Find your VK Shire, activators!

When out activating a SOTA summit or a VKFF park you may be asked “What shire are you in“? Far from home without an encyclopædic knowledge of shire boundaries this can be difficult to answer. One may have passed a shire sign on the way to the activation, but with all the council amalgamations and name changes not even these can be relied upon.

So, a more modern method of identifying the shire is needed.
Luckily there are online resources that help identify the shire you are in.
All you need to know is your location.
Recipes for each state and territory follow (where available).

Harden Shire Yass Valley Council sign Bobborra Road between Binalong and Galong

Council signs can’t always be relied upon: Harden is merging into Hilltops Shire

NSW

Go to this web site: http://www.olg.nsw.gov.au/find-my-council
There is a text box labelled:  Address (required)
Sure, you can type in your street address.
More usefully, you can put in a GPS coordinate!
The site will then give you the name of your shire. The format accepted is latitude then comma then longitude in decimal degrees. The latitude will be a negative number for VK. Look these up with a mobile phone app such as GP Status on Android or on SOTAwatch for the summit you’re activating.

VIC

Go to this web site: https://knowyourcouncil.vic.gov.au
There is a search box that will accept your suburb. Unfortunately it will not accept a GPS coordinate. Instead use the Use my location link and when prompted ALLOW access to your location on your mobile device.

QLD

Online place name search here:
https://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/qld/environment/land/place-names/search

Clickable overview map here:
http://www.bettercouncils.net.au/find-your-council

SA

Go to this web site: http://www.lga.sa.gov.au/councils
Enter your suburb to look up the shire.

TAS

No online lookup. Listing of shires by postcode and town name here:
http://www.lgat.tas.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/Localities_By_Council_0905.pdf

WA

Go to this web site: http://walga.asn.au/
Enter your suburb to look up the shire.

NT

No online lookup found. Rough maps here:
https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/206244/council-boundaries-basic-map.pdf

ACT

All one shire with code AC1.


Shire Code

Once you have the name of the shire, the three character shire code can be found in the Shire Info page here: http://www.parksnpeaks.org/showShire.php

Alternately in the spreadsheet in the Files section of the VK Shires facebook page here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/544877775683852/files/

Look for the “vk shires” file with the .xls type. The spreadsheet has tabs for each state containing all of the shires and their three character codes. It may not be possible to read this file on a mobile device, so in that case share the load and ask the chaser to do it for you from their nice warm shack!


Spotting

Another way to find the shire code is from the ParksnPeaks site. You can self-spot for the shire you’re activating and in the process pull in all those Shires chasers. Just launch:
http://www.parksnpeaks.org/addSpot.php

Choose VK Shires as the class of activation
then in SubCat choose your state and after pressing Next you’ll be in the Shires Spot page. Choose the name of your shire from the list under Activating Shire then put in your call and QRG. Press Next and the spot will be launched into cyberspace.
You’ll end up at the VK Shires Status page with your activation listed at the top. Your shire code can be read from the details of the activation. This is probably quicker than downloading and looking up the spreadsheet!

So, go out and activate a shire the next time you activate for SOTA or VKFF!
And you might start asking chasers “What shire are you in?”

Lane Cove NP – 12 Apr 2016

160413LaneCoveNPsignA rainy sort of day and I was in the area so decided to activate the Lane Cove National Park VKFF-0281. The park is 15km north of Sydney city and runs along the Lane Cove River through around 10 suburbs. It is usually only heard about when it catches fire and with houses backing right up to the park that does initiate a big response. The park is also along the route of the Great North Walk.

160413LaneCoveNPmapI had visited this park several times before but still had not completely explored it. This time I had to approach it in a different way being the location for a WWFF activation. From aerial maps I had identified a couple of spots around the perimeter of the park and a spot near one of the the entrances. As it turned out, one perimeter spot on Fiddens Wharf Rd could not be accessed by car as it was gated and the other one at the end of Bradfield Rd was open but restricted to service vehicles. See map here. So I ended up driving right around and going through the DeBurghs Bridge entrance to the spot near there on Riverside Drive. The road had been narrowed down to an access track and the available parking spot was not sufficiently roomy for an activation. So, I proceeded along the road and checked out an area previously unvisited called Tunks Hill picnic area. Here I found a huge and almost empty carpark with lots of green space around. This seemed ideal so I parked at (-33.780747,151.135404), locator QF56NF.

160413LaneCoveNPsiteIt had been moderately dry, but of course as I set up my antenna the heavens opened. The squid pole was lashed to the back antenna on the car and the far ends of the ZS6BKW attached to a tree and a picnic shelter. The LDG antenna tuner was set up under the car to keep it dry. One thought was that I could transfer operation to a picnic shelter without shifting the antenna, but it turned out to be too rainy and I settled in to make some contacts from the shelter of the car.

160413LaneCoveNPantIt was just after 2pm and first contact was with Warren ZL2AJ on SOTA ZL1/BP-201 on 20m. I moved to 40m and started calling and the first contact there was a park-to-park with Shane VK2TJF in the Barrington Tops at VKFF-0017. Four contacts later another P2P with David VK5KC/3 in Murray-sunset NP VKFF-0373. Propagation was pretty good and I was able to sustain contacts on 40m including with VK5. Thankfully noise was low even though I was 50m from a business premises and 200m from a main road. I was also 200m from EHT powerlines – you can see them in the aerial view.

160413LaneCoveNPtunerMy only CW contact was on 20m with Ian VK5CZ at Maurice Hill VK5/NE-049. Occupied 40m until 4:40pm during which a surprise P2P contact with Clive ZL4CJR in Fiordland NP ZLFF-0004 was made and then I switched to 20m. There were only four contacts on 20m as there was no DX opening. On 40m a further P2P, this time with Rob VK4AAC/3 in Mt Granya State Park VKFF-0767. Being close to 5pm and with the prospect of battling the Sydney traffic, I packed up in order to escape the park well ahead of the 6pm closing time. As I drove out, it was still raining lightly and I was happy to have 51 contacts in the log, especially for a Tuesday.

