World Amateur Radio Day, 18th April 2022

Re-opening of Scott Creek Conservation Park, April 2022, 23rd April 2022, VKFF-0788

World Amateur Radio Day

I can do no better than to start this post with a direct quotation from the IARU. Each year for World Amateur Radio Day a different theme is chosen and this year the flavour is one of history and gaining access to radio frequency spectrum.

‘Every April 18, radio amateurs worldwide take to the airwaves in celebration of World Amateur Radio Day. It was on this day in 1925 that the International Amateur Radio Union was formed in Paris.

Amateur Radio experimenters were the first to discover that the short wave spectrum — far from being a wasteland — could support worldwide propagation. In the rush to use these shorter wavelengths, Amateur Radio was “in grave danger of being pushed aside,” the IARU’s history has noted. Amateur Radio pioneers met in Paris in 1925 and created the IARU to support Amateur Radio worldwide.

Just two years later, at the International Radiotelegraph Conference, Amateur Radio gained the allocations still recognized today — 160, 80, 40, 20, and 10 meters. Since its founding, the IARU has worked tirelessly to defend and expand the frequency allocations for Amateur Radio. Thanks to the support of enlightened administrations in every part of the globe, radio amateurs are now able to experiment and communicate in frequency bands strategically located throughout the radio spectrum. From the 25 countries that formed the IARU in 1925, the IARU has grown to include 160 member-societies in three regions. IARU Region 1 includes Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Asia. Region 2 covers the Americas, and Region 3 is comprised of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific island nations, and most of Asia. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has recognized the IARU as representing the interests of Amateur Radio.

Today, Amateur Radio is more popular than ever, with more than 3,000,000 licensed operators!’

Scott Creek Conservation Park fire January 2021

Scott Creek Conservation Park was badly damaged by a fire on January 24th 2021. The Park was immediately closed to the general public and has only just re-opened after a break of 14 months. During the time the park was closed work began to make the park safe again. There are a number of matters that needed attention: tracks repaired; fences replaced; fallen trees cleared; trees with obvious damage needed attention, pruning or removal and holes and hazards on the ground repaired. As well a thorough inspection of the park was undertaken. I used to walk in the park almost every day and had my favourite tracks, high and with views. I was often pedestrian mobile in the park with a hand held vhf/uhf amateur transceiver. I did drive around the perimeter on public roads but then put the park out of my mind for the time being. I began walking more regularly in Mark Oliphant Conservation Park. However, that had to cease when the Government decided to increase the amount of parking at the main gate. I called by the park yesterday 22nd April 2022 and had a look at the completed work. It is excellent and my wife and I spent some time speaking with a couple of contractors and they were pleased we had noticed their work. It is good to see the plaque honouring Sir Mark Oliphant clearly visible again. I have done most of my walking in Mylor Conservation Park over the last eight months or so and enjoy that park.

So my contribution to world amateur radio day was to set up my station just inside Gate 9 and hope that the weather would remain fine. I worked (had contacts or qsos) with 16 stations in the VK call areas of 2, 3 and 5, that is, 2 in NSW, 3 in Victoria and 5 in South Australia. Conditions on the air were really good and signals were strong. I used to activate from Gate 8 (see earlier posts for the park) but the new fence is on a different alignment and there is just parking for one car at Gate 8. The Senior Ranger is keen to get the fence shifted to increase parking places.

Here is a link to my last Scott Creek Conservation Park radio activation.

https://vk5bje.com/category/amateur-radio/scott-creek-conservation-park/

Contacts (qsos)

I was on the air at 04:45 UTC and worked the following stations:

VK3FKL/P

04:49 VK5BJF

04:53 VK5PX

04:58 VK5KKT

05:04 VK5PL

05:08 VK5FANA

05:14 VK5BBB

05:15 VK2CCP/3

05:17 VK5ZPF

05:20 VK2YK/5

05:23 VK3PF

05:26 VK5WWW

0530 VK5KLV

05:33 VK5HAA

05:34 VK2VW

05:36 VK2HFI

Sixteen stations in just over 45 minutes is not difficult to achieve and during that time I was visited by the Senior Ranger and we talked about radio and other things for a few minutes. He knew who I was and I know about him – probably because my wife is very active with the Friends of Scott Creek Conservation Park!

