Saturday 2 April 2022 was promoted as International HEMA Day. Despite the poor weather outlook locally, I decided to head out to activate a HEMA summit in West Gippsland. I have submitted a list of candidate summits in the eastern third of the state to the local HEMA Coordinator, but these are still in the process of being checked. Given the weather, I decided against a longer drive to reach summits which I had not yet activated and to revisit two summits.
This report is a little delayed, as I was awaiting receipt of an Award which has finally arrived.
I drove to Warragul and then south to Strzelecki, then east on Ross and Witherdons Road. I parked opposite a small stock yard and set up the station nearby.
Ross Hill VK3/HVC-075 407 m
The summit is on private property, but the area near the stockyards is inside the summit Activation Zone (up to 25 m vertical down from the summit). There is space on the west side of the road to park and set up the station.
An early task was to erect a fly sheet to keep off the light rain. This was strung between my squid pole lashed to a fence post and a nearby pine tree. The antenna ran parallel with the fence. I had the gear on a folding table under the fly. There was some moderate wind as well, so some care was required to keep everything dry. I used the KX2 for the activation.
My first contact was with Rik VK3EQ on VK3/VE-073 on 80 m SSB. Rik had rung as I was on the road. I advised that I was heading to a HEMA summit and Rik agreed to wait until I arrived and set up. I organised the gear set up a little better before checking the Spots and then waited for a chance to work Chris VK1CT/p on VK1/AC-042 in VKFF-0834 on 40 m CW.
I worked a Gippsland local on 80 m SSB and then worked Bob VK2BYF in VKFF-0298 before I found a clear frequency on 40 m SSB and spotted. I had a steady run of callers, including Peter VK3TKK on VK3/HVC-039. I moved to 80 m SSB and worked Nick VK3ANL and another contact with Peter VK3TKK. I then moved to 40 m SSB to work Bob VK2BYF, now in VKFF-0062. A period of calling on 40 m CW produced only one contact, with the same result on 80 m CW. My last contact was with Peter VK3ZPF at the Merrimu silo VK-MRZ3 near Bacchus Marsh on 80 m SSB. I then packed up the gear and headed home.
Later in the afternoon I drove towards Mirboo North and around to the Allambee summit.
Allambee VK3/HVC-074 406 m
This summit is close to the junction of Old Thorpdale Road and Stephens Road, Mirboo North. I parked and set up close to the junction, on one of the plantation access tracks. I soon had the doublet centre high in the air, at around 12 m, thanks to a good throw with the throw line.
For this activation, I set up the IC-7300 on the folding table, powered by an 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery.
First in the log was Gerald VK2HBG at the Urana silo VK-URA2 on 40 m SSB, followed by Ian VK1DI. I then moved to 20 m SSB to again work Gerald at Urana silo. I moved up the band and spotted myself. Ian VK5IS was next in the log, followed by Manu EA1GIB. With no callers straight after Manu, I moved down the band to listen for another HEMA station. I listened as Mike 2E0YYY/p on G/HSP-020 chatted with Ernie VK3DET. After Mike started calling CQ, I tried several times to make contact. Mike eventually heard me, but it took several minutes to confirm reports and exchange references as the QSB caused significant fading. But we eventually completed the contact, the first H2H summit to summit contact between VK3 and G. I then returned to 40 m SSB and worked another four stations before I decided to close down and pack up before the light faded completely. I then headed back home.
Some email exchanges followed over the coming days and the HEMA Coordinator Rob G7LAS confirmed that the contact with Mike was VK3 – G H2H contact. Rob subsequently sent a certificate via email to confirm the HEMA Eagle Award.
Thanks to all who made contact during the day. Thanks especially to Mike 2E0YYY for his perseverance in completing our contact. And finally, thanks to Rob for the Award.
I recently received two awards from the VKFF National Representative. Each year, the VKFF team recognises the top 10 Activators and Hunters for the previous calendar year.
In 2021, there was a high number of activations, despite the various lockdowns and restrictions due to the COVID19 pandemic.
2021 Top Activator Award
I was not expecting to be near the top of the list for this award, given the very tough restrictions in place in Victoria for much of the year. I activated 55 references with at least 10 contacts from each reference, making me equal fifth in the top 10 Activators. Gerard VK2IO was way out in front with 274 references activated, helped by the fact that he managed to escape NSW just before lockdowns began, and subsequently spent several weeks activating Parks in Queensland.
2021 Top Hunter Award
Given the extensive lockdowns in Victoria, there was plenty of time available to be in the radio shack during 2021. As a result, I was able to make contact with those Activators who were able to be out and about in the field. I managed to Hunt 912 different VKFF references during the year.
Thanks to all the Activators and Hunters who participated during 2021. Special thnaks go to the volunteers who make up the VKFF Admin Team and especially to National Coordinator Paul VK5PAS.
I was a little slow off the mark on Easter Sunday. I did manage to work Gavin VK2YAK in VKFF-1910 as I was considering my options for the day. I was considering heading out later in the day for a SOTA summit located in a Park for a late afternoon activation. As I was enjoying a coffee, I decided to check on the progress of the morning radiosonde from Tullamarine. I have been a bit slow adjusting back from daylight savings time, so the balloon was close to its peak altitude. A few minutes later, the balloon burst. The predicted track had the landing area north of Nilma. I quickly decided to head out to attempt recovery and to then activate one of the local Parks.
I headed west and stopped outside Moe having heard a Spot sound on the mobile phone. I soon had the mobile whip up and managed to work Bernard VK2IB on VK2/RI-001 on 40 m CW, followed by Gavin VK2YAK, now in VKFF-1778. I tried to work Marty VK4KC, but he was having issues with his radio, so no contact was made. I resumed the trip and stopped at the Bakery in Yarragon to purchase something for lunch later. It was then back on the road to Nilma and then I headed north and worked my way around to near the last reported location of the radiosonde – well down in a valley in Buln Buln East. Approaching a junction, I noticed that my TTGo receiver was starting to receive signals. One route option was a no-go, with machinery working on the road – really an entrance road to a property. I swung north and stopped well up the hill. I switched off the car so that my phone could connect to the TTGo and soon had a position fix on the ‘sonde. Looking across the valley, I believed that I could see the reflector. I quickly looked at Google Maps to ascertain the likely property from the boundaries. I was soon heading back down to the road junction, noting that a typical farm utility vehicle was also parked on the access road. I parked outside the gate and walked up towards the two men talking near the excavator.
