A couple more Mallee Parks: Ferries McDonald & Monarto CPs

Can't wait - young guys sit on the ground - older guys usually use a chair - Photo by David, VK5KC

Can’t wait – young guys sit on the ground – older guys usually use a chair –
Photo by David, VK5KC

Ferries-McDonald Conservation Park 11 August 2013

After playing clarinet with the Payneham City Concert Band at the Strathalbyn Band Festival on Sunday morning, and armed with my portable gear, I travelled to Ferries-McDonald CP. I had earlier contact with David, VK5KC, who indicated he would like to join me in the afternoon. With the help of 146.500 MHz FM and a GPS he found me in Ferries-McDonald on a sunny, ‘warm’, winter’s day in this typical Mallee park, amongst other animals, home to Mallee Fowl.

By the time David arrived I had my antenna in place. We used his FT817nd, and while brushing away four engined very aggressive mosquitoes we managed quite a few contacts between the two of us. While some were common, some were unique and here is my list. VK5CZ/p QRP , Ian at Maurice Hill, 049; VK5LY, Larry; VK5LA, Andy; VK5IS, QRP, Ian; VK5ZAI/p QRP, Tony at Butcher Gap CP (ask Tony how far he had to travel); VK3PF/p QRP, Peter at VC008; VK3BHR, Phil at Bendigo; VK3AMB, Bernard; VK5KGP, Graham; VK5HCF/p QRP, Col at Tantanoola Caves CP (with a very civilised set up: see his photos on the Yahoo page); VK5FMID, Brian and VK3ANL, Nick.

Monarto Conservation Park 11 August 2013

After befriending a shingle back lizard, also known as a stumpy tail, and speaking with some walkers in the Park, we got to work. We used David’s antenna and my Ten-Tec Argonaut VI. While some of our contacts were common some were unique. Here is my list: VK5KGP, Graham; VK3BD, Brian; VK1MA, Matt; VK5WG, Nev; VK5DJ, John; VK5LY, Larry and VK5IS QRP, Ian.

Our friendly Shingle back lizard - Photo by David, VK5KC

Our friendly Shingle back lizard – Photo by David, VK5KC

Closer to home: some Adelaide Parks – Belair NP & The Knoll & Mt George CPs

Belair National Park 1 August 2013

Belair NP is perhaps not a typical National Park. While it preserves Old Government House, the State Flora Nursery and some native bushland it also has many recreation facilities and, rather uniquely,  it allows walking of dogs on leads. It is also intersected by the Adelaide to Melbourne Railway. It was previously known as the Belair Recreation Park and was the first park gazetted in South Australia. I activated this park on the afternoon of the 1st August. I had five contacts: VK5LY/p, Larry; VK5HCF, Col; VK3KAN/p, Rick in the Bogong National Park using a KX3; VK5EE, Tom; and VK5PAS, Paul.

The Knoll Conservation Park 1 August 2013

After leaving Belair NP it is just a short drive to The Knoll CP. The Knoll is a small park and one brochure indicated that it was closed to the public because of the communications tower located within its boundaries. I knew that VK5PAS, Paul had earlier activated this Park and that one of the National Park rangers knew of my activities there (after the event). There are no signs indicating it is closed to the public. I had seven contacts: VK5LY, Larry; VK5PAS, Paul; VK3FD/p4, QRP (2.5 watts), Ian; VK5AKK /QRP, 5 watts, Phil; VK5FMID, Brian; VK5EE, Tom and VK5HCF/QRP (5 watts) Col.

Thanks to all of those amateurs with whom I had contacts, especially the family of Park ‘chasers’.

Mt George Conservation Park 4 August 2013

On a threatening Sunday afternoon I decided to activate Mt George CP, like Belair NP and The Knoll CP, not far from my home. After 18 contacts, VK5BW, Barry, decided I needed to treat my hypothermia and he invited me around to his home, just a few kilometres away for a hot drink: a splendid way to finish a great day. There were quite a few walkers in the Park and I had a number of curious folk ask me questions about what I was doing. One young woman told me her Grandfather was an amateur. It was too windy for me to put out my information sign. Many thanks to the following amateurs, including some new call signs for me: VK5PAS/p, Paul in Horsnell Gully CP, who was also cold and wet; VK3UBY, Colin from Mildura; VK5WG, Nev; VK5LY, Larry; VK5FMID, Brian; VK5EE, Tom; VK5FTTC, Rod; VK5ZAI, Tony; VK5ZTJ/m, Trevor; VK5HCF, Colin; VK5NRG, Roy; VK5LI, Craig; VK5IS, Ian; VK5PAS/p, Giles CP (now even colder and wetter); VK5TN, Robin; VK5LA, Andy; VK5FTCT, John and that kind soul, VK5BW, Barry.