Equipment

  • Yaesu FT100D transceiver @ 80W
  • LDG Z100 tuner
  • ZS6BKW antenna on 9m squid pole oriented WNW-ESE

Log

ZL2AJ, VK2TJF/P, VK3MRH, VK4RF, VK4HA, VK5KC/3, VK2GAZ, VK2XXM, VK5PAS, VK3PF, VK3MEG, VK5FANA, VK3NBL, VK5FMID, VK3GGG, VK3UH, VK4DD, VK5LG, VK4ARW, VK2NP, VK2FSAV, VK2HBG, VK2AIF, VK2SK, VK2IZZ, VK2MKE, VK2FGAS, VK5KDK, VK2UBQ/M, VK2FABJ, VK2HHA, VK3MCK, VK3ZMD, VK3FD/M, VK2JAZ, VK5JK, VK5CZ, VK4WJW, ZL4CJR/P, VK2QA, VK3HSB, VK2NWB, VK3TJK, VK5GJ, VK6WE/2, VK3OY, VK4RF, VK4HA, VK6MB, VK4AAC/3, VK5PCM.

Thanks to all those who made contact!

Mt Royal NP for Field Day and SOTA 19-20 Mar 2016

A triple-header for the weekend with the John Moyle Memorial Field Day contest, WWFF at Mt Royal National Park VKFF-0362 and SOTA from two summits within the park.

VK2/HU-024 810m 4pts QF57PS in Mt Royal NP VKFF-0362

Headed first to the VK2/HU-024 summit which is just outside the southern edge of the park by a matter of metres. The activation zone to the NE is well within the park and happens to lie along Mt Royal Rd and conveniently there is a cleared space to the side of the road suitable for camping and operating from. Note that not all maps show the correct location of the park boundary or of Mt Royal Rd near the summit. SIX maps and the OzTopo GPS map V7 are OK. I activated from (-32.24473,151.28366) marked on the map with a red “X”. The park boundary and the location of the summit are also shown. There would be an elevation difference of a few metres at most between the summit and the activated location.160319VK2HU-024map

The John Moyle is a 24 hour contest starting at 0100z (noon). I arrived at about 12:45pm and walked around the area with my GPS to find the summit and check for the exact park boundary. Once confirmed I started setting up. Weather was warm with clear blue skies and no wind so a perfect day to be out and activating. A 3m metal pole at the side of the road provided a perfect mount for lashing my squid pole. I was able to raise up the base of my squid pole by 1.5m to increase the effective height of the antenna. First contact in the log was at 1:12pm, a S2S with Tony VK1VIC at Mt Ginini. Normally I use a paper log but for contests I just about always use a computer, and so it was for this contest. Well over an hour was spent working through the stations on 40m SSB and then there was a spell on CW. 40 minutes there netted 9 contacts so the pace was leisurely. I used my KX3 and had it wound up to the full 15W output. Antenna was the usual ZS6BKW inverted-Vee with the apex at nearly 10m off the ground and oriented NW-SE. To obtain this orientation, the antenna crossed the road, but with the lowest point being at about 8m it wasn’t going to be a traffic hazard!

A new three hour block had started so I could rework stations again so back to 40m SSB starting out with 3 S2S contacts. Then hunting and pecking through all the stations calling CQ for half an hour then started calling on my own frequency. The band was pretty crowded but there were still slots available. This kept me busy for another half an hour before it was time to give 20m a go. It was pretty quiet on there with only 2 stations calling from VK6. Maybe I had missed all the action. So back to 40m with the odd listen on 80m. A car full of locals stopped for a chat and find out what I was up to. The road does not go through anywhere so there was less than one car per hour going past. I mentioned my intention to scale Mt Royal and was warned about the presence of tiger snakes.

Nearing 7pm I decided to have a break from contesting and set up the tent. This was pitched next to the metal pole as the amount of free antenna feedline was limited. My operating chair was moved inside the tent and used as an operating table. After a 40 minute break I was making contacts again – still on 40m SSB. After less than 15 minutes I switched to 80m SSB where there was a lot more action. I was able to work stations in VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK4 mainly by calling CQ.

160319VK2HU-024ant

Antenna at VK2/HU-024

Operating from inside the tent was very nice as it kept off the cool breeze, and it really did cool down quite a lot after sunset. The evening was spent operating on 80m and 40m. There was a dearth of stations on CW, just weak rapid fire stations operating in another contest. I was surprised at the lack of activity. I was keen to make a 6m contact as there had been no response to earlier calls. I made a contact with the Blue Mountains radio club station VK2HZ on 80m and asked them to try 6m. They said their 6m operators were in bed – it was only 10:15pm. Still, they were happy to try for a contact on their wire antenna. Unfortunately it was a no-go as they were only just audible to me and I had a fraction of their transmitter power. it would have to be left until morning.

160319VK2HU-024night

Night time shack at VK2/HU-024

There were still plenty of stations about on 80m and a few on 40m so I kept going. Conscious of my plans for Sunday I decided to turn in at 12:45am when things became a bit quiet on the bands. It was now just CQ callers that I had worked before so a good time to cut it short. I would need all my strength and alertness for Mt Royal!

In the morning I awoke to find it already quite light. My beanie had slipped over my eyes and kept things dark and the lack of light had allowed me to sleep more than expected. It was after 7am and weather was still nice, though overcast and a little crisp. I was back on the radio at 7:45am for a short stint until 8:30am. I was able to find VK2HZ again on 80m and arrange for a 6m contact with their VHF team. This time it was successful over a distance of 183km as they were using a beam rather than a wire antenna. I also was able to just hear a station in Bathurst, but they weren’t able to hear me. The other contacts I made in the morning were on 40m and I found 80m full of ragchewers and nets.

