On Monday 25th April 2016, I headed out to the Ferries McDonald Conservation Park, 5CP-067 and VKFF-0881, to activate the park with the special AX prefix to commemorate ANZAC Day. ANZAC Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”
I have activated Ferries McDonald CP many times previously, so this was not to be a unique activation for me. It was just to be a fun activation and to take advantage of the AX prefix which we only get to use 3 times a year: Australia Day, ANZAC Day; and World Telecommunications and Information Society Day.
Ferries McDonald Conservation Park is just 30 km east of my home QTH, and around 70 km east of Adelaide.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Ferries McDonald Conservation Park. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
To get to the park today I chose to take the ‘back’ route, rather than straight down the South Eastern Freeway. I drove out along Wellington Road and into the little town of Woodchester. I then drove north east along the Callington Road until I reached Chaunceys Line Road. I stopped here briefly to have a look at the old Hartley Methodist Church which was used between 1865 to 1895. It is now just a ruin but there is a plaque here to honour its past.
I continued south east on Chaunceys Line Road until I reached Hartley. This isn’t really a town, but more a locality. Hartley which is now a ghost town, was founded way back in 1856 and once boasted the Methodist church, a post office, a school, and a creamery. I stopped to have a look at the history board in Hartley which details much of the history of the area. There is also a large gum tree here where Prince Alfred the Duke of Edinburgh rested during his royal tour in 1867.
Whilst I was here getting some photographs, a local farmer pulled up in his ute to say g’day. It turned out that he was involved in CB and UHF radio and was very interested in the antennas on my Toyota Hi Lux. I explained to him what the antennas were for, and told him where I was heading to. We had quite a lengthy chat about the hobby of amateur radio and I handed him a number of promotional brochures regarding amateur radio and the various parks awards. I also gave out my business card and I am hoping to hear back for a future candidate for the Foundation course.
I continued along Chaunceys Line Road which soon became dirt, and it wasn’t long before the park came into view on my left.
On my way to the park I worked the following stations from the mobile:
- Brett AX3FLCS/p, Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972
- Peter AX3ZPF/p, Mount Worth State Park VKFF-0771
- Tony AX3VTH/p, Kinglake National Park VKFF-0264
After passing the intersection of Chaunceys Line Road & Ferries McDonald Road & Kangaroo Road, I continued on until I reached the carpark in the south eastern corner of the park.
Above:- Map showing my operating spot within the Ferries McDonald Conservation Park. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
I set up on the western side of the carpark and I sought the shade of a native pine tree as it was an unusually warm day for ANZAC Day…..29 degrees C.
Ferries McDonald Conservation Park covers an area of about 860 hectares and contains one of the few pieces of remnant Mallee vegetation close to Adelaide. It is important as it has never been cleared for farming, and is an example of the original vegetation of the area. Within the park there are numerous bird species (over 60 have been recorded), echidnas, marsupial mouse, and Western Grey kangaroos. It is also home to the highly endangered malleefowl. Although I didn’t see one, I did go for a walk prior to setting up and I saw one of their nests which are built on the ground as a mound. The park is named after Mr. Ferries and Mr. McDonald who donated the land for conservation, last century.
The land surrounding the park has been cleared for cropping and grazing. It is a stark contrast to the thick mallee scrub of the park.
For this activation I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts, the 40m/20m linked dipole and my 1m dipole. Both antennas were supported on top of the 7 metre heavy duty squid pole. There was no issue with driving the squid pole holder in the ground, as the soil in the park is very sandy.
I was set up and ready to go by just after 1.30 p.m. and headed straight for 7.144 where I knew that Tony AX3VTH/p was ‘babysitting’ the frequency for me. Tony was a beautiful 5/9 signal from Kinglake National Park VKFF-0264. After working Tony he kindly handed the frequency over to me. Next up was Peter AX3PF, followed by Ian VK1DI/p in the Red Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0861. Ian was a nice 5/9 signal and this was the very first time that the park had been activated, so it was nice to bag a unique park. A number of the regular park hunters followed from VK2, VK3, and VK5.
