Beaches On The Air (BOTA)

There has been a rapid increase in “OTA” award schemes over the last couple of years. OTA is “On The Air”. The commonality is that the schemes promote amateur radio operators to set up and make contacts on amateur radio frequencies from sites which fit the theme of the award scheme in question.

One well-known scheme is SOTA – Summits On The Air. Readers will be aware that this is an award scheme which has been a significant part of the hobby for me, having participated from the first few weeks of the introduction of SOTA into Victoria (VK3) in February 2012. SOTA began in the UK in March 2002.

A very early scheme is Islands On The Air – IOTA, established in 1964.

Probably the first award scheme which stimulated me to participate was the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award, an award sponsored by Amateur Radio Victoria. I did not “jump in, boots and all”. I simply started working stations that were operating in Victorian National Parks. I activated some Parks when it suited me. I became a little more serious about activating Parks during 2012, when I travelled to Mildura for the WIA Annual General Meeting in May. I planned a trip which would allow me to activate several National Parks in the western half of Victoria, with a planned three days in Mildura. That trip also saw my first activations for SOTA, when I activated some SOTA summits which were located in National Parks.

This pattern of activating sites which are part of at least one award scheme has become a feature of my portable operations. I will often activate sites which comply with the rules for more than one scheme.

My SOTA and KRMNPA activities fitted well with the WWFF award scheme and so I started activating and chasing WWFF Parks.

BOTA is a scheme of which I have been aware for some time. There has been a recent push to promote the scheme in Australia. I see the scheme as another participation opportunity which fits well with Parks activations.

I have slowly been adding activations into the BOTA scheme, mostly from sites which comply with the BOTA rules that I have activated as Parks activations. I plan to go back through my Parks activations to check which activities comply with BOTA. I will add those activations to my BOTA activations on the BOTA website. I can only add activations which occurred since the start of 2018.

On a recent trip, I activated four Parks from sites which complied with the BOTA rules and therefore also qualified as BOTA activations.

BOTA does not require Activators to upload a log, but does require an activation to be registered. The activation becomes validated within the scheme when Chasers add their contact to the activation. Registration is free. Once Chasers confirm their contacts, they become eligible for awards within the scheme, so Chasers can download a certificate from the BOTA website by looking at their Profile page under the “Courses” tab. Activators can earn points when Chasers confirm their contacts with the activation, and in turn the Activator will qualify for Activator awards. The first Activator certificate is the “Leader 10 Award”, which needs 10 chasers to confirm each activation, with 10 Beach activations.

This leads me to a request:
If you have Hunted me in a VKFF Park which also qualifies as a BOTA activation, can you please also register your contact on the BOTA site as a Chaser? Doing so will help me qualify for Activator awards for BOTA!

BOTA Activations to date

Shack Bay – Bunurong Marine National Park VKFF-0945

23 May 2021, 30 November 2019

Cutlers Beach – Wonthaggi Heathlands Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2235

23 May 2021, 30 November 2019, 11 March 2018

Rennison Bight – Churchill Island Marine National Park VKFF-0947

23 May 2021

Bass River Mouth – Reef Island and Bass River Mouth Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2181

23 May 2021, 28 April 2018

Point Impossible – Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2276

18 October 2020

Venus Bay No 3 Beach – Cape Liptrap Coastal Park VKFF-0745

2 August 2019

Foster Beach – Corner Inlet Marine and Coastal Park VKFF-1768

8 June 2019

Ricardo Beach – Cape Conran Coastal Park VKFF-0744

29 May 2019

Shallow Inlet Sandy Point – Shallow Inlet Coastal and Marine Park VKFF-0749

18 May 2019

Below is my first BOTA certificate, the Chaser 10 Award.

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An afternoon out near Mirboo North

Sunday 10 May 2021

After a very dull morning, the sky cleared up early on Sunday afternoon. After checking the weather RADAR, I decided to head out for another dose of radio fun in the field.

On Thursday afternoon, I had been checking the details for the Moorabbin & District Radio Club Hamfest on the Saturday (see my previous report). I noticed a new issue of the Club News was published on the Club’s web page, so spent some time reading the newsletter.

I found an article by Ron VK3AFW which announced that Humps had been added for VK3. Humps? More correctly, HEMA – Humps Excluding Marilyns Award. Humps are broadly similar to SOTA summits, but they require a prominence of only 100 metres. Therefore, the Humps are excluded from SOTA but are included in HEMA. The scoring is different than the SOTA scoring, with the activation of a Hump earning the Activator one (1) point. There are some other rules to consider, so check out everything at the official website: http://www.hema.org.uk/

Exploring the website, I found that there are 42 peaks in VK1, 89 in VK3 and 86 in VK6. The only region mapped to date in VK3 is the Victoria Central region. I found that there was a hump near Mirboo North, adjacent to a possible access route to a section of the Mirboo North Regional Park.

Early on Sunday afternoon, I loaded the required gear into the car and headed out towards Mirboo North and around to Old Thorpdale Road. I drove around the peak of the Hump and along an unsealed road which rapidly deteriorated once past a house located to the west of the peak. The “road” on the map became damp, very bumpy, narrow, slippery and was steepening. I aborted any attempt to reach the Regional Park section to the west and headed back to the corner of the access road to find a spot to activate.

VK3/HVC-074 (unnamed) 408 m

The high point on Old Thorpdale Road passes across the shoulder of the Hump above the 400 m contour, clearly well within the Activation Zone. I found a spot just off the road on the eastern side to park the car near the edge of a pine plantation. I soon had a line over a tree branch and hauled up the ZS6BKW doublet. I set up the station on a folding table a couple metres from the rear of the vehicle.

I spotted myself on 40 m as a QRP station. Perhaps Allen VK3ARH might add HEMA support to the ParksnPeaks website….. I called for several minutes before I had my first response – Paul VK5PAS. I worked Paul and explained the concept of Humps. I next worked Marija VK5MAZ. Several of the SOTA and Parks regulars also called. I worked 10 stations in less than 20 minutes, thus easily qualifying the Hump (four (4) contacts required). With no further callers, I closed down and packed up.

I then headed back down to the Strzelecki Highway and around onto Ricardo Road and drove up the hill to find a spot to set up within the target Park for the afternoon.

A Google Earth view looking north from near Mirboo North showing the two operating sites.

Mirboo North Regional Park VKFF-1876

I again set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the centre of the doublet. I ended up with the centre at around 14 m above ground, with the ends at around 6 m height. I set up the station on the tailgate of the Ranger and used the IC-7300. I spotted myself on ParksnPeaks for 40 m SSB and worked 10 stations in only 20 minutes. I then moved to 20 m CW to see if I could hear a Japanese SOTA station, but had no success.

I moved to 40 m CW and spotted. Several minutes of fruitless calling CQ was finally rewarded with a contact. I then moved to 17 m CW, to see if the Japanese SOTA station was audible. Success – I could hear him and I soon had Seiji JG4LCS/4 on Daigasen JA/OY-152 in the log!