Mt Royal VK2/HU-007 1174m 6pts QF57PT in Mt Royal NP VKFF-0362

Packing up the camp site, shack and antenna occupied an hour and then it was off to the next summit. Driving up Mt Royal road one passes through the Youngville campground area after 5km at (-32.1995,151.3094). It would make a good base if one wanted to stay a few days and operate from the park. Continuing on 3km one reaches a Y intersection with a picnic area directly ahead at (-32.1823,151.3156). At 850m elevation this is the starting point for the walk to Mt Royal VK2/HU-007. A single sheltered picnic table and a park sign marks this location.

The walk starts immediately behind the picnic table and follows the ridge line all the way to the top. There is not just one clearly defined track but a series of parallel tracks that weave in and out from each other. The gradient is steep most of the way, around 2 in 5 so it is not for the faint hearted or infirm. The elevation is 320m over 2km so its a good idea to take breaks along the way. I did not need to climb very far before entering low cloud though the visibility was still fine for following the trail. There are various rock piles along the way providing reassurance that you’re on the right track. Just after half way up there is a rocky outcrop and while it would appear attractive to skirt around it, the best way is to scramble up over it. Further up after an open area one comes to a wall of foliage with seemingly no way to get through. There is a track on the right side to duck and weave around the trees which seemed to be the best approach. I only discovered this on the way back!

The rest of the way up has quite a dense wooden canopy with some sections having very little headroom. Near the top there is a faux summit that one can skirt around to the left. One must keep going past here another few hundred metres to reach the destination. The summit holds a trig station with Royal stamped in the vane and is covered with tall spindly trees. The tracks around the trig point are quite well trodden probably due to the presence of a geocache nearby. On the trig point cairn there is a log book with a large rock sitting on it providing little in the way of disguise.

160320VK2HU-007station

Station at Mt Royal VK2/HU-007

The tree cover near the trig point is quite low so rather than set up on the trig point itself, I set up my squid pole attached to a tree nearby. The antenna wire was woven around some trees and branches and with the dropoff the ends of the antenna were only about 2m off the ground. The usual ZS6BKW was used on the 8m squid pole with the antenna apex at about 7m off the deck. It had taken 1.5 hours to reach the summit and set up so there was still half an hour left until the close of the John Moyle contest at 12 noon. Again I concentrated on 40m SSB and in the time available I was able to snag 8 more contacts. At that point the computer log was closed off and I reverted to the paper log.

At contest end I was able to start spotting on SOTAwatch and the first was for 40m CW. Conditions were certainly poor as there were only 2 contacts. After 3 summit-to-summits on SSB I went to 30m CW and made 2 more contacts, one of those being a S2S with Ron VK3AFW. Then I went through 20m CW with no contacts then chased JL1NIE unsuccessfully on 15m CW. On 20m SSB I did make four contacts. There was a successful S2S with JF1NDT/1 on 12m CW then on 15m SSB one contact with a JA and nothing on 30m SSB. Finally I ended up on 40m SSB for a bunch of contacts including two CW contacts on 7090, one a S2S with Tony VK3CAT.

160320VK2HU-007shack

Shack at Mt Royal with PC for contest logging

Once the callers ran out I stayed around for a bit on the summit before packing up and departing about 3pm. Mobile coverage on the summit was pretty good on the Telstra network though there were dropouts. For example, I missed a spot from VK2QR by 15 mins and so did not get the S2S. The signal was up to 3 bars on the phone if positioned in a certain spot, but at other times there was no data. Sitting it just off the ground the signal was coming and going.

160320VK2HU-007viewW

View looking west just down from the Mt Royal summit

The return journey was a lot quicker than the climb as the better tracks to take were more obvious and there was a lot less huffing and puffing. I did not need to descend very far before the cloud cleared allowing some visibility of the valleys below. It would certainly be a spectacular spot on a clear day.

Highlights

  • 2 SOTA summits and 1 park qualified
  • 242 contacts including 20 CW contacts
  • 21 park-to-park contacts
  • 15 summit-to-summit contacts
  • no tiger snakes!

 

Japan’s summits/parks for the foreign traveller/skier

Here’s a compilation of SOTA and WWFF locations in Japan accessible to the tourist. It will be updated periodically. Any contributions are welcome!

Nagano region (JA0) – Nozawa Onsen ski resort

Mt Kenashi JA/NA-107 1650m 10 pts
Access: Summer SE on route 502 from Nozawaonsen
Winter: From Nozawaonsen, (A)Nagasaka Gondola, (D)Yamabiko 2nd, ski down (2)Yamabiko-B or (3)Yamabiko-C to (C)Yamabiko, take (C)Yamabiko to top. Trail map
Also note the eastern half of the AZ is in the Joshinetsu Kogen NP (JAFF-0013).

Nagano region (JA0) – Shiga Kogen ski resort

JA/NA-069 Yakebitaiyama 2010m 10 pts – in Joshinetsu Kogen NP (JAFF-0013)
Access: Summer: footpath to summit from Yamanouchi town
Winter: Yakebitaiyama ski area, take (36) to the top. Trail map

JA/NA-045 Yokoteyama 2307m 10pts – in Joshinetsu Kogen NP (JAFF-0013)
Access: Summer: route 292 then track to summit
Winter: Yokoteyama ski area, take (67) or (68), then (69), then (70) to top. Trail map

Tokyo area (JA1) including Kanagawa

JA/TK-012 Usukiyama 842m 4 points

Access: via 2km track from Hinohara Hwy 33 past Usuki shrine.
Closest station Musashi Itsukaichi on the Itsukaichi line.

