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:

https://vk5bje.com/2016/01/01/mount-ainslie-sota-vk1ac-040-vkff-0850-24th-december-2015/

https://vk5bje.com/2015/05/12/mt-ainslie-vk1ac-040-9th-may-2015/

Greater Bendigo National Park, VKFF-0623, 17th December 2016

My motivation for a third visit to the Greater Bendigo National Park was to complete 44 contacts for the WWFF program. Here is a link to my last activation of this park: https://vk5bje.com/category/greater-bendigo-national-park/

After leaving Ballarat we travelled to Bendigo.

greaterbendigonpv1

Photo shows the corner of Hart Road (a track) and Wallenjoe Road

We planned to stay one night and then travel to Koondrook on the Murray, near the Gunbower National Park, for a cruise on the Murray River and a further activation of that Park. However, those plans did not eventuate and we stayed a second night in Bendigo. The additional night enabled us to catch up with another University friend from the 1960s. The three of us were all in a residential college at the University of Melbourne and our friendships have survived over 50 years. I attended the wedding in Mildura of the couple from Ballarat while I was in College. The fourth member and his wife live in Tasmania.

On the way to Bendigo we stopped at Daylesford for coffee. While seated at an outdoor table I noticed the man on the adjoining table. He had a back pack with him and was engaged in conversation with two other men.  Then the two left and he was on his own. Suddenly a voice emerged from the backpack and I could see he had radio antennas protruding from it. I engaged him in conversation and he told me he was an amateur radio operator and was also a volunteer with the local CFA brigade. His name is Stewart and his call is VK3FSTU. We conversed for quite a while until we had to leave. I said I would monitor the two metre Mount Alexander repeater and after we were well on our way up the Calder Highway heading to Bendigo he gave me call. This is just one of many such experiences I have enjoyed over the years meeting fellow amateurs on the road.

On the way to Bendigo I was feeling a little unwell. I noticed that my heart rate was varying. The condition is called Atrial Fibrillation and was diagnosed late last year. I have been prescribed medication and have been taking this regularly and more recently the condition has become better controlled so I was a little surprised. I did plan to activate the Park during the afternoon of my arrival but decided against that idea. I posted an update to my alert indicating I was having TCXO (temperature controlled crystal oscillator) trouble! A little rest during the afternoon and all was well again so a mere 12 or so hours later I was off to the Park.

On the morning of the 17th, before UTC rollover, I decided to go back to the Huntly block. I have activated this park from four locations, three different, but I recommend the Huntly block. Here are the coordinates for anyone who is interested:

S 36 38.828 and E 44 18.329.

Take the Midland Highway for about seven kilometres past the fountain, to Lean’s Road (a left hand turn as you leave Bendigo) them drive Lean’s Road to Wallenjoe Road and take (a right hand turn) to Wards Road. At this intersection Hart Road (a track) turns off at 45 degrees. My activating spot is about 500 metres along the track into the Park and is suitable for a normal tw0 wheel drive vehicle.

my-operating-position-gbnp

For this activation I used my Yaesu FT857D set for ten watts with a linked dipole capable of operating on 80 metres.

looking-up-the-antenna-set-for-80-metres

I was on the air before UTC rollover (16th December 2016) and commenced operations on the 80 metre band. Here is my log of contacts:

3.594 21:58 VK5KAA, Gordon in the Adelaide Hills, a neighbour, s55 r53. The half hour time difference between Victorian and South Australia meant I could join my regular morning net.

21:59 VK5ZK, Garry 59 54

22:00 VK5TW, Trevor 58 45

22:01 VK3LY, Bill de Nhill 59 58

What a great start to the activation speaking with four of my mates on 80 metres and the first time I have used an 80 metre dipole in the field for 15 years.

I then moved to 40 metres and found 7.110 free.