By now you should be able to guess: no pictures – no Jenny, my wife, accompanying me! She is the photographer.

My National & Conservation Park activations

Murray Sunset NP Murray-Sunset National Park: turning North from the Sturt Highway.

I commenced activations for the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award on 19th May when I visited the Scott Creek Conservation Park in the Adelaide Hills. This splendid park is near my home. Accompanying me on this occasion was David, VK5KC and we made many contacts, in order: VK1MA, Matt; VK3HRA/p Allen; VK5KGP, Graham; VK5PAS/p, Paul; VK5ATW,Trevor; VK3FDJT, Darren; VK3FMPB, John; VK5NRG, Roy; VK3CRG/p, Craig; VK5HGW, David; VK2MDC, Doug; VK5HCF, Col; VK5KFB, Rod and on 20 metres, VK2AXB, Grant and VK2ELF, Rowan. A number of other activations soon followed: Mark Oliphant (VK5FTTC/p, Rod in Talisker CP; VK5ATW, Trevor; VK5MBD, Bill; VK5PAS, Paul; VK2JTF/p, Shane; VK2XT, Bill; VK1MA, Matt; VK5CZ, Ian; VK5LA, Andy and VK5ZKR, Rod) and Mylor of the 21st May (VK5PAS/p, Paul in Ferries-McDonald CP; andVK2YW, John. On the 2nd June, when it was threatening to rain, I visited Onkaparinga National Park, VKFF – 402, to activate this park. My wife and I have walked in this park many times and it is great. In my CFS days I helped extinguish a significant fire in this park. I had contacts with: VK2YW, John; VK2UH, Andrew; VK3AFW, Ron; VK5PAS/p Paul; VK3PAH, Warren; VK3ZPF, Peter; VK5LA, Andy; VK5ZLG, Geoff; VK5FMID, Brian; VK3HRA, Allen and VK3ANL, Nick. All my contacts to this time were made using my FT817 (not ND), purchased at Wyong in 2004 and running 5 watts and a home made linked dipole supported at the centre on a squid pole.

Then I had a break! Winter ills: a ‘bug’ that I couldn’t seem to shake off.

After more than a month I thought I would make up for lost time! On the 24th July we set off for the Riverland and activated Ridley CP en route to the Riverland.  Contacts were made with: VK5EE, Tom; VK5LY, Larry; VK5FMID, Brian; VK5WG, Nev; VK5LA, Andy; VK5HCF, Col; Ian VK3FD/p, qrp 2.5 watts,  and VK3AMB, Bernard both in Melbourne.

Murray River National Park – Lyrup Flats Section 25th July, VKFF – 372 Murray River National Park Lyrup Flats This park is typical Murray River Flats country and constitutes a flood plain. There are plenty of numbered camping sites for those who want to stay, watch birds, fish or walk.  I was quickly on the air in the morning and had contacts with: VK5LY, Larry; VK5HCF, Col; VK3FD, QRP, Ian 2.5 watts; VK7KO, Gerry near Devonport, my home town, and Larry, VK5LY.

At work

At work in MRNP

Cooltong CP 25th July

Cooltong CP

Cooltong CP

Cooltong is a beautiful park, the mallee is in great shape and the trees are tall  (just visible in the background of the picture). It is my pick of the bunch for a mallee park.  Using my new Ten-Tec Argonaut VI for the first time I made the following contacts: VK5HCF, Col; VK5ATW, Trevor; VK5PAS, Paul; VK5EE, Tom; VK5WG, Nev; VK5TN, Robin; VK5LY/m, Larry; VK2XT, Bill; VK5FBAC, Charles; VK2KF, Tom from Kandos on 7.105 checking out his amplifier before the Kandos Group and VK5VW/p4 Mark, who has just moved to Queensland from SA. Mark was delighted to hear someone with a South Australian accent!

In the morning of 26th July I activated Pike River Conservation Park, which along with MRNP, Lyrup Flats, is very close to Renmark. Contacts were had with VK5LY/p, Larry, who was in the Pooginook CP; VK5PAS/p, Paul, who was activating Mt Magnificent CP; VK3AMB, Bernard; VK5FMID, Brian; VK5EE, Tom; VK3ANL, Nick; VK5HS/m, Ivan; VK3AZZ, Mac; VK3PF, Peter; VK5WG, Nev; VK3ATA, Yuri; VK3KAN/m, Rick; VK5FBAC, Charles; VK5HOS, Owen; VK5ATW, Trevor; VK5LA, Andy; VK5PAS/p, Paul, Finnis CP; VK5FMID, Brian; VK5YX/m4, Hans at Windora and VK5LY/p, Larry at Morgan CP. Larry was able to visit and activate two parks while I had a most relaxing late morning at Pike River CP waiting for the RAA agent to come because our car wouldn’t start.