I swapped to the 20m antenna and the band was alive. I listened to SP4LVG, from Poland, whose signal was over strength nine. I was competing with some Australian amateurs running a lot more power and I could not break through. As the rain was now making its presence felt I packed up my gear, but tripped!

I managed drive home and then the Emergency Department at a city hospital became my QTH (home) until Friday evening. I will be a home station for Anzac Day.

Typically destroyed section: JCD photo
Earth has been burnt bare: JCD photo
More destruction: JCD photo
Growth at Last: JCD photo

Operating Conditions

I used my Yaesu 857D transceiver set for 10 watts, powered by a seven amp hour LiFePO4 battery, a linked dipole, a log book and clock set for UTC time. A squid pole completed the set up and I went to Gate 9 for the activation. I do not recommend Gate 9 as an activation spot: there is not enough space without going off track. Gate 8 is now unsatisfactory as the new park fence is is on a different alignment and there is space for only one vehicle. The Senior Ranger for the park is going to get the fence re-established on its earlier alignment. I enjoyed the activation and thanks to all of the operators who gave me a call. I was pleased to work Adam VK2YK/5 who was in Porter Scrub, VKFF-0787, making one park to park contact on the day.

DX Century Club, 8th February 2022

At long last: The Wireless Institute of Australia DX Century Club award for making contacts with amateurs in 100 countries! I have been an amateur since December 1976 but never had the time to become serious about DX. Radio filled the gaps left over after family, work, music and keeping fit took most of my time. Covid 19 has helped a bit by creating time as we have kept ourselves quarantined. I should also acknowledge Paul, VK5PAS, an avid DXer, who has encouraged me to keep going. The highlights include those made in my comments relating to the ARRL award, but as well I should say that chasing the DXpeditions has been fun.

ARRl DX Century Club with my preferred name

This award was obtained relying on Logbook of the World confirmations only.

Australia Day, January 26th 2022 & AX5BJE

I woke to a hot, humid but dry day and very still. A mass of unstable, moist air, laden with storms and electrical activity stretched like a giant finger across the continent from the Kimberley in Western Australia towards Victoria. This tropical weather system impacted a swathe of country including bits of Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia and extending to Tasmania. It is called a La Ninia system. La Ninia in Australia is associated with increased rainfall and for a Hills dweller like me, reduces the fire risk in the Mount Lofty Ranges.

We have been in exile! Perhaps I mean in isolation? I really mean in self-imposed quarantine. My wife and I have taken responsibility for our own care during the pandemic. We are both triple vaccinated and we keep a low profile. I do walk everyday in one of our local conservation parks, dog and bike free, in theory. When I hear or see runners or bikes on the tracks and out of control dogs, I quickly step aside and give way. I wish the rangers were more prominent and issued more on-the-spot fines more often!

We decided to stay home for Australia Day. The word Australia derives from the Latin Terra Australis. Terra Australis was the name given to a possible great south land hypothesised by scientists and navigators. Matthew Flinders began using Australia in his writings from 1804 and popularised it. In 1824 the British Admiralty agreed to adopt the term Australia for the continent.

Australia as a nation was initially comprised of six self-governing colonies and Federation took place on 1st January 1901. Federation Day would make a less contentious day for Australia day than January 26th 1788, when New South Wales was established as a prison colony.

So for Australia Day I had the choice of entering into a new trial contest or getting on the bands and working a few stations. I chose getting on the bands and seeing how many stations I could work in just a few hours not as a block of time but in episodes that were convenient. No doubt the contesters have had a lot more contacts than me, but I am now in my ninth decade and am taking my life in a more leisurely way: playing radio, reading and writing and enjoying some music. I am vulnerable to Covid 19 because of my age and comorbidities. I prefer my real ham shack to the virtual ham shack in the sky!