I explained myself to the older gentleman, the property owner. I soon had permission to access the property and gave a commitment to retrieve all the bits of the balloon remnants and the ‘sonde. I retraced my route back up the road to some stock yards and parked. Vehicle access was not an option, as most tracks and the paddocks were affected by 4 km of trenching – the farmer was attempting to lay 4 km of water pipes before the rain expected that night. I walked down into the valley and up the other side, finding open gates almost on the direct route to the ‘sonde. I soon had the ‘sonde, the reflector and the balloon remnants and retraced my route back to the car.
I then headed off to my target Park, returning to Old Sale Road and making my way around to Beards Track.
Sweetwater Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2200
I made my way up a fire trail to its high point above Beards Track, just inside the Park boundary. This spot has mobile phone coverage. The area had recently been subject of a fuel reduction burn, so the scrub was gone. I soon had the antenna in the air, with the apex at around 11 m. One side of the doublet was across the track, but well in the air so as to not cause an issue for any passing vehicle. There were several motorbikes and a few 4WD vehicle who travelled past me during the activation, creating noise and dust – such is life!
I set up using the tailgate as a table and was soon listening to Gavin VK2YAK working stations on 40 m SSB. Gavin was the first in my log for the activation. I moved up the band and spotted. Some idiot started interfering by calling with nonsense incomplete callsigns and talking rubbish. I persevered for several minutes before moving down the band, with 11 contacts already in the log. After about an hour, I had 34 in the log. I moved to 40 m CW and made nine contacts. I moved back up to 40 m SSB to hunt Ian VK1DI/2 in VKFF-2009. I moved up the band a little, spotted myself and made another eight contacts. I next tried 15 m SSB, but made only a single contact with a JA Hunter. I returned to 40 m SSB to hunt Paul VK2PCT in VKFF-0558. I again moved up the band on 40 m, making another five contacts. With 60 in the log and no further callers, I was about to close when I heard a SOTA spot. I soon had JS1UEH/1 on JA/IB-023 in the log on 10 m CW.
I closed and packed up. I was considering activating Bull Beef Creek Nature Conservation Reserve (NCR), which was not far away. As I proceeded east, I came into a wide band of smoke from planned fuel reduction burns to the north of Sweetwater Creek NCR. Given the wind direction, it was likely to be smoke in the planned operating location, so I abandoned the thoughts of an activation of Bull Beef Creek NCR today. I continued east. As I was approaching the area north of Moe, I had cleared the smoke, so decided at the last minute to head to another nearby Park. I swung north towards Erica, then east on Roberts Road, which marks the southern boundary of my next Park. I was soon at a spot used last year, just inside the boundary, but here was some odour due to a dead animal nearby. The smell was bearable, so I quickly set up the station.
Moondarra State Park VKFF-0764
My first contact in the new Park was a German SOTA station – DL3EC/p on DL/EW-059, on 20 m SSB. I wound the IC-7300 up to full power to make the contact. I then moved to 40 m SSB and spotted myself. I soon had a large dog pile of callers. Even with the dog pile option on the logging app, it was hard to capture them all in any one attempt. I steadily worked my way through the callers. Things finally started to slow down. I had not moved from my initial frequency and had 48 contacts in the log in less than 41 minutes! Part way through, I noticed that I had forgotten to wind the transmit power back down a little – I usually activate Parks at around 30 or 40 watts, but this activation was done with 100 W. I had no issues with my 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery. I announced that I was closing and then went to 20 m SSB to try to work a Parks station. LY2BIS/p in LYFF-0312 was a consistent 53 – 54 with me, but was not hearing me well enough for the contact. I closed down and packed up whilst I still had a little natural light.
I headed back to the main road and then drove home.
I decided to head out after waking up. I quickly recorded the references needed for the planned trip, but I failed to remember to post Alerts.
The initial drive was to Yarragon to stop at the bakery to purchase something for both breakfast and lunch later. I noticed a Spot from VK3ZPF, who was on air much earlier than his Alert from his first summit. By time I had the radio gear running, Peter was on 20 m, with it highly unlikely that I would be able to make contact, given the distance involved. I continued to drive towards Neerim South and stopped in Crossover Regional Park.
Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965
My route took me past this park. I pulled into the Park and parked the car. I soon joined the queue of callers and waited my turn to call Peter VK3ZPF on 40 m SSB. I soon had a contact in the log with the Cathedral Range State Park VKFF-0755 and Mount Sugarloaf VK3/VN-011. I moved up the band to find a clear frequency, spotted myself and worked another 11 stations on 40 m SSB so that I had the Park qualified for VKFF, simply using the mobile station and a 40 m whip.
I resumed my trip, continuing north to Noojee, then north on Loch Valley Road and then took Loch River Road and Lock Extension Road around to Radford Road. I then headed south on Boundary Track, which has big, solid gates for seasonal road closure – from 1 May to the end of November.
HEMA VK3/HVC-025 (unnamed) Not previously activated
I reached the desired logging track to find it has been rehabilitated, with a log across start of the track and a couple of deep trenches across the track. I loaded up the SOTA pack and walked up the track into Activation Zone (AZ).
HEMA has the summit height as 879 m, but the official Victorian mapping has the summit as 853 m. Using the topo mapping GPS app on my phone, I was less than 20 m vertical below the summit, well inside the AZ. An approach to the actual summit would require a climb through very thick regenerating mountain ash. This summit was a SOTA summit – VK3/VT-085 – until I noted that the summit lacked prominence to the north. The summit was retired from SOTA on 1 September 2021. I had previously activated the summit for SOTA.
I soon had the station set up and made eight contacts on 40 m SSB plus one SOTA contact on 40 m CW, so had the summit qualified for HEMA. I packed up and returned to car.
I then headed north to Whitelaw Track, then roughly east along the range dividing the Yarra and Latrobe catchments to to reach Mount Horsfall via Whitelaw Track and Forty Mile Break. These tracks are subject to winter Seasonal Closure, from 1 May to 30 November, greatly reducing the time available to easily access both Mount Horsfall and the summit VK3/HVC-011 without very long walks.
