Talk at SCARC

On Thursday 23rd October, 2014 I ventured down to the Seaford Meadows clubrooms of the South Coast Amateur Radio Club (SCARC) and delivered a presentation on the VK5 Parks National and Conservation Parks Award, the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, and equipment used for portable operation.

A very keen group of about 20 amateurs attended.

I spoke about the basics of the VK5 Parks award and WWFF program.  And I also spoke briefly about various transceivers that can be used for portable operation, portable power sources, and antennas for portable use.  I brought along some of my portable gear including the Yaesu FT-817nd, my 44 amp hour power pack, various antennas, bothy bag, etc.

Thanks to Peter VK5PET for asking me to come down to SCARC.

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Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park

This afternoon,as promised I headed down south with the intention of activating the Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park, and then the Moana Sands Conservation Park.  First up, was the Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park, which is situated about 46 km south of Adelaide.

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The park, which is 300 hectares in size, is home to a diverse range of rare plants and is recognised as a significant area for the conservation and protection of the region’s flora.  The park consists of sand dunes, sand blows, mallee scrub, lacy coral lichen, closed heaths, and remnant red gum forests.  A variety of wildlife lives in the park including Brush-tailed possums, and Short-beaked echidnas.  Over 166 species of birds have been recorded in the park.  The park is also home to numerous reptiles including the dangerous Brown snake, and the Red Bellied snake.  Fortunately I did not encounter any of these, making as much noise as possible to discourage them from paying me a visit.

Prior to European settlement, the area was part of the territory of the Kaurna Aboriginal people.  The scrub provided an abundance of food and materials used for utensils.  Shellfish, fish, marsupials, reptiles, birds and plant foods such as nerd, moonrise, yams, and quandongs were abundant in the area.

Aldinga is the final spelling of a word that has masqueraded as Ngalti-ngga, Audlingga and Alinghi.  The meaning of which nobody has ever been able to establish with any degree of authority.  There are widely differing opinions suggesting that this means ‘tree district’, ‘much water’, ‘battle or burial ground’, and ‘open wide plain’.

Mr. F. Culley was the first European settler in the area, in 1857.  Prior to World War One, the scrub was subdivided and several attempts were made to farm the area.  However, this did not prove to be viable, due to the sandy soil.  During the 1960’s, the local Willing Council became concerned that the subdivision of the area would cause erosion.  As a result, between 1965 and 1982, 300 hectares were purchased at Aldinga, to be managed by the State Planning Authority as an Open Space Reserve.  It was not until 1985, that the reserve was declared Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park.

To get to the park I travelled south through Echunga, on to Meadows and then Willunga.  This is a beautiful drive through the southern Mount Lofty Ranges.  I then travelled west along Aldinga Beach Road, towards the ocean, and then along the Esplanade and then left into Quandong Avenue.  I parked the car at the corner of Quandong Avenue and Acacia Terrace, and entered the park via Gate 3.

I set up about 50 metres inside the park boundary, under the shade of some gum trees, as it was a warm afternoon.  The temperature was about 30 degrees C.

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After setting up the linked dipole, I turned the radio on to find that the 40m band was very noisy.  Prior to calling CQ, I tuned across the band and did not hear a single station.  But what I did hear was a lot of noise.  And to make things worse, there was some form of pulsing noise every 10kc.  Not sure if it was a nearby electric fence.

So back to 7.095 I went and put out a CQ call.  No takers.  This was very strange.  The park hunters are normally queued up waiting to work the activators.  Another CQ call, and no takers.  This was the pattern for the next 5 minutes, despite me sending out a few SMS messages to advise that I was on air.  No takers.  Finally I received a call from Mark, VK5QI, who was operating portable in the Black Hill Conservation Park.  So, despite a very slow and not very promising start, it was refreshing to get my first call.  And a ‘park to park’ contact to boot!  Mark was initially a good 5/6, but then he was GONE!  It was as if the band had dropped out.

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But I persevered and continued to call CQ.  Tony VK5FTVR from Strathalbyn then called in.  However, Tony’s signal was well down on what I accustomed to.  This was followed by Greg VK5GJ from Meadows, who normally always calls me using just QRP 5 watts.  Today he was running 100 watts and was only a 5/3 at very best.  And Greg was really struggling with me.  Wow, this was not good.  Despite a number of further CQ calls I had no takers.  I did receive some SMS replies from John VK2AWJ and Larry VK5LY, advising that they had no reception and that the band was ‘dead’.

