Kyeema Conservation Park, VKFF-0826, 24th March 2019

This year I determined I would participate in the sixth anniversary of the South Australian National and Conservation Park (SANCPA) award. I decided I would activate a new Park and chose Kyeema Conservation Park within the Fleurieu Peninsular south of Adelaide. The Park is nearly 41 kilometres from home. It was an easy Sunday drive although there was a bike event underway and lots of road cyclists.

The weather was good, a sunny day with a few clouds, a little humid, although there were puddles on the road suggesting some of the predicted rain showers had come early. It was an ideal day for an activation. However, I had not yet finished with cyclists. Off road bikes are permitted in this park and soon after I had eaten my lunch, a school bus, from a private school, arrived and about 30 young people alighted and retrieved their bikes from a trailer behind the bus. These folk did not disturb me and I am sure they had a good time. There were also bush walkers in the park. I wonder how the shared use of paths would work? Perhaps there was a lot of bell [w]ringing?

The Park

Kyeema Conservation Park is 347 hectares.

The following material is taken from the SA Government web pages for the Park: The area was mined for alluvial gold for several years until it was abandoned in 1890 due to low yield. A few years later some of the area was cleared for pine plantations before being used as a labour prison reserve. This area at the western end of the park, once known as the Kyeema Prison Camp, was established in 1932. The camp was intended for well-behaved prisoners from Yatala, it held around thirteen prisoners and only two guards, with the prisoners were placed on their honour to behave. The Kyeema Prison Camp closed in the mid 1950’s and today there is only a cleared area of land visible to remind us of the Prison Camp’s existence.

The Park has a rich history of bushfires also, being entirely burnt out during the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, and partly affected by subsequent fires in 1994 and 2001. The Friends of Kyeema Conservation Park have worked hard over the years revegetating cleared areas of the park. Due to this history, the area provides a wonderful example of the regeneration capacity of South Australia’s native vegetation following fire, which you can explore as you follow one of the walking trails”.

The Heysen Trail passes through this Park as it makes its way from the coast to the top of the Flinders Ranges.

Kyeema Conservation Park Map


I enjoyed 25 qsos before the weather changed. Soon after midday the winds arrived and dust was flying in all directions. I decided I would pack up and head home. While driving home the rain started. It was a shame about the weather because I was prepared to stay late into the afternoon (band practice had been cancelled). Any way I appreciated the contacts and thank all of those who gave me a call, especially Geoff, VK3SQ and Peter, VK3ZPF, who both spotted me on parks and peaks. My phone would not load the parks and peaks website. Perhaps there was not enough signal?

0022 7.150 VK3SQ 59s 55r

0025 VK3UCD 59 58

0028 VK3ZPF 59 57

0031 VK2IR 59 53

0031 VK4TJ 52 310032

0032 VK4/AC8WN 52 31

0033 VK4/VE6XT

00:35 VK3XPT/P 59 59 Perrin was in the Barmah National Park, VKFF-0739 (see photos below)

0041 VK2LEE 59 52

0042 VK3KYO 58 55

0044 VK3ARH/M 57 53

0044 VK3AHR 59 57

0047 VK2HHA 59 57

0050 VK4NH 57 53

0051 VK4DXA 57 53

0052 VK2IO/P 53 53 VKFF-0272

0053 VK1DI/P 59 59

0056 VK3HOT/ 59 56

0058 VK2PKT 58 59

0103 VK3LTL 59 59

0107 VK5NJ 59 58

0127 VK3XV/5 53 51 VKFF-0797

0130 VK3MPR 59 57

0138 7.160 VK3XV/5 59 55

0145 VK3UH 59 41

Perrin, VK3XPT, using his UK/RT-320 (PRC-320) Military Manpack and 2.4 metre ‘battle whip’ transmitting 30 watts pep. Perrin was in the Barmah National Park. Thanks Perrin for the photo.

This photo, is from the man himself, Perrin. Perrin and I have had a number of contacts over the years and the one that comes to mind was a qso while he was at Devonport (my home town).