JA/KN-022 Shiroyama 375m 1 point

Access: Take one train from the major stationShinjuku in Tokyo until the end of the Keio Sagamihara line at Hashimoto (station KO45). Then take the Hashimoto 01 bus for Mikage to stop 14 at the base of the mountain called Tsukuiko Kanko Center mae (35.58643N, 139.280824E). Timetable and route is here. The summit is in the Kanagawa Kenritsu Tsukuikoshiroyama Park. Once starting the climb, there are maps available en-route. Summit at (35.5831N, 139.2787E) PM95PN. Blog by VK2IO.

JA/KN-017 Bukkasan 747m 4 points

Access: Take Odakyu line from Shinjuku up to Hon-Atsugi station – about 1.5 hours. From Hon-Atsugi go to through the north exit to bus stand 5 and take the bus for Miyagase 厚20 宮ヶ瀬行 市立病院前(本厚木駅発) Route name 厚木20 Atsugi 20 and get off at Bukkasan Tozanguchi 仏果山登山口. Alternatively take  a bus for Miyagase 厚21 宮ヶ瀬行 市内(本厚木駅発) route name Atsugi 21 from the same bus stand. This bus also stops at Bukkasan Tozanguchi. The walk to the summit takes 1.5 hours. Blog by JH0CJH. Track to summit is here.

JA/KN-006 Ooyama 1252m 8 points – in Tanzawa-Oyama Q-NP (JAFF-0050)

Access: Take Odakyu line from Shinjuku to Isehara station. From Isehara North gate take bus platform number 4. Take a bus for Ooyama Cable 伊10 大山ケーブル行 route number Isehara 10. From terminal station, take cable car to half way point then continue hiking. This mountain is famous for foreigners so you may find some English natives. Ask for “Ooyama Cable Car?” before boarding the bus. Summit at (35.440799713135, 139.23120117188).
Notes: Good location, very popular so huge number of people. Best to operate on the west side near microwave antenna tower otherwise it may become
difficult around lunch time.

Meiji Memorial Forest Takao Q-NP (JAFF-0049)

Blogs by JA1JCF and VK3ARR.

Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (JAFF-0005)

Mitakesan lies 3 or 4km northeast of Oodakesan JA/TK-007

Shizuoka area (JA2)

JA/SO-099 Takanesan 504m 2 points

Access: Route 52 north off Tomei Expwy then route 75 west then left after 600m up to summit. Parking inside activation zone.

JA/SO-120 307m 1 point

Access: off Shimizu Nihondaira Pkwy, Komagoe then walk up 200m. Blog by VK2IO.

Yamagata prefecture (JA7)

Zao quasi-National Park (JAFF-0044)

Access: The Zao Onsen skiing area is within the National Park. Area map is here and the park is marked in purple on p.10 lower right.
Blog by JA7IC.

Akita prefecture (JA7)

JA/AT-001 Komagatake (Onamedake) 1637m, 10 points – in Towada-Hachimantai NP (JAFF-0027)

Access: From Tazawako station take Akita Komagatake line bus to the end at “8th Stage of Akita Komagatake”. Walk 1.5 hrs to summit. Open between June 1 and October 31.

Hokkaido (JA8)

JA8/SB-005 Nisekoannupuri 1308m, 8 points

Access: In winter this summit can be accessed from the top chairlift at the Niseko Annapuri ski resort. This lift (and lower lifts) are only open during favourable weather and for a few hours around the middle of the day. Take Jumbo Pair lift #4 and go through Gate 2 and climb up to the south peak. Then walk north a further 400m to Annupuri. No trees here so bring your own squid pole. The AZ is within JAFF-0036 Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-NP.


Additional resources

Cluster in Japan for posting local activations: http://qrv.jp/

Beacon monitor for daily  band conditions: http://ayoko.net/faros/

Japan Century Cities awards program: JCC

WWFF logs should be sent to logs@wff-dl.de as there is no local coordinator. 44 contacts need to be made as there are no JAFF awards yet.

JAFF park maps tend to be in Japanese. As a guide, use the Protected Planet site and search for the park to find a map in English with the park boundary.

Thanks for contributions from: Gou JA1SWI, Toru JH0CJH, Nobi JA1JCF, Andrew VK3ARR

Mt Solitary activation 30 Dec 2015

The SOTA peak at Mt Solitary VK2/CT-056 in the Blue Mountains National Park VKFF-0041 had been on my to-do list most of 2015. I’d resolved not to attempt it in winter to ensure adequate daylight and to make it a comfortable climb. Last time (and first time) I did this walk I ended up having to walk back in the dark which was “different” but not as much fun. I’d hoped to tackle this one with Phil VK2JDL, but as it turned out he was busy on the last possible day of the year it could be done.

151230MtSolitaryMap

Walking path to Mt Solitary starting at the Golden Staircase

The starting point for the walk is at the top of the Golden Staircase (-33.734348, 150.28237) at elevation 958m which can be found on Glen Raphael Drive along Narrow Neck just west of Katoomba. Descend the Golden Staircase (about 800m) passing Botleys Lookout until the Federal Pass circuit track is reached. Turn right (south) and gently descend by 300m elevation reaching the 4.3km mark. From then on it is an ascent of 300m over 1.8km including a lot of hard climbing and scrambling to reach the summit (-33.7797, 150.3079) QF56DF at elevation 960m. I budgeted two to two and a half hours to do the 6.1km walk, but walking quickly without stopping to take any photos it took one and a half hours. The National Parks site provides all route details and it is also well covered on Wild Walks. The alternative and longer route is to start at Scenic World, descend the Furber Steps and join the Federal Pass circuit there. It adds another 3 km onto the trip. Some of that can be saved by descending using the Scenic Railway instead of the Furber Steps. Details of this alternative can also be found on Wild Walks.