Mount Horsfall VK3/VT-028 1131 m 6 points Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556
I decided to set up west of the summit and north of the track, less than 10 m below the summit and also inside the National Park boundary.
My first contact was on 40 m SSB, where I worked Col VK2VAR using the Club callsign VK2HQ from Tapitallee Nature Reserve VKFF-2734. I moved down in frequency and spotted myself. I worked 23 stations, including Peter VK3ZPF, now at Archers Lookout VK3/VC-038 and also in VKFF-0556. I moved to 40 m CW and worked three stations. 20 m CW yielded seven stations. 20 m SSB produced eight contacts, including Neil VK4HNS in VKFF-0179 and Peter VK3ZPF. I heard another Spot come through and soon worked Peter VK3ZPF again, this time on 15 m SSB. Further calls on a clear frequency on 15 m SSB brought no responses. I then moved to 10 m CW, working Akihiro JI3BAP/3 on HA/OS-003 for another S2S. My next contact was again Peter VK3ZPF on 10 m SSB. I moved up the band and spotted, but received no replies in over 20 minutes of calling. I next moved to 30 m SSB, where I made five contacts. I returned to 40 m SSB, where I made another 13 contacts, plus one more CW contact. I had a total of 54 contacts in the log. I closed down and finally had some late lunch before packing up.
I continued roughly east around to the AZ of next HEMA summit.
HEMA VK3/HVC-011 “1098 m” Not previously activated
Careful inspection of the official Victorian mapping shows that this summit location is incorrect – the HEMA location is at the highest spot height, but there is an area just to the NE surrounded by an 1100 m contour. I set up and activated at highest point, well inside the AZ but higher than the summit location on HEMA – the saddle between the HEMA location and my site is above 1080 m, so all is valid, being well inside the 25 m vertical activation zone requirement.
I had one major issue here – mobile telephone coverage was poor and the phone was unable to connect to the internet. (Note to self, revise the procedure required to send an SMS Spot to the ParksnPeaks website!) I spent several minutes calling on 7.144 MHZ SSB before a Park regular answered my calls. Col VK2VAR had just arrived home and spotted me – many thanks, Col! The next 30 minutes yielded another 13 contacts. I packed up and started the long drive home via Tooronga Tanjil Link Road, Mount Baw Baw Tourist Road to Icy Creek, and then south-east to Hill End, Willow Grove, Moe and finally home. I stopped briefly en-route to work Adam VK2YK at Gepps Cross silo VK-GPS5.
I made a total of 89 contacts over the day – thanks to all who called.
During the drive home, I heard an SMS arrive on the ‘phone. It was Peter VK3ZPF extending his congratulations to me on reaching 5000 Activator points without Winter Bonus points. Thanks for bringing that to my attention Peter – I had not looked at my scores for some time.
I have just received another VKFF Hunter Honour Roll Award certificate: 1975 VKFF references worked.
The latest 25 references have come thanks to 13 different Activators: Ian VK1DI Bob VK2BYF Gerald VK2HBG (2) Gavin VK2YAK (2) Adam VK2YK Tony VK3CAT Tony VK3XV Rob VK4AAC Deryck VK4FDJL (3) Bob VK4HRE (2) Marty VK4KC (7) John VK4MUD (2) Tim VK5AV
The WWFF website shows that a total of 2099 of the 3131 references in the VKFF program have been activated, so I wave worked 94.1% of the activated references.
I usually try to work every Activator, even if I have worked a Park previously. Activators and Chasers have a symbiotic relationship – we need each other!
Thanks to all the other Activators for getting out there. Special thanks to the members of the VKFF administration team, and the WWFF team, for all their hard work for the program.
I had my vehicle into a local mechanic several weeks ago, primarily to see if he could shed light on a series of warning lights which had started to appear. The mechanic did not solve the problem, but did identify the cause of a loud squeak in the front suspension. As a result, I spent some time on the ‘phone trying to make arrangements for the two issues in need of resolution.
The result was two days with bookings for repairs, both with delays. About two weeks after the original visit to the mechanic, the car was driven to a dealer in Maffra – the earliest service booking date that I could obtain. The long day was rewarded with a day out with Ross VK3NRB. Ross activated two silos and we both activated the two Glenmaggie VKFF references. Plus the fault was found and rectified – a faulty cable in a brake sensor wiring loom. The second day meant a trip to Leongatha at the end of the month, with the promise of a loan car being available.
Conditions were looking marginal: rain was expected overnight, clearing during the morning. Marty VK4KC was scheduled to activate some Parks in VK4. So I packed some radio gear, hoping to get to some South Gippsland Parks and to work Marty.
An early start for the drive to Leongatha saw some drizzly rain during the trip. I arrived at repair place only to be told that no loan car was available….. After some discussion, they started work on my vehicle almost immediately and had the job done in just over two hours. Fortunately, the job was covered by the after-market equipment supplier as a goodwill gesture, as the cause of the problem was well known. So the only cost to me was the time and fuel cost of the trip.
I considered my options for some radio fun, given that the wet weather might return. I decided on activating the three silos in Leongatha, as two of the silos had been added earlier in the year and had not yet been activated.
I undertook a short drive to take some photos of the silos and to inspect possible activation sites – not so easy as the three silos are all located on private property with limited public access options.
I ended up at a site just inside one of the “activation zone” boundaries for one silo, which had me inside the activation zones of all three silos. The downside was that I was simply parked on the edge of a road in a light industrial estate. I decided to work using the mobile setup – a mobile whip plus the IC-706MKIIG in the car.
Leongatha East VK-LNT3
This silo is an abandoned structure in a paddock north-east of the town. I had driven past the silo on my morning drive. The silo has openings on the western side, plus an old water tank on the silo roof.
I spotted myself on 40 m SSB. I called for a couple of minutes before my first reply came. Callers came in small groups with gaps. I worked 10 stations in around 15 minutes. I heard a spot for Marty, but could not hear him. I worked Ross VK3NRB on both 40 and 80 m before I moved to 20 m SSB. On 20 m I worked only two callsigns. I was still calling when another spot came through from Marty, so I quickly announced that I was changing bands and then changed the wander lead on the whip for 15 m. I soon had both Marty VK4KC and Deryck VK4FDJL in the log on 15 m SSB from VKFF-1467. I then spotted a little down the band and called for several minutes without replies. I decided to “move” to another silo. The “move” was simple – change the reference in the logging program and start using the new reference for contacts, as I was in the activation zone for all three silos.