My operating conditions were more standard. I used my FT 857D, set for 20 watts, powered from an 8.4 amp hour LIFEPO4 battery. The antenna was a linked dipole.

Ánd now for something completely different’, 20th February 2019

I have never been a contester! My station has only ever been a ‘little-pistol’. The closest to a contest that has ever appealed to me were the 144.100 Mhz ‘scrambles’ held in Melbourne, where the aim was to work as many stations as possible on two metres-sideband in a set time-window, usually an hour. I participated in these from my QTH in Greensborough during the late 1970s and early 1980s as VK3BJE. They were held on a Sunday night and were a lot of fun. My IC202, which I still own, was a very little ‘pistol’, putting out three watts pep, and later 10 watts pep when I added the matching amplifier. The other reason for not participating in contests was work. I worked long and often irregular hours through my career. But I also thought I would not be competitive.

However that all changed recently. In August last year I joined AREG, the Amateur Radio Experimenters’ Group. I am possibly their oldest member!

Well over the weekend of 9th and 10th February the 2019 WPX RTTY Contest was held. Grant, VK5GR, knew of my interest in RTTY and invited me to join him at his suburban shack for part of the contest and to participate. Also Theo, VK5IR, was involved as part of the team. Theo and I had different times. I was at Grant’s place on the Saturday night.

Well the preliminary results are out:
33  VK5GR………….608,400 (VK5GR VK5BJE VK5IR)

and we could be winners in the M1 category.

1 VK5GR………..608,400 (VK5GR VK5BJE VK5IR)

2 YE1C…421.040

3 DX9EVM…12,816


Coorong National Park, VKFF-0115, 13th October 2018

On Sunday 13th October 2018, while on our way home, we stopped at Salt Creek to look at the birds and to activate the Coorong National Park, VKFF-0115. I have previously activated this park on five occasions, but never achieved 44 contacts for the WWFF program. Here is a link to my previous activation:

I made 17 contacts.

05:30 7.144 VK2HHA  s59 r58

05:33 7.144 VK5ZK  59 54

05:36 7.144 VK5KGP  58 55

05:37 7.144 VK1DI  59 58

05:39 7.144 VK2IO  59 45

05:40 7.144 VK4TJ  57 55

05:41 7.144 VK4/AC8WN  57 55

05:42 7.144 VK4/VE6XT  57 55

05:43 7.144 VK7AN  58 57

05:46  7.090 VK3EQ/P 56 33 VK3/VE-026

05:51 7.144 VK3ANL 57 33

05:59 7.144 VK4AAC/3 59 55  VKFF-0742 Park to Park

06:33 7.095 VK7XDM/P 55 57 VK7/SC-001

and the following stations were worked using CW using my VK5PF/P call-sign:

05:56 7.032 CW VK3PF/P 579 559 VK3/VE-241

06:03 7.032 CW VK2IO 579 559

06:07 7.032 CW VK7CW 599 579


06:09 7.032 CW VK3BYD 579 559

Thanks, as always, to the chasers who made this tally of qsos possible.

My wife, Jenny, was able to identify 55 species of birds on our trip. About half of them were in the Coorong National Park and other nearby parks and on water/ponds on private property. This photo, by Jenny,  shows two species of ducks: Hard Head and Chesnut Teal and one, probably a juvenile Hard Head, (second duck in procession at the rear).


Salt Creek

Salt Creek in the Coorong National Park





Jallukar Nature Conservation Reserve, VKFF-2115, 10th, 11th and 12th October 2018.

We arranged to meet our extended family from Sydney, our son, his spouse and two grand-children, in the Grampians. It was the second week of the NSW school holidays and they camped and we took a cabin at a holiday park at Halls Gap. We stayed at this park on a previous holiday and enjoyed our time.

We left home on Friday 5th October and drove, via a number of SA conservation parks, to Naracoorte. On Saturday we moved to Ballarat to meet up with University friends from the 1960s for dinner and lunch on Sunday with an additional couple from Bendigo (also University friends). We had a great time.

