaka ruins are of the once huge sheep run, Kanyaka Station in the pioneering era.  In 1856 the Kanyaka Station leases totalled 365 square miles or 240000 acres (945 square km or 94500 hectares).  In good seasons the property housed up to 70 workers and their families.  The main homestead consisted of 16 rooms with 18 inch (46 cm) thick walls of stone and mortar construction.

We kept heading north on the Highway towards Parachilna, and along the way I had a chat with John VK5FMJC in Crystal Brook on 40m, followed by a QSO with Bill VK5MBD.

We took the opportunity of stretching our legs at the old ruins at Wilson, and detoured out to the old Wilson cemetery.  The town of Wilson was proclaimed on the 6th January 1881 and named by Governor Jervois after General Sir Charles Wilson.  When established, its main purpose was to serve the new farming districts and their communities.

But the showers prevented us from having a good look around, so we continued on to Hawker, about 400 km north of Adelaide.  In Hawker we regrouped, and had a late morning tea stop at the Sightseer’s Cafe, which is owned by the parents of a mate of mine.

After morning tea, we all continued north on the Highway, passing the turn off to Merna Mora where we planned to stay for 3 nights, as of Friday.  We also viewed the amazing Flinders Ranges to our right.  Sadly much of the ranges were covered in cloud and mist.  Upon reaching Parachilna, about 490 km north of Adelaide, we all stopped for a break.  It was at that time that we started receiving reports that one of the many creeks to the north of us was flooded and the main bitumen road had been completely blocked since about 8.00 a.m.  Bugger!  One of those people who gave us the bad news was John VK2KJO and his wife Sue, who were also travelling up north in their 4WD and caravan.

We all decided to take the opportunity for a lunch break.  I had been to the Prairie Hotel at Parachilna before, so I knew they served up great meals there.  So that’s where Marija and I headed.  And we weren’t disapointed.  Marija had a Chicken Thai salad, and I enjoyed a Roo burger and a nice cold beer.

We all hit the road again and headed north.  The first flooded creek we reached was Breakfast Time Creek, which was easy to get through.  But it was the next creek on, that was causing all the grief for people travelling north and south.  Warrioota Creek was flowing extremely well, and there was a big bank up of traffic on either side of the creek.  We patiently waited for about one hour, until it was noticeable that the water level had dropped quite significantly.  One brave 4WD enthusiast had decided they had waited for long enough and made the journey across the creek from south to north.  And it wasn’t long before a number of other motorists followed.

Marija and I decided that we should get across the creek while we could.  It was extremely black over the Gammon Ranges, where all the water was originating from.  And because we didn’t have a van, we didn’t fancy sleeping in the back of the Toyota Hi Lux.  The warm bed at Lyndhurst was much more appealing.  So over we went.  Sadly, leaving David & Joy, and John & Jenny behind.

David and John remained at old Beltana that night, while Marija and I continued north to Lyndhurst where we had booked in to the Lyndhurst Hotel.  On the way I put out a CQ call on 7.095 and spoke with Greg VK5GJ at Meadows, Trevor VK5TW, and John VK2KJO.

After booking in to the pub, we decided to go for a drive out to Farina.  Firstly to familiarise ourselves where Farina was, and secondly to touch base with somebody from the Farina Restoration group.  So we drove north out of Lyndhurst for about 6 km until hitting the dirt.  The weather had improved a little now as we were much further north, but it was getting dark and we did notice some very black clouds to our west.  Sure enough, just as we approached the turnoff to Farina, down came the rain.  And it was very heavy.  In an instant, it had changed the road conditions.  The dirt had become like driving on soap.

But we had succeeded in speaking with members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Farina Restoration Group.

After leaving Farina, we had a very slow drive on the 2km section of dirt out of the old Farina township, as the road surface was incredibly slippery, despite the fact that it had stopped raining.  Once we got to the main dirt road between Lyndhurst and Marree, the surface improved.  But it was a slow drive back to Lyndhurst as it was not completely dark and the kangaroos were out in force.

My only concern now was….could David and John get out to Farina ?  Unfortunately we had no mobile phone coverage and I could not raise either David or John on 2m or 40m.  It was a waiting game.