I then returned to 40 m CW, spotting myself once I found a clear frequency. I worked four chasers in five minutes. I moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked 20 chasers in only fifteen minutes. I then made some contacts with some locals on 2 m FM and 40 m and 80 m SSB, boosting the number of contacts. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked John VK5HAA on SSB and CW before moving down to 7.144 MHz. I could not hear Chris VK1CT clearly on SSB, but thanks to assistance in message relay from John VK5HAA, I did manage to work Chris VK1CT on CW for a Park to Park (VKFF-0853).

With 55 contacts in the log and the sun well behind the trees, I closed just before 0700 UTC. I packed up and then worked my way out to Darlimurla and headed home via Boolarra.

Thanks again to all the Chasers.

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Moorabbin Hamfest and The Pines

Saturday 8 May 2021

With COVID restrictions somewhat eased in Victoria, I planned to attend my first Hamfest in around 18 months. Ross VK3NRB decided to join me for the trip, staying overnight Friday at my home so that we could be away early.

We were underway at around 0730 local time and headed towards Melbourne, with a short stop at Nar Nar Goon to add fuel to the vehicle. We then headed in to Moorabbin via the Dandenong Bypass and the Dingley Bypass and on to South Road. We then found a spot to park on the western side of Nepean Highway and walked across to the Kingston Town Hall to queue to check in to the venue and then again for an entry ticket. We then spent about 10 minutes chatting with others until the doors opened at 1000.

I dropped some of the VK3IL Pressure Paddle kits at the Moorabbin & District Radio Club table, hoping that some might sell. Lots of people wanted to chat, so it took quite some time to walk around to see what was on offer on all the tables.

At around 1130, I saw that a spot had been posted for a group of amateurs on a SOTA summit, so Ross and I walked back to the car and set up the HF whip. We heard nothing of the activators, only chasers. I asked Gerard to QSY down 5 kHz after he had worked the activators and logged a contact with VKFF-0281. I sent an SMS to Glenn VK3YY/p, suggesting that we try 80 m. We sat back and waited until the team spotted for 80 m. Due to S7 noise, we had great difficulty copying the activators. I again texted Glenn and suggested that they try CW. Within a few minutes, I had Glenn, David VK3IL and Andrew VK3JBL in the log from Mount Dawson VK3/VT-015 and VKFF-0619.

We drove around to find a parking spot just outside the venue and were back inside for a few minutes of browsing and chatting before the door prize draw at around 1230. Neither of us had any luck with the prize draw….

I collected my kits, with none having been sold. I then had a chat with one of the WIA Directors. Ross had purchased a couple of antennas after he borrowed some cash. He spotted something else of interest. After finishing my chat, I joined him and ended up buying a couple of HF whip antennas, which required a quick trip across the Nepean Highway to withdraw some cash from the nearest ATM.

We purchased some lunch and coffee from the small café at the venue, loaded the gear into the car and headed south towards Frankston. Along the way, I had a contact with Gerard VK2IO/p, now in VKFF-2012. The contact was difficult due to the QRM as we drove along the suburban roads. We then made our way around to our target park for the afternoon.

The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2451

We parked in the far corner of the car park off Ballarto Road Carrum Downs. I soon had a squid pole lashed to a bollard and the ZS6BKW doublet was in the air. We set up with the IC-7300 on the tailgate of the Ranger.

Our operating site in VKFF-2451. Image thanks to Google Earth.

At about 0430 UTC, I came up on 7.144 MHz and checked if the frequency was clear. I promptly worked Gerard and Compton VK2HRX, both in VKFF-2012. Gerard and Compton had been chatting face to face, awaiting our arrival. Gerard closed down, leaving the frequency to us. Ross and I operated by passing the microphone until Ross had at least 10 in his log. He then went for a walk. I had a steady stream of callers. When the callers diminished, I went to 40 m CW and worked four hunters. We then returned to 40 m SSB and worked Gerard in VKFF-1921 and Bob VK2BYF and Gerald VK2HBG in VKFF-0043.

I moved up the band and again spotted and worked further hunters, including a CW contact with Gerard VK2IO/p. I had 44+ contacts in the log by 0610UTC and we packed up the station. I went for a walk to exit the Park and made a contact with Ross in the Park. As I returned to the car, I heard an Alert and saw that it was Paul VK0PD on air on 20 m SSB. We could hear Paul from the car, but the mobile whip was insufficient to make a contact. We quickly again set up the station at the rear of the car, working Paul at 0633 UTC for a P2P contact to VKFF-0571.

We missed the Alert for Sue VK5AYL in a park and we could not hear Fred VK3DAC in VKFF-0333.

We packed up again and started the drive back to home.

Thanks to Ross for the company during the day and thanks to all the Hunters for their calls.

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A fine autumn day out between Stratford and Bairnsdale

Sunday 2 May 2021

I received a call from Ross VK3NRB during the final week of April. It had been a while since we last caught up. Ross suggested heading out for some radio fun on Sunday, a suggestion I was happy to confirm. The plan was for me to pick up Ross from home in Maffra and to then head out to the area beyond Stratford.

I was on the road by 0800 local time and drove past the Loy Yang power stations to reach Rosedale with a brief stop at the bakery to grab some lunch. I then headed east to reach the Tinamba Road, north to Tinamba then east to Maffra and around to Ross’ house. We then headed to Stratford and around to the first stop for the day.

Swallow Lagoon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2199

I have previously qualified this Park. The easiest access is at the junction of Swallow Lagoon Road and Andrews Road. You will find a locked gate, with a pedestrian access gate on the northern side of the vehicle gate. I parked close to the main gate and we unloaded the gear and set up just inside the gate. I soon had the antenna in the air with a line tossed over a tree branch.

Swallow Lagoon Nature Conservation Reserve is just under 193 ha in area. It contains “Plains Grassy Woodland, Lowland Forest, (potentially) Damp Sands Herb-rich Woodland and an undescribed EVC. The reserve also includes areas of derived native grassland”. (Swallow Lagoon NCR Management Statement, DSE (2005)). The Reserve contains the Forest Red Gum Grassy Woodland Community, which is listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

The Reserve has essentially no visitor facilities.

We set up the station on a table, with the IC-705 and AH-705 connected to a ZS6BKW doublet. On switching on the radio, we heard Gerard VK2IO/p operating on 7.144 MHz and we soon had VKFF-2018 in the log. I then moved down to work Warren ZL2AJ on ZL1/WK-142. I moved back up the band to find a clear frequency which would be clear of the WIA News broadcasts and spotted myself. I worked eight stations in the next 8 minutes. Just before UTC midnight, I swapped to 20 m SSB and worked John ZL3MR on ZL3/OT-354.