On Sunday afternoon we travelled to Halls Gap. Our son and his family arrived not long before us and were setting up their camp. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all warm and sunny days.

On Monday Nick, Kylee and I visited the south Grampians to climb The Piccaninny. This was a great walk and we were able to take some wild flower photos. The views of Mount Sturgeon were also spectacular. While we were travelling and walking Jenny spent enjoyable time with our grand-children. Tuesday was wet all day. This made the falls quite spectacular. We visited a winery and had lunch out. Wednesday we set out for the day and Nick received a phone call from the holiday park indicating that his gazebo had turned up side down and collapsed in the strong winds.  We were on our way to falls near Dunkeld. After the call we returned to the family’s camp to see the damage and clear up the debris.

Of course I wanted to activate a Park or two. In the end I was only able to activate one park near the Grampians, Jallukar Nature Conservation Reserve. This park is 1165 hectares and  ‘is characterised by high quality, species rich open wood-land’. I was impressed with the park and birdlife, although rubbish had been dumped in one area near my second activation spot.

Jallikar NCR blog

The park map shows roads marked in red and my first location was near the entry from the Ararat-Halls Gap Road. Look for Londonderry Road  which becomes Bellellen Road. A short distance into the park I found an attractive clearing which can be seen in the photo below. The second photo shows the open woodland. On Saturday, my second activation in the Park, we drove all of the roads and tracks looking for birds and another activation spot. We found a wooded location just off the main road which dissects the park and close to our earlier location just after the road leaves the private property.

Jallukar map

Map Courtesy of

The excellent facility within ParksnPeaks ( has a link to the map.

allikar woodland for blog

Very attractive open woodland

shack Jallikar blog

My shack: a Yaesu 857D, 20 watts, hand morse key, linked dipole, 33 amp hour battery and LiFePO4 batteries and and a tablet for spotting myself. The park, as a forest, was previously used for harvesting wood for domestic purposes. Note the large stump on the left.



23:58 ssb 7.144 VK2XSE/P Liz in VKFF-0107. Gaining a Park to Park contact as number one in the log gave me a flying start. And was I fortunate in beginning just before UTC roll-over!


00:01 VK2XSE/P VKFF-0107

00:07 7.150 VK5FANA

00:08 VK4TJ

00:09 VK4/AC8WN

00:11 VK4/VE6XT

00:12 VK2IO

00:12 VK2VW

00:14 VK2UXO

Contacts were difficult to achieve. I tried 80m, 20m and 40m a second time and soon after 01:00 packed up as it was time for lunch and time to join the rest of the family.


00:30 7.144 VK2IO

00:31 VK7KPC/P Peter in VKFF-0005

00:36 VK5KLV

00:38 VK2JNG/P Gerard in VKFF-0597

00:11 VK4GSF

00:43 VK2XXM

00:45 VK4HNS

00:48 VK5FANA

00:53 VK4FDJL

00:58 VK2UH

01:01 VK3SQ

01:03 VK2XSE/P VKFF-0554

01:07 VK2HHA

01:11 VK1XP/M

01:12 VK2XP/1

01:14 VK5CZ

01:15 VK2GZ

01:17 VK2AHR

01:19 VK2MRN/M

01:20 VK2UXO

01:22 VK4TJ

01:24 VK4/AC8WN

01:25 VK4/VE6XT

01:29 VK2KNV/M

7.170 VK2JNG/P

03:08 7.135 VK5BC/2

03:12 7.144 VK2JNG/P

03:15 VK3PF/2 VK2/SW-021

03:19 VK7KPC/P VKFF-0005

03:20 CW 7.032 VK2IO

03:30 CW VK4TJ

03:34 CW VK4XUE

03:35 CW VK2NP

03:45  7.150 ssb VK2XSE/P VKFF-0554

03:47 7.145 ssb VK2AWJ

03:57 7.135 ssb VK2AB

04:07 14.310 ssb VK4TJ


04:15 VK2GJC

Thanks to the chasers who helped to make this a successful activation.


vTimber Jinker JCD photoTimber Jinker at Edenhope, Victoria. JCD photo

Timber Jinker facts

JCD Photo

Retreiving an antenna

At the Saturday location the wind became stronger in the afternoon and my antenna became tangled in a tree. I used a second squid pole and a forked branch attached with rubber bands to retrieve it, successfully.