So I decided I would work on the 20, 15 and 10 metre bands over a number of time slots but the most active period was late afternoon and early evening when the 10 metre band opened to Europe. I enjoyed 102 contacts (qsos) with 17 countries. The late afternoon and early evening 10 metre band opening into Europe enabled my to increase my country count on this band. All contacts were made using the data mode of FT8.

Image from Club Log: the sprint on 10 metres (click to expand)

This image from Logbook of the World shows my current totals for all bands I operate. Club Log, which includes all my call signs, shows I now have 142 DX entities/countries confirmed.

I had a fun radio day and thank all the operators from overseas who now have AX5BJE in their logs.

The Australian prefix for amateur radio stations is VK. The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) sometimes allows the VI prefix to be used for special event stations. We are permitted to use AX on Australia Day and Anzac Day (25th April) and I chose to use the AX prefix for my station. I suspect it made a difference with more stations chasing me. The AX prefix is also permitted on World Telecommunications Day in May each year.

Yaesu FTM-300D: installation in Mazda 2, 28th December 2021.

I have just completed installing a Yaesu FTM-300D, dual band VHF and UHF radio in my Mazda 2. The radio provides FM and C4FM on the two metre and 70 centimeter amateur bands. It was quite a task to mount the radio in an acceptable fashion in such a small car with interior plastics very close to the metal body of the car. I would like to thank Chris, VK3AWG/VK3IK for providing the inspiration for my choice of the Ram Mount to support the control head. Chris has an excellent Youtube video of his installation in a Mazda 3 (a slightly bigger car than the Mazda 2). An exchange of emails and I had more information and I set about getting the parts.

A virus (not Covid 19) slowed me down a bit through late October into November but I decided not to procrastinate any longer! Finding a place for the radio body was the biggest challenge. Mounting on the side of the centre console took too much space and intruded into the passenger area. I considered underneath the rear parcel shelf. That was unsatisfactory because it moves up and down as the hatch is opened and closed. I looked at mounting it under the dash on the driver’s side of the cabin but it would be bumped by my knees because of my long legs. The photo below shows the head mounted on the Ram Mount (I chose the 18 inches long stalk). The US still uses imperial measurements: amazing for the land of the free! The head of the FTM-300D is small and it is mounted off centre as I need to mount a small speaker there for either the A or B band. The other speaker is mounted in a small centre space in the dash and is just visible in front of the gear shift lever.

FTM-300D on Ram Mount

The photo two below shows the radio mounted on the rear of the centre console supported on the hump and the well-engineered mounting bracket is held in place with industrial grade velcro. There is a slight curve in the plastic and I will add some additional velcro to provide a bit more support. Power, speaker and coaxial cables are just visible in this photo. While installing the radio I listened to the WIA broadcast on my FT70D on VK5RDF (two metre repeater) and later on the FTM-300D.

FTM-3000D mounted on end of centre console – both photos were taken by my xyl,Jenny

The photo below shows the Brainer antenna mounted on a three-way Diamond Mount. I purchased the Brainer antenna from Dick Smith Electronics (when Dick, VK2DIK, owned the business) probably in the late 1980s or 1990s. I used it on a Suzuki Grand Vitara for many years. I will probably replace it with a Diamond black coloured smaller more stealthy antenna.

Brainer 2m & 70cm antenna on three way Diamond Mount
Dick Smith Advertisement from Amateur Radio Magazine, September 1993. My antenna is the ST-7500 which is a metre long and quite effective.

Mylor Conservation Park, VKFF-0785, Sunday 28th November 2021

Excellent weather greeted me on day two of the special WWFF Activation Weekend. My chosen park was the Mylor Conservation Park near home. This is also quite a small attractive park which I have been walking in (along with the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park) while Scott Creek Conservation Park remains closed due to the fire about 12 months ago. I was hoping the Scott Creek Conservation Park might have been opened in time for this weekend. It was not to be. I have activated Mylor Conservation Park on three previous occasions and I will return for a fifth to make up for the lack of contacts over the weekend due to antenna faults.

