Today I received my latest Park to Park (P2P) certificate for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.
Many thanks to Danny ON4VT, the P2P Awards Manager.
For the third Friday afternoon/evening activation event for the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award, held on Friday 15th January 2016, I headed out to the Ettrick Conservation Park, VKFF-1029.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Ettrick CP in the Murray Mallee. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Ettrick CP is situated about 112 km east of Adelaide and about 32 km north east of Murray Bridge. It is a newly formed park, and was proclaimed on 31st October 2013. The park is about 484 hectares in size and predominantly comprises open mallee and several species of eucalypt. It also contains some of the few remaining examples of tussock grassland in the Murray Darling Basin. A number of vulnerable South Australian birds call the park home, including the malleefowl, Shy Heathwren, Hooded robin, White winged cough, Jacky Winter, Restless flycatcher, Painted Button quail, and the Regent parrot.
The park is NOT signposted, so check your maps prior to leaving home. There is a lot of scrub in this area which can be confused for the park.
I headed east along the South Eastern Freeway and took the turn off onto the Old Princes Highway and then headed north east along the Karoonda Highway, passing the Bowhill Road, and continuing north on Burdett Road. I then turned right onto Glenburr Road. Keep your eyes peeled, as Glenburr Road only has a very small sign indicating its presence.
Above:- The Burdett Road and Glenburr Road intersection.
I travelled about 10 km east on Glenburr Road, which is a dirt road, but is in good condition. I then reached the junction of Glenburr Road and Boundary Road. This is the north western corner of the park.
Above:- Looking east along Glenburr Road towards the park
I found that there weren’t too many operating opportunities in the park. There are 2 entry points on the northern side of the park off Glenburr Road. One has an unlocked gate, whilst the other has no gate at all. However both indicated that entry to those parts of the park were closed due to weed eradication issues. I remember Geoff VK5HEL activating this park a long time ago and telling me about the presence of the signs. I wonder if DEWNR have just forgotten to take them down? Anyway, I didn’t want to test my luck, so I headed to the north western corner of the park where there were no signs and found a little clearing in the mallee scrub.
This is another issue. The mallee in the park is very thick, so it is quite difficult to find a clearing, enabling you to stretch out a dipole.
Above:- Map showing my operating spot in the Ettrick Conservation Park. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Much of the land surrounding the park has been cleared for agricultural purposes. It is a stark contrast to see the barren farming land as opposed to the thick mallee scrub. Much of this scrub would have been cleared during the 1800’s. At first the trees were cut down, but settlers soon found that the roots produced regrowth. So the regrowth and the shallow roots were burnt. But this left deep roots which made it impossible for farmers to plough the soil.
Above:- Thick mallee scrub (left) and cleared farming land (right).
This situation had become so frustrating that by 1878 the South Australian Government had offered a £200 reward to anyone who could develop an effective solution to the problem. This resulted in the invention of the stump jump plough which was invented by Richard Bowyer Smith. The plough comprised a number of hinged shares. When the blade encountered an underground obstacle such as a mallee stump, it would rise out of the ground. Weights which were attached to the plough, forced the blade back in the ground when the mallee root was passed.
Above:- the stump jump plough. Image courtesy of wikipedia.
I found a little clearing in the scrub and set up my fold up table and deck chair. I ran my normal park operating equipment for this activation, consisting of:-
It was a warm (26 degree C) day, but it was very windy. I lost the squid pole when setting up, as I hadn’t driven the squid pole holder firm enough into the sandy ground. I was flying the VK5 Parks Award flag for the first time and that was certainly moving around in the very strong breeze.
I was set up and ready to go by around 0700 UTC (5.30 p.m. South Australian local time). I headed for my nominated operating frequency of 7.144 and started calling CQ. It took a few calls, but I finally had my first contact in the log. It was Russ VK2BJP with a good 5/9 signal. This was followed by Steve VK3YW who was 5/9 plus, Alan VK3DXE and then Scotty VK7NWT. Contact number 8 was with Roger VK5NWE who was operating portable from Mulyungarie Station near the South Australian/New South Wales border, not far from Broken Hill. Roger was up there doing some electrical work.
My ninth contact was my first park to park for the activation, and it was with John VK5BJE who was operating portable in the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park in the Adelaide Hills. John was quite low down, but due to the non existant man made noise in the park, I was able to hear him very well. John has a great WordPress site, with details about his park & SOTA activations. It can be found at…..
I continued to work the steady flow of callers, battling with a little bit of USA DX on the frequency as well. Conditions on 40m were excellent, with some very strong signals from the east coast. Clearly the close in propagation was not working, as I had very few calls from VK5. And those that did call in were very low down.
Contact number 36 was another park to park. This time it was Adrian VK5AW who was activating the Lyrup Flats section of the Murray River National Park. This was Adrian’s first time out for a Friday VK5 Parks event, so I was very pleased to get Adrian in the log.
Contact number 44, qualifying the park for me, was George VK3MVP, who has recently upgraded his call from VK3FJUD. Congratulations George and what a great signal you had with your StepIR.
A few QRP stations called in. They included John VK7HRS operating with 5 watts (5/5 sent), and Rod VK4FLYT also running 5 watts (5/7 sent). I also worked a couple of mobiles including Peter VK3TKK/m (5/8 sent) and Alan VK3FPBI/m (5/8 sent).