151230MtSolitaryProfile

Elevation profile from Golden Staircase (958m) to Mt Solitary (960m) with minimum elevation of 658m

The summit itself is quite a flat area covered with tall trees. This gives a large activation zone and there are plenty of places to put up an antenna. The main consideration is making sure it is clear overhead so that the antenna wire is not obstructed. I found a convenient stump to use as a support for the squid pole. Knowing the difficulty of the walk, I brought along a lightweight 8m pole and removed all extraneous items from my backpack. The pole was able to be inserted into a pocket on the backpack so I had both hands free – and this turned out to be essential during the climb. Conveniently, I had arrived and set up 15 minutes before UTC rollover whereas my alert was for thirty minutes past. There were SOTA stations already active so plenty of scope for summit-to-summit contacts.

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The first object was to work all the activators and I managed four before rollover – all on 40m. Then after rollover hunted for the same activators again. I was calling VK3HRA on his spotted frequency 7032 CW when Nick VK2AOH called me. Somehow I had missed Allen. A whole bunch of activators were spotting on 10m so I went there to look for them. I did manage one S2S with Andrew VK1AD at Mt Taylor in Canberra. All the other summits were too far for ground wave and too close for sky wave. Then I put my first spot up on 10m SSB and that attracted a couple of contacts in VK5, one in VK4 and one in Sydney from VK2BEN. After an hour on 10m I spotted on 6m SSB and attracted 2 stations from Sydney – Cliff VK2NP and VK2BEN again. I had heard Andrew VK1AD work a VK4 at good strength on 6m but Andrew’s signal faded quickly. Unfortunately I was not able to work the VK4. During some free time I put up a “selfie” of my activation on social media. This attracted a certain amount of attention and comment and made for a talking point during contacts. At some stage I’d like to try sending pictures via SSTV from the summit as thus far I’ve only received SSTV from summits in the shack.

151230MtSolitaryShack

Shack and operator on Mt Solitary

After 20 minutes a spot came up on 40m so I abandoned 6m and chased a bunch of activators (VK3MCD, VK2QR, VK1VIC, VK3VTH). I spotted on 10m SSB again and started calling then a spot came up for Greg VK2GSB at VK2/HU-094 who was doing his first activation near Port Stephens in Myall Lakes NP. I was the first contact in his log and it must have been a surprise as it was a summit-to-summit as well as a park-to-park contact.

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Back on 10m I made a bunch more contacts over the next hour with the occasional excursion to other bands to work other summit stations. 10m was in good shape as I was able to make contact with chasers in Melbourne at good strength. This represented quite short skip conditions on this band. Next was a go at 10m CW and this was rewarded with 3 contacts from Melbourne stations with excellent reports.

After half an hour on 10m CW it was late enough to give 40m CW a try too and five contacts were made. Then I moved to 40m SSB and filled a page full of contacts over the next hour. This included two S2S contacts. The sun had moved around and now my spot under the trees was in full sun so the shack was relocated a few metres for complete shade.

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With one hour to go to my planned departure time of 6pm I went back to 10m SSB and started calling there. One contact was made with VK2FJPR in Newcastle who I had worked on 40m and mentioned a possibility of 10m. He was pretty surprised to be able to make a contact and we exchanged 5×3 reports both ways. The good propagation to Melbourne had gone and no other 10m contacts were made. I contacted Rod VK2TWR to try for a 6m contact, but he wasn’t able to hear me so we made it on 40m instead.

A spot by Lewis VK6FLEW on 40m attracted a QSY, but Lewis was operating on 7.144 and the afternoon net on 7.146 prevented any copy. It was then time to close down after operating for 7 hours. My 4200 mAh battery was just about exhausted and the KX3 kept switching off. It was a longer activation than expected and I was restless to complete the return journey. Last time I had done it mostly in the dark and had not planned to do that again this time, after all I had photos to take! One of the concessions when reducing weight was to eliminate cameras from my backpack. The DSLR weighs around 3kg and had to go. I even rejected the compact camera with the intention of relying on the rarely used mobile phone camera. That’s the mark of a lightweight activation!

151230MtSolitaryCampsite

One of the many camp sites along the Federal Pass

My Android-based mobile phone has an aftermarket high capacity battery, but before I started the return walk it was down to around 30% capacity. During the day I was running RRT, ParksnPeaks and Port-a-Log apps at various times, and usually multiple simultaneously. This no doubt would have required additional internet traffic (and therefore battery consumption). Luckily mobile phone coverage was good with few dropouts. For the first time on an activation I had used RunKeeper to record my progress on the walk so the GPS was running during this time. On the return walk I also used RunKeeper and so was able to obtain an elevation profile for the day’s outing.

151230MtSolitary3Sisters

Glimpse of the Three Sisters through the trees

The return walk was a lot more difficult than the morning walk even though I had had plenty of recovery time. I doubt the endorphins were flowing like they are when you’re striving to reach a summit. Luckily I had plenty of rests to take photos. Descending from Mt Solitary I ran into some people who were about to launch a toy drone. As I continued further the drone appeared in the skies above along with the characteristic buzz. It seemed to follow me for quite a way and my thoughts were that the country was quite inhospitable in the event that a drone recovery was required, though it seems that was not necessary. I had bypassed the sidetrip to the “Ruined Castle” on the way in and did the same on the way out. Its another steep climb and would add time to the trip.

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The most difficult part of the trip was the return climb up The Golden Staircase. The track is well formed unlike the last section up Mt Solitary, but it is so steep with metal railings and for such a long distance that it is pretty difficult at the end of a long day with not much left in the tank. There are some nice glimpses of the Three Sisters along the way, especially from Botleys Lookout near the top.

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I arrived back at the carpark just as the sun was setting so timing was perfect. After taking time to watch the sun go down, take photos and rehydrate, I did some chasing for the EU activators. Even on CW it was not possible to work any of them due to low signal strength so after half an hour I was on my way.