22:05 VK5BC, Brian, also a mate of mine 59 57 22:15

Then followed a succession of regular chasers, all well known:

22:24  VK5IS/2 Ian 56 57

22:26 VK5PAS 59 57 (it was great to hear Paul on 40 metres, but I was planning to go back to 80m later to catch some of the ‘closer’ in amateurs who might miss out if I stayed on 40m.

22:29 VK5MRT Tony 57 57

22:33 VK4HNS/4 Neil holidaying at Gundawindi

22:35 VK5FMAZ 59 59

22:38 VK5FMWW 59 58 Mike at Second Valley

22:39 VK5FVSV 59 58

22:41 VK5HS 59 55, Ivan at Renmark

22:42 VK2XXM 58 58 Robert Grafton

22:45 VK2VW 59 59 Brett

22:47 VK1DI 59 58 Ian Canberra

22:50 VK7NWT 59 57 Scott

22:54 VK5PAS 59 59 Paul

3.610 23:00 VK5PAS/M 56 35 Paul in his vehicle in the drive

23:02 VK3GGG 58 57 Mick

23:05 VK5PMG 58 57

22:07 VK3VBI 58 57 Ron

23:09 VK3ACJ 59 59 Peter near Lake Eppalock

23:17 VK5EE, 59 54 Tom

7.144 VK5GJ, Greg 59 57

23:31 VK4HNS/4 Neil 58 32

23:33 VK5GI 58 45 Norm

I quite enjoyed my visit to the Greater Bendigo National Park, made all the more fun by those who gave me a call. Contacts are always appreciated.

Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, VKFF-0765 & VK3/VW-022, 15th December 2016

On the 14th December 2016 we left home on our driving holiday to Sydney to see our son and his family for Christmas. This is the seventh such road trip and before that he lived in Perth. We made at least three visits to Western Australia to see him and they were all camping trips with added expeditions, always involving radio and often staying in and activating National Parks before the WWFF program was conceived. Many, but not all, contacts were pre-arranged.

Our first overnight was at Naracoorte and early the next day set out for Ballarat where we were visiting old friends from our University days in the 1960s. On the way we visited Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park to activate the summit. I was not eligible for the one point on offer as I had activated Mount Arapiles in March. Here is a link to that activation, my second:https://vk5bje.com/2016/04/21/mount-arapiles-vk3vw-022-vkff-0765-11th-april-2016/

However, I was keen to secure sufficient contacts to qualify the Park for the WWFF program aiming for at least 44 contacts. I made 24 contacts with VK 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 stations and, with those already in the bank, now have the 44 needed. Here is my log for the activation:

Date:15/Dec/2016 Summit:VK3/VW-022 (Mt Arapiles) Call Used:VK5BJE/3 Points: 0 Bonus: 0 Delete

Time   Call   Band   Mode   Notes
00:06z VK5FANA 7MHz SSB
00:10z VK2UH 7MHz SSB
00:13z VK3PF 7MHz SSB
00:14z VK2KYO 7MHz SSB
00:15z VK3RW 7MHz SSB Ray Benalla
00:17z VK2HHA 7MHz SSB
00:19z VK2IO 7MHz SSB
00:22z VK7LTD 7MHz SSB
00:23z VK1DI 7MHz SSB
00:26z VK7FAMP 7MHz SSB XYL VK7LTD
00:29z VK5GJ 7MHz SSB
00:37z VK5PL 7MHz SSB
00:39z VK5PAS 7MHz SSB
00:42z VK5ZK 7MHz SSB
00:44z VK2EXA/3 7MHz SSB
00:55z VK3KAI 7MHz SSB
01:01z VK3GP/M 7MHz SSB
01:12z VK5GP 7MHz SSB Glynn Murray Bridge
01:14z VK5NRG 7MHz SSB
01:18z VK5GI 7MHz SSB
01:18z VK5ZPG 7MHz SSB
01:18z VK3GV 7MHz SSB
01:18z VK5ZPG 7MHz SSB
01:19z VK3SQ 7MHz SSB
01:20z VK5FANA 7MHz SSB
01:25z VK2UH 7MHz SSB
01:26z VK1DA/2 7MHz SSB

I did set up my antenna for 80 metres, but the only way I could do this was with each leg at 90 degrees to the other. I could not get the VSWR down low enough to use it. One of the challenges of setting up a portable antenna (a dipole) for 80 metres is the space required and on Mount Arapiles this was a challenge. I have subsequently used the antenna in a more traditional layout and it works really well. See my forthcoming post from Greater Bendigo National Park.

I would like to thank all of those operators who, during the busy Christmas period, took time out to give me a call. I hope Santa brought you all a new radio!

The impact of trees on radio propagation, 8th December 2016

The Impact of Trees on Radio Propagation

John Dawes VK5BJE/VK5PF

This paper came about because Paul, VK5PAS, was told by a European amateur, who in responding to a photograph of Paul’s portable station, suggested his antenna was too close to trees and that this would impact negatively on propagation. Paul asked me to write something on this topic for Out and About.

I should declare at the outset that I do not have formal qualifications in physics and simply hold an AOCP (1977).

However, I said I would tackle the topic as an amateur radio operator.

Trees belong to a class of organic objects which include shrubs and ground cover plants, such as native grasses, which might all have a potential impact on radio propagation. The factor of interest is absorption, but could include other factors such as directivity. If trees and other foliage absorb radio frequency energy (RF), is this a serious matter and likely to adversely affect a portable amateur radio station? Many objects are able to absorb RF, for example, people, cars, rocks, hills as well as foliage.

In my experiments on 23 cm with Brian, VK5BC, Brian noted that an increase in signal strength at his home station occurred if he turned his beam towards the local silos at Gawler. I know from Amateur Radio Magazine, that Justin (VK7TW) reported that amateurs in Hobart use Mount Wellington as a passive reflector for 23 cm transmissions around the city and environs. Those of you with two metres and 70 centimetres transmission capability in your vehicles will know that antenna placement is critical in determining the radiation pattern. Roof top centre-mounted antennas are more likely to result in a donut-shaped radiation pattern and perform better. You are also likely to have experienced ‘flutter’ on mobile VHF and UHF, as well as with FM broadcast transmissions caused by objects, including plants, in the propagation path.

When it comes to absorption of radio waves by foliage this has been researched for several decades (see Goraishi, Takada & Imai, 2013, ch 6).

More recently telephone companies have driven this research on the impact of foliage on their UHF and microwave transmissions because they want to know how foliage might change the radiation patterns from their phone towers, especially when foliage is suggested as a factor in persuading the local neighbourhood to accept a tower, as was the case recently at Bridgewater in the Adelaide Hills.

An internet search revealed a plethora of articles, some scientific, of absorption at UHF and microwave frequencies and many articles by amateurs about foliage and HF. The latter were more subjective and observational as one would expect from amateurs who do not have the resources available to research institutions, government and military.

When I later conducted a search using Google Scholar I found well over 100 refereed journal articles. A meta-analysis of these is beyond my capacity and time. So returning to observational approaches to understanding absorption has been the field of amateurs.  Carefully recorded observations can be useful. I know from my own experiments on 70 cm using ATV (AM), SSB and FM foliage has an impact on signals. Flutter noise and fluctuating signals resulted, especially when the foliage was wet (see Meng et al, 2009) and the impact on ATV was more noticeable because of the 7MHz wide channel. With digital television signals, at home if I walk through the signal from channel 44 the picture pixilates.

At the empirical level many of the reported experiments targeting the interaction of radio waves with vegetation in a spatial sense used directional antennas (beams). This is the simplest approach (see Ghoraishi et al, 2013). Their conclusion ‘is that the airy spaces in the vegetated area can have a crucial influence in directing the signal toward specific directions, to be re-directed by foliage with the line of sight towards the receiver”. Or, in my words, such a situation can have unintended consequences in terms of the target area for your signal.

What about foliage at HF frequencies?

Should we give up using trees as antenna supports for our stations in the field or at home? My answer is a strong NO! Experiments at HF are much more difficult to construct. There are simply too many variables to control, for example, the sun (the K and A indices, the solar flux, the time of the year and the season), antennas, structure, type, direction, the skill of the radio operator (the art of communication) and equipment. What we can say is that trees are small, relatively in terms of wavelength. Australian trees, especially eucalypts, are generally less dense than trees that grow in colder climates, Europe and North America for example. And our portable experiences would be poorer if we couldn’t find a magnificent shade tree to keep the sun away in an extended activation while the tree also supports one end of the antenna. My view is that the losses in miss-matched antennas, batteries with reduced voltage and lack of operator skill are more likely to impact on the success of your day out.

Just beware that some Australian eucalypts can drop branches, especially on a hot day after wind. So be careful!

References

Giles-Clark, Justin, VK7-News, Radio and Electronics Association of Southern Tasmania (REAST), Amateur Radio Magazine, October 2016, pp 62-63

Ghoraishi, Mia, Jun-ichi, Takada and Imai, Tetsuro, (2013), Radio Wave Propagation Through Vegetation, Chapter 6. Accessed 6th October 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/52571

 Meng, Y. S., Lee, Y. H. and Ng, B. C., 2009, STUDY OF PROPAGATION LOSS PREDICTION IN FOREST ENVIRONMENT, Progress in Electomagnetics Research, B, Vol 17, 117 – 133

This article first appeared in Out and About, Issue 26 December 2016

 

Eqsl award: worked three hundred prefixes confirmed

eqslThis award is for three hundred confirmed contacts via the eqsl system. The contacts comprise a mix of ssb and digital (JT65HF).  You might wonder what happens to the ‘wall paper’. No, I don’t frame certificates and place them on the wall. I turn them into place mats by laminating them in plastic. I now have enough place mats to set up a restaurant!

Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award Merit, November 2016

krmnpa

I was pleased to receive the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award at Merit level. It took me over four years to secure the award chasing contacts in Victorian Parks when I had some free time, mainly at weekends. I also secured Parks while operating portable in National Parks in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Many of the Victorian National Parks we have visited both as National Parks or as Crown Land, but what this award did was to encourage me to become familiar with the more recent parks, their history and geography and the reasons for their protection. I congratulate Amateur Radio Victoria and the Awards Manager, Tony Hambling, VK3VTH, VK3XV for sponsoring this award. I recall reading about Keith Roget early in my amateur radio career while living in Melbourne. I have recollections of hearing him in the field and marvelled at the heavy radio transceivers and batteries required for voice activations before minaturisation and solid state technology became common place. Finally, thanks to all of the portable operators who enjoy operating low power radios from Parks, and who all now radio friends!

Mount Remarkable National Park, 27th September 2016

I was keen to get back to Mount Remarkable National Park to complete 44 plus contacts for WWFF. I had been to this beautiful park many times, including camping at Mambray Creek and have operated my portable station from three locations within the Park. Here is a link to my previous activation:

https://vk5bje.com/category/mount-remarkable-national-park/

mount-remarkable-from-matthew-flinders-lookout-arid-gardens

Mount Remarkable from Matthew Flinders Lookout over Gulf

This time I wanted to operate from the Napperby Block. The Park is in two sections and my last three activations were in the Mount Remarkable section. I checked the DEWNR web page and found that the Department was conducting pest eradication in the Napperby Block  and the nearby Telowie Gorge Conservation Park. Now while some people might consider amateur radio operators ‘pests’, I did not want to be in their ‘sights’. The most common pests are goats, not Mountain Goats of the Summits On The Air type, but four legged ones! So I decided the the Mambray Creek camping and picnic area would be a good choice. Mount Remarkable National Park attracts fees for campers and vehicles. For day visitors the cost is $10 ($8 concession). I knew from my last visit to Mambray Creek that internet coverage is only available near the main entrance and soon disappears within the folds of the hills. I stopped and paid my fee using my Ipad and credit card and saved the receipt so I could show that I had paid the appropriate fee.

I was soon in the park and drove through to the day visitors area. There was only one other couple present although there were school buses parked suggesting that there were school children camping and or walking in the park.

I was soon set up and ready to go and after checking the frequency called CQ about 10 minutes before UTC rollover. But the new day dawned before I made my first contact! I was fortunate to obtain 21 contacts as band conditions on 40 and 20 metres were poor. Contacts were made with VK 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 stations. I also tried 20 metres without success. I was hoping to be heard in VK6. Thanks to all who gave me a call and to those who patiently waited until the band opened and gained a contact quickly. Signals were not loud and QSB (fading) was rapid. I now have 44 plus contacts for this park.

mambray-creek-in-flood

This photo shows the Mambray Creek in flood.

The weather was great, warm, sunshine and no wind. It was in fact the calm before the storm! The Mambray Creek which runs through the Park was flowing rapidly and just within its banks. The Rangers had posted warnings about taking care near the creek and this Park and many others in the State were closed the next day as a result of the very severe weather system.

mambray-creek-warning-notice

This photo shows the warning notice about the creek.

The activation was leisurely  and I had many visitors both human and animal (grey kangaroos, grey butcher birds, kookaburras and many little brown birds (LBBs). A number of visitors were interested in what I was doing and, in turn, I heard stories of knowing amateurs and having a grandfather who was an amateur.

About mid-afternoon it was time to drive to our accommodation in Port Augusta and to a later dinner engagement. Tuesday evening we had dinner with Les, VK5KLV and Kaye and Peter, VK5KPR and Kate. We had a splendid evening talking about many things, not just amateur radio. Peter and Kate are long-time and active members of the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. and early Wednesday morning I accompanied Kate on a special visit to  to the Memorial Operations Centre to see the Afghan Express and steam locomotive NM 25.

This train, entirely comprised of ex-Commonweath Railways rolling stock is stabled at Port Augusta. The train will make a return journey to Quorn over the long weekend ahead. One preserved carriage was used by General Douglas MacArthur to travel from Alice Springs south and eventually to Melbourne and later Brisbane to oversee the allied war effort against the Japanese. It was at the Telowie station that MacArthur made his famous speech, ‘I shall return’. Anyone who visits this part of South Australia should, if at all possible, take a trip on the Pichi Richi Railway. Here is a link to a previous post featuring the Pichi Richi Railway:

https://vk5bje.com/category/pichi-richi-railway/

nm21-ex-commonwealth-railways-ghan-steam-engine

NM 25 ex-Commonwealth Railways locomotive

builders-plate-v1

Builder’s plate NM 25: many steam locomotives were built at Thompson & Co

dedication-plaque

Memorial to Joy Baluch AM: Mayor of Port Augusta for 29 years

coat-of-arms

Australian Coat of Arms affixed to side of carriage

Unfortunately I could not continue with my proposed activations on Wednesday and Thursday as the wind was too strong and the heavy rains were just beginning. It was raining lightly when I arrived at the Memorial Operations Centre to see the train. I knew before I left home that rain was predicted but not the cyclonic conditions that impacted quite widely on the State. At about 4.00 pm the power supply to the state shut down. We spent the evening having dinner by candlelight. The motel staff were able to complete cooking by gas and when we returned to our room we listened to ABC local radio from Port Pirie and 891 Adelaide to keep up with the unfolding drama. We decided to remain in Port Augusta on Thursday to avoid being on the roads but travelled home early Friday morning to ensure we were not further delayed by road closures at Port Wakefield. CFS crews were placing sand bags around the Lower Light Hotel as we drove past and the highway was later closed at Port Wakefield as predicted. Water was lapping at the top of the culverts on the highway at Lower Light when we passed by.

Contacts

VK7FMPR Mark

VK2CIM P2P  Hattah Kulyne National Park

VK3NCC/P

VK3FQSO

VK3FLAK

VK4FW

VK2PDH

VK3GGG

VK3PMG

VK3OHM

VK4AAC/P3

VK2PKT

VK3SQ

VK3PF

VK5EE

VK4RF

VK4HA

VK2MTC

VK3SFG

VK1AT

VK3SQ

 

Clements Gap Conservation Park, 26th September 2016

My wife, Jenny and I decided to take a few days off and we originally planned to re-visit the Riverland for a birdwatching and amateur radio experience. We like the Riverland and have visited many times. However, after checking the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) web pages to consider some of the newly listed parks on the WWFF list, I saw that they were closed because of flooding. I was particularly interested in two parks that have not been activated as yet. Oh well, someone else might be able to have the pleasure!

Our replacement location was Port Augusta and environs. We like this part of the state and Port Augusta has been the launching pad for many of our 4×4 adventures in the past. We left home on Monday 26th September just before lunch and Clements Gap Conservation Park, VKFF-0812 was in our sights. We arranged accommodation at Port Pirie before we departed home. Clements Gap is just south of Port Pirie. In preparing for my visit I read Paul’s blog (VK5PAS).  He has previously activated this park and, as usual, it was very helpful. Les, VK5KLV, from Port Augusta, responded to my post on the Yahoo group advising of my intention to visit the area. He activated this park very recently and warned of the flies and mosquitos. He suggested lots of repellant and a fly net as well if I did not want to supplement my diet with flies!  I plastered my clothes with repellent but the little ‘nasties’ still found me!

Gap Road dissects the park. The park is a bush land oasis in an agricultural area. I found a spot on the left hand side of the road in a clearing.

clements-gap-conservation-park-map

The clearing is accessible by 4×4 and is visible on the Mapcarta map (under the nts in Clements Post Office, the left hand side of the road travelling right to left on the map).

Clements Gap CP.png

JCD photo

cumquat

Cumquat tree: native to Asia and Pacific area. There were many in the Park JCD photo

As we were to travel to Port Pirie for the evening and I only had about two hours to play I decided to erect my two band antenna for 40 and 20 metres.

I was on the air at 06:21 UTC and enjoyed 21 contact with VK 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 stations all on 40 metres. I tried 20 metres without success. Thanks to all who gave me a call and a special thanks to those who spotted me on parks and peaks. I did not have internet coverage at this point.  My station comprised my Yaesu 857D set for 20 watts,  powered from my 33 amp hour battery ‘thumper’, which was kept charged from the sun using my solar panels.

mjd-at-clements-gap-cp

JCD photo

Contacts

While I did advertise that I would call CQ on 7.144 and did for a few minutes without success I then had a listen on the bands. I finished on 7.115 and worked the following stations:

VK2NEO

VK3VC

VK3GGG

VK3PMG

VK2IO

VK1AT

VK3SQ

VK3PAT

VK5PAS

VK5KLV

VK5FANA

VK2PKT

VK5RM

VK5KC

VK3MCK

VK3FLCS

VK4AAC/P3

VK6KRC

VK3SFG

VK5KPR

VK4RF

VK4HA

VK4FW

VK3TKK/M

 

Solar Panels

At my activation of Belair National Park, on the 10th September 2016,  with Paul, VK5PAS and Marija, VK5FMAZ, I noticed that the regulator for my panels had came away from the back of the panel on which it was mounted. During manufacture the regulator, in a small plastic box, was glued to the inside of one of the panels, that is, on the back of the panel. The glue had failed. The regulator is not a flat box, but has four small feet, one on each corner moulded into the plastic. Glue had been applied to each of the four feet. These feet were about three (3) millimetres above the level of the back of the regulator. My challenge was to re-fix the regulator to the back of the panel. I used a hot melt glue and ‘secured’ the regulator. My first outing with the repaired solar panels was at Clements Gap Conservation Park. It was not long before the glue failed!

It was suggested to me by one of my amateur friends that double-sided tape would probably work. On the way into Port Augusta I purchased a roll of quality double-sided tape from a local motor spares shop. I thought I would cover the back of the plastic box with three or four strips of tape and a fix the regulator in the same spot used by the manufacturer. It was at this point I noticed the raised feet described above. So I had to think of another method using the costly tape! I covered the front of the regulator with strips of tape and then, using the ends of the tape, applied them to the back of the panel hoping that this will suffice.

Another amateur friend suggested screwing the regular box to the aluminium extrusions that form the frames of the panels. In my view the aluminium is too thin for this purpose and would require countersinking the screw heads to enable to two panels to come together to form something like a ‘book’.  I will welcome suggestions from anyone else who has experienced this problem. I have not been able to try out my repair as the weather has deteriorated and the parks have been closed.

 

 

 

Belair National Park,VKFF-022 & 5NP-001, 11th September 2016

Yesterday, 11th September 2016 the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) held an Open Day at Belair National Park to celebrate 125 years since its proclamation as a Park. Belair National Park is the second oldest Park in the nation and was proclaimed in 1891. It is second to the Royal National Park in Sydney New South Wales (NSW). Royal National Park was the second such protected area in the world following the proclamation of Yellowstone National Park in the USA. NSW was established in 1788 and SA, a sister state of Texas in the USA, was proclaimed in 1836. So South Australia performed very well.

Below is the official invitation to the people of the State to attend the Open Day.

belair-invitation-2016-p1

Belair Invitation 2016 p2.jpg

The Senior Ranger for the Mount Lofty Parklands was very keen that at amateur radio station was set up and operating in the Park as the SA Government wants people to get out into parks and enjoy them, especially for the health benefits. I agreed to do that and accordingly I invited VK5PAS, Paul, to join me. Paul also brought Marija, VK5FMAZ, to the Park as well, to a create a team of three. The Ranger suggested that we should set up near the Adventure Playground and my XYL, Jenny, and I took a trip to the park on Wednesday last week to check out the area. The photo below shows VK5FMAZ, Marija, at the microphone working many stations on 40 metres.

2016-09-11-00-02-56-p-m

The suggested location looked really good and I resolved to arrive at the Park early on Sunday morning to stake our claim. I did arrive early, soon after 07:30 local time, and began to set up my station within a cleared area near the Gold Escort Well.

2016-09-11-00-07-54-my-station-at-belair

See previous posts with reference to the transport of gold from Victorian to South Australia both for export and to save the state from bankruptcy.

https://vk5bje.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/in-search-of-gold/

https://vk5bje.wordpress.com/category/mount-monster-conservation-park/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

My station consisted of my Yaesu 857D, a linked dipole supported on a ten metre squid pole and a dual band two metre/70 centimetre antenna mounted on an aluminium mast attached to my tripod. I used a 33 amp hour battery to power the station and the sun kept the battery charged though the activation. As you can see the park looked magnificent and here are some pictures of the non-human visitors during the day.

2016-09-11-00-18-21-sulphur-crested-cockatoos

This photo shows three sulphur-crested cockatoos perched on a branch in the centre of the Park. They made their presence known by speaking loudly in cockatoo language!

Paul and Marija arrived soon after and soon our stations were ready to perform. We were fortunate with the weather: there was no rain and the temperature was in the high teens with plenty of sun. I have activated Belair National Park many times and have well and truly qualified the Park for the WWFF award. Here is a link to my previous activations:

https://vk5bje.wordpress.com/category/belair-national-park/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

However, this was the first time I had set up in this part of the Park. Previously I have activated from a picnic area at Long Gully or near the Waverley Lodge pedestrian entry.