So I lowered the squid pole, and removed the links in the dipole for 20m, hoping that conditions there would be a little better.  I was to be very let down.  I called CQ for about 5 minutes on 14.310 and did not have a single caller.  So I tuned around the 20m band, and the only signals I could hear were those of Col VK4CC and John VK4LJ, running the ANZA DX Net on 14.183.  But their signals were extremely low as well.  I was starting to think there was a problem with the antenna.  But the VSWR was showing no indication of an issue.  Then I heard Col mention that there had been an X class flare.  There was the explanation.  It was time to pack up the gear and head home.  No reason to persevere.

If you want to read a bit more on solar flares, have a look at the following…..

http://spaceweather.com/glossary/flareclasses.html?PHPSESSID=2kq1a2unf15t8rk9ieiaik2no4

The image below shows today’s Class X-1 flare from Behemoth sunspot AR2192.

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Image courtesy of http://spaceweather.com

The graph below shows the X class flare.  It commenced at 0417 UTC, and it peaked at 0503 UTC.  My QSO with Mark was right in between this.

flares_20141019

Image courtesy of http://www.tesis.lebedev.ru/en/sun_flares.html

I had a grand total of 4 QSO’s for this activation.  By far, the most least successful activation I have every undertaken.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

Mark VK5QI/p (Black Hill CP); Tony VK5FTVR; and Greg VK5GJ.

The following stations were rocked on 20m SSB:-

Greg VK5GJ.

 

References.

Cockburn, R, 2002, ‘South Australia.  What’s in a Name?

Department for Environment and Natural Resources, 2014, ‘Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park‘.

Unactivated summits

Are you trying to find out which peak for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program has not yet been activated?

A great way to find out this information is on the Adventure Radio mapping site, which I have mentioned previously.  Adventure Radio was designed by Mario, DL4MFM  It can be found at…..

http://www.qwj.de

On the yellow buttons, click “Mountains”.  Below that, you will find the yellow button,“Select Sota”.  However, DO NOT click it, yet.  Just to the right of that button, click the small grey square auxiliary button.  Once you see the check mark on that button, then click “Select Sota”.  From the drop-down list that appears, pick your association and wait about ten seconds for the un-activated peaks to show.

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You can also do this via…..

http://www.sotamaps.org/

This site is on the bar at Sotawatch. The list indicates un-activated summits.  Use the filter at the lower left to make the map do that, too.

Giles Conservation Park

After packing up at the Horsnell Gully Conservation Park, I headed for the Giles Conservation Park, which was just a short drive away.  The park is located about 10 km east of Adelaide in the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’.  I had activated this park in August 2013.  For information on the park and the previous activation, please have a look at my previous post….

http://vk5pas.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/giles-conservation-park/

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I operated from the same spot as last year, which was off Woods Hill Road.  There is a locked gate here, and the commencement of a section of the famous Heysen Trail.  There is also a small parking spot just outside the gate, so you do not have to walk far at all.  The park is well sign posted, with a ‘Giles Conservation Park’ sign visible from the road.  I used the park sign, to secure my squid pole with an octopus strap.

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Again, for this activation, I started off on 40m.  I tuned to 7.095 and asked if the frequency was in use.  I was immediately greeted by Brian VK5FMID in Mount Gambier.  Brian is a real stalwart of the VK5 Parks award and as per usual, had a very nice 5/9 signal coming in from the South East.  This was followed by Greg VK5GJ, again using his home brew transceiver, running just 5 watts from Meadows in the southern Adelaide Hills.  It was a little later in the afternoon now, and the 40m band had started to come to life.  Greg’s signal was a good two S points stronger than in the Horsnell Gully Conservation Park.

Conditions on 40m appeared quite good.  There were some static crashes making it a little difficult at times with some of the weaker stations.  And there was some European DX on the frequency.

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Peter VK3YE was out and about again on the beach, pedestrian mobile.  Peter was ankle deep in water, operating with his vertical antenna, and had a good 5/6 signal with just 5 watts.  Bernard VK3AV called in again, stationary mobile at Port Franklin in Victoria, operating with his IC7000 and Terlin trap whip.  Bernard’s signal had also increased since working him from Horsnell Gully.

After working a total of 27 stations on 40m from VK2, VK3, & VK5, I QSYd to 20m to my nominated frequency of 14.310.  However, when I arrived there I found that it was unusable, as there was Over the Horizon Radar there.  I tuned down the band to 14.263 and put out multiple CQ calls but had no callers.  So I tuned around the band, but found it rather empty.  Those signals coming in from Europe were quite low.  I heard my friend Marnix OP7M, but his signal was just too low for me to work.  However, I did manage to work 2 stations from Spain.