151230MtSolitarySunset

Greeted by a stunning sunset climbing to the top of the Golden Staircase

Highlights

  • Making it to (and from) the summit
  • Stunning views of the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters
  • Fabulous sunny weather all day with light breezes
  • 67 contacts on 40m, 30m, 10m, 6m including 9 CW  on 40m, 10m
  • 17 summit-to-summits
  • 13 park-to-parks
  • First documented activation of this summit
  • 18 contacts on 10m/6m including JA DX

Equipment

  • Elecraft KX3 transceiver
  • One LiFePO4 4200 mAh battery
  • uniHAM UNI-730A CW paddle
  • ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (28m long)
  • 8m lightweight mast
  • Earbuds stereo headphone

Log

Many thanks to the following stations for making contact:
VK3HRA/P VK1VIC/2 VK1AD/P VK3PF/P VK2YK VK1VIC/2 VK3PF/P VK1AD/P VK4RF VK4HA VK1DI/P VK2AOH VK1AD/P VK5WG VK4MNM VK5NRG VK2BEN VK2NP VK2BEN VK3MCD/2 VK2QR/P VK1VIC/2 VK3VTH/5 VK2GSB/P JH7RTQ VK7CW JL1RUC VK7FRKL VK1MA/3 VK3PF/P VK3YUN VK3HRA/P VK3ZPF VK3CAT VK3AFW VK3ANL VK2AOH VK1EM VK3PF/M VK3BYD VK1CT VK3UH VK1AT VK3FQSO VK3YAR VK3ES VK3NBL VK3LED VK2PHA VK1DW VK3AWG VK3AV VK2NN VK3CRG VK2YK VK3ARR/P VK2VW VK2GAZ VK3DAC VK2ZZM VK2FJPR VK2JDC VK2YW VK3HRA/P VK3PMG VK2FJPR VK2TWR

Leg recovery after the walk took a few days.
Will I activate this one again?
You betcha!

Cattai NP for VKFF Activation Weekend 29-Nov-2015

The second day of the VKFF Activation Weekend I headed to Cattai National Park VKFF-0092 on the northern outskirts of the Sydney metropolitan area. The park lies on the southern bank of the Hawkesbury River in the suburb of Cattai. The park includes a popular camping area as well as outdoor facilities and a historic homestead (-33.558878, 150.892197).

151129CattaiMapMy plan was to operate in the park all day with a late morning start after a late night the evening before. This went totally to plan. I arrived at the park (-33.547513, 150.899308) off Caddie Rd via Wisemans Ferry Rd at around 10:15am, purchased an entry ticket from the machine and continued deeper into the park. After passing some shelters I entered the camping zone (-33.553787, 150.892245) for a sticky beak. There were quite a lot of campers set up there and I decided the best place for me was away from there back at the shelters several hundred metres away. None of the covered shelters were being used so I set up at the very first one (-33.558514, 150.890148) locator QF56KK nearest to the wharf. This was ideal for setting up an antenna as there are large trees on opposite sides spaced about 20m on either side. The squid pole itself was mounted against a large wooden support used for the shelter, the width of a medium size tree. The ZS6BKW antenna was used for this activation.

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The KX3 was set up on a table under the shelter and I also had the FT100D as a backup but it wasn’t needed. First contact in the log was at 10:45am with Tony VK1VIC at Farrer Ridge Nature Reserve in the ACT. It seemed as though propagation on 40m would be reasonable. After this quick contact I took some time to set up the station and antenna properly for the day. Then I settled in for a session on 40m, hunting down any other park activators that came up which occupied the next half an hour. A further eight parks were worked and I was then operating on my own 40m frequency. There were plenty of chasers as far afield as VK5 and short skip was working too.

Adam VK2YK was activating Castle Hill lookout in Townsville and I was able to work him on 15m for my first SOTA contact of the day. Back to 40m and a stint on CW yielded four contacts. After that it was back to hunting for a bit and then I spotted on 15m SSB. After 15 mins making no contacts I moved on to 20m SSB for 15 mins then 20m CW for 15 mins but there were no contacts to be had. I had a break of 10 minutes for lunch until more activators started up. After an hour without a contact I stayed on 40m for an hour and there were seven more parks worked as well as two SOTA stations. The drought had broken. I self spotted on 40m SSB again and made some more contacts from that.

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When things became quiet on 40m I went up to 10m and found some contest stations to work on CW. They were mostly sending lightning fast and with my 10W I was able to work Japan, Vietnam and Hong Kong. All I had to do was send my normal signal report and my CQ zone of 30. Switching to 15m I found stations operating in the same CQ World-Wide DX CW contest and was able to crack Russia, Tuvalu and Brazil as well as Japan. It was one way of racking up contacts towards my goal of 44 uniques.

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After an hour in the contest there were more parks to work so it was back to 40m. Then I took a break to take photos for half an hour, visited the wharf. Upon return I self spotted on 7.144 announcing last calls and that seemed to trigger a run of hunters which kept me busy for twenty minutes. When the callers ran out I chased John VK6NU on 20m in Wandoo NP and rounded things out with a couple more parks in VK5. By then it was 5:45pm and I was mindful of the sign announcing gate closure at 6pm so it was a hurried closedown. I drove out of through the gate, parked and then walked back in. Kangaroos were clustered on the grassy areas and I also wanted to check the signage on the office building. It was unattended and indicated the park ranger is stationed at another site, probably the much larger Scheyville National Park.

