My first planned activation for the 2016 activation weekend for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award was Saturday morning, 12th November, 2016, at the Gunbower National Park VKFF-0740. The park is located on the banks of the Murray River and is around 250 km north of Melbourne.
After leaving Kerang I headed out along the Murray Valley Highway to the little town of Gunbower. Along the way I spoke with Gerard VK2IO who was portable in Macquarie Pass National Park VKFF-0298. It was here in Gunbower, that I met up with Bob VK3SX, a Gunbower resident, who I had spoken to the day prior and who had promised me access to the park, as many sections of Gunbower and various other parks along the Murray were closed due to recent flooding. We drove out from Gunbower to Masters Landing where we accessed the park via a wet and boggy 4WD track. Access was definitely only via 4WD.
As we approached the park I spoke with Jonathan VK7JON and Rod VK7FRJG on 40m. Both had great signals into my mobile.
Our operating spot was a great location, right alongside of the Murray River. There was even a wooden table and bench in place as a ready made shack. It was quite a mild morning with a rather strong breeze.
Above:- Map showing our operating spot in the southern section of the park at Masters Landing. Map courtesy of Parks Victoria.
Gunbower National Park is 8,892 hectares in size and was established in June 2010. Gunbower Forest, including the Gunbower National Park and Gunbower State Forest, is an internationally significant floodplain system and is the second largest River Red Gum forest in Victoria. Gunbower has around 200 plant species. The two main forest types are River Red Gum in the wetter north-west and Black Box and Grey Box in the higher south-east sections.
We were set up in very close proximity to Masters Hut. In 1860 Frederick Masters left Echuca in a rowing boat for Swan Hill. He made camp at the site now known as Masters Landing, where he subsequently built a permanent shelter from the bark of Grey-box trees. The house is still standing more than 150 years later.
During the period of the Echuca river trade between the late 1850’s and the late 1880’s, a riverboat landing stage was located at Master’s house. Goods were off loaded at Masters Landing and taken to Gunbower by horse drawn dray or wagon. Produce was brought to the site for the return trip to Echuca of loaded on to boards headed up the Darling River.
Frederick Masters was a commercial fisherman and worked along the length of Gunbower Island. He is also said to have built his own boatds and took his catch to market in Echuca and surrounding towns by horse and cart. He was married to Emma and they had 12 children. Ancestors of Frederick lived in the house until 2010, when the Victorian Government evicted them due to a sweeping ban on private homes on crown land.
Over 190 species of native fauna have been recorded at Gunbower. A total of 30 of those are threatened species and include the Inland Carpet Python, Silver Perch, Giant Bullfrog, Broad-shelled Turtle and Squirrel Gliders. Kangaroos, emus and koalas can be found in the park. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded in the park, which is one of the largest breeding grounds for waterbirds in Victoria. This includes some of the 100 breeding pairs of White-Bellied Sea Eagles remaining in Victoria. Other birds found in the park include the Great Egret, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, White necked Heron, Spoonbills, Darters, Australian White Ibis, and Australian Grebe.
It was a beautiful mild morning with just a few people camping around 200 metres away from where Bob and I set up. We were all set up and ready to go by around 2240 UTC (around 9.40 a.m. local time). I headed to 7.144 on 40m and started calling CQ and this was answered by Neil VK4HNS who was portable in the Ravensbourne National Park VKFF-0427. A nice way to start the activation with a Park to Park contact. Next up was Karl VK2GKA, followed by John VK5BJE, and then Mike VK6MB who was portable in the Walpole-Normalup Inlets Costal Park VKFF-1456.
I went on to qualify the park for the global WWFF program, with 47 contacts in the log. This included the following further seven Park to Park contacts:
- Gerard VK2IO/p, Macquarie Pass National Park VKFF-0298
- Tim VK3MTB/p, The Lakes National Park VKFF-0484
- David VK3TUN/p, Lower Glenelg National Park VKFF-0296
- Hiro VK3EHG/p, Dandenong Ranges National Park VKFF-0132
- Joe VK3SRC/p, Point Nepean National Park VKFF-0268
- Mick VK3PMG/p & VK3GGG/p, Kara Kara National Park VKFF-0629
- Bernard VK3AV/p, Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055
Bob then jumped on the radio for a short time making a total of 7 contacts into VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK7. Bob then left but not before we arranged for me to head to Bob’s place at the end of the activation.
It had now clicked over to be a new UTC day and I resumed calling CQ on 7.144. This was answered by Lesley VK5LOL/3 who was portable in the Murray Sunset National Park VKFF-0373. I worked a further 9 stations from VK2, VK3, and VK5 before things started to slow down a little with callers. So I took the opportunity of looking across the 40m band. I found Gerald VK2HBG using the special call of VI2HQ40 on 7.088 and gave Gerald a shout.
I then lowered the squid pole and removed the links in the dipole and headed up to 14.310 on 20m. Sadly the Over the Horizon Radar was very strong and made it particularly difficult. Only two stations were logged on 20m. They being John VK6NU and Hans VK6XN.
I then headed back to 40m and called CQ on 7.150 and this was answered by Ivan VK5HS in the Riverland region of South Australia. Next was Greg VK2QE mobile, followed by two more Park to Park contacts: Gerard VK2IO in the Macquarie Pass National Park VKFF-0298 and Tim VK3MTB in The Lakes National Park VKFF-0484. Despite a number of CQ calls I only logged one further station and that was Karl VK2GKA.
So I had one last tune around the 40m band before going QRT and logged three further Park to Park contacts. The first being with Tony VK3XV who was portable in the Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620. Next up was Rob VK2QR who as activating the Wollemi National Park VKFF-0544. And my final contact from Gunbower was with Peter VK3PF who was portable in the Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
- VK4HNS/p (Ravensbourne National Park VKFF-0427)
- VK6MB/p (Walpole-Normalup Inlets Costal Park VKFF-0514)
- VK2IO/p (Macquarie Pass National Park VKFF-0298)
- VK3TUN/p (Lower Glenelg National Park VKFF-0296)
- VK3EHG/p (Dandenong Ranges National Park VKFF-0132)
- VK3SRC/p (Point Nepean National Park VKFF-0268
- VK3PMG/p (Kara Kara National Park VKFF-0629)
- VK3GGG/p (Kara Kara National Park VKFF-0629)
- VK3AV/p (Birsbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055)
- VK5LOL/3 (Murray Sunset National Park VKFF-0373)
- VK2IO/p (Macquarie Pass National Park VKFF-0298)
- VK3MTB/p (The Lakes National Park VKFF-0484)
- VK3XV/p (Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620)
- VK2QR/p (Wollemi National Park VKFF-0544)
- VK3PF/p (Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020)
I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-
So after 3 hours in the park I had a total of 68 contacts in the log including 15 Park to Park contacts. This was another unique park for me for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program and a unique park as an activator for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award.
At the end of the activation I headed around to Bob VK3SX’s place, or ‘The Ranch’ as he calls it. A very nice DXing spot. After a coffee and a chat, it was time to hit the road and head to the Terrick Terrick National Park.
Parks Victoria, 2014, ‘Gunbower National Park Visitor Guide’.
Herald Sun, 2016, <http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/kicked-out-after-147-years/story-e6frf7jo-1225713919447>, viewed 19th November 2016
Australian e-Heritage Portal, 2016, <http://eheritage.metadata.net/record/VIC-112676>, viewed 19th November 2016