Nick & Kylee for blog

Nick and Kylee on the track to Piccaninny

sign post for blog


The GPS breadcrumb trail for the Piccaninny walk. Parks rank medium.

Mount Abrupt for blog

Mount Abrupt

wikdflower 3

Wax-Lip Orchid on Piccanniny track.

wid flower for blog

Dwarf Bush Pea

Silverband falls blog

Silverband Falls

silverband falls 2

Silverband Falls


Parks Victoria brochures

Elliot, R & Brownlie, J., nd, Wildflowers of the Grampians, Halls Gap Tourist Information Centre.






Murray Sunset National Park, Victoria, VKFF-0373, 18th September 2018

It is just over five years ago, on the 26th July 2013, that I first activated the Murray Sunset National Park. This Park is located in the North Western corner of the state and adjoins the South Australian border. On that occasion I made 16 contacts. That park activation counted for the WWFF program and the Keith Roget Memorial National Park Award.

My wife, Jenny, and I had visited what is now the Park, when it was simply called Sunset Country and we crossed from South to North in our Toyota 4 x 4, camping in the reserve. It was a great adventure, just one vehicle and something we would now probably not do today without a second vehicle. This was remote country in the early 1970s! However, we were well equipped with plenty of food and water.

For the July 2013 activation we travelled along the highway for a few kilometres before taking a secondary track into the park. A photo of my station on that occasion has previously been published and appears on my page. My description of the activation was brief and there is only one photo.

This time we crossed into Victoria from South Australia about 200 metres and on the Northern side took a track into the park for about two kilometres where we found a clearing and I set up there. This was my first solo park activation since Lake Tyers State Park in Victoria in April 2017. I have had a few health issues, but thankfully,  I seem to have all but one under control and, more importantly have the energy and drive to be more active.

MJD Murray Sunset 18092018

This photo my station set up at Murray Sunset National Park. I used my Yaesu 857 D set for ten watts and a linked dipole supported in the middle by a squid pole. I used a 33 amp hour gel cell for station power and later an 8.400 amp hour LiFePo4 battery. JCD photo.

MJD2 Murray sunset NP

Here is another closer shot of the station set up.  I placed the green box (portable gear) near the squid pole as it was quite windy. JCD photo.

So on Monday we decided we would have two nights away from home and visit SA Riverland. We hired a cabin over looking the Murray River in the Big 4 park at Renmark, the same place we stayed in 2013.

Cabin at Renmark 2


Our cabin

White faced Heron

White faced heron

Houseboat at Renmark

Houseboat motoring by

So we chose to go back to the Murray Sunset National Park and aim for 44 contacts. I already had 12 in the bank from the 2013 trip. I would also try for some CW contacts using my VK5PF call-sign.



00:16 VK5PL


01:25 VK3PF





VK4TJ s 58 r 41


01:37 VK2JNG/P  Park to Park VKFF-0504


01:41 VK1MIC/3 Wade, Park to Park VKFF-0761



VK3ALA/P Ken Motor home

01:49 VK3KMH,  Mike


02:19 VK7ME, Mark












VK3FAIN, Ian, Dromana




CW contacts as VK5PF


01:58 VK2IO, Gerard s 599 r 579

02:00 VK7CW, Steve, s 599 r 599

02:02 VK4TJ, s 559 r339

Thanks to all of the operators who gave me a call.

On the way home we visited three parks to check out good activation spots.

The first was Bakara, the second, Swan Reach and the third Marne Valley Conservation Park.

