Mount Buninyong VK3/ VC-018

On Saturday 4th February 2017 we had just one planned activation.  That being Mount Buninyong VK3/ VC-018 which we planned to activate late in the afternoon.  So on Saturday we spent the vast majority of the day doing ‘touristy’ stuff around Ballarat.  That included a walk in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, a guided historical walk of Ballarat, lunch at the famous Craigs Royal Hotel in Ballarat, a ride on the Ballarat tram, a visit to the X Prisoners of War Memorial, and a visit to Ballarat Bird World.  It was a very enjoyable day.

Late in the afternoon after leaving Bird World we headed into the little town of Buninyong, which is about 11 km south of Ballarat.  It is the site of the first inland town proclaimed in Victoria and was where gold was first discovered in the area, leading to the large Gold Rush of the 1850s.  It was a warm and humid afternoon so we headed to a local cafe for an icecream and a milkshake.

We then headed up to Mount Buninyong which is 719 metres above sea level and is worth 4 SOTA points.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Buninyong, north west of Melbourne.  Map courtesy of openstreetmap.org

The summit is a very short drive out of Buninyong on the Mount Buninyong Road.  The name Buninyong originates from an aboriginal word also recorded as ‘Buninyouang’, said to mean ‘man lying on his back with his knees raised’, which is in reference to the shape of the summit.  European settlers named it Bunnenyong and the name later simplified to its current form.

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Above:- Map showing the close proximity of Mount Buninyong to the town of Buninyong itself.  Map courtesy of openstreetmap.org

The summit was originally named Mount Bonan Yowing.  It was from the summit that Thomas Livingstone Learmonth (1818-1903) and a group of squatters first viewed in 1837 what would become the Ballarat district.

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Mount Buninyong is the site for multiple communications antenna for radio and television broadcasting.   It also has picnic areas and an observation tower.   Much of the mountain was cleared for agriculture or housing, but widespread protests during the 1980s led to the preservation of native forest cover on much of the upper portion.

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Above:- Mount Buninyong with Ballarat in the background.  Image courtesy of google.

The summit is an extinct volcano and is located within the Buninyong Scenic Reserve with an overstorey of Manna Gum and Messmate eucalypts, a tussock ground cover and understorey.  The native forested area is a major koala habitat.

The road up to the summit is bitumen and one way.  Take it slowly as there are numerous blind corners and no guarantee that someone will not be coming down or going up the summit, the wrong way.

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We set up in the picnic area near the lookout tower.  For the activation we ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 10 watts output and the 80/40/20m linked dipole supported on a 7m heavy duty telescopic squid pole.

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There were a few cars at the top of the summit, but we had the picnic area all to ourselves.  It was noticeably cooler on the summit which was very welcome as it was a humid day.  The cicadas in the trees were very loud at time.

Prior to calling CQ, we tuned across the 40m band and found Neil VK4HNS on 7.135 in the Springwood Conservation Park VKFF-1653.  Both Marija and I logged Neil, and it was a nice way to start off the activation with a WWFF park in the log.

As the Kandos Net was operating on 7.093 I decided to head up the band and started calling CQ on 7.105.  This was answered by Peter VK3YE who was pedestrian mobile at Chelsea Beach in Melbourne as part of QRP by the Bay.  Peter was wading in the water, using a Yaesu FT-817, 5 watts and a 5 metre long vertical (5/7 sent and 5/6 received).  Marija and I swapped the mic and Marija also logged Peter.  Below are some photographs (supplied by Peter VK3YE) of Peter at Chelsea Beach.

We did the same for the next 2 callers, swapping the mic to work Ron VK5MRE in the Riverland region of South Australia, and then Nev VK5WG in the Mid North.  We had both qualified the summit for SOTA.

I went on to work a total of 18 stations on 40m from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, VK7 and New Zealand.  Kiwi stations logged were John ZL1BYZ and Soren ZL1SKL in Auckland.  It was at this time that I had a special visitor drop in.  It was Allen VK3ARH.  We had a chat for about 20 minutes before I lowered the squid pole and inserted the links in the dipole for 80m.

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On 80m I logged a total of 7 stations from VK3 and VK5.  It was interesting to note that the VK3’s advised they were unable to hear us on 40m.  This was despite Marija and I working Peter VK3YE on 40m.  Perhaps the band opened up just for a very short period of time and then closed again?  Netherless, the Victorian stations were very strong on the 80m band.

Allen was babysitting and headed off, and Marija and Olivia headed off to climb the observation tower.  I decided to put out a few calls on 20m.  My first contact there was a Summit to Summit contact with Warren ZL2AJ who was on ZL1/ NL-062 near Whangarei on the North Island of New Zealand (5/3 sent and 5/5 received).

