Two radiosondes and a Silo

16 February 2022

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.

The SondeHub overview of the Ozone ‘sonde track

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.

The ozone ‘sonde and parachute on the ground, looking west.
The final location of the Ozone ‘sonde. Image from MySondy GO.

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.

The SondeHub track of the afternoon ‘sonde.
A close up of the final reported position to SondeHub.

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.

The silos in the yard of the stock feed company in Drouin.

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!

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