I arrived at the Park about 8.30 on Sunday morning and carried my gear into the park: about four trips. I have got to reduce the amount of clutter I carry. Take antennas for example. I carry about five antennas for all bands but only one of my antennas is designed for 80 metres. I have resolved to build another antenna which will cover 80 metres. There are lots of antenna designs for 80 metres but by the time you filter out verticals, loops and doublets you are left with just dipoles. I use a centre fed resonant linked dipole for 80 metres. Mine is from SotaBeams. I laid it out on the ground, an old sealed road, Whitehead Track, and armed with my MFJ analyser and my eyes I set out to find the fault in what has been an excellent antenna. Now I am gentle with my gear and look after it carefully but the antenna is long and it is easy to snag on a bush or a stick on the ground while laying it out or packing it up. The antenna works 80, 40, 30, 20 and 15 metres and a check with my analyser confirmed it was not working on any of the bands. With a linked dipole set for 80 metres all of the links need to be closed. I checked mine and found that to be correct. At the Knoll on Saturday I confirmed my radio was working by changing to a home brew antenna for 40 and 20 metres. So I started at one end and began a check by examining every soldered joint. I eventually found the fault: the wire had broken at the point where is attaches to the crocodile clip at the 15m metre links just on one side. It was hanging together by the insulation on the wire!

The Link – ready for repair
An earlier injury – centre insulator split and then glued following collapse of squid pole. The lump of material in the foreground out of focus is original glue. My repair is visible on left hand side of photo.

So I packed the antenna away and substituted another and proceeded to work 17 stations on 40 metres. I missed the 80m band. I enjoy this band for close-in contacts in South Australia and Victoria. I only worked one VK5 station at home (John VK5HAA).

The Park

I have visited Mylor Conservation Park on three occasions and here is a link to my last visit:

https://vk5bje.com/category/amateur-radio/sa-conservation-parks/mylor-conservation-park/

This Park has been described in detail with photos in my previous posts.

Contacts

2234 7.150 VK7DW/P 53 41 VKFF-1818 Drew

2236 7.155 VK3PF/P 57 57 VKFF-2329 Peter

2240 7.160 VK3VIN 59 57 Ian, Bendigo

2250 7.160 VK4AAC/3 59 53 VKFF-2189 Rob also spotted me on 7.160 Thanks Rob

2253 7.160 VK2VH/3 59 54 VKFF-2189

2253 7.160 VK3SQ 59 55 Geoff Beechworth

2255 7.160 VK3YE/P 53 54 Peter portable at Seaford Beach

2257 7.160 VK2VW 57 55 Brett

2258 7.160 VK2HFI 57 55

2252 7.160 VK5HAA 59 39 John at home in noisy environment

2301 7.160 VK3IH 59 54 Paul at Walkerville

2318 7.113 VK5MAZ/P 51 52 Marija VKFF-1078

2319 7.113 VK5PAS/P 51 52 Paul VKFF-1078

2321 7.120 VK3PF/P 59 59 Peter VKFF-2431

2326 7.160 VK3AWA/P 59 57 Darryl VKFF-2141

2328 7.160 VK3TV 59 57 Mal 2141

2352 7.140 VK2IO/P 51 44 Gerard VKFF-0473

I enjoyed the morning in the park and spent some time speaking with visitors about amateur radio. And a special thank you to all who gave me a contact.

The Knoll Conservation Park, Saturday 27th November 2021.