After working a total of 52 stations on 40m I headed over to 20m and started calling CQ on 14.310. First taker there was Mr. Reliable, Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. Rick kindly spotted me which resulted in a few European callers. However, band conditions were very poor, and my only successful DX contact was with Xaver DK4RM. Sorry to Luciano I5FLN and Sergey RA3PCI, who were 2 of the European stations that I heard calling in. Unfortunately we were not able to successfully exchange signal reports, making the contact void. I was pleased though, to get John VK6NU in the log from Western Australia. Propagation on 20m was very disappointing again, and the Over the Horizon Radar (OTHR) did not help either.
Above:- The sun setting at Ettrick.
I then tried my luck on 15m, calling CQ a few dozen times on 21.244, with no takers. Unfortunately I had no mobile phone coverage in the park, so I was unable to spot myself on parksnpeaks. A quick listen across 15m resulted in me hearing a weak VU2 from India calling CQ, and a moderately strong RK9 working a very weak French station.
So I headed back to 40m and found Mark WC1X calling CQ on 7.133 from northern California. Mark had a good strong 5/9 signal and nobody was coming back to his CQ call so I tried my luck, and got through in the second call. I then booked in to the 7130 DX Net, where I worked a total of 10 stations in New Zealand, French Polynesia, VK2, VK5, and VK7. This included a contact with Peter using a Magnetic loop antenna. Peter was 5/9 plus.
I then left the net and found Rob VK4FFAB calling CQ from the Great Sandy National Park, VKFF-0216, with a very strong 5/9 signal. This was my third park to park contact for the activation.
I then moved down to 7.139 and called CQ and this was answered by Steve VK4QQ who had a strong 5/9 signal, followed by Mike VK6MB who was also 5/9 from Western Australia. I worked a further 19 stations on 7.139 including Owen ZL2OPB in New Zealand, and my two mates Ted VK6NTE and Greg VK8GM. Unfortunately a combination of deliberate QRM in the form of tuning and a very strong DU7 station on 7.140, brought the activation to a sudden halt.
I had a total of 89 contacts in the log, and another unique park under my belt for both the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award, and the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. Thanks to everyone who called in, and I hope I was able to give some park hunters, a new park.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
Wikipedia, 2015, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stump-jump_plough>, viewed 16th January 2016
I had planned for two parks to be activated for day two of the 2015 VKFF Activation Weekend, Sunday 29th November, 2015. My first activation was the Stipiturus Conservation Park, VKFF-0936, which is located about 6 km south west of the nearest town, Mount Compass, and about 50 km south of Adelaide.
Above:- Map showing the location of the park on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Again, this was a South Australian Conservation Park that I had operated portable from previously, but only as part of the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award, prior to Stipiturus being added to the VKFF list for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. I had activated the park in October 2013 and October 2014. For more information on the park and my previous two activations, please see my previous posts at…..
Stipiturus Conservation Park is around 68 hectares in size and protects a high conservation value wet heath and sedgeland peat bog system, known as Glenshera Swamp. The park is home to one of the largest known swamp-based population of the nationally endangered Mount Lofty Ranges Southern Emu-wren (Stipiturus malachurus intermedius), after which the park was named.
Above:- Southern Emu Wren. Image courtesy of wikipedia.
To access the park I travelled from home through the little town of Echunga, and along the Brookman Road from Meadows to Willunga. Along the way I spoke with Peter VK3PF who was operating portable in the Yaringa Marine National Park, VKFF-0957.
I then drove south along the Victor Harbor Road before turning onto Pages Flat Road. This is prime dairy country on the Fleurieu Peninsula. I then turned right into Dodds Road until I reached the intersection of Dodds Road and Blockers Road. I continued south for a very short distance until reaching Saffrons Road where I turned right. There is no signage leading to the park. There are some nice views of the park in the distance as you travel along Saffrons Road.
Above:- View of the park from Saffrons Road.
At the end of Saffrons Road I turned left into Beare Lane. The park is just up on the left from here and is signposted. Beare Lane is a dirt road but is in excellent condition and is easily passable in a conventional vehicle.
Above:- Beare Lane, looking east.
Beare Lane is the only access to this park. It is located on the southern side of Stipiturus. The western, northern and eastern sides of the park and landlocked by private property.
This is another one of those South Australian Conservation Parks that sadly the Department Environment Water Natural Resources (DEWNR) lock up like Fort Knox. I understand their thinking that locking these parks up keeps the bad people out. But when there is no way of getting into a park except for scrambling over a barbed wire fence, I think this is very poor. Thats okay if you are young and nimble, but in my opinion it excludes elderly people or people with a disabilty. I have notified DEWNR of this in the past, but unfortunately it has fallen on deaf ears.
There is a little bit of scrub just off Beare Lane on the southern side of the park. It contains gum trees and an understorey of ferns. There is another patch of scrub a little further to the north, and if you follow the track from the gate, this will take you to the swamp area.
I collected all my equipment from the 4WD and lined it up at the gate. I scrambled over the fence, trying not to get caught up in the barbed wire. I then reached over and collected all my gear including the transceiver, power supply, antenna, fold up table, and deck chair. I then walked a short distance up the track and set up. It was already quite a warm morning, so I set up the table and chair in the shade of one of the gum trees.