Ross at the operating table VKFF-2199

After UTC midnight I first worked Gerard VK2IO/p for another Park to Park contact, followed by Mark ZL3AB on ZL3/CB-471. I returned to the 40 m frequency used earlier and worked another six stations b efore I had no further callers. I then chased four ZL SOTA activators on 40 m, 20 m and 17 m. We shut the station at around 0030 UTC with 23 contacts in the log. Before we packed up the station, I returned to the car and worked Ross inside the Park for a new hunted reference. We were not worried about qualifying the Park for WWFF, only for VKFF, so we both had at least 10 contacts in the log.

We packed up the station and headed east to Munro, then south to the Princes Highway and then east again to the Fernbank turn-off, where I turned right. I then drove along the very sandy track parallel to the highway until I reached the old and rusty open gate which provides easy access to the next Park.

The Billabong Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2449

This small Park is only 20.47 ha in area, located just west of the “Billabong Roadhouse”. The Reserve contains a large permanent waterhole, which provides good wetland habitat for water-birds. It is surrounded by a white stringybark open forest-woodland.

After reversing the vehicle so that the rear half was inside the reserve boundary, I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the station on the tailgate. This time I used the KX2 transceiver.

After spotting, we first worked Gerard VK2IO/p, still in VKFF-2018. We had a steady run of hunters calling, with the log showing 20 contacts logged in 18 minutes. I grabbed the IC-705 and an unshielded dummy load and exited the Park to work Ross for another new reference hunted. We then closed down and packed up. We then visited the Billabong Roadhouse to purchase some insect repellent – the mosquitos had been a prominent feature of the first two activations, and were to again plague us later in the day!

I then drove around to Fernbank, past the Fernbank Nature Conservation Reserve, and around to Fernbank Lindenow Road to reach Collwells Lane and drove a short distance north to reach our next target.

Saplings Morass Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2434

I had visited this Park once before and needed another 15 contacts to reach the WWFF quota of 44.

The Reserve is small, only 9.62 ha in area. It contains portion of a large open swamp thick with sedges and rushes, and is fringed by a stand of forest red gum.

The parks sign at Saplings Morass NCR

I parked just east of the track where we had a little shade. I soon had a line of a tree branch and the antenna hauled up. We again set up the station on the tailgate. We had a pleasant breeze and no mosquitos during this activation.

We found 7.144 MHz was free, so spotted after checking that the frequency was not in use. We had a steady stream of hunters calling, and I made 46 contacts in only 35 minutes. We then closed down. I again left the Park with the IC-705 and worked Ross for another new reference hunted.

We packed up and headed south and east to reach the Princes Highway, then towards Bairnsdale to reach Redcourt Lane, where I turned south and into the next Park.

Moormurng Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2391

This was another Park which I had visited in the past and had qualified for WWFF.

The sign at the NW corner of Moormung FFR

The Park is 966 ha in area and contains the largest remaining stand of red gum forest in the Gippsland Plains. Sandy soils in parts of the reserve support open forests and woodlands of white stringybark, shining peppermint and saw banksia with a heathy understory. There are small areas of freshwater swamp communities. More than 90 bird species have been recorded.

I found a spot with some shade and soon had a line over a tree branch. We again set up the station on the tailgate. We again found that 7.144 MHz was free, so I spotted and started working hunters. I worked 30 hunters in 26 minutes, including Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1881. I then moved to 40 m CW and worked six hunters. We then packed up and headed out of the Park, but made some further contacts with Ross before I drove out, with Ross outside the boundary. I also worked Ross inside the reserve whilst I was outside the boundary for another new reference hunted.

We headed east to reach Bengworden Road, then south to Boundary Road, then west to the next Park.

Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2045

This reserve is just under 107 ha in area. It contains a number of endangered grassy ecosystems of very high conservation significance.

We set up a short distance inside the park, on the narrow track. We soon had a line over tree branch and the antenna up at good height. We first worked Ian VK1DI/2 in VKFF-2653 on 40 m SSB. I moved up the band and found 7.144 MHz was now free, with Daryl VK3AWA in Holey Plains State Park apparently having closed. I worked Peter VK3ZPF, who had also been trying to work Daryl. I spotted and started working Hunters, making 39 contacts in 26 minutes. I tried 80 m SSB and worked two stations. 2 m and 70 cm FM yielded some more local contacts, bringing the tally to 46. I worked Ross inside the Park on 70 cm FM after I had crossed the boundary on our way back to the car.

We drove west and then north to return to the Princes Highway and then west towards Stratford before heading south on West Boundary Track to enter the next park.

Providence Ponds Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2425

This reserve of approximately 1650 ha is located on Quaternary sand dunes, with open forest and woodlands with heathy understorey. More than 100 faunal species and approximately 100 native plant species are represented in the reserve.

I again tossed a line over a tree branch to raise the centre of the doublet. We again set up on the tailgate. On switching on the radio, I saw a spot for Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0558 on 40 m CW. Gerard was my first contact in the Park. I then moved to 40 m SSB to find the usual area for Parks activators rather crowded with DX stations. I moved down the band and spotted on 7.090 MHz SSB. Gerard was the first caller….. I then worked another 33 Hunters over the next 30 minutes, including Ian VK1DI/2 in VKFF-2653. I moved to 40 m CW and worked three stations. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked two more Hunters. During the second contact, another station was sending on the frequency seeking a confirmation of a 339 report. I never caught the callsign of the sender and had no response to repeated “QRX?” signals. I finished the activation with some local contacts on 2 m & 70 cm FM. My last contact for the day was to chase Ross inside the Park whilst I was outside.

The Providence Ponds FFR sign taken as we exitted the Reserve

We packed up and headed back to the Highway, then drove back to Stratford and to Maffra to drop off Ross. We had travelled 144 km since picking up Ross in the morning, and activated six references, one more than originally planned. I then headed home, a trip of just under 80 km.

A view west from between Munro and Stratford.

As you can imagine from the number of contacts made in short time periods, we had significant pile ups at times during the day. I would try to capture several callsigns and then work my way through the list before calling again. Our usual pattern was to “pass the microphone” between operators for each Hunter until Ross had at least 10 contacts in the log. Once Ross was happy he had the Park qualified, he would sit back and listen. Thanks to all the Hunters for your patience during the day, and a very big than you to all for chasing us. I did note that a small number of stations were caught a little short with our at times rapid change of location to a new reference…… The area visited has several Parks relatively close together, making for easy access to another reference with only a short drive.

References

Swallow Lagoon NCR Management Statement, DSE (2005)

Gippsland Lakes Hinterland Area Final Recommendations, Land Conservation Council (1983)

Fitzsimmons, JA, C Williams, V Walsh, P FitzSimons & G U’Ren, Ecological attributes of strategic land acquisitions for addition to Victoria’s public protected area estate (2006-2007), pp 140-149, The Victorian Naturalist, 125 (5), October 2008.

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More VKFF Award certificates – April 2021

29 April 2021

I have received some more certificates from the Australian WWFF coordinator Paul VK5PAS over the recent weeks.

2020 was a very challenging year. In Victoria, it started with dense smoke over much of the eastern half of the state, due to the Black Summer bushfires. The poor air quality combined with high temperatures during January and February restricted my activities, with a lot of time in the shack listening around the bands. Then COVID restrictions began…..