Swan Reach CPMarne Valley CP


VI5MARCONI at Scott Creek Conservation Park, VKFF-0788 & 5CP-207, 16th September 2018

VI5Marconi 20m

Special QSL card for VI5MARCONI 20 metres

VI5MARCONI is a special event station established to celebrate the direct radio telegraphy transmission between the United Kingdom and Australia. The actual day of the transmission was the 22nd September 1918. See the page for the special calls and more historical details.  One hundred years ago seems like a long time back in the past but really it is not. It depends upon you age, how you regard the past and how remote it seems. If you are in your 20s it would seem along time ago, but as you age and develop a broader perspective over a longer period of time it seems not that long ago. I was a boy in the 1950’s and I knew people who remembered and lived within the reign of Queen Victoria. My maternal Grand-mother was one such person as was my singing teacher and Church Choir-Mistress.

I have always been interested in the history of wireless and was pleased when, last evening, Paul, VK5PAS, contacted me and suggested we activate Scott Creek Conservation Park using the VI5MARCONI special event call-sign. We confirmed our arrangements and met at Gate 8 at about 09:45 local time. The Bureau of Meteorology suggested a cool day, temperature of about 13 degrees Celsius and moderate winds. As it turned out we had long sunny breaks and sitting in the sun we got quite warm.


John & Paul Scott Creek 2 918

This photo shows our station. The radio in front of my keying hand is my Ten Tec Model 539. JCD photo.

Knowing that the messages sent in 1918 were achieved using wireless telegraphy it was appropriate to try some CW from the Park. That was my task. I called CQ for quite a few times on 80 metres but did not get an answer. I was more successful on 40 metres. I used Paul’s Yaesu 857D and my Camelback hand key (K4VIZ). The Ten Tec Model 539 was a standby radio set up for CW.  See my post of 10th August for more details on my morse keys and photos.

John and Paul Scott Creek 918

VI5MARCONI at Scott Creek Conservation Park, JCD photo

In 2004, a book review by me, was published in Amateur Radio Magazine, of Weightman’s biography of Marconi (1).  Here is a reference to that book review. I thought I would re-read the book as part of the celebration this month of the first wireless telegraphy message from the UK to Australia. A quick skim read did not produce any references to the contacts between the UK and Australia. This is not surprising given Marconi’s efforts were largely centred on the UK and North America.

The Park

I have been to Scott Creek Conservation Park many times for both walking and radio. Here is a link to my last post about Scott Creek CP. As well Paul and I have also activated the Park on many occasions. It is a splendid park and will repay many visits.


We made 91 contacts from the Park. I left at about 12:45 local time to go home and have lunch and a rest before band practice later in the afternoon. Thanks to all of those operators who gave us a call.

The following stations were contacted:

7.144 Mhz



















7.032 CW



7.144 ssb












7.032 CW



7.130 ssb




VK3PF/P          VK3/VG-015
















VK4ALE/P         VKFF-1493

















VK3PF/P         VK3/VT-020





14.183 ssb






14.310 ssb












VK4VXX/6         VKFF-1236

Paul has been generous with this activation giving me equal status. He made 63 contacts as against my 28.


Special QSL card for VI5MARCONI 80 Metres

vk2marconi vk5pf version for wp

Special QSL card for wireless telegraphy (CW) contact with VI2MARCONI on the 40 metre band. The three QSL cards displayed in this post confirm private (not VI5MARCONI) contacts made be me.


Dawes, John, 2004, Book Review, Weightman, G., 2003, ‘Signor Marconi’s Magic Box: How an amateur inventor defied scientists and began the radio revolution’, Harper Collins, London, (in) Amateur Radio Magazine, 72, 3, March 2004, pp 24 & 41.

book review p1

book review p1a

book review MJD second page




Lightning never Strikes Twice in the Same Place, or does it?

First the earth moved for us on 8th August 2018! An earthquake, measuring 3.2 on the Richter scale shook Adelaide and the hills at about 8.30 pm. The prelude to the earthquake was about 50 mm of rain over the day before.

