I went for my morning walk of 7th February taking with me a 22 year old radio: a VX5R, by Yaesu. This radio is a three band hand held and I had mine tuned to the two metre band calling frequency of 146.5 Mhz. I knew that the DXpeditioners were to arrive on Troubridge Island on Tuesday morning and were probably setting up their station while I walked. The track I take for about a three and a half kilometre walk reaches a high point of over 435 metres. Anyway I thought I would call VK5TIL and see what might happen. I called VK5TIL and identified as VK5BJE and was amazed when Ivan’s voice (VK5HS) rang out from my radio, with our contact counting as a park to park, p2p, qso. My radio has four power output levels and I was using just 250 milliwatts!
My interest in VK5TIL is because all of the operators are friends of mine and that Troubridge Island ,a Conservation Park, is included in the WWFF program with the number VKFF-1108.
Camp Track has some steep sections
Loftia Track towards the high spot
These three photos are typical track views in the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park. More photos can be found by clicking on the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park in the index on the first page of this blog.
I decided to return to this park to activate it for the Boomerang Award. It was my fifth activation with at least 10 contacts. I will now concentrate on other local parks. My last activation was for National Wattle Day on the 1st September 2022.
I used my ICOM 705, AH5 coupler and a five band linked dipole antenna. I used a seven amp hour LiFePO4 battery. I chose the same location as for the activation on the 1st September. I made 18 contacts.
I was pleased to participate in this event. I like trees and some wattles, but not all! some have weed status in the Adelaide Hills Thanks to the WWFF Australia Awards Manager, Paul, VK5PAS, for the certificate.
As well I activated this park on 2nd August 2020 for National Tree Day.
Since my last activation the authorities have developed a new car park, provided a picnic area with a table and seating, modernised the signage, planted new trees and marked out some new trails.
As well the plaque noting the dedication of the park to the memory of Sir Mark Oliphant is now in a better position clearly visible to visitors. This park is a popular walking location and has a number of steep trails, is a site for scientific experiments under the auspices of Flinders University and seems to be much busier with cars seemingly always in the car park.
When I arrived on Thursday afternoon I had in my mind the concept of Terra Nullius. I thought the new picnic area would make a great activation spot and save me the work of carrying my gear further into the park. I decided I would leave that area alone and set up a few more metres into the park just off the main track. It took me a few trips back and forth to the 4×4: table and chair, radio and batteries and a three bags of antennas. In the end I set up my home made 40m and 20 m dipole in inverted v fashion with the ICOM 705, AH5 coupler and my palm key.
Other bits and pieces included two log books (one for VK5BJE and one for VK5PF), a clock on UTC time and my Samsung tablet and Netgear Nighthawk modem. The Samsung tablet, with its android operating system, replaced an ancient Ipad which I used for many years in the field. I posted my QRV and details on a windows machine before I left home. However, when I changed to 20 metres and wanted to post my frequency and reference, I could not get Parksnpeaks to accept my post. I kept getting a message suggesting I needed two FFs and that my reference was incorrect. I tried various approaches to entering the reference number. In the end I settled on 14.032 and called QRL? a few times and then called CQ. I did not attract any interest! If anyone with more developed computer skills than me can offer a suggestion on what has caused the difficulties with my attempts at posting I will be very pleased. However, after a flash of inspiration, I have found the issue after observing a trial posting (by Adam, VK2YK, VK5GA) at the Amateur Radio Experiments’ Group (AREG) buy and sell on the 3rd September. When I arrived home I checked my WordPress site. WordPress gives three options for viewing: desktop, tablet and mobile. This can be understood another way: portrait or landscape. I was using my tablet in portrait mode/mobile mode and it would not bring up the drop down list for selecting a park. Turning the tablet on to a horizontal plane, or as a desktop brought up the drop down park list. This may be a problem for other young activators as well as the not so young!
I enjoyed 14 contacts on 40 metres, including six park to park qsos, before deciding it was getting cold and the rain was about to start. I am glad I made the effort to help celebrate National Wattle day and the 1st day of Spring. It rained as I drove home – great timing!
05:26 VK2MET/P park to park VKFF-0490
05:27 VK3BEZ/P park to park VKFF-0764
07:35 VK5DG park to park VKFF-0900
05:40 VK1DA Andrew
05:42 VK2MOE/P park to park VKFF-3030
05:44 VK1VIC park to park VKFF-0164
05:46 VK2IO/P park to park 3198
Thank you to all of the activators and chasers who gave me a contact. Contacts are always very much appreciated.