Regional Victoria had some easing of restrictions, but travel was still quite limited. Restrictions were tricky to interpret, so I took a conservative approach. More time in the shack! Interstate restrictions varied and some amateur operators were able to venture out and activate summits and Parks. I worked Activators whenever I could hear them.

As the year progressed, restrictions in regional Victoria were eased, so I did manage to get out into the field occasionally to activate SOTA summits and/or Parks.

In early April 2021, Paul VK5PAS announced the results of the 2020 Top Activator and Top Hunter certificates.

2020 VKFF Top Hunter

Paul VK5PAS announced the Top Hunter certificate as follows:

“I am pleased to announce Peter VK3PF as the Top VKFF Hunter in 2020.

Peter worked an amazing 385 different VKFF references.

  • 2nd place – Gerard VK2IO – 373 VKFF references.
  • 3rd place – Allen VK3ARH – 240 VKFF references
  • 4th place – Geoff VK3SQ – 239 VKFF references.
  • 5th place – Paul VK5PAS – 231 VKFF references.
  • 6th place – John VK4TJ – 224 VKFF references.
  • 7th place – Andrei ZL1TM – 223 VKFF references.
  • 8th place – John VK5HAA – 195 VKFF references.
  • 9th place – Scott VK4CZ – 193 VKFF references.
  • 10th place – Nick VK3ANL – 185 VKFF references.”
2020 VKFF Top Hunter certificate

Thanks to all the Activators who operated in the field. From the results below, it is perhaps not surprising that Gerard VK2IO featured prominently in my log.

2020 VKFF Top Activator

Paul VK5PAS announced the statistics for Top Activator as follows:

“I have now finalised the stats for the 2020 Top VKFF Activator Award.

The winner is Gerard VK2IO with 69 VKFF references during 2020.

  • 2nd place – Marty VK4KC – 47 VKFF references.
  • 3rd place – Adam VK2YK – 41 VKFF references.
  • 4th place – David VK5DG – 35 VKFF references.
  • 5th place – Peter VK3PF – 30 VKFF references.
  • Equal 6th place – Tony VK3YV & Ian VK1DI – 24 VKFF references.
  • 7th place – Nick VK3ANL – 21 VKFF references.
  • 8th place – Peter VK3ZPF – 20 VKFF references.
  • Equal 9th place – Andrew VK1DA, Malcolm VK3OAK, & Peter VK3TKK – 19 VKFF references.
  • 10th place – Paul VK5PAS – 16 VKFF references.

This is based on qualifying the park for VKFF with 10 contacts.

The global WWFF program offers Top Activator and Top Hunter based on qualifying the park for the global WWFF program with 44 contacts.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the VKFF program during 2020.”

Top VKFF Activator certificate for fifth place

Given the COVID Restrictions, I am pleased with my result. Thanks to all the Hunters!

VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1800

2021 has seen an increase in activities in the field. It is not surprising that most of the Parks activated are references which have been worked previously. I have managed to hunt some references which I missed on earlier activations. A small number of first time activations have also occurred. As a result, I managed to build my all-time Hunter score to the next level of the VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll – 1800 references worked.

VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1800 references worked certificate

Particular thanks must go to Peter VK3TKK, who made trips to some new references plus several which only I had activated or ones which I had missed earlier activations. I managed to gain 10 references thanks to Peter. Also prominent was Marty VK4KC, who contributed six references to my tally. The last of the new Parks worked came courtesy of Liz VK2XSE.

Thanks to all the activators and thanks to the VKFF admin team members.

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ANZAC Day 2021 – an afternoon break in the field

25 April 2021

As well as being a national day of commemoration, ANZAC Day is one of only three days each year when Australian amateur radio operators can replace their normal VK prefix with the AX prefix. The AF prefix is sought after by prefix hunters.

The morning here was dull, with occasional showers. As a result, I simply chased/hunted the activators who were out in the field from home. A few patches of blue appeared early in the afternoon, with the weather RADAR suggesting that it may remain dry for a couple of hours. I decided to head out to the closest VKFF reference in an effort to build on the number of contacts made two weeks earlier on the Sunday evening of the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award activity weekend, when I logged 19 contacts. An extra 25 contacts would bring the reference total up to the 44 required to qualify the Park for WWFF in this calendar year.

Morwell National Park VKFF-0626

The two readily accessible access points to this Park are located down in gullies, with the main visitor site at Kerry Road not far from power lines and houses. The other easy to access site at Billys Creek is a little more open. I have operated in the past from a spot just off Jumbuk Road, north of Summerfield Track. I had been investigating other possible access points which may give a quiet location away from power lines.

I headed out from home and decided to attempt to reach a different area of the Park for the activation. I drove to Jeeralang Junction and then up Lindners Road, and on to Morans Road. About one third of the way up, I found a new gate across the road. The mapping shows the road as a public road, plus the gate was closed but not locked. I opened the gate and drove though, closing the gate behind me. I suspect that the new gate is due to activities on the HVP property on the NW side of Morans Road. I continued up the track (no longer in a state to warrant being called a Road) to reach another gate near the crest of the spur. This one was locked, with a Parks Victoria sign stating “Management Vehicles and Walkers only”. I found a broken Park sign on the ground just outside the gate.

The broken Morwell National Park sign on the ground close to the gate

I parked here and carried my gear through the gate and onto a small clearing just south of the track. I set up here with a line over a tree branch at around 11 m above ground to haul up the centre of the ZS6BKW doublet antenna. I carried in a chair and a small table, with an 18 Ah LiFePO4 battery and the IC-7300. I was soon set up and switched on the radio to hear Gerard AX2IO/p in VKFF-2020 working stations on 7.144 MHz.

Map of most of the Morwell National Park, with the operating location in the NE corner. Image courtesy MapShare Victoria.

I waited my turn and called Gerard to make my first contact for the day with AX3PF. I then moved up the band to find a clear frequency. I called to ask if the frequency was in use and Paul AX3IH answered me. After determining that he was simply calling me, I added Paul to the log and then spotted myself and started calling.

I quickly had a stream of callers. About 10 minutes later, a spot came through for Andrew VK1AD/2 on a SOTA summit. I made a mental note and continued working the hunters until there was a break. I announced a quick QSY and that I would return shortly. I soon had Andrew in the log from VK2/SW-028. I returned to my previous frequency and continued calling. I had a steady stream of Hunters.

When I had a lull in callers, I moved to 20 m SSB, posted a spot and started calling. After no responses in over 10 minutes, I returned to 40 m to see if I could hear Chris VK1CT/p in a park on CW. I heard nothing. I was about to return to SSB when another spot came through and I soon had Chris in the log on SSB from VKFF-0991. I moved up the band, spotted and started calling again. The next 10 minutes yielded 16 contacts in the log, with the sky upwind looking darker and the air feeling damp. A few drops fell from the sky, so I closed down and quickly packed up, only 70 minutes after my first call. I first moved the radio into the back of the car and then the rest of the gear. The antenna came down and was packed up as the next shower arrived.