Picture

I was pleased to participate in the in the 2021 VKFF Activation Weekend. I notified Paul, VK5PAS, over two weeks ago and expressed the usual caveat relating to the weather. I would not visit the parks if the weather was inclement. We have had a wet and cold Spring. And two weeks out was too early for the Weather Bureau to provide a provisional forecast. On the Saturday the weather was great. I indicated that I would activate The Knoll Conservation Park, VKFF-0937. The last time I activated this park was on the 1st March 2013, eight years ago. In those days there were fewer amateurs interested in low power portable operations and I made seven contacts. Here is a link to that activation: https://vk5bje.com/2013/08/21/closer-to-home-some-adelaide-parks/

The Park

I have driven past The Knoll Conservation Park many times. I remembered where I set up my station and the main features of the park. But what I had forgotten was the ‘QRM’, audio, noise from cars speeding past the park. There was no or very little electrical noise – just the noise of cars, trucks and motorbikes passing by. It is an old park, established in 1967 and about 520 metres above sea level. the highest point is home to commercial/ public service radio installations. It is just two hectares in size and I have had the place to myself on the two radio visits I have made.

A search of the internet turns up many entries including one by VK5PAS. Birds SA has a site indicating the various bird species found in the park.

The Knoll Conservation Park – not far from Mount Lofty

Map Courtesy of Mapcarta

Contacts

My Log for The Knoll (click to expand)

I use a paper log book and transcribe my contacts into FLE (Fast Log Entry) by DF3CB. I used the WWFF formatting settings as all my contacts (five) were with stations in other parks, If you work a SOTA (Summits on the air) station as well as Parks stations change the settings accordingly. All my contacts were on the 40m band: none on 80m or 20m. I spent some time trying to find the fault in the antenna and will say more about that matter when I write a post on Mylor Conservation Park which I activated on Sunday 28th November. I have qualified this park for VKFF. I am very unlikely to return to The Knoll Conservation Park. I am just a few days off an unwanted award, well I really don’t mind getting it and ‘time marches on’. The award is the OBE: over b…..80! So I was pleased with my efforts. Thanks to all who gave me a call and I was delighted to have contacts with them all!

For the activation my station consisted of a Yaesu 857D transceiver set for ten watts and a five band linked dipole. I later substituted a home brewed dipole for 40m and 20m.

Finally, I had a visitor. John, VK5HAA who was activating VKFF-2891, he told me he was packing up and would call in at The Knoll Conservation Park to catch up. He said it would probably be an hour before he arrived. I was pulling down my station when he walked up the fire trail. We had a great eye ball contact and he brought me up to date with the changes he has made to his station. It was really good to see him.

Antarctica Post Script, 18th November 2021

While I obtained reasonably good marks for science at High School I knew I had a problem which would make succeeding in that area very difficult, if not impossible! I found out very early at school that I was colour blind. Resistor colour codes were a hazard but life became easier with a multimeter and later, a spouse, who could double check if I had doubts!

At University I met Ray Proudlock, then VK3YAP. Ray was a science student and we lived in the same residential college at the University of Melbourne. I lost track of Ray after I completed my studies and began in employment (again). I was a mature age student. I did not know then that he had an interest in Antarctica. Imagine my surprise when on the 12th March 1978 I had two contacts with Ray totalling about an hour and a quarter..

Here is my log entry.

Log entry two contacts with VK0RP at Mawson Base Antarctica

These are my notes in my log book. Ray said he tries to get on the air at 0900Z on Wednesdays and Sundays. He is VK3YAP in the current call-book (1978). He is using Collins KWM gear. Mawson station was described as being on a small peninsular of rock. The time was 5.15pm at Mawson and he will be there until February 1979. Expeditioners stay in individual rooms 6 feet 6 inches by 5 feet 6 inches (similar to the larger rooms we had in Queens College). Ray said he had a high level bunk about five feet off the floor with a desk and clothes space. There is a library with 1500 books, records and cassettes. He is part of the 25th expedition to Mawson; the first was in 1954 (my first year at high school). The temperature was 20 degrees in the recreation room. Movies Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Mawson is constructed of individual buildings. The sun shines 24 hours per day in summer. Dogs used solely on sea ice. Plateau – tractors are used. Power generation 165 KVA diesels – two – one operating at any given time. Diesel (fuel) Antarctic version does not freeze at 5 degrees.

