On Friday night (11th March 2016) I headed over to the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, 5CP-127 and VKFF-072, for the regular Friday afternoon/evening event for the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award. But it was almost a no-goer for me, as the weather at home was extremely stormy with consistent light rain. It was not looking promising. I jumped on to the weather radar and despite the gloomy outlook outside, the radar was showing up as quite clear.
Above:- The Adelaide weather radar. Courtesy of http://www.bom.gov.au
I took a punt and packed the 4WD and headed west along the South Eastern Freeway. To my surprise the weather was clearing the further west I got. But as I looked back in the rear vision mirror, it was certainly very very black.
The Mark Oliphant Conservation Park is located about 22 km west of my home QTH and about 22 km south east of Adelaide. I have activated it a number of times previously and have well and truly qualified the park for both the VK5 Parks Award and the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.
Above:- The location of the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park in the Adelaide Hills. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Mark Oliphant Conservation Park was first used for recreation in the 1930’s and in 1945 the park was purchased by the YMCA. In 1953 the park was acquired by the South Australian State Government, and 19 years later in 1972, the park was proclaimed as the Loftia Recreation Park. In 1996, the park was proclaimed as the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park in recognition of its conservation values and to honour physicist and humanitarian Sir Mark Oliphant’s contribution to conservation.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park in the Adelaide Hills, to the west of my home QTH. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Sir Marcus ‘Mark’ Laurence Elwin Oliphant, AC, KBE, FRS, FAA, was born on 8th October 1901 at Kent Town in South Australia. Sir Mark Oliphant was an Australian physicist and humanitarian who played an important role in the first experimental demonstration of nuclear fusion and also the development of nuclear weapons.
For more information on Sir Mark Oliphant, please see…….
Above:- Sir Mark Oliphant. Courtesy of wikipedia.
Messmate stringy bark and brown stringy bark dominate the forest canopy in the Mark Elephant Conservation Park. A small stand of Candlebark gums can be located near the oval. This type of tall eucalyptus with white bark is rare and is only located in the higher rainfall areas of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Small patches of Pink Gum, Manna Gum and Blue Gum can also be found in the park. The forest understory contains many spring-flowering shrubs, including Myrtle-leaved Wattle, Beaked Hakea and Large-leaved Bush Pea.
A number of native animals call the park home. This includes the rare Southern Brown Bandicoot and Yellow Footed Antechinus. Several lizard, snake and for species also inhabit the park, however most of these are rarely seen. The park is alive with bird life including the Superb Fairy-wren, Scarlet Robin, Golden Whistler, and Adelaide Rosella.
A major fire burnt through the park in January 1995. Sadly, this park was deliberately lit, and I was one of the police investigators that was involved in the investigation into the arson and the subsequent arrest of the offender.
I turned right onto Evans Drive from Scott Creek Road and commenced travelling through the park, which is on either side of Evans Drive.
Above:- Evans Drive, with the park on either side of the road.
There are some nice views from Evans Drive out to the south towards Ironbank and Scott Creek.
As you drive further along Evans Drive, the terrain starts to drop away on the southern side of the road, into some deep gorges. This is where a lot of ferns can be located due to the cooler conditions underneath the tree canopy.
I drove a short distance along Evans Drive and stopped at gate 22. There is a small parking area here off the road. I set up just off the HoneyEater Track which is located in the north eastern corner of the park.
Above:- Map showing my operating spot in the north eastern area of the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
I use an app called ‘treksafe’ on my iphone to notify my wife when I’m safe in a park or on a summit. So I sent the obligatory message to Marija to let her know my location.
For this activation I ran my normal park set up, consisting of the Yaesu FT85As I was setting up my deck chair and fold up table I heard a noise which sounded like a chicken. Surely not? A chicken in the park. But I couldnt see anything, so I continued to set up and then heard the noise again. This time, the chicken made its appearance out of the scrub. Needless to say I was very surprised.
I was set up and ready to go by around 0600 UTC (4.30 p.m. South Australian local time). I headed for my nominated operating frequency of 7.144, however there was a VK6 calling CQ DX on the frequency. The 40m band was very very busy and it was quite difficult to find a clear frequency. As I tuned down the band I found Rob VK2QR/p on SOTA peak Mount Hudson VK2/ SM-021 (in the Kosciuszko National Park) calling CQ on 7.100. I gave Rob a shout, who was an excellent 5/9 signal into the park and Rob reciprocated with a 5/9 for me. Rob also kindly handed the frequency over to me.
I then called CQ and this was responded to by a mini pile up. First taker was Peter VK3TKK who was mobile (5/9 both ways), followed by Matt VK1MA, Peter VK3PF, and then Les VK5KLV. All with 5/9 signals. The 40m band appeared to be in good condition. I worked a further 15 stations in VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5, before I was called by another SOTA activator. This time it was Josh VK2JOS who was on SOTA peak RichardsonVK2/ HU-074, which is located north of Newcastle in New South Wales.
Nine QSOs later, Rob VK2QR called me again, from a different SOTA peak. This time Rob was on Far Bald Mountain, VK2/ SM-023. Callers had started to slow down for me, so I thought it was only fair to return the favour for Rob, and hand the frequency over to him. I was in the process of doing so, when John VK5BJE called in and asked me to head to 2m. John had headed out that afternoon to the nearby Scott Creek Conservation Park and we had spoken about a possible 2m park to park contact.
So I went back to the 4WD and I headed to 146.500 on my Yaesu VX-6R handheld. I spoke with John who was a cracking signal from nearby Scott Creek. Unfortunately John had already returned home.