I secured all the gear into the car and headed back down the track and then headed for home, with 62 contacts in the log.

Thanks to all the hunters for their calls.

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10th KRMPNA Activity Weekend 2021

Like so many events during 2020, the annual Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA) Activity Weekend was cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic and the associated restrictions.

The main driver of the KRMNPA for several years has been Tony VK3XV / VK3VTH. Tony announced a deferred event for the weekend of 10 and 11 April 2021 for the tenth running of the event. We were lucky, with no lockdowns in place and restrictions at an easy to comply level.

Tony announced some rules for a planned promotional Operating Award, with an award for Activators and one for Hunters. The special award was to run for the 48 hours of 0000 EST (1400 UTC Friday) Saturday to 2359 EST (1359 UTC Saturday) Sunday. Operators were free to operate outside the local Saturday and Sunday, but any such activities would not be eligible for consideration for the special awards.

It has been some time since I qualified for the KRMNPA Grand Slam – way back in April 2014! The Grand Slam means that I had worked other amateurs in all 45 Victorian National Parks and I had activated all 45 Parks. Playing radio out in the field is most enjoyable (as long as the weather is not extremely unpleasant) and as such, I like to support the activity weekends, so considered my options for the tenth event.

I know that many of the National Parks in East Gippsland are rarely activated. On the downside, several of those Parks are still closed following the Black Summer fires which impacted the area in late 2019 and early 2020. Tackling the Parks which were open would require longer drives between Parks.

Another option was several Parks in Gippsland. The weather forecast made my decision relatively easy: I would head to north east Victoria for a brief visit with family and then activate several Parks in northern Victoria on Saturday. The forecast for south of the Great Dividing Range was for a very wet, cold and windy weekend, whilst conditions would be much milder north of the Great Dividing Range. I would need to cope with the weather as I traversed back to Gippsland on Sunday.

Friday 9 April 2021

I organised my gear and loaded the car before heading off late in the morning. I drove west to Nilma, and then headed to Neerim South, Powelltown, Healesville and onward to Alexandra. I then headed to Goschnicks Lookout on Skyline Road, Devils River. I made a brief stop along the way to Work Marija VK5MAZ/3 in VKFF-2123 on 40 m SSB.

Lake Eildon National Park VKFF-0625

Goschnicks Lookout is well inside the boundary of the National Park. I kept the activation very simple by operating from the car, using the IC-706MKIIG and the Hampark antenna mounted on the bullbar.

Almost immediately up parking the vehicle, I worked Peter VK3TKK in VKFF-2204. I moved to find a clear frequency and spotted myself. First in the log was Marty VK4KC. I soon had my VKFF quota of 10 contacts, ending up with 11 contacts in the log in less than 15 minutes. I packed up the gear and headed back to Alexandra and then drove around to Bonnie Doon.

A radiosonde provides a break from the drive

I had checked the last position fix for the radiosonde launched from Melbourne Airport on Friday morning: RS_S4620266. I diverted to a spot on Royaltown Road Maindample and set up my receiving system and soon had a position fix on the ‘sonde – about 800 m away across private property.

I drove around to Maroondah Highway and stopped at the entrance gate to a quarry, located north of the position fix. I rang the contact number on one of the signs at the gate and explained myself to Brendan. He gave permission to enter and to attempt to recover the radiosonde. I stopped part of the way to the quarry to work Peter VK3TKK in VKFF-2036 on 80 m SSB. I continued on to the quarry and followed the track further south, then west and headed south up a spur to park at a fence. I climbed over the fence and up the hill to find the radiosonde well up the steep hillside, about 50 m higher in altitude than my first position decode. (Note to self: acquire a new position fix as close as possible to the ‘sonde!)

Radiosonde near The Paps
The radiosonde caught in a bush, looking NE towards The Paps.

I recovered the ‘sonde, the reflector and balloon remnants and headed back to the car. I then drove back out to the gate and again called Brendan to confirm that I was out and that I had locked the gate – the workers had left the site, closed the gate but not snapped the locked closed. I thanked Brendan for the permission to access the site and then continued north to Benalla, then up the Hume Highway. I managed to work Hans VK3XN/p in VKFF-2843 along the way.

I diverted to Beechworth to drop a small package off to Geoff VK3SQ, and then continued to Wodonga. I first visited my youngest brother for a catch up and then headed to Mum’s place for the night.

Saturday 10 April 2021

I packed the gear into the vehicle and headed off towards my first target. I stopped to fill the fuel tank on the outskirts of Wodonga and then drove to Chiltern and around to Lappins Track Cornishtown. I drove a few hundred metres into the Park until I found a spot to set up.

Chiltern – Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620

I soon had a line over a tree branch and the doublet centre suspended about 9 m above ground. I set up the IC-7300 on the tailgate of the Ranger and was soon spotted and calling on 40 m SSB. When I started the logging app, I noticed that I had missed Tony VK3XV in Kara Kara National Park. (Note to self: Consider firing up the logging app before starting the trip so that you will receive Spots whilst in transit!)

40 m SSB yielded 22 contacts, including a Park to Park with Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0056. I moved to 80 m SSB and worked two stations. I next moved to 40 m CW, where I worked four stations. Several times I called Rob VK4AAC/3 in Lower Goulburn NP, but Rob was apparently not hearing me. He was weak at my location, but just workable.

I ended up with 28 contacts, including only one Park to Park.

I closed just after UTC midnight and packed up.

I drove out to the Chiltern – Rutherglen Road and drove to Rutherglen, then headed west on the Murray Valley Highway to Brimin. Just after crossing the Ovens River, I swung left onto Camerons Track and parked near a track junction a short distance to the south. Here I had marginal mobile ‘phone coverage whilst being well inside the Park boundary.

Warby – Ovens National Park VKFF-0742

I again tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the centre of the doublet. I was soon set up and spotted for 80 m CW. First in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p, still in VKFF-0056. I worked another three callsigns before I had no further replies to CQ calls. I moved to 80 m SSB, where I worked three stations. I then moved to 40 m SSB to chase Paul VK5PAS/3 and Marija VK5MAZ/p in VKFF-0373. I moved to 40 m CW and made only a single contact.

The Park sign at the entry into Warby Ovens National Park

I moved to 40 m SSB, where I first chased Tony VK3YV in VKFF-0020. I then found a clear frequency and spotted. I worked 9 stations in reasonable time, including Gerard VK2IO/p once again and John VK2AWJ/P in VKFF-0231. I then moved around the band to chase Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-1621 and James VK2TER/P in VKFF-0550. I had worked 22 stations in around an hour.

I packed up and headed back to the main road, then headed west.

I drove across to Numurkah to buy some lunch and then on to Barmah and into the Park.

Barmah National Park VKFF-0739

I parked just south of the day visitor area, close to the junction of Broken Creek and Murray River. I soon had a line over a tree branch and the doublet in the air. I again set up the radio on the tailgate.

