1 September 2019
In August, VKFF National Coordinator Paul VK5PAS announced a special certificate for those amateurs who activate a VKFF Reference area on National Wattle Day – 1 September 2019.
I considered my options in the days prior to the actual date, waiting until I saw what the weather might bring. I finally made the decision on the morning and decided to do another run through several local Parks to build another activation to count towards the Boomerang Award. The weather RADAR was showing showers coming towards the local area, but with strong rain expected in the afternoon.
I left home just before the start of the UTC day and made my way around to the first target Park.
Traralgon South Flora Reserve VKFF-2465
I parked the car and looked around for a suitable tree branch. I soon had a line over a branch at around 12 m up, a few metres inside the Park boundary. As I was setting up the antenna, I explained what I was doing to a gentleman walking along the nearby multi-use path. Once the antenna was up, I moved the car to a position and connected the feedline to the IC-7000 in the car. I could thus operate from inside the vehicle and be much more comfortable if any rain arrived and warmer than sitting outside – it was around 9 degrees and very humid and the sky to the west was a dark grey.
First in the log was Rob VK4AAC/3 in Cobram Regional Park VKFF-0961 on 80 m. I then moved down the band a little and spotted myself. I soon had Geoff VK3SQ in the log from Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620, followed by Mike VK6MB/3 in Mount Alexander Regional Park VKFF-0973 and then Steve VK3MPR. I changed to 40 m and soon worked Greg VK4VXX/p in Good Night Scrub National Park VKFF-0206. A few callers later I worked Deryck VK4FDJL/5 in Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1734 and then Walter VK2LM in Wollemi National Park VKFF-0544. Three callers later was Neil VK4HNS/2 Boronga Nature Reserve VKFF-2541. I worked a couple more Hunters before I gave up due to the low rate of callers. I had 18 in the log – plenty to qualify the activation for VKFF.
I packed up and returned to the bitumen and headed north to the Callignee South Road and drove around to North Boundary Track and climbed to the junction with East Boundary Track to find a spot just inside the Park boundary.
Traralgon South Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2464
I again tossed a line over a tree branch, set up the ZS6BKW antenna and connected up to the vehicle mounted radio. I soon spotted myself and had my first caller only 33 minutes after the last contact in the previous Park: Deryck VK4FDJL/5 in Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1734. I worked another 13 Hunters before I moved frequency to chase other spotted activators: Steve VK4JSS/p in Bayview Conservation Park VKFF-1469 followed by Neil VK4HNS/2 Boronga Nature Reserve VKFF-2541. I moved back to my previous frequency for two more Hunters before moving to 80 m to work Rob VK4AAC/3 in Cobram Regional Park VKFF-0961. I had 20 in the log, so I decided to move on to the next Park.
After packing up, I returned to Callignee South Road and drove to Gormandale – Callignee Road and then Tong Bong Road and then onto the track that runs just inside the northern Boundary of the Reserve.
Callignee Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2287
I parked only a short distance into the Park and soon had the line over a tree branch and the antenna was soon in the air. It was again connected to the car-based system. I continued to operate from in the car, but the day had now warmed up into the mid-teens, so operation was now with the windows down and the warm jacket removed.
My first contact was again Deryck VK4FDJL/5 in Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1734, about 42 minutes after the last contact in the previous Park. I moved to a clear frequency and soon worked four hunters before Neil VK4HNS/2 called from Boronga Nature Reserve VKFF-2541. Next were two ZL callers before John VK4TJ called, always welcome with his multiple callsigns. I moved down to 80 m to work Rob VK4AAC/3 in Cobram Regional Park VKFF-0961, Mike VK6MB/3 in Mount Alexander Regional Park VKFF-0973 and Les VK7OT in Burnie. With 16 in the log, it was again time to pack up and moved.
I retraced my entry route to Gormandale – Callignee Road and headed towards Gormandale before turning into Onleys Road to cut the corner to reach Hyland Highway north of Gormandale. I then headed north to Oakes Road and a short distance to my usual operating spot. I then had lunch before setting up the antenna system in the normal manner for the day – a line over a tree branch and connected to the car-based installation.
Gormandale Flora Reserve VKFF-2325
With the slightly longer drive plus a break for lunch, I was on air about 50 minutes after the last contact in the previous Park. I started on 80 m and first in the log was Mike VK6MB/3 in Mount Alexander Regional Park VKFF-0973. I had only one other caller on 80 m – Peter VK3GQ. I moved up to 40 m, spotted and soon had callers, including Deryck VK4FDJL/5 in Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1734 and Les VK5KLV/p in Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park VKFF-1757, plus several other Hunters. Last in the log – number 12 – was Ade VK4SOE/p in Girraween National Park VKFF-0198. I decided to pack up and move on to a fifth Park.
The route was simple – return to Oakes Road and head in an easterly then NE direction before navigating the grid of forest tracks through the plantation. The obvious fire watch tower is a good landmark before one starts to head east once you are about 800 m beyond the track to the tower.
Merrimans Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2384
Intending activators need to be careful with the boundaries for this Park: Google Maps has shading that suggests the Park extends much further north than is reality. The track on the eastern boundary is inside the boundary, so setting up on the eastern edge of the track once you reach the Park will result in you being inside the boundary.
I used the same set up as previously in the day.
First in the log was Ade VK4SOE/p in Girraween National Park VKFF-0198 on 40 m followed by John VK5FLEA on VK5/NE-041 in Mount Remarkable National Park VKFF-0360. Then I caused the logging app to crash…. A short delay until I was ready to log Scott VK4CZ – sorry Scott. Next was Deryck VK4FDJL/5 in Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1734 before John VK4TJ called. Next was Les VK5KLV/p in Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park VKFF-1757, followed by six other Hunters.
I moved down to 80 m and worked Ross VK7ALH. And then nothing…. I was occasionally activating the Voice Memory and was checking ParksnPeak when I sensed an odd smell – burnt electronics – at about the time I saw a spot from Cliff VK2NP advising nil signal on 80 m and was 40 m possible. I checked the transceiver control head and could see that I had no power output. I tried a retune to activate the ATU, but nothing happened with zero RF out. There was no obvious smoke in the cabin. I jumped out and moved around the vehicle to remove the DC supply to the radio body, leaving doors open. I had 16 in the log, so the Park was qualified for VKFF. I decided to pull down the station and head for home. The first part of the trip until I returned to the bitumen-surface Hyland Highway was with all windows open.
As I prepare these notes, I am yet to remove the radio from the vehicle – it is not that easy to remove. I shall need to remove the radio and then investigate.
Despite the radio issue late in the day, it was a good day out. The day was overcast most of the time, and warmed up to the mid-teens but with high humidity. The rain started after I had returned home and became quite heavy for a time. The local official observations site at Latrobe Airport showed 9.2 mm falling between 1733 and 1900 local time, with most of that falling in the first hour.
Thanks to all the Hunters who called today. The day increased my tally of activations to four for the first four Parks and to three for the last Park. Thanks to the other Activators for all the Parke to Park contacts. The only issue is that they will not count for the international P2P award tally, as I did not reach the quota of 44 in any of the Parks.