This silo has been activated previously, but this was my visit activation of the site. The silos are at a stock feed company.
My first contacts were again on 15 m: I called Marty and Deryck for contacts from the second silo. I again moved down the band, spotted and called for several minutes, but again had no replies. I next moved to 20 m, where I made four contacts. With no further callers, I moved to 40 m SSB. 40 m SSB produced eight contacts. I then tried 40 m CW, making three contacts. I dropped down to 80 m SSB for two contacts with a local amateur. I decided that it was again time to change silos.
Leongatha North VK-LNR3
The Leongatha North silos are at another stock feed supplier.
I started the third silo activation on 40 m SSB, working nine contacts over 12 minutes. I worked two local callsigns on 80 m SSB before I moved to 20 m SSB, which yielded two more contacts. I then moved to 15 m SSB to join the queue waiting to work Marty and Deryck in VKFF-0134. 15 m conditions had dropped. I decided to move to another location, just inside the Activation Zone but where I could more easily erect a better antenna. I was back on air with the ZS6BKW doublet about 20 minutes later. I then managed to again work Marty and Deryck, now in VKFF-0675. I then returned to 40 m SSB, where I made a further 10 contacts. Amongst those worked on 40 m SSB was Peter VK3TKK at Laverton North silo, VK-LVH3, for an unexpected Silo to Silo contact. When there were no further callers, I decided to close down and pack up.
It had been a worthwhile morning, considering it was a midweek activation. I had a total of 62 contacts for the three silos.
I then simply had to drive back home – roughly one hour away.
Thanks to Marty and Deryck for the Park contacts, and thanks to all the others who worked me.
The day looked to be a good opportunity to attempt to make some Summit to Summit (S2S) contacts: two groups of amateurs were planning activity days – amateurs in the Pacific North West USA and Canada, plus a JA SOTA Day organised by the active SOTA operators in Japan. The West Coast USA / Canada was less likely, given that the main operating period was a little early in the morning here in Australia, but some might still be on air by time I was planning to operate.
I did not set an alarm and awoke a little later than anticipated. I quickly loaded the gear in the car and headed off. I headed to Loy Yang, then south through Traralgon South and up Red Hill Road, then south to Balook. The area around Balook had been the base for a marathon running event the previous day and had several areas with 40 km/hr speed restrictions. From Balook, I headed west on the Grand Ridge Road before turning south on Whitelaws Track, finding that the fallen tree that blocked my approach last year had been cleared. I then turned onto Gossipers Track and finally Transmission Track and up onto a knoll in the southern part of the summit activation zone.
VK3/VT-091 (unnamed) 686 m 2 points
This summit was added to SOTA on 1 September 2021, when all of Victoria was in a COVID lockdown. I activated the new summit on 10 September, my first opportunity after the lockdown was lifted in regional Victoria. Brian VK3BCM activated the summit in late October 2021 and I was able to chase Brian, so the summit is a Complete for me. But few SOTA Chasers will have the summit in their log. The other attraction of the summit is that it is a quiet location, well away from any sources of electrical noise. There is a track up toward the true summit, but it currently has a lot of tall weed regrowth across the track, so I chose the southern knoll as the operating site.
I soon had the station set up on a table a few metres from the vehicle. I had the ZS6BKW doublet up in inverted V configuration, with the apex at about 10 m in the air. I used the KX2 transceiver set at 10 W.
I checked the SOTAwatch spots and started listening around on 17 m CW. My first contact was a S2S with JR8MHA/7 on JA/MG-098 Asahiyama. A few minutes later I worked Toru JA1CTV/1 on JA/KN-022 Shiroyama on 17 m CW. I listened for some of the other activators before swapping 15 m CW where I worked Katsu JP3DGT/3 on JA/KT-014 Miyama.
Signals at my location were generally weak – I could hear some of the other Activators but could not break through the pile up of callers to make contact.
I next dropped back to 17 m CW to work Satoru JG1BOK on JA/NN-142 Monomiyama. I listened around several of the other spotted frequencies and tried to break the pile ups without success.
One of the local VK Activators finally spotted on 40 m SSB after several spots on higher bands and no propagation. I soon had Andrew VK1AD/2 on VK2/ST-026 South Black Range in VKFF-0474 Tallaganda National Park in the log. Gerard VK2IO called Andrew after we completed the contact, so I waited and called Gerad to QSY up. We soon made the contact and Andrew VK1DA on VK2/ST-036 Spring Hill called in for another S2S. After a quick chat, I asked if any others wanted a contact, with no reply heard. A Spot came through, so I changed to 15 m SSB to hunt Deryck VK4FDJL in VKFF-0229 Hasties Swamp National Park.
After working Deryck, I dropped down to 15 m CW to work Gen JS1IFK/1 on JA/KN-021 Amagoiyama for another S2S. A few minutes later I worked Minoru JL1NIE/1 on JA/ST-017 Minoyama on 17 m CW. I continued listening around the various Spots but made no contacts until just before UTC midnight, when I worked Takeshi JG1GPY/1 on JA/YN-060 Momokurasan on 15 m CW.
I spent a couple of minutes listening around before working Andrew VK1AD/2 again on the new day. My next contact was a Parks Hunt to work Colin VK2VAR in VKFF-0447 Seven Mile Beach National Park on 40 m SSB. Next was another contact with Deryck VK4FDJL in VKFF-0229 Hasties Swamp National Park on 15 m SSB.
I then found a clear frequency on 20 m CW and finally spotted myself. I had been simply chasing Spots up until when I spotted. I called for several minutes before I worked several stations: VK4SYD, ZL1BQD, ZL1TM, VK4JJ/p and VK6PZT. I then moved back to 40 m SSB to again chase Andrew VK1DA/p on VK2/ST-036. I then moved to 40 m CW and spotted myself. Several minutes of calling yielded no chasers, so I closed down and packed up the station.
I retraced my access route to Balook and then headed east towards Blackwarry.