Here is a link to Warren’s blog…….

https://emmaandwarenzlsotazl2aj.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/mount-tiger/

After working Warren I moved down to 14.305 where I worked a further 11 stations from VK3, VK6, Japan and Italy.  This included Phil VK6ADF and Hans VK6ZN who were portable in the Len Howard Conservation Reserve VKFF-1429.  I was very pleased to log the 2 DX stations: Tadashi JA1VRY in Japan, and Renzo IK2ZJN in Italy.

So after 90 minutes on the summit, both Marija and I had qualified a unique summit for both of us.  I had a total of 37 stations in the log on 20, 40 and 80m.

I worked the following stations:-

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At the end of the activation we headed back into Buninyong and went to the local hotel where we enjoyed a nice meal.  I also had a few ‘Mountain Goat’ ales.  Very appropriate for SOTA.

References.

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buninyong&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Buninyong&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017

Creswick Regional Park VKFF-0964

On Friday 3rd February 2017, Marija, Olivia and I spent the entire day at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, and then the Gold Museum.  We had a fantastic time and had not been here for around 10 years, when Olivia was just 7.  Set in the Australian 1850s, Sovereign Hill is located on a 25 hectare site which comprises over 60 historically recreated buildings, with costumed staff and volunteers.  We highly recommend a visit here.  You can easily spend a full day or two at Sovereign Hill.

We had a bit of time to spare before attending the Light and Sound show ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’ at Sovereign Hill at 9.00 p.m. local time, so Marija and I headed out to the Creswick Regional Park VKFF-0964 for a quick park activation.  This activation was totally spur of the moment and not originally planned.

Creswick Regional Park is situated about 14 km north of Ballarat near the little town of Creswick, and covers an area of about 930 hectares.

 

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Above:- Map showing the location of the Creswick Regional Park, north of Ballarat.  Map courtesy of Forest Explorer.

The Common Heath, which is Victoria’s floral emblem is one of the plants frequently found growing in the park under eucalypts. The park is home to numerous bird species including Grey Currawongs, Crimson Rosellas, White-throated Tree-creepers, Grey Fantails, thornbills, robins and honeyeaters.  Two migratory species found in the gullies are the Rufous Fantail and Satin Flycatcher.  Numerous native mammals call the park home including  Koalas and Black wallabies.

During the 1850’s and 1860’s, much of thie forest in this are was heavily logged to supply timber to the gold mines in Ballarat and Creswick.  Sadly, by the end of the 1890s, the forests had mostly been cleared to support the mining industry.  Numerous gold mining sites can be found in the forest.

We soon reached the little town of Creswick, which was established during the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850’s.  The town was named after the Creswick family who were the pioneers settlers of the region.  Three brothers, Henry, Charles and John Creswick, started a large sheep station nearby in 1842.   The population of Creswick reached a peak of 25,000 during the gold rush.  Today the population is around 3,500 people.

Creswick was the site of the New Australasian Gold Mine disaster on 12 December 1882, Australia’s worst mining disaster in which 22 men drowned.  More information can be found at….

http://www.creswick.net/buildings_and_places/australasia_mine

Above: Article from The Telegraph Sat 16 Dec 1882 re the disaster, and the scene at the head of the shaft with the braceman announcind the death of the miners.  Images courtesy of Trove.

On our way to the park Marija telephoned John VK5BJE who was kind enough to place some alerts for us.  We headed through Creswick and then east into the park and found a nice little clearing in amongst the scrub to set up.  We ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts and the 80/40/20m linked dipole on the 7 m squid pole for this activation.

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Above:- Map showing our operating spot in the Creswick Regional Park.  Map courtesy of Forest Explorer.

As we were a little short on for time, Marija decided not to operate from the park, in the hope that I might be able to reach the 44 QSO threshold for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.  The park was alive with cicadas, the loudest insect in the world.   It is believed that the sound produced by some communal species of cicada can act as a defence against predatory birds and some are even loud enough (120 decibels) to be painful to the human ear.  Cicadas also often sing in chorus, which makes it more difficult for a predator to locate an individual.

I headed to 7.144 but found this to be occupied by Bill W1ZY in Rhode Island USA, who was calling CQ.  I gave Bill a call but unfortunately he was unable to hear me.  So I moved up to 7.150 and called CQ and this was answered by John VK5BJE with a strong 5/9 signal from the Adelaide Hills.  This was followed by Ian VK5ZGG, Charlie VK5KDK and then Herb VK5HK.  The band was quite busy and I started to get a little bleed over from a European station just 2 kc below me.  But fortunately all callers were very strong so I had no problems in receiving the callers.