After chatting with John for a few minutes, I headed back to 40m hoping to hear some of the other VK5 Park activators who had headed out for the Friday VK5 Parks event. It didn’t take long before I found Peter VK5PET on 7.105 in the Scott Conservation Park, 5CP-206 and VKFF-0934, on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide. Peter had a good strong 5/8 signal and it was nice to get my first park to park contact in the log.
By this stage, one chicken had become two.
I then headed to 14.310 on 20m and self spotted myself on parksnpeaks. Typical of what often happens for me on 20m, my first taker was Rick VK4RF/VK4HA who was an excellent 5/9 signal from Queensland. Following my QSO with Rick, Luk ON4BB called in, followed by Norbert DK7TZ. I worked a further 16 stations from Europe, but conditions were less than ideal. Countries worked were Belgium, Germany, Spain, Russia, France, Italy, and Slovenia. And amongst the European callers, I was called by Marcus VK3TST/5 who was portable in the Port Gawler Conservation Park. Marcus was very low down, but we successfully exchanged signal reports (3/3 sent and 5/1 received).
Sadly the callers from Europe tapered off very quickly, so I took the opportunity of tuning across the 20m band, and found Jim E51JD calling CQ on 14.250 from the South Cook Islands. Jim was coming through nicely with a 5/7 signal and gave me a 5/1. At the end of my QSO with Jim, Jonathan VK6JON mobile called in. I arranged to QSY down to catch up with Jonathan.
So I headed down to 14.245 and had a good chat with Jonathan, and this was followed by Neil ZL2UN. Coincidentally, Neil’s brother Guy, runs a coffee shop in Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills. Next up was Bob VK6CG who portable at Margaret River in south western Western Australia, running 10 watts from his Elecraft KX3, and an end fed wire antenna modelled around an antenna from the February edition of Radcom magazine.
At the end of my chat with Bob, I headed back to 40m. There was a group of ZL’s on 7.143 so I headed up to 7.148 and started calling CQ. This was answered by Bob VK6CG portable, followed by Jonathan VK6JON mobile, both of whom had followed me down from 20m. Despite being very readable, their signals were down a little from 20m. I worked a further 10 stations, including Roscoe VK3KRH who was extremely strong with his 40m beam.
The SOTA Goat app on my mobile phone started bleated. It was a few European SOTA activators being spotted on 20m. So I lowered the squid pole and removed the links and headed for 20m hoping to get them in the log. Unfortunately I was unable to hear SQ9MOF/p in Poland on 14.288, as their was a very strong VK2 on 14.290 totally wiping him out. And ON7DQ had already QSYd to 40m.
So I took down the 20m/40m linked dipole and put up my 15m dipole and started calling CQ on 21.244. Sadly there were no takers, so I again self spotted on parksnpeaks and then commenced calling CQ again. But still no takers. I tuned across the 15m band and the only station I could hear was Emil 9A9A in Croatia, who was working a Japanese pile up on 21.277.
It was time for a walk through the park. There was a track leading up to a high point in the park, directly in front of where I was operating from, so I decided to head up there for some views across the park.
View looking back down the track to my operating spot
This track actually leads up to the Heathfield rubbish dump, which is on the north eastern side of the park. From the top of the ridgeline there are some great views out to the west and the south west.
View out to the west
After getting back down from the track, I headed back to 40m where I found Kevin VK3CKL and Roscoe VK3KRH on 7.140 talking to Joe W5JI and a handful of other stations from the USA. Joe W5JI was previously K5THB many many years ago, and I have very good memories of listening as an SWL, to Joe some 35 plus years ago when I was a teenager. Joe was a regular on 40m talking with W4MIP and W2GO and other USA stations. So I decided to try my luck and see if Joe was able to hear me. Sadly, Joe was struggling with 5/9 plus 10 static crashes and we couldn’t make it. BUT, Roscoe was kind enough to tape one of my overs and play it back to Joe, who was blown away when I mentioned my SWL experiences all those years ago. Sadly, Joe relayed the story of W2GO, electrocuting himself when he was in his 80’s.
It was not just after 8.00 p.m. local time I prior to heading to the 7.130 DX Net I had a quick look around the band. I found TX7EU from Marquesas Islands, on 7.152 with a strong signal, working a Japanese pile up, split on 7.158. The pile up was just too intense, so I didn’t even bother trying, and I headed to the 7130 DX Net.
It was an extremely busy Net, with a huge number of checkins. So I stuck around for just one round on the Net and worked Greg NR6Q in California, and William FO5JV in French Polynesia. I the QSYd up to 7.135 where I worked 10 stations from VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7. My last contact was with Adam VK7VAZ, and it was at this time that a JA moved in just 1 kc above us and the Over the Horizon Radar also started up.
I had one last tune across the band and heard TX7EU calling CQ on 7.152. This time he was even stronger, and the pile up had seemed to have subsided slightly. So I put the FT857D into split mode and gave him a call, and much to my surprise I got through first time. This was a new DXCC entity for me whilst portable.
The mozzies were biting hard and it was now just after 9.00 p.m. local time, so I packed up the gear and headed home with a total of 86 stations in the log.
The following stations were worked on 40m SB:-
- VK2QR/p (SOTA VK2/ SM-021 and Kosciusko National Park)
- VK2JOS (SOTA VK2/ HU-074)
- VK2QR/p (SOTA VK2/ SM-023)
- VK5PET/p (Scott Conservation Park 5CP-206 and VKFF-0934)
- VK5PET/p (second QSO) (Scott Conservation Park 5CP-206 and VKFF-0934)
- VK3KRH (2nd QSO)
- VK3ZMD (2nd QSO)
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
- VK3TST/5 (Port Gawler Conservation Park)
The following stations were worked on 2m:-
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, ‘Mark Oliphant Conservation Park’