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.
I was on the air at 04:45 UTC and worked the following stations:
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.
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.
Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, VKFF-0782 & 5CP 127
Mark Oliphant Conservation Park
Yes, it has been a long time since my call has been heard from a National Park. My last activation was on 31st July 2019 and on the 31st August 2019 I was admitted to hospital for major surgery.
…tell me my fate Put me upright, make me walk straight
These reflective words from Bob Dylan’s wonderful song ‘Mother of Muses’ from his recent album (Rough and Rowdy Ways, Columbia) touched me and I could identify with them immediately. I can walk straight but the upright stance still needs a bit of work! My muse is a local physiotherapist.
The last 12 months have gone by fast but I did do some other things. In amateur radio I have become active in DMR which has quite a steep learning curve to master the basics (more so than DStar or C4FM). I have a hot spot operational as I am a little too far from the repeater for hand held radio access. If I had a shack radio (mobile, not high on my priority list) I would be able to access the repeater direct. I once tried DMR portable but did not have my radio programmed properly (see my blog post https://vk5bje.com/category/mount-ainslie-nature-reserve-vkff-0850/). I put DMR aside from that time until a few months ago when I decided to re-kindle my interest.
I have kept up my cw although not at the same pace as when Gerard, VK2IO was portable through winter of 2019 in VK2, VK3 , VK5 and VK8 and we, on some days, had two or three cw contacts. And I have written a two volume Memoir, not for publication but it does include a chapter on amateur radio.
So Sunday 2nd August, National Tree Day, was a beautiful, warm mid-winter day. I had posted my intention to activate the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, which is about two kilometres from home. As I look out my family room window to see Mount Lofty, the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park is in the foreground. Gerard, VK2IO/5 activated this park while in Adelaide. I have activated this park four times for WWFF and SANCPA. My most recent activation was in 2016. I have also walked the various trails through the park on many occasions over the last year. I have a goal of one half hour walk per day and most days my walk is between 50 minutes and one hour. It has helped me to get reasonably fit again and aid in my recovery. I never thought much of this park, especially when comparing it with Scott Creek Conservation Park which is also nearby and where I walk most frequently. However, I have revised my opinion and the walks are quite excellent, steep approaches and very picturesque, especially in the higher parts of the park. On Sunday with the dappled light filtering through the trees it was beautiful.
This park was re-named to honour Sir Mark Oliphant (born 8th October 1901 and died 14th July 2000) academic, nuclear physicist and former Governor of South Australia (1971 – 1976). While Governor he spoke up about the conservation values in the Adelaide Hills (for more information about Sir Marc see Wikipedia and Obituaries Australia).
My station comprised my FT857D set for ten watts, a linked dipole and 33 amp hour gel cell battery. I used my Ipad to access the internet, but I should have read the SA National Parks and Wildlife information on this park where it is stated that mobile coverage is patchy in places. My location was one such place and a new spot for me – perfect in every way except for patchy mobile coverage. I could see Parksnpeaks and spent my time chasing other stations. The one attempt to put up a spot did not work and re-located me (at the speed of light) to another park some kilometres away!
I have previously activated this park on four occasions, most recently 15th January 2016 and have it qualified for wwff. I will now be able to count the five activations for the boomerang award! Click on Mark Oliphant Conservation Park in the Index on the right hand side of my blog page if you wish to see more photos including the naming plaque for Sir Mark Oliphant (see post on 1st December 2015).
What I did fail to do was to take the manual for the 857D. It is just over 12 months since I used the radio and I could not remember which of the three rear sockets was the correct one for the CW key. John, VK5HAA, kindly checked the on-line manual, and I was rewarded with working John twice (CW): once as VK5PF and the second time with VK5BJE. I always struggled with the orphan ‘e’ on the end of my call for CW but the practice I have done over the last three or so years found me rattling off the ‘e’ like a real ‘old-timer’! Well, I should be honest. I am an ‘old-timer’!