After lunch, and ensuring the car would start x times before setting off, we made a visit to Murray- Sunset National Park, VKFF – 373,  in Victoria. Sixteen contacts from this park kept me busy on a beautiful winter’s afternoon with quite a few VK3 calls taking time out to get this park in their logs: VK5WG, Nev; VK5PAS/p, Paul; VK3AW, Laurie; VK3AMB, Bernard; VK4CPS, Paul; VK3ANL, Nick; VK5ATW, Trevor; VK5CZ, Ian; VK3UP, Terry; VK3PHA, David (having his first ever contact) VK2FPQ, Graham; VK5EE, Tom; VK5TN, Robin; VK5FMID, Brian; VK5HS/m, Ivan and VK5LY/p, Larry at Maize Island CP.

On the 27th July after a visit to Larry’s QTH we set our for Danggali CP: after 23 contacts it was time to pack up and travel back to Renmark. Contacts were had with: VK5KC/p, David at Lowan CP; VK5LY, Larry; VK5HCF, Col; VK5KGP, Graham; VK5HS/m, Ivan; VK3ANL, Nick; VK5ZK, Garry; VK3LY, Bill; VK5PAS/p, Paul SS. 077; VK5CZ, Ian; VK5WG, Nev; VK5LY, Larry; VK3JP, Ron; VK5HOS, Owen; VK3FKAA, Greg; VK5EE, Tom; VK3HRA, Allen; VK5KC, David; VK5PET, Peter, (newly licenced); VK5ATN, Terry; VK5AFW/m, Ron; VK5FMID, Brian and VK5AKH, Andy. Danggali is about 100 kilometres north of Renmark. It would be a great place to visit with a 4×4 club.

Operating in Danggali Conservation Park

Operating in Danggali Conservation Park

Maize Island CP 28th July Maize Island Lagoon CP Operating at Maize Island Lagoon CP Maize Island Lagoon CP was a morning destination and the following stations were worked: VK3MBW, Barry; VK3SMC, Simon; VK5LY, Larry; VK5PAS/p, Paul at un-named summit VK5 SE 006; VK5LA, Andy; VK5KGP, Graham; VK5FD, Allan, 3 watts; VK5NRG, Roy; VK5ZTJ/p, Trevor at Burra George; VK5EE, Tom; and VK5HCF, Col.

Ramco Point CP 28th July

We did not drive through this!

We did not drive through this!

It took us a little while to find this park. From the surrounding cliffs it is quite obvious as a point in the river. It is approached though the Ramco Wetlands which appears to be a council park. A very fine bird hide is provided and after my contacts we spent some watching some of the local water fowl make a living. I worked the following stations: VK5ATW, Trevor; VK5LA, Andy; VK5HCF, Col; VK5LY, Larry; VK5FMID, Brian; VK3ZPF/ QRP, Peter at Beaconsfield; VK5BW, Barry; VK5EE, Tom; VK3ANL, Nick; VK5KC, David; VK3FKAA, Greg; VK5FMID, Brian and VK5PAS/p, Paul at Mt Bryan VK5  SE 001.

Pooginook CP 29th July

In Pooginook CP

In Pooginook CP

Guess who lives here?

Guess who lives here?

Pooginook CP is home to an introduced colony of Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats and they wouldn’t be very popular if they trespassed onto nearby farmlands and used their earth-moving skills! I had nine contacts: VK7FMPR, Mark; VK5PAS, Paul; VK5WG, Nev; VK5ATW, Trevor; VK5HCF, Col; VK5FMID, Brian; VK3FJAE, Doug from Maryborough and VK5NFB, Don.

Whites Dam CP 29th July

Whites Dam CP

Whites Dam CP

Operating in the rain at Whites Dam

Operating in the rain at Whites Dam

Whites Dam CP was the second activation before lunch and it was beginning to rain. The antenna was set up hanging from a tree and was a bit low. Nevertheless, I had 13 contacts before packing up and heading for Morgan for lunch. I worked: VK5KC, David; VK5LY, Larry; VK5WG, Nev; VK5ATW, Trevor; VK5EE, Tom; VK5ZK, Garry; VK5KGP, Graham;  VK5HCF, Col; VK5FMID, Brian; VK2JDS, Dave; VK3RV, Peter; VK5AKK, Phil and VK5TN, Robin.