I worked a total of 24 stations on 40m from VK1, VK2, VK4, VK5, VK7, and New Zealand.  In fact I logged three New Zealand stations: Owen ZL2GLG/ZL4 in Central Otago in his motorhome, Paul ZL2BEF in Masterton near the bottom of the North Island, and Bill ZL2ACA in Mapua near Nelson on the top of the South Island.

The close in propagation around Victoria was not working on 40m, so I lowered the squid pole and inserted the links in the linked dipole and headed to 3.610 on 80m.  There I logged 6 stations from VK3 and VK7.  But despite band conditions on 80m being quite good, I did not have any further callers, despite numerous CQ calls.

I had worked out that I was running out of time and would not accrue m 44 QSOs, so I headed to 14.310 on 20m where I worked Hans VK6XN and finally Yoshi JA3KKE.

It was time to pack up and head back to the motel for a freshen up and then back to Sovereign Hill.  I had a total of 32 contacts in the log in just under 60 minutes.  This is a park which I will need to return to, to pick up my 12 contacts to qualify the park for WWFF.

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5BJE
  2. VK5ZGG
  3. VK5KDK
  4. VK5HK
  5. VK7FRJG
  6. VK5FMWW
  7. VK5FVSV
  8. VK5KLV
  9. VK5FANA
  10. VK2LEE
  11. VK7ZGK
  12. VK1DI
  13. ZL2GLG/ZL4
  14. VK2QV
  15. VK4NH
  16. VK4HNS
  17. VK4DH
  18. VK2UH
  19. ZL2BEF
  20. VK4RF
  21. VK4HA
  22. VK2NWB
  23. VK7VZ
  24. ZL2ACA

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. VK3KAI
  3. VK7VZ
  4. VK3ARH
  5. VK3GGG
  6. VK3PMG

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK6XN
  2. JA3KKE

 

References.

Parks Victoria, ‘Creswick Regional Park Visitor Guide’

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creswick_Regional_Park&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creswick,_Victoria&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017

Mount Warrenheip VK3/ VC-019

On Thursday morning (2nd February 2017), my wife Marija VK5MAZ, our 17 yr old daughter Olivia, and I headed off for a three night holiday in Ballarat, Victoria.  Our main reason for travelling to Ballarat was to go to Sovereign Hill, an open-air museum which depicts Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851.  The site comprises over 60 historically recreated buildings, with costumed staff and volunteers.

But we had also planned on two SOTA activations.  The first was to be Mount Warrenheip VK3/ VC-019 late on Thursday afternoon.

As it was nearly a 600 km drive to Ballarat, we stopped off at Keith in South Australia for a coffee and some morning tea, and then travelled over the South Australian/Victorian border, and stopped off at Ararat.  We paid a visit to J Ward, a gaol which was constructed in 1859 and which was later uses as a maximum security psychiatric ward for the criminally insane.  We had been here before, but around 10 years earlier.  We undertook the guided tour of this absolutely fascinating place.  J Ward is well worth a visit if you are passing through Ararat.

We continued on to Ballarat and booked in to our motel which was directly opposite Sovereign Hill.  Olivia decided she was not at all interested in amateur radio, and was a bit weary after the drive, so she remained in the motel room, whilst Marija and I headed to Mount Warrenheip.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Warrenheip, near Ballarat in Victoria.  Map courtesy of openstreetmap.org

Mount Warrenheip is just 10 km east from the Ballarat Central Business District, and with the assistance of the GPS, was an easy drive from the motel.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Warrenheip, just to the east of Ballarat.  Map courtesy of openstreetmap.org

Mount Warrenheip is 714 metres above sea level and is worth 4 points for the Summits on the Air program.  The summit is an inactive volcano, with volcanic activity ceasing around 1 million years ago.  Along with the nearby Mount Buninyong (which we planned to activate on Saturday afternoon), it is one of only two forested scoria cones in Victoria.

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Above:- View of Mount Warrenheip with Ballarat in the background.  Image courtesy of google maps.

 

The name Warrenheip originates from the Wathaurong aboriginal word Warrengeep, meaning “emu’s feathers” in reference to the resemblance of the fern like vegetation which once covered the summit.

In spring, forget-me-not flowers appear on the slopes of the summit.   Kangaroos, wallabies and koalas can be found in the area.

 

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Above:- Aerial view of Mount Warrenheip.  Image courtesy of google maps.