Tarra-Bulga National Park VKFF-0480
I parked in an old picnic area which has been partially rehabilitated. The site is a short distance east of the junction of Grand Ridge Road and Cooks Road, on the south side of the road. The entrance is immediately east of a National Park sign which is partial obscured by vegetation.
I parked and soon had a line over a tree branch at about 16 m above ground, so the ZS6BKW was soon in the air with the feedline just reaching the antenna connector of the radio. I set up on the tailgate of the vehicle and used my IC-7300 with an LDG ATU in line to give broader matching.
I started by hunting Deryck VK4FDJL on 15 m SSB, now in VKFF-1556 Herberton Range Conservation Park VKFF-0229. I moved to 40 m SSB and spotted myself. The next 20 minutes yielded 15 contacts.
After several minutes of calling, I listened around for some of the DX SOTA spots on higher bands but could not make any contacts.
I moved to 20 m SSB and posted a Spot. I worked four stations before I decided to move to 20 m CW, where I worked five stations. I moved to 40 m CW ans worked five stations. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked five stations. I spent some time listening around without making any contacts before working John VK5HAA/p in VKFF-0790 Talisker Conservation Park on SSB and CW.
I then spent a few minutes working some locals on various frequencies. I then moved to 20 m and tried some Data mode contacts using FT8. I worked three stations only, but the contacts added to the tally.
I returned to 40 m SSB and worked VK80LAN, a special callsign celebrating the 80 year anniversary of one of the few remaining Avro Lancaster bombers. The call was being used by Mark VK3PI. His call confused me – I already had his personal callsign in the log as I recognised the voice! I soon had the log entry corrected and the contact logged, together with one from Mark VK3PI. While we were chatting, we determined that Mark was actually in Kinglake National Park VKFF-0264. I quickly looked up the Park reference and passed that information to Mark.
I noted that I had missed another Park Activator, now on 20 m and not audible. He soon spotted on 80 m, so I moved down to 80 m SSB and managed to make the contact with Dean VK3DL in VKFF-2228 Whipstick Nature Conservation Reserve.
With 50 contacts in the log, I decided to close down and pack up. I headed back towards home, with a detour via Traralgon for a quick shopping stop. I managed to again work Dean VK3DL, now in VKFF-0623 Greater Bendigo National Park, from the vehicle whilst in a car park in Traralgon. I then headed for home after a good day out.
Overall, I had 71 contacts in the log for the day.
Thanks for all the contacts. Special thanks to all the operators for the S2S contacts.
I was stuck at home awaiting the arrival of an electrician, due some time between 12 and 4. Much of the time was spent listening on the radio. I managed to make 16 contacts with stations out activating Parks.
Once the electrician had departed, after 1440 local, I remembered that I had not yet looked to see where the morning radiosonde from Melbourne had headed. As I was opening the browser window, I recalled that it was Wednesday and there may be an ozone package launched.
I noted that the morning ‘sonde was in the hills east of Melbourne, and that the ozone ‘sonde looked to be heading towards Drouin South. I also noted that an extra ‘sonde had been launched from Tullamarine. Drouin was a little further than I normally travel to recover a ‘sonde, but decided that it was worth the drive to attempt to recover an ozone package. I grabbed a couple of things and headed out.
I drove to Drouin and then to Drouin South. I had used the last location on SondeHub Tracker as my guide. I had received some early data from the ‘sonde with my TTGO device, but had lost the signal during the drive, when the ‘sonded dropped closer to earth. I headed down to Preston Road and started receiving data from the ‘sonde, now on the ground. I met a farmer on the road and we discussed my desire to attempt to recover the ‘sonde. He pointed out the location of the likely landowner. After thanking the gentleman, I headed up to the appropriate house on the main road. I found no one at home. The new location gave me a better signal from the ‘sonde and I identified that it was slightly further east.
I assessed the maps and headed around to Thompson Road and up the drive way towards the farmhouse. I met another Peter on a quad bike herding some sheep and we briefly chatted. I drove up to the house and knocked on the door. When the landowner came I out, I explained myself and what I wanted to do. I soon had permission to drive out to the NW corner of the property. The drive was easy, with one gate and some cattle to negotiate, plus a large drain across the paddock. I soon had the ‘sonde in sight and was parked within metres of it.
I switched off the ‘sonde, loaded the package and parachute in the back of the vehicle and headed back out to the road.
On the way out the drive, I stopped to put a 40 m whip on the car and made a contact with a Park activator. I also changed the TTGO to the standard frequency and looked at the likely landing area for that extra Tullamarine afternoon launched ‘sonde. It was headed towards the Garfield – Bunyip area, not all that far from my current location. I headed back towards Drouin South and then cut across country to reach Longwarry and then west to Garfield. The last fix from SondeHub had the ‘sonde near a small reserve on Archer Road. As the ‘sonde was on the ground, I had lost the signal during the drive but soon had a good position fix as I approached the reserve.
I parked the car outside the likely property and double checked the position on the MySondyGo software. It looked as if the ‘sonde was at the rear of the house. I exitted the car and walked in to the front door. I waited from someone to answer the doorbell and was again soon explaining who I was and what I was doing. I was directed around the house and could not see anything immediately. I checked the location once again on the ‘phone screen, turned around and took only two steps before I saw the thin white line of the tether. Three steps on was the ‘sonde on the ground. I broke the tether line and tried to pull the line back towards me, but it soon was very stuck. The landowner and I headed around to the other side of the trees over which the tether ran. I soon spotted the line again and followed it to find the reflector stuck in the corner of a partly constructed garage building. I soon had the line retrieved and loaded the ‘sonde and reflector into the back of the vehicle. I thanked the owner and headed off to the Princes Highway.
I was heading east on the highway. As I approached the Drouin off ramp, I decided to activate the newly added Drouin Silos. I drove around to outside the silos site – a stock feed supplier – and took a photo. I then headed around to the western side of the Drouin Cemetery, a likely good site for an activation.
Drouin Silos VK-DRN3 Not previously activated
A few days earlier I had noted that some new silos in Gippsland had been added to the SiOTA scheme. I had explored possible activation sites for the Drouin silos using Google Maps and satellite view. The western side of the Cemetery seemed to be a good option: a public road (Parinda Road) ran along the boundary, with farmland to the west. Picking a spot about midway along the boundary maximised the distance from any power lines. I set up about 450 m from the silos.