Statistics

  • 63 contacts (12 CW)
  • 31 park-to-park contacts
  • 3 SOTA contacts
  • 8 DX/contest contacts
  • Bands: 40m, 20m, 15m, 10m
  • 7 hours operating time

What a great weekend the inaugural VKFF Activation Weekend turned out to be. I’m looking forward to next year. Thanks for all the contacts:
VK1VIC/P,VK1DI/P,VK5FANA/P,VK2NP/M,VK4AAC/5,VK5PAS/P,VK8AR/P,VK3VTH/P,VK1AT/3,VK3PMG/P,VK2VW,VK3OF,VK2GAZ,VK4RF,VK4HA,VK5UK/3,VK5KPR/P,VK5ZGY/P,VK2YK/4,VK5HCF/P,VK3HRA,VK4RF,VK4HA,VK2YW,VK1VIC/P,VK3HN/P,VK1MA,VK1DI/P,VK5HCF/P,VK5EE/P,VK5HSX/2,VK1DA/2,VK1VIC/P,VK3TKK/P,VK3PF/P,VK3YAR,VK3DPG,VK2QR,VK5PAS/P,JA3YBK,XV9NPS,VR2XAN,VK3VTH/P,RT0C,7J1YAJ,T2XX,PT2CM,JR1MEG/1,VK3TST/P,VK3PF/P,VK3KAI/P,VK2HHA,VK3UH,VK7CW,VK3DBP,VK5BJE,VK5AV,VK5FGRY,VK5PL/P,VK5NFT,VK6NU/P,VK5LOL/P,VK5PET/P.

Kamay Botany Bay NP for VKFF Activation Weekend 28 Nov 2015

The second activation of the day after Sydney Harbour NP with 45 mins drive between the two was at Kamay Botany Bay National Park VKFF-0048. The park is split into two sections on either side of the inlet to Botany Bay. The southern side at Kurnell incorporates the landing site for Captain Cook and has a very well developed and popular park. I headed for Cape Banks on the northern side in the suburb of La Perouse. This side also has the very popular tourist spot Bare Island.

151128KamayBotanyMapThe site is accessed by travelling to the end of Cape Banks Rd where there is a large carpark (-33.993246, 151.24961) and the base for the surf rescue helicopter. A southerly walk of 500m brought me to a spot for activating (-33.997961, 151.249171) just off the track to Cape Banks 300m further south. There is the New South Wales Golf Club and Cruwee Cove to the west.

151128KamayBotanySignSetting up was very easy as a stake in the ground was already present to support the squid pole. There are no large trees around as the area is rocky and sandy. The ZS6BKW doublet was set up oriented NW-SE. First contact was at 4:30pm (0530z) and was a park-to-park contact on 15m with Bob VK5FO in Ramco Pt Conservation Park VKFF-0930. Second contact was on 40m with Giles VK5GK at Mt George Conservation Park VKFF-0784. After that I self spotted on 40m and worked a further 22 stations in VK1,2,3,4 and 5 in under half an hour.

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A bunch of new park activators had come on the air so for the next half an hour I was hunting them for the all important park-to-park contacts and ended up with seven more. All were on 40m except for the 20m contact with Greg VK8GM operating as VK8AR in West Macdonnell NP VKFF-0532. About this time a chap wandered over from the golf course to find out what I was doing

Andrew VK1DA spotted me on 40m and another five contacts were made. With only an hour left I spotted on 20m SSB and made just 2 contacts there. Tuning around 20m I heard Peter VK3YE trying his kite-lifted antenna of 30m of wire. It made for an interesting contact having had some fun with kites and antennas myself. See the video.

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There were slim pickings on 20m with no further contacts even after spotting for a second time. I had made 39 contacts including 2 duplicates so still several short of the magic 44. Then I set up my FT100D allowing me to use more power. I went back to 40m, spotted there and started calling, but I had run out of hunters. I did make a SOTA contact with Nick VK2AOH on VK2/CT-006, my only CW contact. The last contact was on 20m answering a call by P29LL.

My appointment for the evening was looming so it was a quick shutdown and return to the car. I had made contacts with 37 unique stations so I have a good excuse to revisit the park for another activation. I do want to explore the track between Cape Banks and Bare Island including Henry Head.

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As a postscript to this outing, two and a half weeks later on Wed 16 Dec a tornado went through Kurnell with winds of 213km/h setting a new record for NSW. Much property was destroyed in its wake. It came from the south side to the north and would have passed close to the area that I was activating.

Statistics

  • 41 contacts
  • 10 park-to-park contacts
  • 1 SOTA contact
  • 2h20m operating time

Contacts

Thanks for all the contacts:

VK5FO/P VK5GK/P VK3DAC VK3PF VK1MA VK4RF VK4HA VK3DBP VK2VW VK3PMG/M VK1AT/3 VK3OF VK3AV VK2ZMT VK2PKT VK3MTB/P VK2ODD VK3WE VK5AV VK2NZL VK2YW VK2JDR VK3HRA/P VK1MTS VK5CZ VK5PAS/P VK5GJ/P VK2UH VK3ZPF/P VK3TST/P VK8AR/P VK7CW VK2GJC VK3LED VK3ANL VK5EE VK4RF VK4HA VK3YE/P VK2AOH P29LL

Sydney Harbour NP for VKFF activation weekend 28 Nov 2015

Sydney Harbour National Park VKFF-0473 was the first park I activated for the VKFF activation weekend. Pockets of it cover the north and south side of the harbour. A few weeks before I had spent a couple of hours walking around the park on the southern side of the harbour in search of a location for an activation. I found an elevated spot away from pedestrian traffic and buildings in an area called Nielsen Park in the suburb of Vaucluse.

151128SydneyHarbourMapIt was Saturday morning and I had to drive through Sydney to reach the park. Surprisingly, as I was driving through the middle of the city next to Hyde Park and many high-rise buildings, I was able to work Rob VK4FFAB on 40m in Hampton NP, my first contact for the weekend. This was just before UTC rollover and I hoped to work him again once set up in the park.

