Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, VKFF-0989, 1st January 2017

I visited Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve on the 23rd of December 2016 and managed 22 contacts. One of the challenges at Tidbinbilla is that there is no mobile phone coverage and you call CQ and hope someone hears you. Nearly always that happens but you might have to wait a bit or change bands. Here is a link to that activation:


We were making our way home from Sydney back to Adelaide and we decided to return to Canberra to see the Versailles: Treasures from the Palace exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia on Saturday 31st of December. It was stunning and well worth the visit. We spent over four hours at the Gallery. France was bankrupt by 1788 and, if you are fortunate enough to visit the Palace of Verailles, you will probably understand why there was a revolution. The wealth and grandeur on display there was won at the expense of the people of France. The exhibition in Canberra displays some of the wealth in paintings, carpets, statues and other artifacts.  I have wondered in the past about how out of touch with the people were the absolute monarchies, the Sun King and his two successors in France and Ludwig in Bavaria and the splendid castles he left. These wonders are now of course held in the name of the people and attract tourist dollars. Of course I have visited Ludwig’s castles as a Wagnerian and simply marvelled at the scenes from his operas which adorn the walls.

So after Saturday I thought I should spend some of Sunday, New Year’s Day, in a Park. I decided to return to Tidbinbilla and complete the activation and gain enough contacts to give me the 44 required. I arrived at the Park and drove straight in: there was no way to pay the fee as the office was closed and there were no envelopes or card facilities! If you look at a map of the park you will see there is a loop road beginning about four kilometres past the Tidbinbilla Visitor Centre. I drove the loop to see whether there were other good activation spots and there were (perhaps the most interesting area is where the road crossed the Tidbinbilla River) but I decided to return to Webbs where I activated on my last visit. It is a great spot and I once again had it to myself.


The photo shows Webbs at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve: there is plenty of room for a half wave dipole on 80 metres!

I checked 80 metres first of all and there were a few contacts underway up and down the band with good strong signals. I could even hear the South Australians on 3.594 Mhz, weak but perfectly readable. I give a few calls but they could not hear me. I was using my 857D set for 15 watts and they are all 100 watt stations. I called CQ on 3.612 Mhz for a few minutes hoping I would gain a contact or two but it was all in vain. I decided to move to 40 metres and checked 7.115 Mhz. It was clear and I called CQ at 21:57z. There were no responses. I decided to have a look around the band and heard VK1AD/P.

My first contact at 22:02 on 7.095 Mhz was with Andrew at, VK1AD/P, who was activating SOTA summit VK1/AC-023. We were both 5 and 5. Andrew kindly spotted me. There is no mobile phone coverage at Tidbinbilla.

22:04 VK1VIC/2, 51 43, Tony, VK2/ST-001. I thought I should quickly move back to 7.115 and checked the frequency once again and at 22:07 was called by Mick, VK3GGG/VK3PMG. His signal was 5 and 6 and I received a 5 and 3.

22:12 VK2FENG, Helen, 51 53

22:12 VK5IS, Ian, 59 57

22:13 VK1MA, Matt, 59 55, VK1/AC-008 and VKFF-0377

22:16 VK5KLV, Less at Port Augusta, 58 57

22:18 VK2IG, Mike, 55 51

22:22 VK5WG, Nev, 59 57

22:23 VK2HFA/P 57 53 near Port Macquarie

22:28 VK4AAC/5, Rob at Hahndorf 59 37. Rob was at Hahndorf (Australia’s oldest German town) where the WIA AGM for 2017 will be held.

22:30 VK5HYZ 57 53 David

22:32 VK7FAMP 53 43 Angela

22:35 VK2YES/P 52 57 Mario

22:37 VK7LTD 56 43

22:54 VK3ANL/P 55 45 VKFF-0750 & VK3/VC-031

22:57 VK3XV/P 59 57 Tony at Ham Hill

22:57 VK5RV 59 59 Ron

23:03 VK3FPSR 59 54 Peter

23:07 VK5PAS/M 59 58 Paul near Mount Bryan

23:09 VK7FRJG 55 55 Rod at New Norfolk

23:12 VK3SQ 59 58 Geoff

23:14 VK5ZAT/P 52 54 Nick

23:19 VK2YW 59 59 John

23:21 VK2IO/P 57 58 Gerard

23:24 VK3YSA/M 58 44 Anthony Melbourne

23:28 VK3XDM/3 53 52 Mitch VK3/VC-003

23:29 VK3EQ/3 53 57 with Mitch

23:38 VK1MA/1 53 53 Matt VK1/AC-008

23:45 VK5CZ/5 51 51 Ian VK5/NE-035 Ian

23:46 VK5NHG 51 51 Hugh with Ian

23:50 VK3ZPF, 57 57 Peter VK3/VC-005 in Yarra Ranges National Park

Thanks to all who gave me a call at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Thirty three contacts , together with those from my previous activation, means I have more than the 44 contacts required to qualify the park.