I was on the air at 01:17 and my first contact was with Gerard, VK2IO/P. Gerard was in VK2/ST-039 also VKFF-1195
2. 01:23 VK2YK/5 Adam at VKFF-1023 Cuddlee Creek Conservation Park
3. VK5PAS/P Paul, Bullock Hill Conservation Park, VKFF-0873
4. VK5CZ/P Ian, VKFF-0871 Bird Island Conservation Park
5. VK5PAS/P Paul, VKFF-0873
6. VK5IS Ian
7. VK5GY Gordon
8. VK5HAA John
10, VK2YK/P 59 57 VKFF-1023 Cudlee Creek Conservation Park
11. VK5AYL Sue
12. VK3SG Leith
13. VK3ZPF/QRP Peter
14. VK3VDX Ian’
15. VK2VH Rob
16. VK4AAC/2 Rob
17, 40m CW as VK5PF
18. VK5HAA, John 599 599
40m CW as VK5BJE
19. VK5HAA 599 599 John
20. VK5HAA John
21. VK5PI Mark
22. VK3PF Peter VKFF-0619 Alpine National Park
23. VK2HHA Dennis
25. VK4FDJL Deryk VKFF-0315 Millstream Falls National Park
26. VK5FMAZ Marija VKFF-0873 Bullock Hill Conservation Park
26 contacts with some duplicates, that is same call, same band, same mode.
Over the last two years VK5PAS, Paul, the originator of the SANCPA award program, has established a tradition of Friday late afternoon or early evening activations of South Australian National and Conservation Parks for the award. This award encourages portable amateur radio operations from South Australian Parks. It has become quite popular and a number of portable operators in the state make the effort to set up in a Park and lots of South Australian chasers and even more from interstate reward the activators with contacts. From the point of view of the portable operators, the activity develops planning skills, navigation techniques, introduces them to SA’s great parks as well as developing amateur radio skills associated with setting up a satisfactory low-power station and using battery power. Of course the activity develops operating skills, on-going learning of communication techniques, which not only benefit the individual, but perhaps may be useful to community organisations or help with developing a career.
For me, it is just fun. I have always enjoyed portable operations. So I decided to return to the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, VKFF-0782, for the fifth time. I was keen not only to assist chasers obtain this park but also to gain a score of 44 contacts to qualify this Park for the WWFF award. I always enjoy hearing from the operator at the other end say ‘this is a new Park for me’. On Friday evening I secured 38 contacts, including three duplicates, my overall cumulative score more than reaching the required 44. Here is a link to my previous activation:
I was pleased to be able to briefly discuss the symbolism of operating from this Park, with one of my contacts. The Park is named after a very prominent Australian scientist, who was also a conservationist and a past Governor of South Australia. Of course Sir Mark was interested in radiation, from nuclear energy, slightly different to the electro-magnetic radiation we play with! He also invented the Magnetron.
In my post of 11th December 2015 I included a photo of the plaque with the citation to Sir Mark. The operator told me he had read my earlier post and had noted the detail about Sir Mark.
This map, taken from a Park Guide shows the location of the Park in relation to Belair National Park, Cleland Conservation Park and Scott Creek Conservation Park. The brochure indicates that the ‘main function is to conserve an important example of the Adelaide Hills Forest Environment’. Messmate and Brown Stingybark trees dominate the forest canopy.
On this occasion I chose as my operating location an area just inside the Park near the point marked 6 on the map. Travel down Evans Drive (from the Heathfield end), a gravel track, until you reach the park boundary on your right hand side and you will come to a gate. When turning from Scott Creek Road into Evans Drive the Park begins on the corner and is thus on your left hand side at the turn. Near point 6 is a better location for the amateur radio operator than just inside the main gate (where the dedication plaque can be found). Maps courtesy of the SA Government.
I operated on 40 metres. I did briefly listen on 20m and decided not to stay! I was on the air at 05:25 and enjoyed the following contacts:
05:31 VK2GAZ/P, Garry in VKFF-0544 (Park to Park contact) Woolemi National Park
05:43 VK5PET/P Peter in VKFF-0784 Mount George Conservation Park
06:04 VK5PET/P Peter in VKFF-0784 (P2P) Mount George Conservation Park
07:16 VK5AW/P5 Adrian in VKFF-0372 Murray River National Park
VK5PAS/P5 Paul in VKFF-1029, Ettrick Conservation Park
Thanks to the operators in VK2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 who gave me a call. And a special thanks to those who spotted me: it makes a great difference to the activity!
Today, 11th December 2015, was set aside for a late afternoon, early evening, activation day for those interested in portable operation from South Australian national and conservation parks. I chose to return to Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, the closest protected area to our home. I set myself a goal of 25 contacts, which, when added to my score from 28th June 2015 would give me at least 44 contacts so as to successfully activate the Park for the WWFF award. It was not to be. The 40 and 20 metre bands were in poor shape! The bands were noisy (QRN or natural noise: today from stormy weather on the east coast of the country). I made just nine contacts. I was using my Ten Tec Argonaut VI, set for ten watts. There was no propagation close in around Adelaide and the only VK5 station I contacted was Neville (Nev) VK5WG at Crystal Brook in the mid-north of the State. I spotted myself on Parks and Peaks and Nev told me he was waiting for me: Mark Oliphant was a new Park for him!
