Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1685

Recently I purchased a new Toyota Hi-Lux and had my old mobile gear removed from my old 4WD into the new vehicle.  Unfortunately, I started experiencing some issues with my Codan 9350 antenna not tuning correctly.  So Marija and I decided to head to Renmark to see our good friend Ivan VK5HS who had offered to help us.

We left home late Friday afternoon (21st June 2019) and headed to Renmark.  It is about a 263 km drive through Karoonda and Loxton.

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Above:- Map showing our travel route to Renmark.  Map courtesy of Google Maps.

Our first stop for the afternoon was at the town of Karoonda to have a look at the silos which are currently being painted as part of the latest silo art project in Australia.  Karoonda is an aboriginal word meaning ‘winter camp’.  The renowned street artist Heesco Khosnaran has commenced painting the silos which are expected to be completed by the end of June.  More information can be found on the Karoonda Silo Art website.

In April this year during a visit to the Riverland, Marija and I activated the Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1685.  Although Marija and I had both logged 10 contacts from Billiatt and qualified the park for VKFF, we had not attained 44 contacts and thus qualifying the park for the global WWFF program.  So we decided to stop at Billiatt to hopefully pick up a few extra contacts.

Billiatt is located about 200 km east of Adelaide, about 18 km south of the town of Alawoona, and about 37 km north of the town of Lameroo.

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Above:- Map showing the location of the Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

The Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area is not to be confused with the Billiatt Conservation Park (CP).  The CP is a small parcel of scrub located near the northwestern corner of the much larger Wilderness Protection Area.

The Billiatt Wilderness Protection area was declared on the 24th day if July 2008 and is 59,125 hectares in size.  The park preserves some of the largest remnant stands of pristine mallee heath and shrubland habitat in South Australia.  Much of the land which surrounds the park has been cleared for farming purposes.  Attempts were made to clear and farm the land within Billiatt between the 1870s and 1930s, however, the land ultimately proved unsuitable for conventional farming methods.

The Pankina Well and ruins in the Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area are remnants of Pankina Station, which was a pastoral lease which existed over the land right up until 1979.

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Billiatt was named after John William BILLIATT, who was a member of John McDOUALL STUART’s expedition in 1861-62.  He was born in Lincolnshire, UK, in 1842, and arrived in Adelaide in 1861.

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Above:- Explorers of the South Australian Great Northern Exploring Expedition, 1861-1862.  J.W. BILLIATT is in the middle in the back row.  Image courtesy of State Library SA

The Wilderness Area provides habitat for a number of species of conservation significance including the nationally endangered Mallee Emu-wren and the nationally endangered Malleefowl and Western Whip Bird.   Flora species of conservation significance include the nationally endangered Inland Green-comb Spider Orchid.  There are several significant butterfly species located in the park including the nationally vulnerable Small Bronze Azure and state vulnerable Fiery Jewel.

In early 2014, South Australia and Victoria experienced devastating bushfires.  Billiatt felt the full force of one such fire.  Just after 6.00 p.m. on the 14th January, fires ignited in the Margaret Dowling campsite in the park.  The park was completely engulfed and the fire wiped out entire populations of threatened native birds.  Over 67,000 hectares were burnt.  It wasn’t until 9 days later, on 23rd January, that the fire was declared safe.

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Above:- An aerial shot of Billiatt looking east.  A very remote location.  Image courtesy of Google Maps.

We travelled into the small town of Alawoona on the Karoonda Highway.  The town takes its name from an aboriginal word meaning  place of hot winds.  We then headed south on Billiatt Road towards Lameroo.  We had internet coverage here so Marija thre up a quick spot on parksnpeaks to advise that we would be on air in around 15 minutes.

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Above:- The Karoona Highway at Alawoona (the main street).

We soon reached the park on the eastern side of Billiatt Road.  It is signposted at this location.  We set up just off the road on a sand dune.  We ran the Yaesu FT-857d and the 20/40/80m linked dipole for this activation.

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Above:- The Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area showing our operating spot.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

Although it had been a fine and sunny day the temperature had dropped dramatically to around 4 deg C.  It was around 5.00 p.m. local time before we were set up and ready to go.  We had no internet coverage in the park so were unable to throw up a spot on parksnpeaks.  I called CQ on 7.144 with regular park hunter Peter VK3PF being first in the log.  This was followed by another park regular Andrei ZL1TM, and then Ray VK4NH.

Many thanks to Deryck VK4FDJL, Glenn VK4FARR and Adam VK2YK who spotted me on parksnpeaks on 40m.

I needed 24 contacts to add to my previous 20 when I was last in the park in April.  I logged 23 stations on 40m before callers dried up.  I need just 1 more contact.  I moved down to the 80m band and called CQ.  This was answered by Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula.  Adrian gave me a 20/9 signal report which I was really pleased with.  I then logged Adam VK2YK, followed by Andy VK4KY and then Mike VK6MB/2 who was activating the Murray Valley Regional Park VKFF-1785.  Marija also logged Mike for the Park to Park contact.

I logged a total of 13 stations on 80m before Marija and I decided it was just too cold to stick around.  We also still had quite a drive ahead of us before reaching Renmark.

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Above:- My shack in Billiatt.

I had 36 contacts in the log and with my last activation at Billiatt, I had now qualified the park for WWFF.

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. Zl1TM
  3. VK4NH
  4. VK4DXA
  5. ZL4TY/VK4
  6. VK4FDJL
  7. VK2NP
  8. VK1AT
  9. VK4TJ
  10. VK4/AC8WN
  11. VK4/VE6XT
  12. VK2VW
  13. VK6XN
  14. VK4FARR
  15. VK2MG
  16. VK7MD/m
  17. VK2YK
  18. VK1DI
  19. VK4PDX
  20. VK4HAT
  21. VK4SMA
  22. VK4CZ
  23. VK4FEEL

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5FANA
  2. VK2YK
  3. VK4KY/p
  4. VK6MB/2 (Murray Valley Regional Park VKFF-1785)
  5. VK7NET
  6. VK5CZ
  7. VK4CZ
  8. VK5WG
  9. VK1DI
  10. VK3MCK
  11. VK3ZNK
  12. VK2NP
  13. VK2VU

We headed off to Renmark, and after booking into our motel we headed to the Renmark Hotel for some dinner.

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After dinner, we headed back to the motel to watch a bit of the football and then had an early night.

 

 

References.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2011, ‘Reserves of the Billiatt District Management Plan 2011’.

State Library South Australia, 2019, <http://www.slsa.ha.sa.gov.au/digitalpubs/placenamesofsouthaustralia/>, viewed 24th June 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billiatt_Wilderness_Protection_Area>, viewed 24th June 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alawoona>, viewed 24th June 2019

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