Many SOTA enthusiasts will be aware that I played a role in the mapping tasks to establish the VK7 SOTA Association. The other key player was Justen VK7TW. Like many others, I chased keenly when the VK7 Association became live on SOTA on 1 October 2015. With the announcement of the new association being made only a couple of days prior, there was not sufficient time available to make arrangements to make a trip down to Tasmania for the first day of SOTA.
Over the following weeks, I considered options to make a trip to Tasmania. In late November, I spotted discounted fares for day crossings of Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. I booked a return trip for late January and early February – just on two weeks.
Day 1: Across Bass Strait
I visited friends in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, having a very pleasant meal out at a local restaurant prior to returning to their home for the night. We were all up early, as I needed to be at the port well before 0800 local, and my friends needed to be away for an appointment checking on some Helmeted Honeyeaters. The drive to Station Pier was uneventful, but it was amusing watching the behaviour of some of the drivers once they hit the queue of vehicles waiting patiently to check-in.
Once aboard, it was simply a case of finding a spot to sit for the crossing. Once underway, I visited the on-board tourism office to purchase a Holiday Pass for National Parks. The voyage down Port Philip Bay was smooth. Not so once out through the Heads – there was 30 km/hr or more of wind and large waves. We were soon experiencing significant rolling, and later heaving. It was not a time for reading! At the midpoint of the crossing, I observed Spirit of Tasmania 2 break through a wave after a deep trough, with the resulting spray going higher than the top of the ship – very impressive.
I spent much of the afternoon watching (or listening – sitting in the theatre with my eyes closed to avoid sea sickness) some documentary episodes on the relocation of some Tasmanian Devils to Maria Island, followed by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – it at least used up 90 minutes or so.
When the movie was finished, we were within sight of the northern Tasmania coast, with some peaks clearly visible which must be on the SOTA list. We prepared for disembarkation after enjoying the scenery. Once off the ship, we spent time in the “car park” waiting to go through the local biosecurity officials checking for any vegetable matter or other biohazards. It was then an easy trip across the Devonport to find a supermarket to purchase some food, and to top up the car with fuel.
I then headed toward Bakers Beach to camp for the night.
Narawntapu National Park VKFF-005
There is a campsite in the National Park which has low charges. I arrived very late in the evening, found a site and set up the tent.
Operating from this park had only one issue – how to pronounce the name of the park! I pronounced it as “na-rawn-ta-poo”, which I thought seemed reasonable. Subsequent discussions with locals a couple of days later gave me a hint: think of “want a poo”, so perhaps something like “na-rant-a-poo”.
I then set up my 7 m HD squid pole and my 80-10 m link dipole to attempt to make some VKFF contacts. Given the late hour (2140 local), I tuned up on 80 m to find S9 noise across the band. I quickly changed to 40 m and looked at ParksnPeaks to see a spot for a National Park near Brisbane. Unfortunately, I was a couple of minutes late to catch that park, as the operator had just closed. I worked 17 stations over around 40 minutes of operating, including Marshall VK3MRG/p in Eildon National Park. The last contact was at 2220, as I was starting to feel the effects of the long day. Before retiring to the sleeping bag, I lowered and packed up the antenna, not wanting any night-time wanderers to get any surprises if they encountered the antenna wire.
I woke early the next morning. After a quick breakfast, I packed up and headed around to the eastern portion of the park.
Asbestos Range VK7/NC-024 not yet activated 1 point
The target for the morning was VK7/NC-024. There are two obvious approach routes, with a fire trail crossing within 400 m of the summit. The idea was to try to drive to as close to the summit as possible and to then walk in and set up in the NW sector of the summit Activation Zone, which is inside the National Park.
I found all three potential obvious access points (from the east side, two track join up to the fire trail on that side). However, all three appeared to pass through private land and had locked gates. I headed toward Badger Head, checking out the scrub to the east of the road – very thick! An approach from inside the park would require travelling around 5 km through such scrub. I decided that a single point summit was not worth the effort.
VK7/NC-024 is still yet to be activated.
Narawntapu National Park VKFF-005 part 2
I drove around to the car park inside the National Park, parked on the edge of the park and set up the 40 m/20 m link dipole on the 7 m HD squid pole.
I was set up and operational by 2215Z and worked Paul AX5PAS/p on VK5/SE-016 for my first contact of the morning. I worked 29 stations before UTC rollover, making the UTC day total 44 different stations worked (I have not double checked the logged thoroughly). After UTC rollover, I worked six stations – all on SOTA summits – prior to closing and packing up at 0045Z.
I headed basically south: to Beaconsfield, Exeter, Westbury, Deloraine and on to Mole Creek. From there, it was on to the next National Park.
Mole Creek Karst National Park VKFF-322
I headed into the Marakoopa Cave section of the Mole Creek Karst National Park and set up at a picnic table near a barbeque not far beyond the Park office.
First in the log was Bernard AX2IB/3 on Mount Murray VK3/VE-025 on CW. About 10 minutes or so later, I worked Bernard again on SSB, followed by Tony AX3CAT/p on Mount Hyde VK3/VC-008 and Andrew AX3BQ/p on VK3/VC-031. 23 different operators were worked during the 40 minute activation. The site was a pleasant spot, with the only issues being sun protection and some caterpillars falling from the vegetation that immediately caused some skin irritation. I did try 20 metres for a period, without any contacts made. I packed up and drove to Deloraine to camp in the Caravan Park for the night.