VK1MA/1, Matt was in the Brindabella Ranges (see photo above) at Mount Ginini and had a very strong signal, 5 & 9 but he was running more power than me and was elevated. I was operating at 15 watts and received 5 and 5.

On the way back to Canberra I decided a coffee at the Cafe at the Space Tracking Station would be in order. I also wanted to see some dishes that the microwave enthusiasts would love!



This photo shows a lunar rover in the Tidbinbilla Museum at the Space Tracking Centre. I recommend this as a splendid place to visit and the volunteer guide was very helpful and knowledgeable. another-dish

Finally, I would like to say how much I enjoy visiting the ACT. It is a beautiful place.

Scheyville National Park, VKFF-0444, 27th December 2016

Scheyville National Park is only a 20 minute drive from our son’s home at The Ponds. It is the closest national park to this area and Cattai National Park is not that much further to go. Here is a link to an earlier activation which includes some photos:


The land contains the remnants of a built environment. More details are provided in my earlier post. I did drive right through the park on this occasion looking for activation spots and chose to return to my first location used last time.

I thought I would make an early start at the Park and there was no one else there that I could see. I did have a break when a Ranger spotted me and drove down to my location from Memorial drive. He had never heard of amateur radio. He was quite interested in my set up and was fascinated by HF communications. Of course he knew about radio communications and pointed out the radio in his Departmental vehicle.  I showed him my log and at 22:42 UTC I had a contact with Ian, VK1DI/p, who was at Yurammie State Conservation Area, VKFF-1403 and my only park to park contact. He was impressed. I also showed him my post for my last visit to Scheyville, two years ago to the day. He pointed this out. He also told me that the ants that were attacking us were meat ants. They track down their prey – in this case humans and even if you move to a new location they soon find you! This is the first time I have spoken to a NSW Government Ranger.

I thought I would begin my activation on 3.610 Mhz at 22:02 UTC hoping to attract some nearby NSW amateurs and posted to this effect on Parks and Peaks. I did not get a contact on 80 metres which was a bit disappointing as I and others, especially Paul, VK5PAS, make good use of this band for portable activity at home and I had some success on 80 metres at the Greater Bendigo National Park.

I moved to 7.144 Mhz and called CQ at 22:09. Peter, VK3ZPF answered my call with s53 r52. A promising start was made on 40m and I had high expectations of a good morning, even though it is a public holiday here in NSW (and may be elsewhere).

Quite a few CQs later I worked Tom, VK5EE, at Mount Gambier 57 54

22:19 VK3FORD 55 55 Matt at Swan Hill

22:25 VK4HNS/P Neil 58 55

22:28 VK3PMG Mick at Stawell 59 57

22:29 VK3GGG 59 57

22:30 VK7AN Al on the North East Coast of Tasmania 59 57

22:33 VK5HCF Tom at Mount Gambier 59 54

22:35 VK5PAS 59 57

22:38 VK3SQ Geoff 59 54

22:42 VK1DI/2 Ian at VKFF-1403

22:45 VK2KYO Ken 59 55

22:48 VK2HHA 59 59 Denis Albury

22:51 VK5FMWW Mike 55 45

22:52 VK5FVSV 55 45

22:54 VK5ZGY Greg 51 51

22:57 VK7CW Steve 59 57

22:59 VK2MTC 59 59 Greg at Cooma

23:00 VK2XXM 59 58 Robert

23:03 VK3MRG 51 51 Marshall

23:07 VK3RV Peter 59 55

23:15 VK3WQ Jenny 59 56

23:19 VK4RF Rick 59 57

23:10 VK4HA 59 57

This is the point where the Ranger visited and at 23:43 I called CQ on 14.310 for quite a few minutes before returning to 7.144. I made no more contacts but it was a most enjoyable activation and thanks to all who gave me a call.

Mount Ainslie, VK1/AC-040 & VKFF-0850, 20th December 2016

I had been in contact with Andrew, VK1AD, about activating Mount Ainslie, VK1/AC-040, while in Canberra on our way to Sydney. This discussion followed an earlier one based on his blog and description of Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) and the new 70cm repeater for that mode commissioned in Canberra.  I noted from Andrew’s blog that he had used DMR on UHF for SOTA activations. But the story begins earlier than that.