Not only did we have lots of contacts, but as well, we had lots of engagement with the public. Both Paul and I had youngsters on the radio speaking with other amateurs. Thanks to the operators for joining in the fun. We also met a group of Scouts (female) who were aware of the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society and asked that we facilitate a JOTA opportunity for them. I am but an ordinary member of the Society but I committed it to JOTA! I had a chance to demonstrate morse code to the young women and they asked really excellent questions about the difference between broadcasting and communication and engagement with the public. Later, I had two young children visit my station and both spoke with Chris, VK5CP/5 (who was operating in the field with WICEN and had HF with him for some fun on the side), and later returned with the Grandfather, a lapsed amateur from the mid North of the State.

I operated on four bands (80, 40, 20 and 2 metres) and here is a list of my contacts:

10th September 2016

22:33 3.594 ssb VK5KAA

22:34 3.594 VK5TW Trevor later visited our stations in the afternoon. It was good to have a few visitors from the amateur fraternity.

146.5 fm VK5TW

22:34 7.090 VK3PF/P VK3/VU-011 Mount Major

11th September 2016

00:20 7.090 VK3PF/3 VK3/VU-011 Mount Major I was pleased to have qsos with Peter before and after UTC roll-over.

00:29 146.5 fm VK5LDM , Dennis at Christies Beach. Christies Beach is a beach-side suburb south of Adelaide. I was amazed my signal found a way to VK5LDM. This was the longest haul on 2 metres FM. I was using ten watts to a vertical dual band antenna about three metres above the ground and the location was not good for line of sight communications as we were in a gully near a small creek.

00:38 146.5 fm VK5ZBD, Greg

01:24 14.310 VK4RF and VK4HA good signals from Rick and these and one more qso were my only 20 metre contacts for the day. I called for about half an hour hoping for propagation to WA.

01:48 7.144 VK5FR (VK4FR) Chris with his new VK5 call sign was at Woomera in the far north of the State.

02:40 14.310 VK5YX, Hans good signals, probably ground wave but we couldn’t create a path on two metres. I could hear Hans on two metres.

02:53 146.5 VK5FBJD/M Brenton. It was good to meet Brenton who responded to my invitation to try two metres. Brenton came along to visit in the afternoon and showed me his set up in his car: a very neat installation! My first contact with Brenton was on Saturday as I was driving to Stirling for fuel. He was mobile and called on the VK5RAD two metre repeater and I had a qso with him.

03:07 7.144 VK5KC/M David near Beaufort in Victoria returning home.

Then followed a series of contacts on 7.144 beginning at 03:07

VK2LAD, Steve in Woomargama National Park, VKFF-0547

VK3SFG, Sergio

VK5FANA, Adrian

VK5GJ, Greg

VK5MK, Mark

VK3HK, Steve with xyl Glenda in Bunyip State Park, VKFF-0753

VK5WP, Dave

VK7FRJG, Rod at New Norfolk in the Derwent Valley

VK5CP/P Chris WICEN exercise

VK5NU, Dave

VK3FRAB, Damien

VK7QP, Linda at New Norfolk in Derwent Valley

VK3GGG, Mick at Stawell

VK3PMG, Mick

VK5FUZZ, Paul

VK7DW, Andrew near Launceston

VK1DI/P, Ian VKFF-0852, Mugga Mugga Nature Reserve

VK5KLV, Les VKFF-0812 5CP-043 Clements Gap Conservation Park

VK5FMID, Brian

VK3PF/3, Peter VKFF-0976, Shepparton Regional Park

VK4AAC/3, Rob at Lower Goulburn National Park, VKFF-0741. This was the contact I was aiming for during the activation. I now have all 45 Victorian National Parks confirmed and can apply for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks award. Thanks Rob for being there.

VK3TKK, Peter

VK5IS, Ian

VK7LTD, Tony VKFF-1144 Lime Bay State Reserve

VK3UH, Ken

VK2KYO, Ken

and

VK5CP/P, Chris

I had 42 contacts overall with a few duplicates. Thanks to all who gave me a call and an especial thanks to those who tried two metres FM (and to those who tried and I didn’t hear).

Here is a link to Paul’s blog (VK5PAS) and write up of the day:

Celebrating Belair National Park’s 125th birthday