My contacts with Ray are not confirmed by qsl cards but I chose to include them in this post because I knew Ray and I took extensive notes. I don’t know why I entered two contacts but I suspect he asked my to get some information for him or make a telephone call. I wanted to add Ray’s name to the expeditioners.

Amateur Radio, Volume 89, Number 5, 2021, Antarctic Adventures

Amateur Radio Magazine, front cover, Volume 89, Number 5, 2021

Antarctic Adventures was the major theme for the most recent edition of Amateur Radio Magazine. Ten fascinating articles provide very significant Antarctic content and ranged from two very interesting articles by Brian Clarke, VK2GCE and Rex Moncur, VK7MO to individual stories. Brian’s article provides an overview of the continent, which he writes was unknown until the early 17th century (p.12). Abel Tasman in 1642 reached 40 degrees south and James Cook 67 degrees but did not step foot on the continent because of fog and ice.

I was schooled in Tasmania and 1642 is etched in my brain. We learned the sentence, ‘In 1642 Tasman sailed the ocean blue’! (said with a lilt – dah da dah dah da dah da: I think iambic pentameter).

Jules Dumont d’Urville in 1840 claimed some of the continent for the French and that section of Antartica is named after him and is now called Dumont D’urville. In a tourist flight to Antarctica in 1977 out of Melbourne we flew in our Qantas 747 over Dumont D’Urville, circled and saw a very large radio tower and some tiny figures on the ground (Frenchmen). Rex Moncur held high office in the Australian Government as Director of the Australian Antarctic Division for ten years from 1988 – 1998. Rex first learned of Antarctica as a seven year old boy, when his father, VK3LN, made contact with an amateur on Heard Island. Rex indicates that Australia operates three bases on the continent: Casey, Davis and Mawson, as well as a base on Macquarie Island p.14ff).

The remainder of the magazine introduces the reader to the personalities, those men but no women in the AR sample, who served their country with distinction and have made major contributions to our knowledge of our planet, the sun and the climate. It is the contributions of the individuals and the splendid photographs which commanded my attention. Unlike most technical articles which appear in AR where the text is presented to describe a new project or a ‘fix’, the articles do not provide any insight or little insight into the individuals behind the story. The persons remain in the background, or there may be a sentence or two to introduce them, but this AR is different.

I acknowledge Roger Harrison, VK2ZRH and the technical editors and the publications committee for the work of producing this edition. It is a credit to you all and the individual authors.

Over the years I have made quite a few contacts with amateurs working in Antarctica. Some of those contacts have been confirmed by qsl cards and are displayed below.

G3CWI, Richard of Sota Beams fame. My log records that Richard was in Antarctica, but I did not write down the name of the base.

QSL from John Morrissey, VK0JM, 1979

VK0AC, Art Coolidge was stationed at Macquarie Island. I was fortunate to have two qso’s: 80 metres and about a month later on 40 metres. I gained my full call, VK3BJE, in May 1977. I used my Uniden 2020 and a five band trapped vertical antenna (18AVT by HyGain).
VK0GM, 8th March 1978
VK0GM
VK0PD, Paul is now back in Australia!

I was pleased to get Paul in my log with two ssb contacts on the 20 m band. I tried 40m unsuccessfully – just too noisy and not enough signal!

VK100AF, 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Airforce, 1921-2021, 8th August 2021.

A QSL card for VK5PF

I have received my first QSL card for VK5PF. I obtained this two-letter call to celebrate being an amateur for 40 years. I have kept the call for CW (morse code) contacts only. I am on the way to 200 qsos, most of which have been with WWFF and SOTA stations. These contacts are largely formulaic: exchange of call-signs and signal reports and WWFF or SOTA identification. Some have been confirmed on Logbook of the World (LOTW).

I set myself a goal of working VI100AF and VK100AF and achieved voice (ssb) and FT8 contacts with both stations on a number of bands from 80m to 10m. I thought I would call VK100AF using morse code and a dual paddle, instead of my hand key. I started with a bit of a wobble and had to correct my callsign. Anway I was pleased to check that I had a valid contact and then ordered the splendid four-sided card.