After an hour and twenty minutes in the park, I had a total of 29 contacts in the log.  The vast majority of those were on 40m SSB, with just 2 contacts (both being DX) on 20m SSB.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

Brtian VK5FMID; Greg VK5GJ; Les VK5KLD; Rob VK5FRGM/3; Nev VK5WG; Adam VK2YK; Tony VK5FTVR; David VK5NQP; Peter VK3YE/p; Shirley VK5YL; Peter Vk5PET; David VK5HYZ; John VK2AWJ; David VK5KC; Tom VK5FTRG; Jim VK5TR; Matt VK5MLB; Ian VK5CZ; Steve VK5ARC/p; Colin VK3ZZS/p; Matt VK5ZX; Bernard VK3AV/m; Ron VK3JP; Peter VK3PF; Tony VK3CAT; Greg VK5LG; and Peter VK3TKK.

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

Juan EA5IDG; and Gustavo EB1IRJ

Horsnell Gully Conservation Park

Late this afternoon (Saturday 18th October, 2014), I headed out to activate the Horsnell Gully Conservation Park, which is situated about 10 km east of Adelaide in the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’.  I previously activated this park in August 2013.  You can read about that activation and the history of the park in my previous post…..

http://vk5pas.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/horsnell-gully-conservation-park/

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It is a beautiful drive from my home at Mount Barker, to the park, through the Adelaide Hills.  It takes me out through Piccadilly and Summertown and on towards Norton Summit.  I drove to the end of Coach Road, as I did for my last activation.  Coach Road does not continue down to the suburb of Magill through the park, as many maps indicate.  In fact the road finishes where the eastern edge of the park starts.  There is a locked gate at this point which prevents vehicular access down through the park.  There is however a small car parking area here at the start of the park.

Coach Road was once the principal road into Adelaide from the east during the 1870s and 1880s.  There was a coach gate located on the highest point, known as ‘Coach Hill’.  Today, this area is the suburb of Skye.  The coach driver blew a trumpet to let the settles know that the coach had passed through the gate and that they had to climb up to close the gate.  A hut for the team keepers was located near the spot where the powerlines cross Coach Road.  The team keepers kept fresh horses here for the coaches.

The park was named after pioneer, John Horsnell.  An interesting piece in Horsnell can be found at…..

http://parkfriends.com.au/more-on-john-horsnell/

And here is some more information, including some audio…..

http://parkfriends.com.au/prog-05-john-horsnell-legacy/

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I set up my deck chair and fold up table on the dirt track (which is Coach Road in the maps) on the other side of the locked gate.  Last year I set up just on the other side of the large rocks that you will see.  However, it was a little noisy there, with the overhead power lines.  So I decided to walk down the track a little this year, away from the power lines.  It was a warm day, with the temperature being about 26 degrees C, so I chose a nice shady spot under the gum trees.  Over my shoulder (to the west) was a very deep valley, and to my east, was a gentle slope covered in gum trees and scrub.  What was very evident in the park, were the many wildflowers and native plants in flower, including the grevillias.  It was quite spectacular.  I was also fortunate enough to see a number of the impressive Yellow tailed Black cockatoos.  They are a large cockatoo, easily identified by their black plumage, and yellow cheek patch and yellow panels on the tail.

The operating equipment was my standard gear, the Yaesu FT-450, 40 watts, and a 40m/20m linked dipole.  I started off on 40m and my first contact was with Peter VK3TKK.  Peter’s signal was a little down.  However, it was only 0430 UTC (3.00 p.m. local time), so the 40m band was still asleep.  Brian VK5FMID was the next to call in, from Mount Gambier, and this was followed by John VK2AWJ in Gol Gol in New South Wales.  My fourth contact was with Ian VK5CZ in the beautiful Clare Valley.

I went on to work a total of 20 stations on 40m SSB in VK2, VK3, & VK5.  This included Greg VK5GJ operating QRP 5 watts with his home brew transceiver.  Nigel VK5NIG also called in, operating portable for Jamboree on the Air (JOTA), using just 1 watt from Tranmere.  Nigel had a great 5/9 signal despite being a short distance away.  And my last QRP contact for the activation was with Gary VK5PCM, who was operating with just 2 watts.  It was quite a struggle with Gary at times, with very deep QSB.

I also made contact with Bernard VK3AV who was mobile, and Colin VK3ZZS who was portable on the banks of the Murray River at Wentworth in New South Wales.

Sadly, I experienced a lot of QRM on 40m from some JOTA stations, who came up on the same frequency in the middle of QSO’s.  Clearly they couldn’t hear us at this time of the day.

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When things started to slow down on 40m, I lowered the squid pole and removed the links and changed to the 20m band, where I put out a CQ call on 14.310.  This was answered by Daniel VK6LCK who was a good 5/7 signal.  I received a 5/8 signal report from Daniel.  Daniel is quite keen on commencing portable activities, so we had a discussion on the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program and the various park activities.  And then Bill VK2MWG called in from his mobile.  This was followed by Anthony VK6MAC.  Despite a number of CQ calls and a ‘self spot on the parksnpeaks site, I had no further callers on 20m.  It was interesting to note that the static crashes appeared a lot louder on the 20m band than on 40m.