On Friday night I attended the AREG (Amateur Radio Experimenters’ Group) meeting in a sea-side suburb not far from the airport. We had a wonderful presentation from a Bureau of Meterology official (about to become an amateur) on how the BOM can assist amateurs with matters to do with the ionosphere. It was a sunny, cloudless afternoon, when I began my drive to the meeting, but the weather bureau had issued warnings for late Friday evening and Saturday. When I left the meeting it was raining and once I started to drive up the hill on the South-eastern Freeway the rain was really heavy. I thought we were in for a typical wet and windy night. There was no sign of any electrical activity. That was to come as I was to find out on Saturday morning.

We were struck by lightning on Saturday morning at about 4.20 am. I made my way to the smallest room in the house and switched on the light. Nothing happened! At about 07:30 I checked our inverter (we are off the grid) and it was not inverting. I ran through the start-up sequence and it fired up. I breathed a sigh of relief. This is the third or fourth time in 15 years of living at Scott Creek that this has happened.

But back to the storm.

The storm was overhead. The gap between the thunder and the flash was milliseconds!  I made my way back to bed and had just settled when we both heard what sounded like a whip crack. I wondered what had been hit and found out soon enough. Our modem-router was dead. It is likely that the telephone line/ lines were hit and we took a power surge.

I felt like playing Beethoven’s sixth symphony, The Pastoral, where when the storm has passed local shepherds sing and have thankful feelings.

I dislike electrical storms. Thankfully all antennas were disconnected and my Nally tower is appropriately grounded.

My Morse Keys, 10th August 2018

My CW or Wireless Telegraphy renaissance

Here are my two morse keys. The key immediately below is the Begali Blade. This is now my shack key, replacing my K4VIZ Camel Back. I purchased my key from from RF Solutions in VK4.  Initially, I needed to consciously have a maximum speed in my head as the key encouraged me to race. It is smooth and very quiet. It is a work of art and beautifully made and is great to use.

The Blade

The Camel Back (below) was purchased from Tom, K4VIZ, soon after I obtained the VK5PF call-sign and was my shack key until I decided it would go into my portable gear for use in the field. Buying from Tom was a great experience. He is so proud and protective of his keys. The business is now known as VIZKEYS, following Tom’s decision to  sell and retire. Tom would be delighted to know the key has been, and will continue to be used, and not just be a display piece.  I am hoping I can activate some parks again as the weather improves. It is an excellent key: easy to use and smooth. It does rattle a little which I do not find intrusive, and although small, it is heavy enough to stay in place on the desk.

The Camel Back

The photo, below, of my most recent page in Log Book of the World (LOTW) for VK5PF, shows some Australian portable stations I have had contacts with using morse code. So far none of these contacts have been confirmed on LOTW. Some of the stations indicate that they use LOTW so I expect some will be confirmed in due course.


The photo below of my most recent LOTW page for VK5BJE, shows no CW contacts, but SSB and FT8 contacts with mainly DX (overseas) stations. My ambition is to work some North American stations while portable and using CW.


Note Baker and Howland Islands on 17 metres ssb! Getting that station in the log took time and perseverance. I used 100 watts and an Off-centre fed dipole. I was delighted to get that entity helping me get closer to a DXCC via Log Book of the World.

Why Morse Code using a hand key?

When I obtained my advanced call in 1977, sending and receiving morse code in plain language, at ten words a minute, was part of the licence requirements. Like many new amateurs I learned the code, but did not learn any of the techniques for establishing a contact. And voice over the air was magic! I did have a few contacts from time to time but was never really serious. Morse code became more attractive in the late seventies when novice stations came on the air following examination in sending and receiving plain language morse code at five words per minute.  Since learning the code the old-fashioned way in the 1970s,  my understanding of teaching and learning has progressed. It is instructive to look at two publications and examine the content of each. Remember there were no computers in the 1970s, or at least not in the average home. The latest technology for a learner of morse code was a cassette recorder and morse code tapes from the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA), or listening to morse code practice sessions on the amateur bands or real contacts, or commercial morse code traffic, also on air. I listened to the tapes so many times I could almost remember them by heart, or in learning language ‘journalise’ them.

