On Saturday 26th January 2019, we celebrated Australia Day, the official National Day of Australia. It marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson in New South Wales. It is also one of only three days of the year when Australian amateur radio operators can replace the regular VK prefix with AX.
I arrived home from a day at work at about 5.30 p.m. local time, and with the help of Marija, packed the car and headed south to the Nurragi Conservation Reserve VKFF-2247. The park is located about 67 km south east of the city of Adelaide.
Above: Map showing the location of the Nurragi Conservation Park, south east of Adelaide. Map courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
I have activated Nurragi twice before, back in August and September 2017, and have well and truly qualified the park for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. For info on those previous activations, and some interesting history on the park, please see my previous posts…….
Nurragi is an aboriginal word for scrub. Nurragi is a heritage listed reserve which was dedicated in 1991 by the Minister of Lands dedicated the area as a Nature Conservation and Plantation Reserve under the Crown Lands Act 1929. A Heritage Agreement has since been established under the Native Vegetation Act 1991.
The park is under the control of the Friends of Nurragi Association, which was established in 1988, and includes representatives of the local Alexandrina Council, Strathalbyn Naturalists, the National Trust of South Australia, and other members of the community.
There are no facilities in the park, however there are a number of information boards, courtesy of the Friends of Nurragi.
The Nurragi Conservation Reserve has been established to protect the remnant vegetation along the former rail line, and to re-establish flora indigenous to the original Milang Scrub which originally extended from Belvidere in the north to Point Sturt in the south and Finniss to the west. Today, less than 2% of that vegetation now exists. The reserve is completely surrounded by land which has been cleared for farming.
The reserve is 65 hectares in size, and is the remains of a 14 km railway line which operated between Sandegrove and Milang from around 1884 until 1970. The line linked the river port of Milang to the railway network to the city of Adelaide via Sandegrove and Strathalbyn. The only siding on this section of the railway line was at Nurragi. For several years, the reserve terminated at Landseer Road on the outskirts of Milang but in 2001 a further section was dedicated, completing the link through to Milang and Lake Alexandrina.
Above:- Last day of passenger service to Milang 30/11/68. Image courtesy of Friends of Nurragi
More than 300 species of Australian native plants can be found in the reserve. Of those, 67 are of particular conservation significance.
Various native mammals call the reserve home including Western Grey kangaroos and Brush-Tailed possums. Birds SA have recorded about 97 species of birds in the reserve including Peaceful Dove, Weebill, Australian Magpie, Little Raven, Grey Shrikethrush, Diamond Firetail, Southern Boobook, Red-capped Robin, Hooded Robin, and Rufous Whistler.
After leaving the town of Strathalbyn, I travelled south on Dry Plains Road, and then turned left onto Nurragi Road. I set up on the northern side of Nurragi Road. I ran the Yaesu FT-897, 40 watts, and the 20/40/80m linked dipole for this activation.
I was set up and ready to go by about 6.10 p.m. local time. Sadly when I turned on the transceiver, I found that the 40m band was very noisy, with static crashes reaching strength 9. It was the product of a lot of storm activity around Australia. The temperature in the park was a very pleasant 23 degrees C. This was off the back of a very hot 46 deg C day the previous day.
Above:- My operating spot in the park.
First in the log was my good wife, Marija VK5FMAZ, who had seen my self spot on parksnpeaks. This was followed by Daniel AX4FOMP, who had recently sent me an email expressing his interest in getting involved in the WWFF program. Next was Nick VK3ANL/AX3ANL, and then Andrew VK2PEZ/VK2ZEP.
Unfortunately the static crashes were loud and I’m sure this affected the number of callers. The band conditions appeared to be quite good, with good strong signals, from particularly Queensland and Tasmania. But those static crashes were loud.
I logged a total of 21 stations on 40m, before lowering the squid pole and inserting the 80m legs. I called CQ on 3.610 and this was answered by Peter VK3ZPF/p who was activating the Sassafras Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2187. It is always nice to get a Park to Park contact in the log. This was followed by Les VK5KLV. It was a bit of a struggle to log Les, as his signal was quite low down amongst the static crashes, but we made it. I logged a further 5 stations on 80m, before heading off to the 20m band.
I called CQ on 14.310 for a few minutes, with no takers, and then all of a sudden Rob VK4SYD came up with a strong 5/8 signal. We exchanged signal reports and pleasantries just in time, as not long after we had finished our contact, up came the Over the Horizon Radar, which was over strength 9. It virtually wiped out the 20m band.
I moved back to 40m, which had become quite busy now, with signals starting to come in from North America. I called CQ on 7.148 and this was answered by Chuck VK2SS/p, followed by Lee AX2LEE, and then Andrew VK2AC. I logged a further 8 stations on 40m, before a WB2 station came up on frequency and started calling CQ. Unfortunately he was unable to hear me.
So to complete the activation I headed back down to the 80m band, where I logged 3 stations, Rob VK4SYD (3rd band worked), Scott VK4CZ, and Andrei ZL1TM in New Zealand.
After 2 hours in the reserve, it was time to pack up and head home for some late dinner. I had exactly 44 QSOs in the log.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
- AX3ZPF/p (Sassafras Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2187)
I worked the following station on 20m SSB:-
Birds SA, 2019, <https://birdssa.asn.au/location/nurragi-conservation-reserve/>, viewed 28th January 2019
National Trust, 2019, <https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/nurragi-conservation-reserve/>, viewed 28th January 2019
Walking SA, 2019, <https://www.walkingsa.org.au/walk/find-a-place-to-walk/nurragi-conservation-reserve-walking-trail/>, viewed 28th January 2019
Wikipedia, 2019, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_Day>, viewed 28th January 2019