After an hour & 20 minutes in the park, it was time to pack up and head off to the Giles Conservation Park.  I had a total of 23 contacts in the log.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

Peter VK3TKK; Brian VK5FMID; John VK2AWJ; Ian VK5CZ; David VK5KC; Fred VK3DAC/m; Jerry VK7EE; Terry VK5ATN; Peter VK5PET; Tony VK5FTVR; Greg VK5GJ; Nev VK5WG; Jim VK5TR; David VK5NQP; Les VK5KLD; Les VK5KLV; Bernard VK3AV/m; Colin VK3ZZS/p; Nigel VK5NIG/p; and Gary VK5PCM.

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

Daniel VK6LCK; Bill VK2MWG/m; and Anthony VK6MAC.

 

References.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2014, ‘Horsnell Gully Conservation Park and Giles Conservation Park’.

Summit to summit certificate

After my recent trip to the Mid North of South Australia, I had managed to slide passed the 500 point mark for my Summit to Summit (S2S) contacts for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. I was fortunate enough to have a number of S2S contacts whilst I was away, including a number of DX S2S QSOs.  So when I returned home, I applied for the 500 point S2S certificate, which arrived via email yesterday.  Thanks to the SOTA organisers, and all of the SOTA activators who allowed me to reach this stage.

Summit to summit068

Black Hill Conservation Park

After activating the Montacute Conservation Park, I headed to the Black Hill Conservation Park (CP).  It was just a  short drive away, as the parks border each other, along Montacute Road.  I travelled out of Moores Road and left onto Montacute Road and continued west on Montacute Road, through the gorge which separates the two parks.

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Black Hill CP is located about 10 km north east of Adelaide.  The park covers an area of 684 hectares and features the low sheoaks which give Black Hill its name. The foliage of the sheoaks gradually matures to a dark rusty, almost black colour, as summer progresses. As you look from the Adelaide Plains, the hills appear to be black in colour.  For more information on the park, please have a look at my previous post…..

http://vk5pas.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/black-hill-conservation-park/

I set up in a small carpark on the northern side of Montacute Road, near the eastern boundary of the park.  It was a quite location, and was situated at the base of the Orchard Track, which leads up into the hills.  There was a small creek flowing nearby and large hill faces on both my northern and southern sides.

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My first contact was with Brian VK5FMID in Mount Gambier, and this was followed by Norm VK5GI in Willunga.  I was then called by Tony VK5FTVR and then Darren VK5DT.  My fifth caller was Mark VK5QI who was portable in the Morialta Conservation Park.  As you would expect, Mark was very strong, being just a short distance away.  After working Greg VK5GJ on his home brew QRP rig, I was called by Chris VK4FR5 who was portable in the Swan Reach Conservation Park.

I was also called by Bob VK5FO, who was on Mount Gawler, VK5/ SE-013, participating in the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.

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My second to last contact on 40m was with George VK6FADD.  It was a real struggle to pull George through, due to the very severe static crashes.  But we did make it.  After working my final contact on 40m, Nigel VK5NIG, I lowered the squid pole and removed the links in my dipole, and then tuned around the 20m band.  However, there was very little activity, other than some stations calling CQ Contest.  I’m not sure which contest was on?  My only contact on 20m was with Juan EA5CTE.

After operating for a little over an hour in the park, I had 29 QSOs in the log.  Of those, 28 were on 40m SSB and just 1 on 20m SSB.  Contacts were into VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, VK6, & VK7 on 40m, and Spain on 20m.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

Brian VK5FMID; Norm VK5GI; Tony VK5FTVR; Darren VK5DT; Mark VK5QI/p (Morialta CP); Greg VK5GJ; Chris VK4FR/5 (Swan Reach CP); Peter VK3TKK; Ian VK5CZ; Amanda VK3FQSO; Peter VK5KPR; Ian VK3VIN; David VK5NQP; Jim VK2LC/m; Phil VK3BHR; Ian VK3AXF; Ian VK5KKT; Hauke VK1HW; Greg VK7FGGT; Damien VK5FDEC; Chris VK4FR/5 mobile; Paul VK7CC; Ian VK6SKY/p; Bob VK5FO/p S(OTA; Ron VK3JP; Peter VK3ABN; VK6FADD; and Nigel VK5NIG.

The following station was worked on 20m SSB:-

Juan EA5CTE.

 

References.

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, 2014, ‘Morialta and Black Hill Conservation Parks‘