This morning (Sunday 26th June 2016) I headed out to the Ettrick Conservation Park 5CP-267 and VKFF-1029 to take part in the inaugural Freeze Your Butt Off (FYBO) Contest. I had been out to Ettrick once before, back in January 2016 and had qualified the park for the VK5 Parks Award and the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. So this activation was just for some fun for FYBO.
For more info on my previous activation at Ettrick please see…..
It was a very chilly start to the morning and I must admit I rolled over in bed thinking that I wasn’t going to be bothered. I’d been out to tea the night before with John VK5BJE and Ray VK4NH, and our wives, and had consumed a little too much red wine. But I made the effort and jumped out of bed and was on the road a little after 8.30 a.m. South Australian local time. It was only 6 degrees C at that time.
Ettrick Conservation Park is around a one hour drive from home, which takes me along the South Eastern Freeway to Murray Bridge and across the mighty Murray River at the Swanport Bridge. I then travelled north towards Mannum along the Burdett Road.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Ettrick Conservaiton Park in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
I travelled through the little area of Burdett with the Murray River clearly visible at times to my left. About 3 km south of Mannum I reached Glenburr Road and turned right here. There is no park sign and the Glenburr Road sign is very small, so keep your eyes peeled!
It was slow going along Glenburr Road as it was alive with kangaroos. There was even a fox or two.
I soon reached the north western corner of the park which is located at the junction of Glenburr Road and Boundary Road. There is no sign for the park, so just remember that this is where the park starts and it continues on the southern side of Glenburr Road, all the way up to close to the intersection with Jackson Road. I strongly recommend that you check maps prior to leaving home as this park is not signposted and there is a lot of scrub in the area which could easily be mistaken for the park.
I entered the park via a 4WD track which is opposite Native Vegetation Road. There is an open gateway at this location. I drove a few km into the park and found a clearing in the scrub and set up.
Above:- Aerial shot showing my operating spot in the Ettrick Conservation Park. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Ettrick CP is situated about 112 km east of Adelaide and about 32 km north east of Murray Bridge. It is a newly formed park, and was proclaimed on 31st October 2013. The park is about 484 hectares in size and predominantly comprises open mallee and several species of eucalypt. It also contains some of the few remaining examples of tussock grassland in the Murray Darling Basin. A number of vulnerable South Australian birds call the park home, including the malleefowl, Shy Heathwren, Hooded robin, White winged cough, Jacky Winter, Restless flycatcher, Painted Button quail, and the Regent parrot.
The park is surrounded by a lot of cleared farming land which has been taken up for sheep grazing and cropping.
I was set up in the park by around 10.00 a.m. local time and it was just 8 degrees C. For this activation I set up the deck chair and fold up table, and ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts, and the 40m/20m linked dipole supported on the 7m heavy duty squid pole.
I headed for 7.144 and was about to ask if the frequency was in use when I heard Peter VK3ZPF call Les VK5KLV who was portable in the Mount Brown Conservation Park. Peter was nice and strong, but I could not hear a peep from Les. So I headed down the band to 7.095 and I started calling CQ Contest a little after 10.30 a.m. local time (0100 UTC). First in the log was Geoff VK3SQ, followed by Chris VK3PAT, Ian VK5IS, and then Amanda VK3FQSO. Ian VK5IS in Beetaloo Valley was very low down, so this was not a good sign of things to come with regards to working the VK5’s.
I remained on 7.095 working a steady flow of callers from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7 until about 0319 UTC when things started to really slow down. I worked a number of SOTA activators including Bernard VK2IB/3 on VK3/ VE-241, Andrew VK1MBE on VK1/ AC-040, Andrew VK3JBL/p on VK3/ VC-003, Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/ CT-003, Tony VK3XV/p on Mount Zero VK3/ VW-020, Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/ CT-007, and Malcolm VK3MEL/p on VK3/ VC-018. And also a number of park activators including Stef VK5HSX/4 in Camooweal Caves National Park VKFF-0073, Michael VK3FCMC/p in French Island National Park VKFF-0622, Tony VK3XV/p in the Grampians National Park VKFF-0213, Rob VK4AAC/3 in Churchill National Park VKFF-0261, Julie VK3FOWL/p in Churchill National Park VKFF-0261, Les VK5KLVp in Mount Brown Conservation Park VKFF-0914, Peter VK5KPR/p in Mount Brown Conservation Park VKFF-0914, and Joe VK3YSP/p in Churchill National Park VKFF-0261.
I also spoke with Peter VK3YE/p running just 4 watts from his home brew SSB transceiver (5/7 sent and 5/8 received), and Nick VK3ANL who was portable on Phillip Island OC-136.
Band conditions on 40m were down significantly compared to previous weeks with lots of very noticeable deep QSB. I have found that in the past couple of months that the 40m band tends to open up locally around 10.30 a.m. but that did not happen on this day with very few VK5’s featuring in my log.
When callers dried up I had a look around the band and found Bernard VK2IB/3 on 7.090 on SOTA summit VK3/VE-241. As it had been one hour since I last worked Bernard, contest rules allowed me to call him again. After working Bernard I headed back to 7.095 and called CQ contest again. This was answered by Tom VK3NXT, followed by Amanda VK3FQSO, Mark VK3FOTO mobile, and then Mike VK3FIRM. The band conditions on 40m were average, with lots of very deep QSB, and very litle close in propagation. However it had opened up to Mount Gambier and I logged a few stations from that part of South Australia. I was also hearing the Europeans coming through on 40m with very good signals.
Portable stations worked were Les VK5KLV in the Mount Brown Conservation Park, Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/ CT-003, and Mike VK6MB in the Sir James Mitchell National Park VKFF-0452 (5/5 both ways).
By about 0330 UTC the weather was moving in very fast from the west. It was extremely black out there and I had real concerns that I would not reach the 0600 UTC finish time for the contest. Rain had been predicted. After working a total of 116 stations on 40m I lowered the squid pole and removed the links in the 40m/20m linked dipole and headed to 14.310 on 20m. I could not get onto that frequency as there was already a North American station there calling CQ Field Day. In fact it was pretty difficult to find a clear spot as other than the Field Day there also appeared to be another Contest which the European stations were taking part in. But I eventually did find a clear spot, and sadly only managed 2 contacts on 20m. They being with Albert S58AL in Slovenia (who is a very dedicated park hunter), and John VK6NU who was on SOTA summit VK6/ SW-039. So it was back to 40m for me.
And it wasn’t long before the rain hit. It was a quick dash back to the 4WD and the bothy bag was deployed. The rain was so heavy that drops of water were seeping through the bothy bag.
Band conditions also changed and I soon started to experience very strong QRM from a Spanish station on 7.095 so I QSYd up the band, only to experience the same. Fortunately this was at the end of the contest and just before 0600 UTC I called it quits with a total of 151 contacts in the log. My last contact was at 0554 UTC with Peter VK3ZPF.
At the end of the activation I went for a drive a little further into the park along the 4WD track. I had seen on the maps that there was a ruin, so I wanted to do a little bit of 4WDing and exploring.
This was a really fun day despite the chilly and wet conditions, and the rather poor band conditions. There were long periods of calling CQ Contest with no takers. I ended up with a total of 151 contacts. 151 X 300 minutes = 451. 451 X 50 dupe QSOs= 22,550 points.
I will definitely be taking part in the Freeze Your Butt Off Contest again next year. Well done to Ian VK5CZ for organising the event.