I was ready to go by 2245 UTC (7.15 a.m. South Australian local time). Prior to calling CQ I spoke with Tony VK1VIC who was activating the Wanniassa Hills Nature Reserve VKFF-0865 (5/8 both ways). I then headed to 7.110 and commenced calling CQ. This was answered by Adam VK7VAZ in Tasmania, followed by Ron VK3MRH and then Matt VK1MA. My fifth contact of the morning was with Peter VK3PF who was operating portable from the Yaringa Marine National Park, VKFF-0957. Peter had an excellent 5/9 signal.
I worked a further 9 stations in VK2, VK3, and VK5, before being called by another park activator, Mick VK3PMG who was activating the Leaghur State Park, VKFF-0762. Mick was romping in to Stipiturus with a beautiful 5/9 signal. And then just 2 QSOs later I was called by Peter VK5KPR who was operating portable from the Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park, VKFF-0817, in the north of South Australia. Another 2 QSOs passed and I was called by Adrian VK5FANA who was activating the Clinton Conservation Park, VKFF-0813, on the Yorke Peninsula.
A number of the regular park hunters then called in, and this was soon followed by another park to park QSO, with Ian VK1DI who was activating the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve, VKFF-0847. Ian’s signal was quite weak but we had a successful contact (5/1 sent and 5/2 received). Some of the regular hunters followed, but calls soon slowed down. So it was off on my quest to find some more park activators on the 40m band.
I soon found Tony VK1VIC on 7.090 who was operating from the Farrer Ridge Nature Reserve, VKFF-0840. Tony’s signal was also quite low down but we were able to hear each other perfectly due to the low noise floor in both our parks (5/3 both ways). But Tony was the only new activator I heard on the band. All of the others that were calling CQ, had already called me. So I then moved up to 7.110 and called CQ. Ivan VK5HS from Renmark in the Riverland responded with a very strong 5/9 signal, and this was followed by Mal VK5MH who was maritime mobile on the Murray River. Next up was another park to park contact. This time it was Jim VK1AT/3 who was operating portable from The Lakes National Park, VKFF-0484. Jim’s signal was very low but we successfully exchanged park details and signal reports (5/1 both ways).
Things slowed down quite quickly again, so I again ventured across the 40m band and soon found Tony VK3VTH on 7.120 in the Shepparton Regional Park, VKFF-0976, with a good 5/7 signal. But Tony was the only new park activator, so I decided to have a listen on 20m. The 7 metre squid pole was lowered and the links removed in the dipole, and I commenced calling CQ on 14.310. My first responder was Keith VK2PKT from Parkes. A few QSOs later, the park to park action continued. I spoke wth Gerard VK2IO portable in the Cattai National Park, VKFF-0092 running just 12 watts with a nice 5/5 signal. And this was followed by a call from Greg (VK8GM) operating the Alice Springs Amateur Radio Club call of VK8AR, from the West McDonnell Ranges National Park, VKFF-0532. And shortly afterwards my third park to park on 20m, this time with Ian VK1DI activating Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve, VKFF-0847.
I worked a handful of other stations on 20m before callers slowed right down. It was an ideal time to try out 15 metres. So down came the squid pole and I laid the 20m/40m linked dipole on the ground, whilst erecting the 15m dipole. Prior to calling CQ on 15m I had a tune around the band to gauge propagation. I soon found Adam VK2YK on 21.275 calling CQ from SOTA summit Castle Hill, VK4/ NH-136, overlooking Townsville in Far North Queensland. Adam’s signal was quite low down but we successfully completed our QSO (5/1 sent and 4/1 received).
I then started calling CQ on 21.244 and it wasn’t long before Cliff VK2NP called in from his mobile with a good 5/7 signal. This was followed by Rick VK4RF/VK4HA who was 5/8, and then Michael VK4FBBA mobile. I worked a further 12 stations on 15m from New Zealand, Japan, VK1, VK2, VK5, and VK6.
I decided to head back to 40m for one last listen before going QRT and heading off to the Nixon Skinner Conservation Park. After returning to 40m I worked Greg VK5ZGY in the Penola Conservation Park VKFF-0803, followed by Col VK5HCF & Tom VK5EE both in the Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park VKFF-0927, Tony VK1VIC portable in Mount Taylor Nature Reserve VKFF-0854, and a handful of the regular park hunters.
After 3 hours in the park I had a total of 78 contacts in the log on 40m, 20m, and 15m, including an additional 16 x park to park contacts.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 15m SSB:-
My final activation for Saturday and day one of the inaugural VKFF Activation Weekend was the Bullock Hill Conservation Park, VKFF-0873, which is situated near Ashbourne on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Bullock Hill Conservation Park on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Bullock Hill was my third park of the day that I had activated previously as part of the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award, but not as part of the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. So this was going to be my third unique WWFF park for the day.
For more information on my previous activations at Bullock Hill, please see my previous posts at…..
Bullock Hill Conservation Park is quite a new park. It was only proclaimed on the 20th January 2014. It consists of 200 hectares of undulating countryside, mainly consisting of Pink and Cup gum, with a dense under storey of acacia and mixed heath. Most of the scrub is located in the upper section of the park on the western side.
I accessed the park via Wattle Flat Road. There is a small area where you can park your car. Be careful not to block the gate for the farmer who property is on the eastern side of the park. I unloaded the 4WD and then climbed through the fence to gain access to the park. I set up my little fold up table and deck chair under the shade of a small tree. Again, for this activation I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts, and the 20m/40m linked dipole. I secured the 7 m squid pole to the park sign, using some octopus straps.