In October I chaired a general meeting of the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society, where two Adelaide amateurs presented an introduction to and demonstration of DMR. The Club President, Barry Williams, VK5BW, was ill with a late winter bug that had been doing the rounds in Adelaide.  Barry asked me to step up as Chair which I gladly did. Later I decided to purchase a radio for DMR: a Tytera MD-380 which I imported from China. I spent a week or more reading the reviews of non Motorola radios designed for DMR (which Motorola developed) but which is open to any manufacturer to use.  One of the Adelaide presenters sent me a Code Plug (DMR language for configuration file) for the new Adelaide repeater. I loaded this into my radio and travelled up to Mount Lofty and enjoyed my first contact with another Barry, in Sydney, via talk group 505. I was impressed with the received audio from the repeater, although there was some R2D2 on Barry’s signal into the Sydney repeater he was using. (R2D2 is the name of a droid from the original Star Wars film dating from 1977 and he/she/it had a very mechanical/machine sounding voice). Programming the radio requires a computer. I duly programmed in 439.200 Mhz which is the suggested simplex frequency for DMR. However, I found out that in Canberra 439.0125 is the simplex frequency. The Tytera is sold as capable of operation on 400 Mhz to 580 Mhz as a commercial radio. To be legal for amateur use it must only be programmed with amateur frequencies and mine contains Adelaide, Canberra and two Sydney repeaters only. It is not easily capable of being programmed from the key pad.

If you would like to learn more about DMR here is a link to the Australian information page: http://www.vkdmr.info  In simple terms DMR, standing for Digital Mobile Radio, is an increasingly common commercial digital mode for use on VHF and UHF. Amateurs began acquiring used Motorola radios and using them on the VHF and UHF amateur bands. There are many commercial digital systems and another of interest to amateurs is P25. These systems compete with Dstar from Icom and Kenwood and other makers and C4FM from Yaesu. There are plenty of comparisons between the systems on the web and I have found these of interest, especially where the authors declare their biases. What makes DMR so interesting to the amateur experimenter is that is a TDMA system: Time Division Multiple Access, and thus supports two contacts simultaneously on the one repeater. I have been impressed with the recovered audio from Tytera MD-380 but the same applies to my Dstar radios. What you hear depends on  the quality of the in-going signal and the distance from the repeaters at each end.

I had from home arranged to meet Andrew on the summit of Mount Ainslie with the aim of securing four contacts using DMR to successfully activate the summit for SOTA. Andrew had emailed the club members in advance that the activation was going ahead and could they kindly listen out for me. Well the week before Christmas is always busy and no doubt that was the case in Canberra. I was delighted to gain one DMR contact with Jim, VK2MK/1. Many further calls were made on on 439.0125 by both Andrew and I without success. A change of plan was called for. Andrew once again alerted the locals via the Mount Ginini two metre FM repeater and I was able to well and truly qualify the  Peak on two metres FM. The highlight contact was with another on the Canberra amateurs called Andrew, VK1DA/p (also VK2UH) portable on Mount Taylor, VK1/AC-037. My log is reproduced below with ten contacts achieved. In addition to Andrew’s TYT DMR radio we used my ICOM IC 80AD hand held ( DStar and FM) and Andrew’s dual band FM Yaesu handheld. I think it is so good to use frequency bands other than 40 metres for SOTA and Parks activations.

The late afternoon was splendid, warm and with a breeze that dropped as the time progressed into early evening.

Date:20/Dec/2016 Summit:VK1/AC-040 (Mt Ainslie) Call Used:VK5BJE/1 Points: 1 Bonus: 0

Time   Call   Band   Mode   Notes
05:57z VK2MK/1 433MHz Data DMR Jim
06:14z VK1SP 144MHz FM Wedge
06:20z VK1FCBX 144MHz FM Ross
06:23z VK1EM 144MHz FM Mark
06:24z VK1GT 144MHz FM Graeme
06:28z VK1RX/M 144MHz FM Al
06:50z VK1MBE 144MHz FM Andrew
06:55z VK2MWP 144MHz FM
06:55z VK1MBE 144MHz FM Andrew
07:05z VK1DA/P 144MHz FM VK1/AC-037 Mt Taylor Andrew

This was my third activation on Mount Ainslie and I have activated it for SOTA and WWFF. I have previously qualified the park, Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve, for VKFF. I had a most enjoyable time and wish to thank Andrew, VK1AD, for his generosity in being part of the activation , together with the use of his DMR radio and the local amateurs who gave me a call. I am returning to Canberra on our return trip to Adelaide to meet up with Andrew again for further activations on HF.

Here are links to my previous activations on Mount Ainslie: