17 April 2022
I was a little slow off the mark on Easter Sunday. I did manage to work Gavin VK2YAK in VKFF-1910 as I was considering my options for the day. I was considering heading out later in the day for a SOTA summit located in a Park for a late afternoon activation. As I was enjoying a coffee, I decided to check on the progress of the morning radiosonde from Tullamarine. I have been a bit slow adjusting back from daylight savings time, so the balloon was close to its peak altitude. A few minutes later, the balloon burst. The predicted track had the landing area north of Nilma. I quickly decided to head out to attempt recovery and to then activate one of the local Parks.
I headed west and stopped outside Moe having heard a Spot sound on the mobile phone. I soon had the mobile whip up and managed to work Bernard VK2IB on VK2/RI-001 on 40 m CW, followed by Gavin VK2YAK, now in VKFF-1778. I tried to work Marty VK4KC, but he was having issues with his radio, so no contact was made. I resumed the trip and stopped at the Bakery in Yarragon to purchase something for lunch later. It was then back on the road to Nilma and then I headed north and worked my way around to near the last reported location of the radiosonde – well down in a valley in Buln Buln East. Approaching a junction, I noticed that my TTGo receiver was starting to receive signals. One route option was a no-go, with machinery working on the road – really an entrance road to a property. I swung north and stopped well up the hill. I switched off the car so that my phone could connect to the TTGo and soon had a position fix on the ‘sonde. Looking across the valley, I believed that I could see the reflector. I quickly looked at Google Maps to ascertain the likely property from the boundaries. I was soon heading back down to the road junction, noting that a typical farm utility vehicle was also parked on the access road. I parked outside the gate and walked up towards the two men talking near the excavator.
I explained myself to the older gentleman, the property owner. I soon had permission to access the property and gave a commitment to retrieve all the bits of the balloon remnants and the ‘sonde. I retraced my route back up the road to some stock yards and parked. Vehicle access was not an option, as most tracks and the paddocks were affected by 4 km of trenching – the farmer was attempting to lay 4 km of water pipes before the rain expected that night. I walked down into the valley and up the other side, finding open gates almost on the direct route to the ‘sonde. I soon had the ‘sonde, the reflector and the balloon remnants and retraced my route back to the car.
I then headed off to my target Park, returning to Old Sale Road and making my way around to Beards Track.
Sweetwater Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2200
I made my way up a fire trail to its high point above Beards Track, just inside the Park boundary. This spot has mobile phone coverage. The area had recently been subject of a fuel reduction burn, so the scrub was gone. I soon had the antenna in the air, with the apex at around 11 m. One side of the doublet was across the track, but well in the air so as to not cause an issue for any passing vehicle. There were several motorbikes and a few 4WD vehicle who travelled past me during the activation, creating noise and dust – such is life!
I set up using the tailgate as a table and was soon listening to Gavin VK2YAK working stations on 40 m SSB. Gavin was the first in my log for the activation. I moved up the band and spotted. Some idiot started interfering by calling with nonsense incomplete callsigns and talking rubbish. I persevered for several minutes before moving down the band, with 11 contacts already in the log. After about an hour, I had 34 in the log. I moved to 40 m CW and made nine contacts. I moved back up to 40 m SSB to hunt Ian VK1DI/2 in VKFF-2009. I moved up the band a little, spotted myself and made another eight contacts. I next tried 15 m SSB, but made only a single contact with a JA Hunter. I returned to 40 m SSB to hunt Paul VK2PCT in VKFF-0558. I again moved up the band on 40 m, making another five contacts. With 60 in the log and no further callers, I was about to close when I heard a SOTA spot. I soon had JS1UEH/1 on JA/IB-023 in the log on 10 m CW.
I closed and packed up. I was considering activating Bull Beef Creek Nature Conservation Reserve (NCR), which was not far away. As I proceeded east, I came into a wide band of smoke from planned fuel reduction burns to the north of Sweetwater Creek NCR. Given the wind direction, it was likely to be smoke in the planned operating location, so I abandoned the thoughts of an activation of Bull Beef Creek NCR today. I continued east. As I was approaching the area north of Moe, I had cleared the smoke, so decided at the last minute to head to another nearby Park. I swung north towards Erica, then east on Roberts Road, which marks the southern boundary of my next Park. I was soon at a spot used last year, just inside the boundary, but here was some odour due to a dead animal nearby. The smell was bearable, so I quickly set up the station.
Moondarra State Park VKFF-0764
My first contact in the new Park was a German SOTA station – DL3EC/p on DL/EW-059, on 20 m SSB. I wound the IC-7300 up to full power to make the contact. I then moved to 40 m SSB and spotted myself. I soon had a large dog pile of callers. Even with the dog pile option on the logging app, it was hard to capture them all in any one attempt. I steadily worked my way through the callers. Things finally started to slow down. I had not moved from my initial frequency and had 48 contacts in the log in less than 41 minutes! Part way through, I noticed that I had forgotten to wind the transmit power back down a little – I usually activate Parks at around 30 or 40 watts, but this activation was done with 100 W. I had no issues with my 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery. I announced that I was closing and then went to 20 m SSB to try to work a Parks station. LY2BIS/p in LYFF-0312 was a consistent 53 – 54 with me, but was not hearing me well enough for the contact. I closed down and packed up whilst I still had a little natural light.
I headed back to the main road and then drove home.
Thanks to all who worked me during the day.