Above:- Map showing my operating spot, in the park. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Prior to calling CQ I tuned to 7.135 and worked Greg VK5GJ in the nearby Cox Scrub Conservation Park, VKFF-0824 (5/7 both ways). I then headed up to 7.144 and called CQ. My first responder was another park to park contact. It was Gerald VK2IO who was portable in the Botany Bay National Park, VKFF-0048. This was followed by Allen VK3HRA who was activating the Creswick Regional Park VKFF-0964. And then another park to park, this time with Marcus VK3TST/2 who was in the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park, VKFF-0554. All signals were very good, but there were quite severe static crashes present on the band.
A few calls later I spoke with Peter VK3YE who was operating a kite antenna on the beach. The antenna consisted of 30 metres of wire. Peter was a good strong 5/8 signal. Peter never ever ceases to amaze me with what he can do with QRP, and his home brew transceivers and antennas. A few QSOs later I spoke with Tim VK3MTB who was activating the Morwell National Park VKFF-0626, and this was followed by Ian VK5CZ who was in the Spring Gully Conservation Park, VKFF-0816, near Clare in the Mid North of South Australia.
I had a good steady flow of callers and all signals were exceptionally good. I also managed another two park to park contacts. They were with Peter VK3ZPF who was activating the Mornington Peninsula National Park VKFF-033, and Gary VK5FGRY who was in the Morialta Conservation Park, VKFF-0783, in the Adelaide Hills.
I now had a total of 27 contacts in the log and then saw a spot on parksnpeaks for Greg VK8AR who was activating the West McDonnell National Park, VKFF-0532, near Alice Springs. So I quickly lowered the squid pole and removed the links and headed off to 14.280 on 20m. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Greg coming in with a nice signal. He had quite a few callers, but I patiently waited and made contact with him in a short period of time.
I then went to 14.225 and started calling CQ and this was answered by Jess VK6JES in Geraldton in Western Australia with a strong 5/8 signal. About four contacts later I was called by Alex VK2HAS who was operating portable in an Armoured Personnel Carrier, with a 1/2 wave vertical. I have worked Alex from this situation before. It is certainly a very unique contact.
My first DX contact on 20m was with Max IK1GPG who had a good 5/7 signal on the long path. This was followed shortly afterwards by regular park hunters, Xaver DK4RM and Uwe DL2ND in Germany. Not long after I saw a 4WD pull up in the carpark area behind my 4WD. It had the obvious amateur antenna fitted to it, but I wasn’t entirely sure of who my unexpected visitor was. It turned out to be Greg VK5GJ, who had completed his activation at the nearby Cox Scub Conservation Park, and had called in to say hello. I took a break from the radio to say gday to Greg.
I returned to the radio about 15 minutes later, but unfortunately somebody else had jumped on to 14.225. So I headed to 14.210 and called CQ and this was answered by David ZL1UA in Auckland with a strong 5/8 signal. This was followed by Luc ON4BB and then Steve VK4QQ. But sadly, an Italian station, an IT9, came up on the frequency and started calling CQ. He was just too strong to compete with, so I decided to QSY.
Greg decided to head home at this point, so I headed up to 14.310 and started calling CQ again. This was responded to by Don VK3MCK and then my good friends Danny ON4VT and Swa ON5SWA in Belgium. Danny was 5/6 and Swa was a little weaker at 5/5. They were both hearing me around the 4/2-4/4 mark. I worked just 2 more European stations: Hinko S52KM in Slovenia, and Luciano I5FLN. The long path propagation seemed to just fall away at that point.
So I headed back to 40m and called CQ on 7.135. It was now around 5.15 p.m. My first taker was Peter VK3YE, who was still on the beach with his kite antenna, running just 1/2 watt. His signal had come up even stronger, as had mine at Peter’s end. My second contact was with Jonathan who was activating the Blackwood River National Park VKFF-0633. It was a little bit of a struggle with Jonathan due to the static crashes, but I missed very little of our QSO. This was followed by Rob VK4FFAB who was portable in the Crows Nest National Park VKFF-0121. Rob was an excellent 5/9 signal. But Rob was struggling with even stronger static crashes than me, and gave me a 4/9 signal report.
I had a steady flow of callers from VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK6, when I was rather unexpectedly called by Mark AF6TC in California with a very strong 5/9 plus signal. Mark reciprocated with a 5/9 for me. Not long after I was called by John ZL2TUD in Wellington, and then Neil K6KWI in Santa Ana in California. I was extremely pleased to work a second USA station on 40m.
I worked a further 27 stations on 40m, including VK3YSA running just 4 watts from Mount Disappointment, Mal VK5MJ who was maritime mobile on the Murray River, and Chris ZL2UKT in Auckland.
It was starting to get quite cool, and the local time was now just after 6.30 p.m. I was also getting hammered by some local VK3’s talking to the USA on 7.136, so I thought it was a good time to pull the plug on what had been a great day. I had a total of 102 contacts in the log from Bullock Hill, including a further 15 park to park contacts.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
The weekend of Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th November, 2015, saw the inaugural VKFF Activation Weekend. I had planned on activating 5 Conservation Parks over the weekend: three on Saturday, and then two on Sunday. My first activation for Saturday morning was the Mount Magnificent Conservation Park, VKFF-0916, which is about 66 km south of Adelaide, on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Mount Magnifient CP. Map courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
I have activated Mount Magnificent twice before: back in July 2013, and December 2014. But these activations were prior to the park being placed on the VKFF list for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. So this was to be a unique VKFF park activation for me, and I was hoping to pick up the required 44 contacts to qualify the park.
For details on my previous activations, and full information on the park, please see my previous posts at…..
After leaving home early in the morning I headed out through Echunga and Meadows, and then on to Prospect Hill. I then travelled south on Blackfellows Creek Road, passing the eastern boundary of the Kyeema Conservation Park. This is a nice high point and there are some very nice views out to the west of the surrounding countryside which comprises natural scrub, cleared farming land, and pine forest.
I soon reached the western boundary of the park. I had not activated from this side of the park previously. My last two activations had been from the eastern side, off Mount Magnificent Road. So I thought it was worth a look at a different operating spot.
Sadly, most of this section of the park was burnt out. I later learnt that a fire had impacted on the park earlier in November. The fire had originally started at nearby Yundi and had burnt out about 70 hectares of land, and was finally brought under control by about 65 firefighters and 17 appliances, including water bombing aircraft.
I continued south on Blackfellows Creek Road until I reached the south western corner of the park. There was a little access track following the southern boundary of the park, and this is where I drove along.
Above:- Map showing my operating spot in the Mount Magnifient CP. Map courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
After a few hundred metres I reached a point where I could not go any further as the track came to an abrupt halt. But this looked like an ideal place to set up and operate from. It wasn’t until I had almost set up that I noticed some yellow tape around some trees at the top of an embankment. I then put two and two together and realised that this was the site of the illegal dumping of some horses here in the conservation park which had come to light in May earlier in the year.
Although a little off putting I continued to set up. I also had a view up to the Mount Magnificent summit. The trig point of the summit is actually just outside of the conservation park boundary. Sadly, the summit does not qualify for the Summits on the Air program as it does not have sufficient prominence. However, there are superb views from up there of the surrounding countryside.
I used the boundary fence to secure my 7 metre telescopic squid pole and then secured the legs of the 20m/40m linked dipole to the fence. I ran the Yaesu FT-857d and 40 watts for this activation. I was all set up and ready to go by 2230 UTC (9.00 a.m. South Australian local time).
After turning on the radio, I found that 7.144 was already occupied, so I headed down to 7.139 and started calling CQ. My CQ call was answered by Ian VK1DI who was operating portable from Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve, VKFF-0855. Ian had a good strong 5/8 signal. Next up was Ron VK3MRH, followed by Peter VK3PF and then Fred VK3DAC, all of whom had good strong signals coming out of Victoria.
I was then called by two more park activators. First up was Rob VK4FFAB operating portable from Crows Nest National Park VKFF-0121, with a good 5/5 signal (5/6 received). I was really pleased to be able to get Rob in the log on 40m. Next up was Nick VK3ANL operating portable from Wandong Regional Park VKFF-0979, north of Melbourne. A few calls later I was called by Mick VK3PMG who was operating portable from the Kerang Regional Park, VKFF-0970. Mick had a good strong 5/8 signal to Mount Magnificent. It was really pleasing to see so many park activators out and about.
I had quite a steady flow of callers from all across Australia (VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK6, and VK7). But there was a lot of QSB on the band and many of the park hunters were mentioning that they were experiencing fading signals. Also noticeable was the lack of VK5’s. It was clear that close in propagation was not working, which was a real shame.
My next park to park contact was about 14 contacts later. It was Rob VK4FFAB who had now moved in to the Hampton National Park VKFF-0683. A few QSOs later I was called by Warren VK3BYD in the Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park VKFF-0969.
And then as though someone had turned on a switch, about 4 QSOs later, I was called by Col VK5HCF at Mount Gambier with a weak but readable 5/3 signal. Col informed me that he could not hear me at all a little earlier. It was great that I was finally hearing a VK5. And then two QSOs later, Brian VK5FMID, also in Mount Gambier, gave me a shout. Brian had a strong 5/8 signal.
A few QSOs’ later, David VK5AAH who was activating the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, VKFF-0782, gave me a shout. David was very weak (3/3), but at least I was hearing a VK5 park activator. David was hearing me a little better, than me him, and gave me a 5/3 signal report.
A few QSOs later I had my second VK5 Park activator in the log. It was Stef VK5HSX who was activating the Murray River National Park, VKFF-0372. Stef was very weak (5/1) but was very workable. It appeared as though the 40m band was improving a little for the close in propagation. Next up was Greg VK5GJ who almost lifted the transceiver up off the table. Greg was operating portable from the nearby Kyeema Conservation Park, VKFF-0826. And the park to park activity wasn’t finished. I was also called by Amanda VK3FQSO who was operating from the Kara Kara Conservation Park, VKFF-0629 (5/5 both ways).
When things slowed down a little, I took the opportunity of tuning across the band. I was hoping to find a few more park activators. And it wasn’t long before I had found my mate Gerald VK2HBG on 7.095, who was activating the Bimberamala Nationa Park, VKFF-0032 (5/5 both ways). Next was Nigel VK5NIG and Stuart VK5STU who were on 7.110, operating portable from Sandy Creek Conservation Park, VKFF-0933. Although they were very weak (5/1), they were very workable, as there was no man made noise in either of our parks.
I then found Rob VK4AAC/5 on 7.115. Rob was in the Little Dip Conservation Park, VKFF-0904 (5/5 sent and 4/3 received). I was so pleased that propagation had opened up a little around VK5. Next, I worked Adrian VK5FANA on 7.125, who was in the Bird Islands Conservation Park VKFF-0871 on the Yorke Peninsula, followed by Tony VK3VTH on 7.144, who was activating the Tocumwal Regional Park VKFF-0978 (5/7 sent and 5/8 received). I then found Ray VK3YAR on 7.090 who was operating from SOTA peak, Mount Moliagul, VK3/ VN-024, west of Bendigo.
After working Ray I headed to 7.100 and called CQ. This was answered by John VK3FCAN, and then Peter VK3PF, followed by Alan VK3LSD, who I was struggling with a little. Alan had a very severe hum on his transmission and it made reception quite difficult. A few contacts later, I was called by Les VK5KLV operating from the Whyalla Conservation Park VKFF-0808. Les had a very strong 5/9 signal coming in from the north of the State. Unfortunately I started experiencing QRM from some VK6’s who were very closeby, so if I missed any low down callers, I apologise.
It wasn’t long before, I had another park to park contact. This time it was Gerard VK2IO, who called in from the Sydney Harbour National Park, VKFF-0473. Gerald’s signal was down a little (4/3) but we managed a successful contact (4/5 received). Immediately after, Cliff VK2NP called me. Cliff was activating the Sea Acres National Park, VKFF-0606, near Port Macquarie (5/3 both ways). Two contacts later, I spoke with Greg VK5ZGY who was in the Nene Valley Conservation Park, VKFF-0801 in the South East of South Australia. Greg had a strong 5/8 signal, so it was clear the band was improving. And then finally, I was called by David VK5PL operating portable in the Warren Conservation Park, VKFF-0941 (5/3 sent and 5/5 received).
Time was getting on, so I headed to 20m and called CQ on 14.310. This was answered by Fred VK3DAC (5/1 both ways), followed by John VK2FR, and then Robert VK2XXM. But that was the end of the park hunters despite many CQ calls. I tuned across the band and heard Gary VK8BN calling CQ from Darwin. We had a good chat, as Gary was a good strong 5/9 and he was hearing me well (5/5). At the end of my QSO with Gary, Geoff VK3SQ asked me to QSY down, which I did and placed Geoff in the log.
I then tried my luck on 15m. I packed away the 20m/40m linked dipole and erected the 15m dipole. I called CQ on 15m and this was answered by Geoff VK3SQ who had followed me up. Geoff had a strong 5/8 signal on 15m. This was followed by John VK2FR (5/9 both ways), who had also followed me up, and then Cleeve VK2MOR. Rob VK4FFAB then called in from Hampton National Park, VKFF-0683. Rob was not strong (4/1) but was very workable. My final contact on 15m, and the final contact for the activation was with Kyoyu JA8RJE in Japan.
I packed up and headed off to my second activation of the day, the Scott Conservation Park. I was very pleased, with a total of 75 contacts in the log, including 24 park to park contacts. What an activation! And what a great way to start the VKFF Activation Weekend.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 15m SSB:-
Our final day of our two week trip down the Great Ocean Road had arrived. It was Friday 20th November 2015. We had just one planned activation for the day. That was to be the Little Desert National Park VKFF-0291. I need just a handful of contacts to qualify the park for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, as I had activating the park previously, and fallen a bit short of the 44 QSO threshold.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Little Desert National Park in western Victoria. Map courtesy of http://www.here.com
After leaving Ararat we travelled west on the Western Highway towards Stawell. Along the way Marija tried to locate a phone number for Mick VK3PMG who lives in Stawell. We had hoped to pop in to say a quick hello. Unfortunately we could not find a contact number for Mick. But we did divert into Stawell and tried at the local bakery to see if they knew Mick. Sadly the answer was no.
So we continued on to Horsham, where we stopped for a few hours to say hi to my Uncle Jack and Aunty Dawn, and cousin Debbie.
After leaving Horsham, we continued our journey west along the Western Highway and then turned off to Dimboola. It was from here that we would access the Little Desert National Park. Dimboola is a little town located in the Wimmera region of Victoria. It was originally known as ‘Nine Creeks’ and later become Dimboola in the 1860’s. It is generally accepted that the name ‘Dimboola’ comes from the Sinhalese word ‘dimbula’ meaning Land of Figs.
We travelled south out of Dimboola, along the Horeshoe Bend Road, which follows the Wimmera River.
Little Desert National Park is situated about 375 kms from Melbourne, between the Wimmera River and the South Australian border. The park was originally known as the Kiata Lowan Sanctuary and was created in 1955. A total of 217 hectares was set aside for the preservation of the Malleefowl (also known as Lowan). In 1968 the Sanctuary was increased to 945 hectares and was declared as the Little Desert National Park. It was at this time that the Government announced that around 80,000 hectares of nearby land would be sub-divided and cleared for agriculture. Fortunately this plan was abandoned after it was argued that in the long term, the land would be more valuable in its natural form. And even better, an additional portion of land was added to the park, which was increased to 35,300 hectares. The park was again increased in size in 1986 to its present, 132.000 hectares.
We had soon reached Horseshoe Bend itself, in the Wimmera River. There is no doubt as to how it came by its name, as the Wimmera bends here dramatically.