Here is a link to my previous activation of this Park.
I commenced calling at 05:03 on 7.105 after checking to see whether the frequency was occupied.
05:15 VK3XDM/P Mitch was on SOTA summit VK3/VE-007, Mt McKay (10 points)
I then moved to 14.310 and once again put up a spot on Parks and Peaks.
05:35 I called CQ and VK2IO, Gerard, was 5 and 7. I called him back but he could not hear me. I called quite a few time and was not successful in gaining a contact.
I then moved back to 40 metres and after listening around the band decided I could not hear any of the VK5 park activators so I dismantled my station and drove home.
After arriving home I checked Parks and Peaks and saw that Paul, VK5PAS, was activating Mount George Conservation Park, VKFF-0784, just a few kilometres from my place and I thought I would have a listen for him. I had a great contact with Paul: he was 5 and 7 and I was 5 and 9.
Main Gate at Mark Oliphant CP with Park sign in background
On Sunday afternoon the sun was shining and I thought I would begin my VKFF activation of MarkOliphant Conservation Park. While I have activated this Park twice previously that was for the South Australian National and Conservation Parks Award: SANPCPA. Here is a link to those activations.
The Mark Oliphant Conservation Park is the closest protected area nearest to my home. It is about two kilometres away as the Little Raven flies! I can see the Park from our house. It was named after Sir Mark Oliphant, nuclear physicist and Governor of South Australia.
Mark Oliphant Conservation Park on a Winter’s day: from our place
On this occasion I set up off Evans Drive rather than just inside the main entrance. Evans Drive dissects the Park but there was little vehicular traffic and a few people of foot, some of whom showed some interest in what I was doing.
Here is a list of my contacts.
I was on the air at 0411 on 40 metres and worked in order
VK4AAC/P5 Rob at Kelly Hill Conservation Park VKFF-810
VK2GAZ/P2, Garry at Scheyville National Park VKFF-444.I was delighted to get this contact having activated this Park last year. Here is a link to that activation.
VK5PL ex VK5NQP Congratulations David on the new call and Advanced Licence
VK1NAM/P1 Andrew at Oakey Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-858
VK100ANZAC Operator Ken at Mt Evelyn
VK5ZRY/P5 Ramsay Conservation Park VKFF-815
VK5AAC/P5 Rob on 14.247 s 53 r 41 a short haul on 20 metres Kelly Hill CP VKFF-810
ZL3JAS 14.200 Jason at Christchurch s 58 r 44
VK4FTWO 7.090 Littabella National Park VKFF-290
and at 05:38
At this stage the sun moved behind the hill, the temperature dropped suddenly and I decided I would pack up and head home. I was happy to gain 27 contacts and I shall return and work a few others to gain the 44 needed for the VKFF program. Thanks to all who gave me a call.
I went back to Mark Oliphant Conservation Park today, 10th March 2014. It was my second activation. My first was on 21 May 2013 (see blog for August 14th 2013). VK5PAS, Paul, encouraged me to become active today, and we did manage a Park to Park contact. Paul was in the Onkaparinga River National Park. I chose a position not far from my first activation spot. I only managed eight contacts. I thought the band was in reasonable condition and I called CQ frequently. My first contact was with VK5PAS/P, Paul at Onkaparinga National Park; VK5EMI, John; VK5KGP, Graham; VK5WG, Nev; VK3BHR, Phil; VK5NWE, Roger; VK5MBD, Bill and VK5EMI, John for a second time.
May be I was a bit tired. Yesterday I attended the first VK5 SOTA & Parks Symposium. This was organised by VK5PAS and the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society Inc. It was a great day. It was my privilege to present two papers: the first was on using Lithium chemistry batteries and the second, on preparing to purchase an ‘Adventure Radio’. So today I operated using my 8.4 amp hour LIFePO4 battery. I used the battery last night for an hour or so running a five watt FM radio in DStar Hot Spot service and also for today’s activation and the voltage still reads 13.01 volts. I am really happy with this and with a smaller battery, 4.8 amp battery as a back-up and a similar size LiPO and should be able to save my back! I am looking forward to some cooler days and some hiking!