The entrance into Barmah National Park at Barmah

I started the activation on 40 m SSB by chasing Tony VK3YV/p in VKFF-0623, and Paul VK5PAS3 and Marija VK5MAZ/p in VKFF-0373. I moved to find 7.144 MHz free, so I spotted and started calling. I worked 25 contacts, including Allen VK3ARH in VKFF-0630, Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0417 and Stuart VK3UAO in VKFF-0627. I did some quick moving around the band to chase Bryan VK3LF in VKFF-0556, VK2TER/p in VKFF-0550 and Joe VK3SRC in VKFF-0628. I returned to 7.144 and worked another four stations. I tried 20 m SSB and worked one ZL and one VK6 station.

I closed and packed up, with 37 stations in the log. I could have preserved to work another 7 stations to reach 44, but I wanted to move to the next park.

I drove back to Barmah, south to Stewarts Bridge Road and around to the next park.

Lower Goulburn National Park VKFF-0741

I parked not far from the Park sign, off Stewarts Bridge Road Lower Moira. I again set up with a line over a tree branch and the radio on the tailgate.

The sign for Lower Goulburn National Park

I started by chasing Warren VK3BYD/P in VKFF-0620 on 40 m CW. I moved up to 40 m SSB to chase Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0417 and then found a clear frequency. I worked 24 more stations, including Joe VK3SRC/p in VKFF-0628, Bill VK3CWF in VKFF-0055, Paul VK5PAS/3 and Marija VK5MAZ/p in VKFF-0373 and Allen VK3ARH in VKFF-0740. When I had no further callers, I closed down and packed up, with a total of 27 in the log. I had attempted to work Rob VK4AAC/3 several times across the day, but the propagation was not working on 40 m or above and Rob did not come up on 80 m.

I returned to the road and continued to the west, working my way through Echuca and on to Torrumbarry, then north on Headworks Road and on to River Track.

Gunbower National Park VKFF-0740

I moved around to a spot where I was clearly inside the National Park. Care is required here, as north of River Track is the Murray River Reserve, not the National Park, plus the south side of the Track does not mark the Park boundary. I saw no Park sign for the National Park, but the mapping showed that my chosen site was inside the Park boundary.

I set up as I had earlier in the day. I started by chasing Chris VK1CT/p in VKFF-0862 on 40 m CW, followed by Paul VK5PAS/3 in VKFF-0373 and Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0417. I found a clear frequency and started calling, with the first caller being Tony VK3YV/p in VKFF-0624. Another 14 stations followed in only 10 minutes.

I moved to 40 m CW and worked seven stations in 10 minutes. I then moved to 80 m SSB to chase Bill VK3CWF/p in VKFF-0055. I moved to a clear frequency and worked six stations in six minutes. With 32 stations in log, I closed down and packed up.

I travelled back to Torrumbarry, then a short distance to the east to then head south. I was soon heading west to look at two of the easternmost sections of the next Park.

Terrick Terrick National Park VKFF-0630

I decided to set up in the Torrumbarry Grasslands section of the Park just west of the Patho Plains Railway Nature Conservation Reserve at Roslynmead. There was a wide gap between the gate post and the gate, with the heavy chain only half way up the gate, making it easy to step over the chain.

The sign at Terrick Terrick National Park, Roslynmead

I grabbed the KX3, a squid pole, the antenna and a battery. I lashed the squid pole to a fence post and soon had the station set up as the sun disappeared below the horizon.

Sunset from just outside the locked gate at Roslynmead

I simply sat on the edge of a track inside the fence. I started on 80 m SSB, chasing Paul VK5PAS/3 and Marija VK5MAZ/p in VKFF-0373. I moved up the band and spotted. I was called by Bill VK3CWF/p in VKFF-0055, plus another eight stations. I moved to 40 m SSB and quickly worked eight stations before I closed – the light was fading rapidly! I had a total of 19 stations in the log.

I quickly packed up and loaded the gear into the car. I then headed south to Elmore, but nothing appeared to be open which might offer a quick service meal. I continued to Bendigo for a brief stop to grab a meal. I then drove around into a section of the next Park in Junortoun.

Greater Bendigo National Park VKFF-0623

I found spot to park beside Wildflower Drive. It was dark and raining, so I decided to operate from the car with the mobile whip. I started by chasing John VK5HAA/p in VKFF-1743 on 80 m CW. I moved to a clear frequency and spotted. Gerard VK2IO/m was the first chaser, followed by another four callers. I then moved to 80 m SSB to work three stations. I then moved to 40 m SSB, first chasing John VK5HAA/p again. I moved to 7.144 MHz to work two VK4 stations. Next I again chased John VK5HAA/p again, this time on 40 m CW. I moved down to 80 m SSB again and chased five stations in the QRP Club QRP Hours Contest. I then found a clear frequency and worked another five stations.

With 23 stations in the log, I closed and moved the gear so that it was safe for driving.

I drove back to the McIvor Highway and then to Heathcote, then north and around to Mt Ida Road and up to the turnaround area just below the summit. I looked around and selected a spot to set up the tent. I soon had the tent up; just in time before another rain shower arrived. I was feeling weary, so decided to activate in the morning.

A total of 188 contacts were made for the day, with approximately 500 km travelled.

Sunday 11 April 2021

The night was very blustery, with the wind rattling the tent all night, plus the occasional shower. In addition, one of the local vineyards had a bird scare gun going all night, with regular loud “bang-bang” sounds heard. Plus it was cold, with a low of only 3 or 4 degrees. I was reasonably comfortable, but all the noises were disturbing.

Heathcote-Graytown National Park VKFF-0624
Mount Ida VK3/VU-009 450m 1 point

I was awake early. No rain fell during the activation, but the wind was strong and gusting. Air temperature was around 4 degrees, so the wind chill made the apparent temperature quite low. I packed the gear and tent and soon had a line over a nearby tree branch and the station set up in a SOTA-compliant configuration: KX3 powered by a LiFePO4 battery, sitting on a folding table, plus a camp chair for me. The observations for Redesdale (about 23 km away and at a somewhat lower altitude) showed the “Feels Like” temperature as around 1 degree when I started calling.

I called for some time before my first response, despite having spotted myself. Calls on 80 m SSB went unanswered. I tried 80 m CW, again with no responses. I moved to 40 m CW, with the first response coming from ZL several minutes later. With no further responses, I moved to 20 m CW and worked another ZL station. After several more minutes of unsuccessful calling, I returned to 40 m CW and finally had some success: four contacts over 10 minutes, including a Park to Park with John VK5HAA/p in VKFF-1743. I next moved to 40 m SSB and I worked 6 stations, including another contact with John VK5HAA/p. I moved to 80 m SSB and worked five stations, including John VK5HAA/p. My last contact was another Park to Park, this time with Joe running VK3SRC in VKFF-0333.