There are almost 400 extinct volcanoes in Victoria.  The Newer Volcanic Province, covers an area of 2.3 million hectares, from Melbourne to the Mount Burr Range in South Australia.  They are the third largest volcanic plains in world, after the Deccan Plateau in India and the Snake River Plateau in the USA.  The basalt plains were formed by volcanoes over the last 6 million years, with the most recent eruption being about 5,000 years ago at Mount Gambier and Mount Shank in South Australia.  In Victoria, the most recent eruption was about 7,200 years ago at Mount Napier.

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Above:- Map showing the Newer Volcanic Province of south eastern Australia.  Image courtesy of australiangeographic.com.au

It is believed that the local aborigines would have seen some of the eruptions as this is reflected in stories about rocks and fires coming from some mountains.  Stone tools have been found buried in volcanic ash near Warnambool in south western Victoria.  The first European to describe the area was Major Thomas Mitchell who climbed nearby Mount Napier in 1836.  Mitchell wrote that it appeared as if the volcano had been active not that long ago.  The early settlers in this area found the plains very favourable, as they could easily grow crops in the rich, fertile soil, whilst they used the volcanic stones to build dry stone walls around their farms.

This region has been quiet for thousands of years, with no earthquakes, no hot springs or other signs of volcanic activity.  It is not known why volcanic activity here ceased.  Some scientists believe that the volcanos on the plains are not extinct, but rather, dormant, and that one day there will be another eruption.

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Above:- What Mount Warrenheip would have looked like.  Image courtesy of thecourier.com.au

As we travelled out of Ballarat, the summit soon came into view.  Marija telephoned our good friend John VK5BJE to advise that we were about 10-15 minutes away from being on air.

We travelled north on Forbes Road and soon reached Mount Warrenheip Road and commenced our ascent up towards the summit.  We passed Kryal Castle on the way to the top.  Kryal Castle is a replica medieval castle which features a moat and drawbridge, a maze, castle towers, stocks, a medical museum and an armoury.

The summit is located within the Mount Warrenheip Nature Conservation Reserve (what the sign says), but some maps refer to it as a Flora Reserve.

I found this nice video of a flyby of Mount Warrenheip.

As it was a beautiful clear and sunny day we enjoyed some very nice views of the surrounding countryside as we headed up towards the top of Mount Warrenheip.  The road to the top is bitumen, but is narrow, so take care when driving to the top as there are continual blind corners.

There is a trig point on the top of Mount Warrenheip, along with four telecommunications towers for Radio 3BA, Voice FM 99.9, ABC News Radio, Telstra mobile and WiMax services, an amateur radio repeater, and police dispatch radio.

Unfortunately once you are at the top there is not much of a view due to the thick vegetation on the summit.  There is the occasional view out through the trees.

We only had a short time on the summit as we had to get back to the motel to pick up Olivia and head out for dinner.  We were all set up and ready to go by our advertised alert time of 0700 UTC.  For this activation Marija and I ran the Yaesu FT-857, 10 watts PEP output, and the 80/40/20m linked dipole on the 7m squid pole.

We headed for 7.090 on 40m and I called CQ and this was answered by John VK5BJE with a strong 5/8-9 signal from the Adelaide Hills.  This was followed by Rick VK4RF/VK4HA, and then Nev VK5WG in the Mid North of South Australia.  I had my four QSOs and I had qualified the summit for SOTA.

I then swapped “driver’s seats” with Marija and it wasn’t long before Marija had also qualified the summit, with QSOs logged with Nev VK5WG, John VK5BJE, and Rick VK4RF/VK4HA.

I worked a total of 18 stations on 40m before we headed over to 80m.  Band conditions on 40m appeared to be quite good, but it was clear that close in propagation was not running, as there were no Victorian stations in the log on 40m.  States worked were VK2, VK4, VK5, and VK7.  I also logged John ZL1BYZ in New Zealand (5/7 sent and 4/2 received).

A number of QRP stations were worked including Glenn VK2GPT/VK2LDN, Bill VK5MBD, and William VK2NWB.  All had nice signals to Mount Warrenheip.

On 80m I logged a total of 7 stations from VK3 and VK5.  The Victorian stations were coming in very well on 80m.  To finish off the activation I tried my luck on 20m, but only logged one station, Sam JA1QVR, before the Over the Horizon Radar took over the band.

It was approaching 7.00 p.m. local time and it was time to pack up.  We had both qualified the summit, with 26 contacts in my log on 20, 40 & 80m, and 6 contacts in Marija’s log on 40 & 80m.

I worked the following stations:-

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References.

Australian Geographic, 2017, <http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2016/05/australias-volcanic-history-is-a-lot-more-recent-than-you-think&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_Hill&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Warrenheip&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kryal_Castle&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Victorian_Volcanic_Plains&gt;, viewed 6th February 2017