Two new Marine National Parks

Sunday 6 September 2015

The weather forecast for Sunday was for overcast conditions with strengthening winds later in the day and rain in the evening as a front moved across from South Australia. I decided to head out for some more Parks activity. The goal was to activate one of the new Parks added to WWFF in late August. If things went really well, I might even do a second Park later in the day. Both target Parks were Marine National Parks, with their boundary including the high water mark of the relevant section of coastline. The WWFF rules allow for operation outside of the Marine Park, provided that the station is less than 100 m from the Park boundary.

Google Maps suggested a travel time of approximately 1 hour 20 minutes from home to Bunurong Marine National Park, located between Inverloch and Cape Paterson. I made poor route choice early, encountering several 40 km/hr signs erected for the running of a triathalon event at the Hazelwood Cooling Pondage. The trip took a few minutes longer than expected. From inspecting the Google Earth images, there are several possible parking bays in the narrow strip of Bunurong Coastal Reserve, which lies between the Cape Paterson – Inverloch Road and the coast itself.

Be sure to read the Park Note “Enjoying the Bunurong Coast”, available from the Parks Victoria website.

Bunurong Marine National Park VKFF-945

After negotiating the edges of Inverloch, the first main car parking area is Eagles Nest near the eastern edge of the Marine National Park. The location would be fine for radio, but looked as if it might have a high level of traffic. I opted to travel further west, checking some of the other parking areas. I ended up at The Oaks, the last parking area before the western Park boundary. The was some wind around, so I decided to set up in the car part-way along the parking area and away from the start of the walking track that heads along the cliff and down to the beach. Do not operate too far down toward the eastern end of the parking area, as you will be more than 100 m from the high water mark. Given the outside temperature was only 12 degrees and a moderate breeze, I operated from in the car.

Bunurong operating site

Bunurong operating site

I switched on and heard Tony VK3VTH/p working a string of callers from Reef Hills State Park VKFF-773 – the first activation of the Park. I called in and promptly worked Tony at 0039Z. I went to check 7.144 MHz, but the frequency was unusable due to a WIA News broadcast from VK3, so it was back down to closer to 7.100. Whilst looking for a clear frequency, I worked Alan VK5FAJS/3 in Wilsons Promontory National Park VKFF-539.

I quickly worked a couple of stations who had heard me working Tony and then announced that I had to go clear for a few minutes – a car had pulled up nearby and the occupants were moving toward me, clearly intrigued by the squid pole and inverted V antenna, plus the 40 m and VHF/UHF whips on the car! I explained what I was doing and the WWFF Awards and they then went off for a walk to enjoy the scenery.

A string of mid-distance contacts followed. I did catch Phil VK3BHR/p on Mt Bealiba VK3/VN-026, about the only SOTA success for the morning. Nothing was heard of Bernard VK2IB/3 on Mt Baranduda. The IPS HAP charts had the close-in MUF as 6 MHz for most of the day – fingers crossed that we end up with some access at 5 MHz after the coming World Radio Conference.

After contact density dropped to almost zero on 40 m, I spent about 10 minutes calling on 15 m without any responses, despite placing a spot on ParksnPeaks. I then reconfigured the antenna to 20 m and worked four stations before an alert had me switching back to 40 m to try to catch Ian VK5CZ/p on VK5/NE-041 in Mount Remarkable National Park. I heard nothing of Ian!

The beach below The Oaks

The beach below The Oaks

I closed at 0255Z and ended up with 53 contacts in the log for 52 unique callsigns. Contacts were with VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7. After packing up the station and taking a couple of photos, it was time head westward, as the afternoon was still young.

From the edge of Cape Paterson, I headed to Wonthaggi and then on to San Remo to buy a late lunch – fish and chips, of course. Next task was to drive across the bridge onto Phillip Island.

Churchill Island Marine National Park VKFF-947

Churchill Island Marine National Park includes all of Swan Bay on the north east coast of Phillip Island, including the western boundary of Churchill Island. It is one of several Marine National Parks in Western Port Bay. Therefore, one option would be to set up on Churchill Island. However, this is part of the Phillip Island Nature Park complex and requires payment of an entry fee. The “Scot” in me disliked this idea! Two other access points looked obvious from the mapping software and Google Earth: McFees Road and Churchill Road. I decided to head to the end of Churchill Road, which heads off at the road junction beside the Phillip Island Airport. The last section of the road is unsealed but fine for a 2WD vehicle. I did not notice as I drove down and parked that there were power lines running past the site, but fortunately there were no major noise issues.

VKFF-947 Operating Site

VKFF-947 Operating Site

There is a small turnaround at the end of the road, with overhanging melaleuca trees. I needed to position the car so that I could get the antenna up without fouling the trees. I again operated from the car, as the wind strength was building. I was only about 35 m from the high water mark in Swan Bay. Before erecting the antenna and mast, the first task was to consume lunch!

I was up and operational a little after 0400Z. As I was getting organised, I heard Nick VK3VFO calling me on 7.090 MHz. I called back as soon as I could, but Nick was not hearing me, despite him being 59. Not sure what the issue was – but presumably it was at Nick’s end, as Dave VK2JDS/m was hearing me fine, so he ended up as my first contact in the log. I had worked 41 stations on 40 m by 0530Z, including Andrew VK1MBE/p on One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035. Nothing was heard of Tony VK3CAT/p on Mt Concord VK3/VN-018.

I swapped the antenna configuration to 20 m and worked a ZL4 first up. Things were a little slow over the next hour on 20 m, but I worked HA6, M0, VK6, VK4, S58, S52, UR7 and finished off with John VK6NU at 0616Z. A few more calls resulted in no replies, so I decided to shut down.

The activation resulted in 51 contacts for 49 unique calls.

View north across Swan Bay

View north across Swan Bay

After packing up and taking a couple of photos, it was time to head for home – about an hour and three quarters away with some slow traffic to sit behind at times – time to breathe deeply and be patient! I was home just after 1800 local.

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