A mixed day – chasing radiosondes and a Park activation

Saturday 9 October 2021

Activity out of the shack has been somewhat limited recently due to COVID lockdowns, together with some work occurring at home. I had some work being done at home which limited opportunities to head out to play radio. The major job at home was completed late on Saturday morning. There is still a significant amount of clean-up work to follow, which will keep me busy over the next few weeks.

During the morning, I managed to chase a few Activators out in VK2, VK4 and VK5. Once the tasks were completed outside, I checked the morning radiosonde launch from Tullamarine Airport. The first radiosonde had a temperature sensor fault, as did another two radiosondes launched. I needed to head to Traralgon to pick up a job which I dropped off on Thursday. I then headed towards Yallourn, the predicted landing area of the first radiosonde launched.

I drove around to within a few hundred metres of the landing site of the first ‘sonde (S5050093) and obtained a ground fix. The ‘sonde appeared to be located around 15 m above ground level based on the position fix and the topographic mapping. I decided against attempting recovery, given the challenge of locating the landowner plus a long walk down into the gully with the high probability that the ‘sonde was high up in a tree!

I switched the receiver across to the frequency of the second ‘sonde launched, again with a faulty temperature sensor. I drove around to the end of the closest road and then worked my way up through a patch of native vegetation to locate the ‘sonde on the ground just south of a large blackberry patch. I recovered the ‘sonde and headed back to the car.

S5110229 radiosonde as found

I drove back out and in towards Newborough. Once in the vicinity of the predicted landing site and the last position fix, I changed the receiver frequency. I could not find any signal – nothing. A more sensitive receiver was tuned up, but again no signal was found. I can only conclude that someone had found the ‘sonde (S5110029) and switched it off.

A fourth ‘sonde had been launched, so I retuned the receiver and headed towards the predicted landing zone. At that time, predictions had it landing in the Yallourn Open Cut Mine just north of the Princes Highway. I parked near a motorcycle training facility and checked the position of the ‘sonde – I had driven past it. I doubled back to close to a road junction and parked off the side of the road. I had seen the reflector and balloon remnants on the uphill side of the road as I was looking for a spot to safely park. The sonde was just west of the nearby road junction.

The tether line ran across the road and over a bush on the northern side of the road. I took some photos and then scrambled down the embankment and recovered the ‘sonde. I then scrambled back up the slope, crossed the road and started winding up the tether line. I then placed the reflector in the back canopy of the vehicle and headed to Yallourn North and then around to the southern edge of the Moondarra State Park.

The final positions of the four radiosonde as shown on tracker.sondehub.org

VKFF-0764 Moondarra State Park

I drove along Hunter Road, which marks the southern boundary, until I came to a track junction which had space for me to park off the edge of the road reserve and thus be inside the park boundary.

I set up with the ZS6BKW held aloft with a line thrown over a tree branch and the ends running parallel to the road, roughly east-west. I connected the feedline to the IC-706MKIIG system in the car – as there was a cool breeze and not much shade, I decided to operate from inside the car, with a couple of windows open for air flow.

Just as I finished setting up, a 4WD pulled up. I explained what I was doing. The driver stated that he wanted to drive a short distance down the track to cut some firewood. I said that he could go ahead if he had sufficient room to get past my car, which he did safely. The only downside was that the log that he was cutting was only about 60 m away, thus I had some acoustic noise QRM during the activation.

I spotted myself on 40 m SSB and soon had callers calling me. I worked 8 stations before taking a pause and dropping down to 80 m SSB to work Brian VK3BCM on Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126. I then returned to 40 m SSB to continue calling.

Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1197 called me for a Park to Park.

After about 45 minutes, things had slowed significantly and I dropped down the band to chase John VK5HAA/p on Brown Hill Range VK5/SE-004. I had listened earlier for John when he was spotted on 20 m SSB and CW, but had not heard him. I also worked James VK2TER/p in VKFF-1340 for Park to Park contacts on SSB and later CW.

I then dropped down to 40 m CW and worked two (2) stations. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked four stations.

A spot came through, so I changed to 20 m SSB and listened and called several times before breaking the pile up. I soon had Paul VK0PD at Casey Base in VKFF-0571 in the log for another Park to Park.

Next in the log was Tony VK5FBIC/p in VKFF-1880 on 40 m SSB.

I then moved to 80 m SSB to work five (5) stations. I tried 30 m SSB, where I worked two stations. A brief stint on 30 m CW resulted in no contacts.

I moved back to 40 m SSB and worked another eight (8) stations; bring the total of contacts in the log to 46, after about 2 hours and 20 minutes of operating. I decided to close down, pack up and head for home.

Thanks to all the Hunters who worked me.

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2 Responses to A mixed day – chasing radiosondes and a Park activation

  1. Paul Taylor says:

    Peter, what do you do with your retrieved RS hardware? Just wondering. Paul 3HN.

    • vk3pf says:

      Hi Paul,
      Currently just slowly building a collection……
      I have vague thoughts about repurposing the units. It is a pity that there is almost no APRS infrastructure in VK on the 70 cm band. A ‘sonde reprogrammed to 70 cm would make a good APRS transmitter, even if low powered!

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