ExploreOz, 2015, <http://www.exploroz.com/Places/77859/SA/Kanyaka_Homestead.aspx&gt;, viewed 27th June 2015

Flinders Ranges Research, 2015, <http://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/wilson.htm&gt;, viewed 27th June 2015

The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park VKFF-817

After packing up at Mount Brown, John VK5BJE decided that it was a bit cold to continue activating, and he and Jenny headed back to Argadells with David VK5KC and his wife Joy.  And they were right, it was getting very chilly.  But I was very keen to qualify The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park, VKFF-817, which was recently added to the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.

The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park, which is about 3,532 hectares in size, is situated about 10 km north east of Quorn and about 340 km north of Adelaide.

Screenshot 2015-06-24 17.49.49

Above:- Map showing the location of the park.  Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I have activated the park once before.  That was back in May 2013, when my wife Marija and I climbed The Dutchmans Stern summit, located in the park.  For more information on that activation and detailed information on the park, please see my previous post at…..


The park is accessed off Arden Vale Road and is well signposted.  The summit itself cannot be missed as it has a very striking shape.  The park gets its name from the bluff’s similarity to Dutch sailing ships of the 18th century.  The rocky outcrops and slopes appear to resemble the reverse stern of these ships.  The bluff was named by Captain Matthew Flinders who chartered the nearby Spencer Gulf in 1802.

As we entered the park, we were struck by the number of kangaroos, both Red Kangaroos and Western Greys.

We set up just on the southern side of the carpark.  Fortunately, there was a wooden table and benches there waiting for me, which made a perfect shack.  For this activation I ran the Yaesu Ft-857d, 40 watts and the 40m/20m linked dipole supported on a 7 metre squid pole.

Screenshot 2015-06-24 17.49.35

Above:- Map showing our operating spot in the park.  Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I started off on 20m as it was getting a little late.  It was 4.20 p.m. South Australian local time and it was starting to get dark, which meant that my window into Europe via the long path was quite limited.  I called CQ on 14.244 and this was answered by Erol VK2YB with a strong 5/9 signal, and then Marco VK2YES also 5/9.  My third contact was another station from New South Wales, Dave VK2DML who was also 5/9.

I worked a further 6 stations from Australia, in VK1, VK2, VK3, and VK4, before my first DX contact, IZ5JMZ in Italy.  This was followed by JA8RJE in Japan, and Ken ZL4KD in Christchurch in New Zealand.  The European attention had been generated as Erol VK2YB and Adam VK2YK had spotted me on the DX Cluster.  This really does help.

I went on to work 23 stations on 20m in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Japan, Sloevnia, Belgium, Germany, and Russia.  But I had left my run a bit late…the 20m band was almost shut on the long path.

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So with a further 21 contacts required I headed down to 40m and called CQ on 7.098.  My first taker there was John VK4JWT on Bribie Island who had followed me down from 20m.  This was followed by David VK5HYZ in Adelaide, and Nev VK5WG in Cyrstal Brook.  It was quite slow going, but I finally managed my 44th contact, with thanks to Ian VK5ZGG.  I worked 3 more stations, making my total 47 for the activation.  But with no further takers and an ever lowering temperature (now 5 degrees C), it was time to pack up and head back to Argadells.

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK2YB
  2. VK2YES
  3. VK2DML
  4. VK4MON
  5. VK2YK
  6. VK3BY
  7. VK1XP
  8. VK3PMG
  9. VK3EY
  10. IZ5JMZ
  11. JA8RJE
  12. ZL4KD
  13. VK6HSB/p
  14. VK3FD/6
  15. VK6JON/p
  16. S58AL
  17. ON4BB
  18. DL2ND
  19. DK0EE
  20. RA3PCI
  21. DK4RM
  22. VK4JWT

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK4JWT
  2. VK5HYZ
  3. VK5WG
  4. VK2PH
  5. VK5PZ
  6. VK5FANA
  7. VK3FPBI
  8. VK5FMID
  9. VK2FALL
  10. VK3PF
  11. VK2IO
  12. VK5HEL
  13. VK5FD
  14. VK2SOL
  15. VK2BJK
  16. VK5KAF
  17. VK3FONZ
  18. VK6NU
  19. VK3DBP
  20. VK1AT
  21. VK5ZGG
  22. VK4AJR
  23. VK4MAD
  24. VK5KKT

After reaching Argadells, I lit the open fire at the back of our accomodation, the Overseer’s cottage, and we were soon joined by David and Joy, & John and Jenny for a BBQ dinner.  And the obligatory few bottles of red.  It was a great end to a great day.