After packing up at Mumbunnar Conservation Park, Marija and I headed to our second park activation for the day, the Piccanninie Ponds Conservation Park 5CP-178 & VKFF-0927. The park is located about 30 km south east of Mount Gambier.
The Piccanninie Ponds Conservation Park is 862 hectares (2,130 acres) in size and was established on the 16th October 1969. It is located in the locality of Wye and overlooks Discovery Bay, which was named by explorer Thomas Mitchell in August 1836.
The park is located in close proximity to the State border with Victoria and is part of the Discovery Bay to Piccaninnie Ponds Important Bird Area, identified by BirdLife International as being of global significance for several bird species. It is a listed Ramsar site. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
Piccanninie Ponds is a very popular site for snorkelling and cave diving. In 1964–1965, prior to its proclamation as a conservation park, underwater explorer Valerie Taylor described the ponds as “one of the most beautiful sights in Australia”.
The park contains three main features of interest to cave divers. The ‘First Pond’ is an open depression about 10 metres (33 ft) deep with a silt floor and vegetated fringe supporting much aquatic life. The ‘Chasm’ is a sinkhole with a depth of over 100 metres (330 ft), and the ‘Cathedral’ is an enclosed area with limestone formations and a depth of about 35 metres (115 ft). Underwater visibility is excellent and may exceed 40 metres (130 ft). Snorkelling and cave diving at Piccaninnie Ponds is by permit only. Several divers have died whilst exploring the caves.
After leaving Mumbannar we travelled back into South Australia via the Princes Highway and then travelled south along Dry Creek Road following the State border. We soon reached the town of Donovans, where there are some nice views (through the trees) of the Glenelg River.
We then crossed the State border and continued along the Glenelg River Road and then on to the Piccanninie Ponds Road.
It wasn’t long before we reached the park, which is clearly signposted, and has a number of information boards.
Before setting up, Marija and I stopped off to have a look at the ponds themselves. They were absolutely crystal clear and were very inviting. There was a young couple in the carpark putting on their wetsuits, getting ready for a dive.
We drove further along Piccanninie Ponds Road until we reached the section which takes you down onto the beach. As we were running short a little of time, we decided not to lower our tyre pressure and drive down onto the sand.
Instead, we parked the vehicle and set up along a walking trail which cut its way through the scrub. There was plenty of room to string out the 20/40/80m linked dipole.
We were set up a little after 0500 UTC and had around 1 hour of the VK Shires Contest remaining. I kicked off the activation, calling CQ on 7.133. This was answered by Ian VK5IS in the Mid North of South Australia, followed by Andrew VK3AB/p, and then Andrew VK3MUD/p. Contact number ten, qualifying the park for me for VKFF, was with Sam VK5ASK/m.
After I had qualified the park for VKFF, Marija jumped on the mic and called CQ on 7.133. This was answered by Adrian VK5FANA, followed by Cliff VK2NP, and then Adam VK2YK. Marija’s 10th contact was with Geoff VK3SQ in Beechworth. Marija was very pleased to log Greg VK8GM in Alice Springs, and Greg VK4VXX/8 near the South Australian/Northern Territory border.
With Marija having qualified the park for VKFF, I jumped back on the mic. I logged a total of 34 stations before the VK Shires Contest concluded at 0600 UTC, and a further 11 stations after the contest. This included a Park to Park contact with Marc VK3OHM/p in the Greater Bendigo National Park VKFF-0623.
I then moved to 3.610 on the 80m band where I logged 6 stations from VK3, VK5, and VK7. This included a Park to Park with Duncan VK3XBC/p in the Wyperfeld National Park VKFF-0549. Whilst I was on 80m two park rangers arrived on the scene. One of the rangers I had met earlier in the year during an activation at the Little Dip Conservation Park.
Time was marching on and Marija and I needed to pack up and head back into Mount Gambier. That evening we were to attend the SERG Convention dinner. Between us we had 63 contacts in the log.
Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK1DI/2 (Livingstone National Park VKFF-0292)
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK1DI/2 (Livingstone National Park VKFF-0292)
- VK3OHM/p (Greater Bendigo National Park VKFF-0623)
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
- VK3XBC/p (Wyperfeld National Park VKFF-0549)
We returned to Mount Gambier and freshened up and headed to the Scout Hall where we listened to Joe VK3YSP and Julie VK3FOWL deliver a presentation on youth in our hobby. This was followed by a presentation on aerial photography and drones.
We then enjoyed a great evening at the SERG Dinner.
Wikipedia, 2018, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar_Convention>, viewed 18th June 2018
Wikipedia, 2018, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piccaninnie_Ponds_Conservation_Park>, viewed 18th June 2018