Just a little further on is a turn off to the Horseshoe Bend campground area. There are campsites here, along with flush toilets, fireplaces and picnic tables. I have operated from here before and it’s an ideal placed to set up a portable ‘shack’.
Above:- Map showing our operating spot at the eastern end of the park. Map courtesy of www.here.com
Although there are tables and benches here, we decided to set up right alongside of the Wimmera River and under the shade of some of the mighty gum trees on the banks of the river. It was quite a warm morning, and it was idealic sitting alongside the river.
There were a few campers and picnickers in the campground, so we chose a nice quiet spot away from the crowds.
I found that 7.144 was free and I started calling CQ. My first taker was Ron VK3MRH, who has recently taken up hunting parks. Ron had a beautiful 5/9 signal into Little Desert. This was followed by Rob VK4AAC/5 who was equally as strong, and then Mick VK3PMG. I had a chat to Mick about trying to chase him down earlier and we subsequently exchanged phone numbers. Will definitely catch up next time Mick.
It was pleasing to hear the band in great shape and there was certainly no shortage of callers, despite the fact that this was a weekday. I had a good steady flow of callers on 40m from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, and VK7. There were a few good QRP contacts thrown in there as well. They included Adrian VK5FANA running 5 watts from the Yorke Peninsula (5/8 sent and 5/9 received), and Amanda VK3FQSO running just 1 watt (5/6 sent and 5/8 received). I also worked Gary VK5FGRY who was operating from home in the Adelaide CBD with a small antenna mounted on the railing of his apartment balcony (5/3 sent and 5/5 received).
I soon had 41 contacts in the log, and traffic had slowed down a bit on air, so I took the opportunity of heading off to 20m to see if I could pick up some more callers there. I called CQ on 14.310 and this was answered by Cliff VK2NP with a weak but very readable signal (5/3 both ways), followed by Brett VK2CW (5/7 both ways). Next up was Rick VK4RF/VK4HA who was a solid 5/9 from Queensland. My last contact in Little Desert was with Lee who was a good 5/7, but was struggling with me (4/1 received).
Whilst operating I had a visitor just above me. It was a kookaburra who I am sure had come in expecting a feed. I suspect they get fed quite a bit by the campers here at Horeshore Bend.
After an hour in the park I had a total of 46 contacts in the park. I had qualified the park in its on right, just in this activation. It was time to pack up the gear for a final time and head for home. It had been a fantastic trip and I thank everyone that called in whilst I was away for the 2 weeks.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
After leaving Dimboola, we continued west on the Western Highway, stopping briefly at the South Australian/Victorian border, for a photo opportunity. And also a visit to the little shop situated here, to buy some local produce.
Parks Victoria, 2015, <http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/little-desert-national-park>, viewed 12th December 2015
Wikipedia, 2015, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimboola>, viewed 12th December 2015
On Monday morning, 16th November 2015, after breakfast, Marija and I headed west out of Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road. Our first stop of the day was Maits Rest which is about a 15 minute drive west of Apollo Bay. We had passed Maits Rest on the way in to Apollo Bay on Saturday, but didn’t have enough time to stop. And we had passed it again on Sunday on our way out to the Great Otway National Park. So this was third time lucky for us.
Maits Rest has an easy self guided circuit walk through magnificent rainforest in the Great Otway National Park. A wooden boardwalk has been built over the tree-fern gullies and moss covered roots. The walk is 800 metres in length and starts and finishes at the carpark just off the Great Ocean Road. It is well signposted. Many of the trees here are up to 300 years old and this is something not to be missed if you are driving along the Great Ocean Road. The area was named after former forestry patrol officer Maitland Bryant who used to rest his horses here during patrols of the area.
We then travelled back along the Great Ocean Road and back into Apollo Bay. Along the way we were rewarded with some great views out to the east of Apollo Bay
We then went to Marriners Lookout, which is located atop a hill on the northern outskirts of Apollo Bay. Access is via Marriners Hill Road which runs off the Great Ocean Road. There is an easy 10 minute walk from the carpark to the lookout area. The lookout is actually on private property and has been kindly opened up by the land owners. The lookout is also a popular take off point for hang gliders.
We then continued north west along the Great Ocean Road and soon came across the rather unusual collection of stones on the beach. Obviously strategically placed there by passers by over the years. So we couldn’t help ourselves. We stopped and each carefully placed a rock on the top of an existing pile.
Our next stop was the Carisbrook Waterfalls near Sugarloaf, about 16 km east of Apollo Bay. It is just a short 15 minute (300 metre) walk to the waterfalls from the carpark just off the Great Ocean Road. At the end of the walk there is a viewing platform set across the valley from the falls. Carisbrook Falls are one of the highest falls in the Otway Ranges, but they do not fall vertically. Rather, they rush 50 metres down a diagonal rock face. Unfortunately the lookout is a long way from the waterfall itself and you cannot see all 7 tiers of the waterfall.
We then stopped briefly at the Cape Patton lookout, which is about 5km on the Apollo Bay side of Kennet River. The lookout offers spectacular views of the coastline. The cliffs here are some of the highest along the Victorian coastline. Cape Patton was named after Vice Admiral Phillip PATTON by Lieutenant James GRANT on the Lady Nelson in 1800.