Morgan CP 29th July

Morgan CP

The light rain eased to showers at Morgan CP where we ate our lunch before beginning the third shift for the day. Contacts were had with: VK5LDM, Dennis; VK5LY, Larry; VK5WG, Nev; VK5ZK, Garry; VK5FMID, Brian; VK5HCF, Col; VK5EE, Tom; VK5AKK, Phil; VK5PAS, Paul; VK5ATQ, Trevor; VK5BW, Barry; VK5ATW, Trevor; VK5FMJC, John and VK5KGP, Graham. After Morgan CP I thought we should do something else. We decided to travel on the Waikerie side of the river via Cadell back to Waikerie over a road I have driven many times in an earlier (working) life! Not far out of Waikerie we saw the sign: Hogwash Bend CP and we decided to investigate.

Hogwash Bend CP 29th July

DSCN2531 (400x300)

Hogwash Bend is a relatively new CP. I checked the Parliamentary record and it was proclaimed a CP on 6th September 2012. It has always been a popular picnic and camping spot and there were hardy folk camping under canvas when we visited. It is a beautiful park with a sandy beach in the river on the Park side. The relevant Government Department (DEWNR) has (in a time of budgetary distress) already improved the signage and placed vehicle barriers across sensitive areas.

Hogwash Bend CP

It was late in the day and I am grateful to the five amateurs who enabled me to activate this park: VK5LY, Larry; VK5HCF, Col; VK3KAN/p, Rick,  Bogong National Park in Victoria; VK5EE, Tom and VK5PAS, Paul. We always enjoy the Riverland and thanks to all who helped to make it fun with keeping track of me via amateur radio. And the dogs of the Riverland are smart!

Notice for the smart dogs of the Riverland!

My equipment

In recent times I have renewed my interest in portable operation specifically using QRP radios. My equipment is an FT817 and a Ten-Tec Argonaut VI. My antenna is a home made linked dipole for 20 and 40 metres together with a light weight SOTA linked dipole from England.

My linked dipole is rugged and great for parks use and probably alright for a summit as well. I use Mark’s (Tet-Emtron) dipole centres and the Kevlar centred wire. This wire is very strong and light and does not kink. Its construction is similar to coax. There is an outer plastic insulating cover, a mesh conductor (braid) like the shield in coax and the centre contains the Kevlar. My approach to soldering this wire is based on a few experiments. Where the wire goes inside the Power Pole lugs I stripped the outer insulating material off to the correct length, then pushed the braid back and very carefully, using side cutters, trimmed three millimetres of Kevlar off allowing me to then twist the braid into a point or spade shape. I lightly tinned this and then placed the Power Pole lug over the wire and applied a hot iron to that point on the lug where the cylinder containing the wire gives way to the spade. The solder flows through the cracks. I then run the iron down the join on the cylinder to complete the assembly. You will notice that the soldered joints are not load bearing. To erect the antenna slide the dipole centre hole over the squid pole ensuring that the SO239 is facing down. Attach the coax before pushing up the squid pole.

I have two ways of mounting a squid pole. The first is to use a PVC plastic sleeve slightly larger than the base of the squid pole and lash the sleeve to a post, rock, fixed picnic table or something similar. The sleeve protects the base the squid pole from being crushed. The second method is to mount the squid pole on a tripod (in my case a speaker tripod from Jaycar). You can see this approach in some of the pictures. I have made a bracket that fits over the top of the tripod and this contains two baluns for antenna experiments. On occasions with light winds I do not need to guy the tripod or squid pole, but if the winds are reasonably strong I guy the whole assembly. You can see this in the picture of the Cooltong CP activation.

Tet-Emtron dipole centre

Tet-Emtron dipole centre

Front side of dipole centre

Link assembly (20 & 40m)

Link assembly (20 & 40m)

Well you might ask, what’s the difference between an FT817 and a Ten-Tec Argonaut VI as far as portable QRP operation is concerned? The major differences between the two transceivers are as follows: the receiver in the Argonaut is better and less prone to suffer from strong signals near by (5 KHz or less)  and second, the Argonaut has a splendid variable width SSB filter, which is really effective. There are many other differences, but the ones that count are the Argonaut has a speech processor, the current drain is less for receive, the display is larger and visible in bright light (using the default colour of blue) and the DSP is excellent. However, it is a little larger than the FT817 and, while it is rugged, it is not as suitable as the Yaesu as a back pack radio. I have fitted the 2.4 KHz SSB filter to my FT817 and it does improve receiver performance. I like both radios and will admit my comments are entirely subjective!

Front view of Argonaut & FT817

Front view of Argonaut & FT817

Side view

Side view