I soon had the ZS6BKW in the air and connected to the IC-706MKIIG in the car. I spent a long time calling and had no calls. I changed to 40 m SSB and heard only weak signals. I disconnected the doublet and connected up the mobile whip. Success at last. I started working stations – first Gerard VK2IO, followed by Tony VK3CAT in Wilsons Promontory National Park. I worked another six stations on SSB before I moved to CW, working three stations. I then recalled that my SOTA pack was in the back of the car, so quickly set about changing over to my lightweight SOTA antenna. I then worked two stations on 80 m SSB. I tried 20 m CW without any success. I returned to 40 m SSB, where I worked another 14 stations. I decided to close a little after 1900 local time. I packed up and headed back home.
Thanks to all who called me at the silos. The next task is to get the doublet working again!
With the Hotham SOTA Summit postponed due to the Omicron COVID outbreak, I headed to Wodonga for a few days for another catch up with family.
Saturday 5 February 2022
I had slept in a little due to a late night chatting on the local Radio Club Zoom room. I was woken by a ‘phone call from a friend which lasted more than 40 minutes. I organised breakfast and managed to work a couple of stations out in the field from home. I was finally organised and gear loaded into the car late in the morning.
I headed off to the east, driving to Dargo and up the Dargo High Plains Road, despite seeing some roadworks warnings on the VicRoads Traffic website. A section of the DHP Road had 40 km/hr restrictions before reaching the Grant turnoff, with clear evidence of subsidence on the outside of the road. Beyond the Grant turnoff, the surface was in very good condition as a result of resurfacing. I drove past VK3/VT-018 without stopping – it is a simple matter to grab this summit. Higher up the DHP Road, the surface became somewhat slippery and muddy, but the underlying road was mostly in good condition. Another section with speed restrictions was encountered closer to the southern boundary of the Alpine National Park.
I climbed up the Blue Rag Range Track to the turnoff to Mount Blue Rag and found a spot to park. I was soon set up to operate.
Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
The area around the high point on Blue Rag Range Track north of the summit is inside the Activation Zone of the summit, so one can activate the summit from that area.
I soon had the station set up and saw a spot from Warren VK3BYD on Mt McLeod VK3/VE-034 in the Mount Buffalo National Park. I quickly moved to Warren’s 40 m CW frequency and listened whilst organising a few things. When I returned to the radio, Warren was no longer there. I sent Warren an SMS and soon established that he had moved to 30 m. I listened as Warren worked a local station who wanted to chat. I waited patiently and eventually had Warren in the log for a S2S and P2P.
I moved to a clear frequency, spotted and started calling. I worked three more stations on 30 m CW before I swapped to 40 m CW, where I worked James VK2TER/p in VKFF-1908 and two others. Next was 40 m SSB, where I worked five stations, including James VK2TER/p again and Peter VK3ZPF in VKFF-0968. I moved to 20 m CW and worked five stations. I had been on the summit for an hour, so I closed down with 17 in the log.
I packed up and returned to the DHP Road and then headed north to reach the Great Alpine Road. I then headed to Wodonga for the night.
Sunday 6 February 2022
Whilst getting organised in the morning, I received an SMS advising of a family birthday mid-afternoon. I estimated that I could most likely complete an activation and return in time for the birthday event.
I headed off towards Holbrook and then towards Jingellic. I then took Coppabella Road. I then headed north through the pine forest, taking an unnamed track just west of Two Mile Creek (possible Two Mile Creek Track). I worked my way north and uphill until I reached the Western Fire Road, not far from Jocks Mountain. Western Fire Road would take me to the summit area. At the junction with Western Access Road, there was a sign for the Flora Reserve. I then continued north on Western Fire Road, which had an excellent gravel surface. The main road surface swung west onto Vyners Creek Road, with the surface of Western Fire Road looking as if it rarely has traffic. At the junction, I saw a sign saying Western Boundary Track, I simply continued north. The surface became rougher, with a few rocky areas and some encroaching vegetation. I drove to the high point of the track, just below the summit.
VK2/RI-051 (unnamed) 748 m 4 points Carabost Flora Reserve VKFF-3050
I walked up to the summit area, reaching a fence. As far as I could tell, there was no higher point visible. The summit was only about 10 m vertical above the track. I returned to the car and set up nearby. I made one minor error – I failed to check the mobile phone signal level. I subsequently found that I had marginal coverage.
I was up and operational just after 2300Z. I started on 40 m CW and worked six stations. I then moved to 20 m CW, working five stations. I then moved to 40 m SSB, where I first worked Alec VK2APC in VKFF-0269. After moving to a clear frequency, I worked five more stations before a familiar voice called with an unusual callsign: VK90ABC – I worked Paul VK5PAS with the special call before UTC midnight and his own callsign immediately after UTC midnight. I had another nine contacts before I changed back to 40 m CW, where I worked five stations. 20 m CW yielded four contacts. I then tried 20 m SSB, working four more. I returned to 40 m SSB to work Alec VK2APC in the new UTC day. I moved to a clear frequency and worked another seven stations, including Pete VK2LP in VKFF-0269. The last contact was at 0113Z. With 48 in the log and a 0400Z commitment in Wodonga, I closed down.
I packed up the station and retraced my route back to the corner of Western Fire Road and Western Access Road and swung east and followed the obvious main route out to Short Cut Road and out to Coppabella Road. I then headed south and then west back to Jingellic Road, then back to Holbrook to grab some lunch.
It was then a simple drive back to Wodonga, arriving in plenty of time to head off to the birthday gathering.
Monday 7 February 2022
Much of the day was spent with family matters. I headed off mid-afternoon to hopefully activate a relatively new silo, added to the Silos On The Air program after my visit to the region in December.
West Wodonga Silo VK-WSA3
The West Wodonga silos are a cluster of steel silos located in the yards of transport company at the junction of Old Barnawartha and Greenhill Roads, just north of the main Melbourne Sydney rail line, immediately north of the Hume Highway. I had explored possible activation sites using the Google Maps imagery from the SiOTA site. I drove to the junction of Plunketts and Probyns Roads, near the edge of the permissible 1.0 km radius from the silos. I parked off the edge of the road and spotted that I was setting up. I soon had the doublet raised and connected to the IC-706MKIIG in the car.
I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m SSB. Adrian VK5FANA was first in the log. I worked another 20 stations over the next 30 minutes. I moved to 20 m SSB and was called by Matt ZL4NVW/p at ZLL/0350 and POTA ZL-0196. I made two more contacts and then no more responses to calls. I moved to 40 m CW and made eight more contacts.
After about 70 minutes of calling, I shut down and packed up before heading back to base in Wodonga. I had 32 contacts in the log.
Thanks to all who called me.
Tuesday 8 February 2022
Once again, the morning was spent helping at family. After lunch, I needed to head to Albury to purchase some items and planned to travel further north for some radio fun. Before departing Wodonga, I tried to place an Alert on ParksnPeaks, but the Eastfield silo code was rejected. I emailed the site owner Allen advising of the issue. I posted an Alert for Culcairn, with the Eastfield code in the Comments field. During my return to Wodonga on 3 January, I had noted two silo sites, recorded the positions and later contacted the admins of the SiOTA scheme with the information, plus some others I had noticed, including West Wodonga, Eastfield and Gerogery. These silos were added in mid-January and had not yet been activated.
Once I had made my purchase in Albury, I headed north on the Hume Highway and then on Olympic Highway. After crossing the rail line on the overpass, I tuned west into Rodgers Road West to arrive at my next destination.
Eastfield Silos VK-ESD2 Not previously activated
After taking a photo of the silo site, I looked for an operating site. I moved a few hundred metres south and set up on the road reserve, using a squid pole lashed to a fence post to support the antenna. I connected the doublet to the IC-706MKIIG in the car. Once on site, I was able to Spot myself. I later learned that Allen had run the update process for SiOTA, so the website database was now up to date. Thanks Allen!
I started calling on 40 m SSB. John VK7JFD was the first to respond. I worked 27 stations over the next 45 minutes, the last being Marty VK4KC in VKFF-1671 – Wararba Creek Conservation Park. I spent a few minutes calling on 20 m SSB, but had no responses to my calls.
I packed up and returned to Olympic Highway and continued north to Gerogery.
Gerogery Silos VK-GRR2 Not previously activated
The silos are located on the west side of the highway as you enter the town from the south. There are two shiny cylindrical silos and an older shed-style silo. The rial line is on the opposite side of the highway.
I explored options east of the rail line, near the primary school, but there were power lines nearby. I headed southwest on Gerogery Road and set up in the road reserve just on the edge of town, beyond the last power pole. I soon had a line over a tree branch and the doublet was in the air, again connected to the radio in the car.
I noted that Marty VK4KC was still on air, now on 20 m SSB. I changed to 20 m and soon had Marty in the log. I then went to 40 m SSB, spotted myself and started calling. Brett VK3MCA was the first in the log on 40 m. I ended up with 38 in the log over an hour of operating. A good afternoon of radio for a week day!
I packed up and headed back to Wodonga.
Wednesday 9 February 2022
I completed a few tasks before packing the gear in the car and starting the journey home. I was uncertain as to which route to take, but decided to start by heading down the Hume Highway. As I was approaching a logical decision point near Benalla, I finally decided on my targets. I headed south on the Midland Highway and then SW towards Lima, then onto Ethell Road and then Jenson Road. The HVP Plantation starts near the end of Ethel Road and a permit is required to enter the plantation. I had applied for a permit for “Bushwalking” in early December and had the permit approval within hours of completing the application.
I soon determined that forestry operations were in progress, meeting a large log truck coming down the hill. I had the CB radio turned on and on the correct channel. The truck driver reminded me to call out at the various marked signs.
Navigation can be tricky in some of the plantations…. I took B Road, then B2 Road and A9 Rd to reach Mt Lindsay Track, which I took to exit the plantation.
Mount Lindsay VK3/VE-206 700 m 4 points
Mt Lindsay Track is 4WD – a little rough in the plantation, then steep with large spoon drains. I parked just below the summit and set up in a clearing on the north side of the track, only a couple of metres lower than the summit. I walked to the summit before I started operating.
This activation was to be only the second of the summit, the first since the summit height and points were updated in September 2021. My explorations reveal that access is only possible via roads within the HVP Plantation, so a permit will be required. But the process is simple. Looking at the various permit types and allowed activities, I decided that as I would need to walk away from the car to reach the operating site for SOTA, a Human Power Permit for bushwalking was the most appropriate. I had applied for such a permit in 2019, and again in December 2021. The permit allows for access to up to three Plantations and is for two years. There is no charge for a Human Power Permit. Details can be found on the HVP Plantations website.
I started by hunting Gavin VK2YAK and Alan VK2MET, operating together in Worimi State Conservation Area VKFF-1399, on 40 m SSB. I then changed to 40 m CW and spotted myself. I worked only two stations in 15 minutes of calling. I moved to 40 m SSB and made three contacts and two more on CW on the same frequency. I tried 20 m CW, working only one station in 15 minutes of calling.
I packed up the station and returned to the car. I retraced my access route back to A9 Road, which I took to reach D Road and finally A10 Track. I drove to the end of A10 Track (just before it starts to drop steeply) then swung left onto a rough track that runs around the pine plantation. I parked at the high point of the track. I loaded up and climbed to the top of the spur.
VK3/VE-275 (unnamed) 769m, 4 points Not previously activated
This is a new summit added on 1 September 2021, a replacement for Mount Buggaree VK3/VE-190. I had identified that there was a higher point to the east of Mount Buggaree, so VK3/VE-190 was retired on 20210831.
I continued along the spur to the summit through lots of ground litter and dodging fallen branches and negotiating the granite outcrops. I was soon set up and operating.
After spotting myself, I started calling on 40 m CW, with John VK5HAA first to respond. I soon had five in the log. I moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked only four stations over about 30 minutes. A move to 20 m CW produced no responses, with Geoff ZL3GA spotting “No copy Peter 😦 ”. I next tried 17 m CW, making four contacts. It was almost 0300Z, so I closed down.
I packed up and returned to the car, exiting back out to D Road, which I followed roughly westward to reach Chapmans Road, which I took south. I had ruled out an activation of Mount Separation VK3/VE-198, given the time of day. I wanted to fit in an activation of a Park. I checked out one possible operating site for the target Park, but had no mobile coverage. I continued in to Strathbogie, where I stopped to grab some food and a coffee. I then headed out to the Park.
Seven Creeks Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2435
I found a rough track into the Reserve at -36.865068° 145.713465°, at a sharp corner on Polly McQuinns Road. I drove in to the end of the track and found a spot to set up. After checking that I had mobile coverage, I again used a line over a tree branch to lift the doublet and connected the antenna to the radio in the car.
I spotted myself and started calling. First in the log was Greg VK2EXA. I worked another 11 stations over 15 minutes. I then tried 40 m CW, working seven stations over about 15 minutes. I moved to 20 m CW and worked only one station. 20 m SSB yielded two contacts. I moved back to 40 m CW for two contacts. 30 m CW yielded only one contact. I moved back to 40 m SSB, resulting a further five contacts. With a total of 30 in the log, I decided to close down. During an activation in 2019, I made 27 contacts, so the total over the two activations was now sufficient to qualify the Park for WWFF.
I packed up and made my way back to the bitumen, then headed south to Merton and then headed for home via Yea, Healesville, Yarra Junction, Powelltown and Neerim South, a drive of just over 3.5 hours. It had been a long day.
SOTA started in Australia in Victoria on 1 February 2012, so today marked the tenth anniversary. At the time, I was busy with paid employment, together with the role of Editor of Amateur Radio magazine in my spare time. I believe that the first SOTA activation in VK occurred on 11 February 2012, when Wayne VK3WAM activated Mount Worth VK3/VT-066. The next activation was on 16 February 2012, when K0MOS activated Crowsnest Lookout VK3/VS-049. My first chase occurred on 26 February 2012, when I worked Peter VK3ZPF on Mount Dandenong VK3/VC-025 and also the Dandenong Ranges National Park. I needed the National Park for the Keith Roget Memorial National Park Award, so the SOTA chase was not the primary reason to work Peter!
My first SOTA activation came in May. I organised some leave to travel to Mildura to attend the WIA Annual General Meeting. The plan was to activate some National Parks during the trip, together with some SOTA summits. My first SOTA summit activation occurred on 24 May 2012, when I activated Mount Ida VK3/VU-009, located in the Heathcote-Graytown National Park. This set a pattern which has remained – activating SOTA summits inside Parks is a common occurrence with me.
After a late night and mixed sleep, I woke early and decided to head out. After I stop to refuel the vehicle, I headed west on the Princes Highway to Drouin to check out something of interest. I then headed back to Warragul, then south and climbed up onto the Grand Ridge Road via Warragul-Leongatha Road. I then took McDonalds Track. I parked the car at the widest point of the road below the summit, close to the “lookout”.
Mount Worth VK3/VT-066 505 m 2 points
Almost the entire Activation Zone of this summit sits in private property. The property has an AirBnB cottage, but I have made no attempt to contact the owners regarding access to the property for the purpose of SOTA. I have heard of others being given permission to enter the land.
I took the usual approach – parked safely on the road and then climbed up the steep embankment. Once at the top, I set up the station at the convenient seat on the edge of the “cliff” – just inside the road reserve and within the Activation Zone.
I was set up well before UTC midnight. I decided to start on 40 m CW, where I worked five stations. I then tried 40 m SSB, where I worked eight stations before UTC midnight. The last of these was Ian VK1DI/p on Mount Majura VK1/AC-034 in VKFF-0851. We finished the contact only seconds before UTC midnight. We worked again immediately after completing the first contact. Ian was out marking the ninth anniversary of SOTA in VK1, so it was great to work Ian. I worked another eight stations following signing with Ian. I then moved up the band to work another Summit to Summit, working Phil VK2JDL on Winns Mountain VK2/MN-067.
I next tried 40 m CW and worked another three stations before closing down.
I packed up and carefully scrambled down the slope and then continued east on McDonalds Track to park on the road verge close to the junction with Graingers Road. I then loaded up the SOTA pack to climb up the slope to the west.
Mount Worth State Park VKFF-0771
This Park is a little tricky to activate: There is really only a single spot with vehicle access inside the Park boundary – the picnic area at Moonlight Creek. This sits well down in a valley surrounded by hills and there is no mobile phone coverage and it thus impossible to post Spots. My recent activations have been at other sites where I have set up a portable station inside the boundary, away from the car, but at sites where I have had mobile phone coverage.
The site that I choose today was inside the Park boundary, but pedestrian access only. I parked the vehicle on the road verge on the western side of a sweeping corner. I opened an old gate then climbed up the slope to the SW until I reached an area beside a dam – about 70 m or so horizontally and about 15 m vertical. The potential trap here is that the area just beyond the gate is an old road reserve and outside the Park boundary. Once you are up above the dam, you are inside the Park boundary. I checked that I had mobile phone coverage and found a spot to set up.
I spotted and started calling on 20 m CW, where I made two contacts only in about 35 minutes of calling. I then tried 17 m CW, working three stations. 30 m CW yielded one contact. 40 m CW yielded three contacts. I gave up on CW and moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked another six stations. There were some rain drops, so I shut down and packed up.
I returned to the car and continued east to just short of the junction of Yarragon-Leongatha Road and Mirboo-Yarragon Road and found a spot to park. I walked up onto the ridge line west of the actual summit to a point inside the activation zone boundary for the next operating site.
HEMA summit VK3/HVC-065
I spotted and set up the station, but used an incorrect reference code – VK3/HVC-035. First in the log was Ron VK3AFW, the main person responsible for establishing HEMA in VK. Over the next 15 minutes, I worked another four stations. With no more callers and the sky looking very threatening, I packed up and returned to the car. I then descended down to Yarragon and then headed for home.
I made a detour to Traralgon East and recovered the radiosonde released that morning from Melbourne Airport. The ‘sonde was in a paddock about 70 m east of Minniedale Road. Before climbing over the fence, I drove up to the farm buildings and obtained permission to enter the paddock.
When checking the log the next day, I noticed the reference error. I have emailed those concerned, as well as Allen VK3ARH, the owner of the parksnpeaks website, so that he is aware of the error.
Overall, it was an enjoyable day out playing radio and celebrating the tenth anniversary of SOTA in Australia.