We then stopped off to have a look at the memorial to the Godfrey, just north of Separation Creek. The Godfrey was a barque which was built in Greenock Scotland in 1861. It was sailing from San Fransisco and was bound for Melbourne when it was wrecked at this site in March 1891. Fortunately there was no loss of life. However, in three separate boating accidents, five men drowned during salvage operations.
We stopped a number of times along the way for some photo opportunities and to view the amazing coastline. This included Artillery Rocks, which was named after the cannon-ball concretions in the Cretaceous sandstone outcrops here. We also stopped at Mount Defiance Lookout. There is also an information board here re William Buckley, who was an English convict who was sentenced to 14 years and transported in 1803 to Australia. Soon after arriving Buckley escaped, and made his way along the coast. He was given up for dead and lived in an Aboriginal community for around 32 years. It is believed that due to Buckley’s amazing survival, the term ‘you’ve got Buckley’s chance’ originated.
Our next stop was the Sheoak Falls. It is a quick easy 10 minute walk to the falls. Although the water across the falls does not fall a great distance, the water passes over a dark rock face into a deep waterpool, within a natural amphitheatre. It is a very pretty location.
We continued on to Lorne and booked in to our accomodation which was the Chatby Lane Luxury Apartments. These are very nice apartments in a quiet and scenic part of Lorne.
We unpacked and freshened up and made sure all the radio equipment was ready for out intended activation at Mount Cowley for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.
After leaving the motel we headed out to Teddy’s Lookout, which is at the end of George Street, Lorne. It is just a short walk to the lookout which offers spectacular views of the St. George River and the Great Ocean Road coastline. We could see our intended destination, Mount Cowley, off in the distance.
On the way out to Mount Cowley we called in to Erskine Falls, about 10 km out of Lorne. There is a walking trail and steps down to the falls which cascade over one of the highest drops in the Otways. These are very beautiful falls. But beware! It is easy going down, but the steps down are very very steep and coming back up is a real calf burner. There are warnings at Erskine Falls about the walk back up.
Mount Cowley, was to be our third SOTA activation for the trip. Mount Cowley, VK3/ VC-022 is 660 metres above sea level and is worth 2 SOTA points. There is a very large fire and communications tower on the summit, so Mount Cowley is quite distinguishable in the Otway Ranges. This is one of three fire spotting towers in the Otways.
Above:- Map showing the location of the summit, south west of Geelong. Image courtesy of google maps.
The summit is located about 18 km by road, west of Lorne. But remember, these are windy roads through very dense rainforest, so there is a lot of wildlife, which further slows down travel time.
Above:- Map showing the location of the summit, west of Lorne. Image courtesy of google maps.
After leaving the Erskine Falls we travelled out west along Erskine Falls Road until we reached the Benwerrin-Mount Sabine Road. We turned left here and drove south until we reached Garvey Track. This track does appear on some maps as the Mount Cowley Track. In any event, the track is well signposted and also is signed ‘Mount Cowley’.
The track is fine for conventional vehicles and is well maintained. It was slow going, but that was only due to the amount of wildlife that was out and about. There were a lot of kangaroos.
We drove up the track about 1.5 km until we found a small dirt road leading to the summit. You cannot miss this because of the large telecommunication tower at the summit. If you were looking for great views from the summit, forget it. The summit is densely wooded and there are very few views of the surrounding countryside.
I set up on the south eastern side of the tower. There was plenty of room to stretch out the 20m/40m linked dipole.
I was on air and ready to go by 0615 UTC (4.15 p.m. Victorian local time). I could not get on to 7.090 as the Kandos Net was still operating on 7.093, so I went down a little lower to 7.088 and started calling CQ. My first taker was Andrew VK2UH with a beautiful 5/9 signal. This was followed by Mark VK7FMPR, then Col VK3LED, and my fourth and qualifying contact was with Brett VK3FLCS.
It wasn’t long before I had a mini pile up going, with callers from all over eastern Australia in VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7, all with very good signals.
After working a total of 35 stations on 40m I lowered the squid pole and removed the links and then re-erected the squiddie and headed off to 20m. I called CQ on 14.310 and it wasn’t long before I had my first taker on 20. And it was my good mate Peter VK4AAV from Caloundra. This was followed by a handful of callers from Europe: F1BLL in France, I5FLN in Italy, and DK0EE in Germany. But despite many CQ calls, I had no further takers. It was still a little early for long path 20m propagation into Europe.
I headed back to 40m for one last listen before going QRT. This time I called CQ on 7.144 and this was answered by Dennis VK2HHA (5/9 both ways), followed by Rod VK3OB (5/9 both ways), and then Ron VK3MRH (5/9 both ways). The 40m band was certainly working well. I worked a further 6 stations before deciding it was time to pack up and head back in to Lorne.
Whilst on the summit I had a few noisy visitors. But they weren’t tourists, nor were they maintenance people. They were kookaburras and Sulphur crested cockatoos.
So after about 90 minutes on Mount Cowley, I had a total of 48 contacts in the log.
The following stations were worked:-
Visit Victoria, 2015, <http://www.visitmelbourne.com/>, viewed 9th December 2015
World of Waterfalls, 2015, <http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/>, viewed 10th December 2015
Only Melbourne, 2015, <http://www.onlymelbourne.com.au/place-names-coast-of-victoria#.VmkXcuOGRBc>, viewed 10th December 2015
Coastal Stays, 2015, <http://www.coastalstays.com/mt-defiance/>, viewed 10th December 2015