The two publications are as follows:

American Radio Relay League, 1970, Learning the Radio Telegraph Code, ARRL, Connecticut, USA.  (Thirteenth Edition)


Cooke, Roger, G3LDI, 2013, Morse Code for Radio Amateurs 11th Edition, Radio Society of Great Britain, Bedford, England.

These two little books are both excellent. And it is likely that an up-to-date ARRL publication would be similar to the RSGB book. I looked at these two books through the lens of adult learning. Have approaches to learning morse code since the 1970’s changed as we know more about learning and particularly how adults learn? I purchased my ARRL book at the time I enrolled in the WIA course for the AOCP and it is dated by me as the 10th December 1974. The ARRL book chapters are headed, Learning the Code, Learning to Send, High Speed Operation, Operating on the Air, Code practice and Class Instruction. There are just eight pages devoted to Learning the Code. The RSGB book devotes 22 pages to learning the code. The big difference for me are the resources now available to learn the code, especially using household computers. Cooke provides detailed outlines of many computer resources and how to use them.

My aim was not to learn the code. I already know the code. But I wanted to change my approach to improving my skills and do not want to write anything down (letter by letter) at the time of copying a message. I want to use my head! In other words I want to be able to write down in my log, at minimum, the other operator’s call-sign and signal report and provide my name, signal report and call-sign to her/him. I wanted to up-skill in the same way as one might approach learning music or a new language. To assist me meet this goal I chose a program by  IZ2UUF, Davide, which provides plenty of resources to assist me meet my goals. I use the Koch method of copying in my head letters, numbers and punctuation, at 20 words per minute. The program runs on Android devices and I have a small tablet. The first two letters are K and M. When you know these at at least 95% accuracy you add in another letter. In learning theory terms I am aiming for deep learning rather than surface learning. Surface learning is most commonly understood to be similar to cramming for an exam. When you walk out of the exam room most of the learning goes. I have heard so many amateurs say that or something similar to me when discussing morse code and their trauma at trying to master it!

Deep learning changes the person. Deep learning is often over-learning. What you learn becomes second nature to you, for example, riding a bicycle or driving a car. I was always impressed by morse code operators who could converse with a key and speak to someone at the same time. I recommend ten minutes a day for IZ2UUF’s program increasing to about half an hour when you are advancing. I set each learning practice run to five minutes, so for half an hour there are six repeats or variations, making up the session. The new letters and punctuation are introduced to the learner based on the apparent difficulty of the letter.

Conversational morse code on the air by me is still some way off.  My contacts tend to be to a formula: mainly for SOTA and Parks. However, an intermediate step will be to provide some more details of station equipment, antenna and so on to the other operator.

A similar program is available for Apple devices. It is called Ham Morse and includes the Koch method as well. I recommend it.

I have not searched for a Koch program for a PC but I will be surprised if there is not one available.

Is it worth the effort to learn or revise a legacy mode? After all it is no longer required for amateurs and the military although it is used for identification of aircraft beacons. Well, I have had contacts on 40 metres, for example, where I could not copy the station on ssb but had a comfortable contact using morse code on the same frequency and just after attempting the voice contact. It is also a challenge and, for me, part of life-long learning, something I have engaged in all of my life. I also believe that for me it is part of being a ‘complete’ radio amateur. Being over 21 years of age I hope the exercise for the brain has other benefits as well! What are they again?

I know that practice, practice and more practice is the best way, especially if the practice is spaced and regular. Half an hour on Sunday afternoons is not as good as five minutes per day! Active learning also helps. While I don’t write down what I copy, I hear it in my head. Try not to be passive. Take note of what you are hearing. Rehearse in your head any characters you are having difficulty with. I would welcome the views of more expert and proficient operators. I will admit I miss occasional words, especially as the beginning of a contact. I suppose it is a failure to really ‘tune-in’ before starting. Preparation and anticipation help me mitigate against a slow start.