The sign at the start of the road up to Mt Ida

I decided to call it quits, with 20 contacts in the log. I packed up and descended into Heathcote, with a stop at the Bakery for some breakfast and coffee.

I then headed south towards Kyneton and the Calder Highway, with the next stop at the next Park. The closer I drove towards Melbourne, the darker grey became the clouds!

Organ Pipes National Park VKFF-0627

I drove in to the car park and parked close to the southern end. On arrival, there were few cars present, with most parked at the northern end, close to Visitor Centre.

The entrance to Organ Pipes National Park

I soon had the doublet up in the air thanks to a selected tree branch; with the doublet out of reach should anyone come close. I had the antenna up and connected to the IC706MKIIG just before the next shower arrived. I operated from within the car.

I was about to spot when I saw a couple of spots, so I soon had two Park to Park contacts in the log on 40 m SSB: VK2IO/p in VKFF-0049 and Joe VK3SRC in VKFF-0333. I moved up the band to above where the WIA broadcasts occur and spotted. I worked 12 stations in 13 minutes, including Paul VK5PAS/3 and Marija VK5MAZ/p in VKFF-0231. The next call was CW, a little unexpected. I announced for people to standby and retrieved my paddle from the rear of the vehicle. I soon had VK2MZ in the log on CW, followed by SSB. With no further replies to my calls, I dropped down to 80 m SSB and chased Paul and Marija for two more Park to Park contacts. I moved up the band a little, spotted and started calling. I worked 10 stations over about 25 minutes, including a Park to Park contact with Allen VK3ARH in VKFF-0739. I moved down to 80 m CW to again chase Allen VK3ARH. I returned to my previous frequency for one more SSB contact. My final contact was another Park to Park, this time with Tony VK3YV/p in VKFF-0539.

With 29 contacts in the log, I packed up and started the next driving leg: back onto the Calder and in towards Melbourne, through the Tunnel and out the Monash Freeway to Heatherton Road and around to the next Park. As I was driving in, I spotted a familiar vehicle, so pulled in to park nearby and say hello to Joe VK3YSP and Julie VK3FOWL. I was aware that they had planned to be in the same park that afternoon, but I was unsure of the timing.

Churchill National Park VKFF-0621

After some greetings, I helped Joe a little with setting up his antenna: his throw bag was over a good high branch, but had landed in a very prickly bush! Once we had the throw bag freed, I left Joe and Julie to finish setting up and drove to another car park, a little under 100 m away. Less than desirable separation, but we gave it a try! We had set up liaison via 2 m FM. I started by chasing Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-VKFF-1908 and Paul VK5PAS/3 and Marija VK5MAZ/p in VKFF-VKFF-0231. I found a clear frequency and spotted. I made 36 contacts over the next 30 minutes, including Park to Park contacts with Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-1744, Pete VK2FPAR in VKFF-2786 and Tony VK3YV/p in VKFF-0539. I moved to 40 m CW and made two contacts. Next I went to 80 m SSB, where I made six contacts, including another Park to Park with Tony VK3YV/p.

I had 45 contacts in the log, so closed down and packed up. I drove out of the Park and called Joe and Julie on 2 m FM and soon had Joe VK3SRC in the log for a chase of the Park.

Entrance to Churchill National Park

I then drove towards the north. The weather and a little tiredness led me to the decision to change my plan. I headed east to a section of the next Park not far from the Puffing Billy station in Belgrave.

Dandenong Ranges National Park VKFF-0132

The weather was terrible: the wind had increased in strength and it was raining heavily. I decided on an operation from the car. The mobile whip was set for 40 m, so I started by chasing Park to Park contacts, yielding John VK5HAA/p in VKFF-0926, Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-1738, Marija VK5MAZ/p and Paul VK5PAS/3 in VKFF-0231, Peter VK3ZPF in 0480 and Tony VK3XV/p in VKFF-0620. Tony was about to close, due to heavy rain. I waited until after he had closed and started calling on the now vacant frequency.

I spotted and worked nine stations in ten minutes. With no more callers, I changed to 80 m SSB to work a friend in Gippsland. I rearranged the gear and set off towards home, travelling south towards Hallam to reach the Monash and then headed east.

Along the way, I managed to chase Brett VK3MCA/p in VKFF-2043 and Hans VKXN in VKFF-0639.

As I was approaching Morwell, I decided to activate one more Park, so headed to my favourite spot near Jumbuk.

Morwell National Park VKFF-0626

I parked the car inside the Park boundary, just off Jumbuk Road. My timing was lucky – one shower had just finished and I was able to set up the doublet and connect to the IC706MKIIG before the next shower arrived.

I soon called Peter VK3ZPF/p in Tarra Bulga National Park VKFF-0480 on 80m SSB. Peter’s signal was big, not surprising as he was probably less than 20 kilometres from my location across a relatively open path! Once we had a quick chat, Peter offered me the frequency as he was closing. He worked Rodney VK7HAM as his last contact. I also worked Rodney for a quick and easy contact. I spotted and started calling. I soon had another five contacts in the log before a group started up with big signals only 4 kHz below me. I moved up the band and again spotted. I worked seven stations in 10 minutes, including Nik VK3ZK/p in VKFF-0745. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked six stations before closing.

I had 19 contacts in the log. I packed up and headed for home after calling a local Chinese restaurant and ordering some take away. With the road very slippery following the rain and lots of fallen leaf and bark litter, I took it easy on the descent from my operating location.

Including the contacts made from the vehicle when between Parks, I made 130 contacts for the day.

I was tired yet satisfied once I arrived home. The plan had worked reasonably well, given the weather conditions south of the divide for the entire weekend. I experienced mild conditions on Saturday, whilst south of the Divide conditions were wet and cold. Sunday saw me move to the south and into the colder, wet and windy conditions. Those conditions and some tiredness meant that I modified my plans, with a benefit of reaching home earlier than originally planned. I know that I missed several Activators over the weekend and thus missed some Parks. It can be difficult to keep track of all the Spots coming through on ParksnPeaks when you are busy on air or busy driving between sites!

Thanks to all the Activators and Hunters who participated over the weekend.

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Radiosonde hunting

26 March 2021

Along with several other amateur radio operators in the Gippsland area, I occasionally keep track of the weather radiosondes released by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Melbourne.

The radiosondes are normally released twice daily, at about 1115 UTC and 2315 UTC from the BOM site at Tullamarine Airport. Typically once a week, an ozone package radiosonde is released at about 0130 UTC from the BOM site in Broadmeadows. Other standard radiosondes are also released from the Broadmeadows site.

This morning, an early radiosonde was released from Broadmeadows prior to the Tullamarine radiosonde. These two radiosondes landed north of Jindivick. I did not bother to try to recover these packages, as over an hour of driving would be required to reach the area.

Other tracking stations were reporting an ozone packed from around 1040 UTC. I followed the tracking data with interest, and the interest grew as the predicted path suggested that it might reach the Hazelwood North area. About half way during the descent after balloon burst, the predication moved to the Moe South area. I decided to head out to see if recovery of the package might be possible.

