After packing up at the Discovery Bay Coastal Park, Marija and I continued our journey south east along the Portland-Nelson Road. We stopped off a number of times along the way to our destination of Portland, to admire the views of Discovery Bay and the Great Australian Bight. We then booked in to our motel in Portland which was the Melaleuca Motel (neat, tidy, friendly staff).
After unpacking the 4WD, we headed to our second park activation of the day, the Discovery Bay Marine National Park, VKFF-0949, situated about 20 km west of Portland in South Western Victoria and about 380 km west of Melbourne. The park is part of a system of 13 Marine National Parks and 11 Marine Sanctuaries in Victoria.
Above:- Map showing the location of the park. Courtesy of Forest Explorer.
We travelled west out of Portland on the Bridgewater Road and then took Knights and Parkers Road. We then turned left onto Kitson Road and then right onto Discovery Bay Road. This is a no through road which leads to a small parking area overlooking the ocean. From here there is a walking track which takes you down to the beach and the northern most part of the Discovery Bay Marine National Park.
Another option is to take Amos Road, which again is a no through road, but maps show that there is a walking track down to the beach at that location as well. A little further to the south is Peacocks Road but it appears there is no access to the beach from there. Blowholes Road is further to the south, however, the Marine National Park is quite some distance off shore at this point.
The park which was established in November 2002, is Victoria’s marine gateway to the Great Australian Bight and the immense expanse of the Southern Ocean. The park protects part of the largest coastal basalt formation in western Victoria. The park is framed by the cliffs of Cape Bridgewater to the east and the white sand dunes of Discovery Bay to the north. The park covers 2,770 hectares adjacent to Cape Bridgewater along the coast from Blacks Beach to Whites Beach and offshore to three nautical miles, the limit of Victorian waters. Between Whites Beach and Cape Duqesne, the park boundary commences 500 metres from the coastline.
Above:- Map showing the Discovery Bay Marine NP. Courtesy of Parks Victoria.
There is a rich diversity of marine life within the park due to the cold, nutrient rich waters of the area. Southern Rock Lobster and the very rare Southern Hooded Shrimp are found here, and the waters also support Great White Sharks and during the summer breeding season, Blue Whales. Other inhabitants of the waters include Fur Seals and dolphins.
Birdlife here is amazing and includes Australasian Gannets, Pacific Gulls, Common Diving Petrels, and Wandering Albatrosses.
A natural occurrence called the Bonney Upwelling is the cause for the nutrient rich waters. This occurs when cold, nutrient rich water is brought up from the ocean floor and in turn these nutrients trigger the growth of microscopic plants, which form the building blocks of the complex food web. Creatures such as Blue Whales feed on swarms of crustaceans known as krill and sponges filter tiny invertebrates from the water. Sharks, seals, gannets and many other animals feed on the schools of fish also benefitting from the nutrient rich waters. Upwelling events like this only cover 1% of the ocean surface worldwide, and this is the only deep water upwelling event which occurs in Australian waters.
The average depth of the water in the park increases gently, away from the shoreline, to a maximum depth of around 75 metres in the south west area of the park. In the deep water in the west of the park, sponge gardens thrive. Sponges, which can be found on most reefs throughout the park, are unique filter feeding animals, and come in a wide variety of colours, shapes, and sizes.
Nearby is the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm, which powers around 35,000 Victorian homes every year. The wind farm was completed in 2008 and comprises 29 wind generators.
Upon reaching the end of Discovery Bay Road, we parked the car, and packed up the gear into our backpacks. As I mentioned there is a carpark here, but you are a bit over the 100 metre allowable distance in the World Wide Flora Fauna program for Marine National Park operation. So to play it safe, we decided to walk down the track a bit through the sand dunes, closer to the water.
The track leading down to the beach looks a lot worse than what it really is. The walk down (and back up) is not all that bad. Perhaps a little bit of a calf burner on the way up due to having to tramp through the sand.
As we walked down the track, we noticed that there were a lot of native flowers out in bloom. This is actually within the Discovery Bay Coastal Park which abuts the Discovery Bay Marine National Park. A section of the Great South Walk also passes through here.
You are also rewarded with some nice views of the coast and the surrounding countryside.
This area of the coastline overlooks Descartes Bay in the Discovery Bay Marine National Park. Descartes Bay has a sandy seafloor and is home to a large variety of marine creatures. Some samples of the sediment in the park found over 688 microscopic organisms. Most of these animals are very small crustaceans known as amphipods.
Above:- Map showing our operating spot. Image courtesy of Forest Explorer
As we were not planning on being at the park for long, comfort didn’t come into the equation during this activation. I propped on the track, changing positions from sitting to kneeling and avoiding sand and pants down the back of my tracksuit pants.
After setting up I headed for my nominated operating frequency of 7.144 and called CQ. This was answered by Ivan VK5HS who was mobile, followed by John VK5BJE, Mike VK3ZMD and then Brett VK2VW. All had reasonable signals. Certainly nowhere near as strong though as I normally hear John and Brett. And my signal reports coming back from South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, were well down from usual. But I was making contacts, and that’s all that counted.
I had quite a steady flow of callers during the activation, especially considering that this was a work day. Callers on 40m were from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania. After working a total of 26 stations on 40m, I decided to try my luck on 20m.
My first contact on 20m was with Mr. Reliable, Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. But despite numerous CQ calls and being placed on the DX Cluster by Rick, I had no more takers. So tuned across the band and the only European signal that I heard was SV3AQR calling CQ, and he was not strong at all. It was a little too early for Europe to be coming in on the long path.
I briefly joined the ANZA DX Net on 14.183 and worked two VK4’s there and my mate Ted VK6NTE who had his normal big signal. But the Net soon wrapped up, and as their was not much activity on 20m, I decided to head back to 40m and put out more CQ calls, hoping to reach my 44 QSO threshold. I had 31 contacts in the log, and just needed another 13 contacts to get there. I went back to 7.144 and called CQ and this was answered by Barry VK5BW, followed by Rob VK3FENV, and then Ian VK1DI.
Unfortunately I started suffering from major QRM from a VK Net on 7.146 and I was forced to QSY. I went down the band to 7.098 and worked a further 9 stations in VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7.
It was now just a little after 4.00 p.m. Victorian local time, and I had a total of 49 contacts in the log. I was happy as I had qualified the park for WWFF.
Marija and I took a brief stroll down to the beach, and then climbed back up the track through the sand dunes, back to the 4WD.
Thanks to Rick VK4RF for spotting me on the DX Cluster, and the VKFF & SOTA Facebook page.
The following stations were worked:-
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
After the activation, we drove down the Bridgewater Road and then on to Blowholes Road, to have a look at the southern section of the park. There are some nice walks here and a number of interpretive signs. One of the walks we undertook was to have a look at the ‘Petrified Forest’. The formation is a collection of hollow tubes of limestone called ‘solution pipes’, eroded by millions of years of rainfall.
Parks Victoria, 2015, <http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/discovery-bay-marine-national-park>, viewed 3rd December 2015