About fourteen contacts into the activation, I was called by Peter AX3ZPF who was portable in the Mount Worth State Park VKFF-0771. This was my third Park to Park contact for the activation. I continued to work the pile up with excellent signals coming in to Ferries McDonald from VK2, VK3, VK4, & VK5. It was very pleasing to see a number of the Australian amateurs using the AX prefix. My fourth Park to Park contact was with Chris AX4FR/5 who was portable in the Swan Reach Conservation Park 5CP-221 and VKFF-0832.
I worked a total of 59 stations on 7.144 before things slowed down. I was very pleased to be able to work Joe and Julie VK3SRC (School Amateur Radio Club Network) who were portable at Victory Park at Bentleigh. I took the opportunity of tuning across the band and found Peter AX5FKLR portable at Wild Dog Hill in the Whyalla Conservation Park, 5CP-253 and VKFF-0808. This was my fourth Park to Park contact for the activation.
I then headed to 20m and found Bob VK5FO on 14.310, activating Mount Gawler VK5/ SE-013 for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. But Bob’s signal was that low that I decided not to call as I suspected we would not have been able to make it.
I headed up a little higher and commenced calling CQ on 14.315 and this was answered by Luciano I5FLN in Italy, followed by Axel DL1EBR in Germany. I worked 13 stations in Australia (VK4), Italy, Germany, Slovak Republic, Russia, and Belgium. This included the WWFF Publicity Manager Danny ON4VT. However, the little run of DX did not last, so I headed off for a look across the band. I had seen a spot for Chris VK4FR/5 in the Swan Reach CP on 14.320, but Chris was unreadable. I then found Lyn VK4SWE on Sweers Island chatting to Roland VK4VDX. Knowing that Lyn is friends with Chris VK4FR, I called in to let Lyn know that Chris was in a park on 14.320.
I then headed back up to 14.320 but I could still not hear Chris very well. Certainly not strong enough to work. But I was pleased to be able to hear Bob VK5FO on 14.310. We successfully worked (5/1 sent and 5/3 received).
I then lowered the squid pole and put up the 15m 1/2 wave dipole and started calling CQ on 21.244. Things were pretty slow on 15m with just 5 contacts made. That was into Northern Territory VK8, with VK8FLLA. Also two contacts into Japan. But the surprise was to work two stations in Poland. But despite numerous lengthy periods of calling CQ I had no further callers.
So it was down with the squid pole and back up with the 20m/40m linked dipole. I decided to try 20m again and went back to 14.315 where I called CQ. First taker was Mikhail LY2BIS in Lithuania, followed by Oscar EA1DR in Spain, Pehr OH6IU in Finland, and then Lars SA5BLM in Sweden. I worked a further 22 stations from Belgium, Spain, Australia (VK6), Italy, Germany, Russia, Canary Islands, Hungary, Finland, Ukraine, and England.
It was starting to get dark and the mosquitoes were starting to come out in force, but I headed back to 40m for some final calls before going QRT. It was very very hard to find a clear frequency, with everything below 7.100 taken up by South East Asia, and a lot of VK’s and North American stations above 7.100. I worked 8 stations from VK2, VK3, and VK6, before some VK3’s came up just 3 kc above on 7.140. And they were smashing anyone calling me. I worked a further 6 stations in between the very strong QRM, before I went QRT.
Thanks to everyone who called me on this very special day. For any VK’s who would like a special AX5PAS QSL card, please send me your QSL card Direct with a Stamped Self Addressed Envelope (SSAE) to PO Box 169, Mount Barker, S.A. 5251. All overseas stations please QSL via my QSL Manager, M0OXO.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- AX3VTH/p (Kinglake National Park VKFF-0264)
- VK1DI/p (Red Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0861)
- AX3ZPF/p (Mount Worth State Park VKFF-0771)
- AX4FR/5 (Swan Reach Conservation Park 5CP-221 and VKFF-)
I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-
- AX5FO/p (SOTA VK5/ SE-013)
I worked the following stations on 15m SSB:-