I ended up parked near the Hazelwood Power Station late in the flight. I tracked the package down to 142 m altitude, when I lost the package radio signal due to the Eastern Overburden Dump. I drove around onto Monash Way near the Morwell Terminal Station and obtained an excellent position fix. My estimation was that it was hanging from a tree on the lower northern slopes of the Eastern Overburden Dump within the Hazelwood Works Area, which has very restricted access.

After thinking about the situation, I made a telephone call to a contact at the Hazelwood Rehabilitation Project. I serve on a Committee for the Project. I asked if access to recover the radiosonde might be arranged, explaining that I understood that the answer might be NO.

A few minutes later, I received a return call. Permission granted. I drove to the Security Gate and parked. I entered the gatehouse and soon had my Visitor entry pass. I jumped into a vehicle with a Hazelwood manager and we drove around to the fix position, then up through a gap in the trees. We got to about 30 m or so from the position before our progress was stopped. We jumped out, donned safety helmets and walked towards the position fix. We very quickly spotted the parachute on the ground. We moved over to the parachute and could see the radiosonde package at about 10 m above ground.

The parachute lying on the ground, with the radiosonde package hanging from the tree.

After taking some photos, I untied the knot in the line below the parachute and we lower the package. We soon had the package, together with the parachute and balloon remnants in hand and returned to the vehicle after I disconnected the power lead to the ozone analyser pump. We headed back to the gatehouse and loaded the package and other items into the vehicle and thanked my escort!

I found my tools and opened the radiosonde package to remove the batteries. I then jumped back in the car and headed home.

A fun distraction on an otherwise quiet Friday afternoon!

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The next level of VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1775 References worked

17 March 2021

Hunters participating in the WWFF scheme, and in particular the VKFF chapter, have seen a small increase in park activations since the start of 2021, with COVID19 Pandemic restrictions on activities easing in most states of Australia. I have worked 53 new Parks logged on LogSearch since 1 January 2021, as at the middle of March.

The result is qualification for the next level of the VKFF Hunter Honour Roll Award – 1775 References worked.

The VKFF Hunter Award (Honour Roll) 1775 certificate

The Activators responsible for the latest 25 new Parks have been Marty VK4KC/p, Peter VK3TKK, Rob VK4AAC/5, Nick VK3ANL, Bob VK2BYF, Adam VK2YK/5 and Tony VK3YV.

Thanks to all the Activators, to the VKFF administration team, the Awards Managers and the WWFF team for their efforts in making the scheme function.

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2021 Hotham SOTA Summit postscript

Tuesday 8 February 2021

I was away from Wodonga a little later than desired, but headed south to Porepunkah, then south into the Buckland Valley. I stopped along the way to chase Compton on Mount Big Ben VK3/VE-105. I drove to Selwyn Creek Road, then took Mount Murray Logging Road and headed to Mount Murray. I parked near the locked gate just below the summit.

Mount Murray VK3/VE-025 1640 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

I walked to the summit to enjoy the view. I returned to the car and set up the station close to the gate. I started with 40 m CW, working six stations. I moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked five stations. 20 m CW yielded two ZL regulars. Something was not right with the radio which was not obvious to me. Fortunately the car was close, so I swapped from the KX2 to my KX3, its first usage by me on an activation. I returned to 40 m CW to worked Gerard VK2IO and John VK5HAA on VK3/VG-063 Gresson Knob. For my last activity slot, I went to 20 m SSB, working Scott VK4CZ, Paul VK5PAS, and Gerard and John again. I then packed up the station and enjoyed a late lunch.

The station on Mount Murray.

I headed back down to Mount Murray Logging Road and swung left onto The Twins Jeep Track and drove to it southern-most point, where I parked just off the track.

VK3/VE-245 (unnamed) 1345 m 8 points Not Yet Activated
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

I loaded up the pack and started in the walk in to the next target from the western edge of the parking area. I picked my way through the initial scrub, after which the undergrowth was almost non-existent due to a cool burn at some stage. I worked my way south along the contours until I reach the saddle south of the first knoll. I then continued roughly south, climbing the spur to the summit and avoiding fallen timber and thicker undergrowth – the ridge here had not been burnt for some time.

Along the way, I spotted an interesting lizard.

The Lizard spotted during the climb.

I set up on the summit in a small clearing, using a line over a tree branch to haul up the doublet. There was a nice dead tree on the ground that made for a comfortable operating seat and table.

I started on 40 m CW and worked two stations. I then moved to 20 m CW, again working two ZL regulars. I next went to 80 m SSB to work Compton VK2HRX on VK2/ST-053. 80 m CW yielded Gerard and John from the car. I returned to 20 m CW and worked VK4, JA and VK3. 20 m SSB yielded only a single contact – Paul VK5PAS. 40 m SSB yielded four chasers. I then moved to 80 m SSB and worked five stations as I waited for John and Gerard to reach The Knocker VK3/VG-016. Once they were on air and in my log, I closed down and packed up. I followed roughly the same route back, but tried heading over the knoll closest to the road with the main ridge line. That was fine early on, but the scrub became thicker near the top, so I veered off to the west and contoured around to the saddle and the car. I probably dropped a little too far off the ridgeline, as revealed in the GPS track. I saw no evidence of a vehicle track shown on the mapping image.

GPS track of the walk.

I drove west along the Twins Jeep Track to Selwyn Creek Road and then headed north to exit to Porepunkah and then back to Wodonga.

Back in Wodonga, I managed to chase Gerard on Sam Hill VK3/VG-049.

Wednesday 9 February 2021

I undertook some family tasks in the morning before heading around to Huon Hill. I parked in the parking area below the summit and walked up the hill. I set up with a line over a branch of a large tree just north of the summit.

Huon Hill VK3/VE-237 425 m 1 point
Wodonga Regional Park VKFF-0980

I quickly set up, as John and Gerard were on a summit. They were the first contacts in the log, S2S contacts with VK3/VG-003 Mount Wills on 40 m CW.

I moved to 40 m SSB and worked Garry VK3KYF in Mildura, plus Gerard and John on Mt Wills. I heard John VK2YW call me but he did not hear my responses. I dropped down to 80 m SSB and spotted, and soon had John in the log. I moved to 80 m CW and worked two stations. I then listened for Gerard on Mount Wills on 20 m SSB and made the contact. With Mount Wills now on 20 m SSB, I moved to 40 m CW and worked five stations. I then moved to 20 m CW for 3 contacts before returning to 20 m SSB and working five stations. With 22 contacts in the log, I closed down, packed up and returned to the car.

I drove back to my Wodonga base and packed up. After saying farewell, I headed down the Hume Highway towards Melbourne. During the drive I stopped a couple of times, managing to chase Gerard VK2IO and JohnVK5HAA on two summits. The stops and a small detour meant that I reached Melbourne’s outskirts after the worst of the evening peak and I had an easy drive around Melbourne before hitting the Princes Highway to head to home.

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