151128SydneyHarbourView

View of Sydney Harbour from the operating point

Arriving in Vaucluse Rd Vaucluse, park opposite number 63 (-33.85463, 151.268482) and take Steele Point Rd into the park. Walk 80m down the road to (-33.854457, 151.267577) where you see rocks up to the right then head off and up through the bush to the top then 100m further to (-33.85364, 151.267464). There are no signposts for this one. It is only 5 minutes walk all up and park entry is free. If you have a GPS navigator, just head for the top of the hill which has an elevation of about 40m. There is a large open flat rocky area and a convenient place to attach a squid pole. To the north is Shark Bay, to the east is Vaucluse Bay and to the west is Shark Island though not all of these landmarks can be seen from the top due to overgrowth.

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Stringing up the large ZS6BKW antenna was no problem as there were no overhanging trees to get caught in, and enough trees around to anchor the ends of the doublet. I was on air by late morning and the first order of the day was to chase all of the other parks and summits already on air. There were quite a few of them and this filled the log for the first 10 contacts, all on 40m. 50 minutes in I did get to spot on my own 40m SSB frequency and start calling. Now I had hunters and parks calling me and it seemed as though band conditions were pretty good. As insurance I had brought along the 100W rig but it never left its bag – the KX3 was performing just fine with only 12W.

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Ninety minutes in I went to 20m, but after repeated calls the only reply I had was from Rick VK4RF. I also tried 15m with no result. Seemed as though all the action was on 40m. i did a stint on 40m CW and there were a few hunters, probably not as many as if I’d started out on CW. later on I did another stint on 40m SSB and there were even more hunters coming out of the woodwork. At 3pm (just a little later than planned) the necessary 44 unique contacts had been made and it was time to move on to the next park: Kamay Botany Bay NP.

Statistics

  • 57 contacts
  • 17 park-to-park contacts
  • 7 SOTA contacts
  • 3h15m operating time

Contacts

Thanks for all the contacts:
VK1AI/P,VK2HBG/P,VK5PAS/P,VK4AAC/5,VK3VTH/P,
VK3PMG/P,VK3ANL/P,VK4FFAB/P,VK2HRX/P,VK2NP/P,
VK3PF/P,VK3YSP/P,VK3FOWL/P,VK1DI/P,VK2FABE,
VK2VW,VK3OF,VK5FANA/P,VK2MOR,VK3DAC,
VK5GJ/P,VK5NIG/P,VK3TKK,VK1MTS,VK5STU/P,
VK1MA,VK2XXM,VK1AT/3,VK2ATZ,VK2SR/M,
VK2BFC,VK2FDAV,VK2UH,VK4RF,VK4HA,
VK2IB/P,VK5PAS/P,VK7TW/P,VK7FREU/P,VK4RF,
VK4HA,VK2JDR,VK2HRX/P,VK1DI/P,VK3VTH/P,
VK2UHQ,VK3FQSO/P,VK4FFAB/P,VK7CW,VK2JDR/P,
VK3HRA/P,VK2VKB,VK4RF,VK4HA,VK1NS,
VK3ZPF,VK2NTH.

.

 

Oceania DX CW Contest – Brisbane Water NP 10-11 Oct 2015

BrisbaneWaterNPmapThe second weekend in a row of contesting, this time the CW section of the Oceania DX contest and a chance to activate another National Park. I headed for the Central Coast again to Brisbane Water NP VKFF-0056 just west of Woy Woy, about 60km north of Sydney. Driving south from Kariong I ended up driving through the park. Pulling off into a clearing the first potential location was checked out. It was at the top of a hill 500m off the road. After a climb and some bush bashing decided that the route was not practical. Drove back 1km along the road to a track shown on the GPS leading to the summit, but the track was fictional so this location was abandoned.

151011BrisbaneWaterLocalMap

Area map around Staples Lookout showing shack and antenna positions

Staples Lookout

Continued further south 2km along the road to Staples Lookout. Just opposite the lookout is a gated fire trail and aerial views on internet mapping sites showed a big clearing 300m down the track. After a quick visit to the lookout, I headed down the track and discovered a very nice site for my activation. Picked a spot and then returned to the car to collect the camping and radio equipment.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPTrailAccess

Carpark and fire trail access opposite Staples Lookout

Set up the double-sized ZS6BKW antenna first (the blue line in the picture above) and then the regular sized one (red line). This went pretty smoothly as there were few trees to clear with the antenna wires. The antennas were set up more or less perpendicular to one another similar to the previous week at Wyrrabalong National Park. For the station I opted just to sit outside on a chair in the evening so setting up the tent was deferred until a quiet time.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPOutdoorShack

Outdoor shack used for the evening

Contesting

Contesting started 15 minutes after the scheduled time of 0800z (7pm) so not much time lost and a lot earlier than the previous week. Most contacts in the first two hours were made on 40m and then 80m came into its own. Contest style was hunt and peck as I was a QRP entrant with only 5 Watts. After an hour on 80m it was back to 40m again for another hour. It wasn’t until the fifth hour before contacts were made on 160m, and these were the only three for the contest. At the end of that hour it was time to set up camp. The four-person tent was quickly erected and equipment transferred inside. There was a lot more room than the small tent used the previous week. Contesting could continue, but most of an hour was lost.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPCamp

Camp site with two antenna masts

Contacts became hard to find. The local stations were all tucked up for the night. After a further hour without a contact, I did the same – after a run to the car to charge a battery. Turning in at 2am was a little later than planned and needless to say I was ready for it.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPSunset

Sunset at the operating site

Morning

Arose around dawn, probably a little earlier than planned. Retrieved the freshly charged battery from the car and visited Staples Lookout for a better look. Captured some pictures of the sun rising and the low clouds and fog sitting over the suburbs around Woy Woy. It was quite a magic sight. See below.

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Returned to the station and started contesting again. It was slow going, maybe because I was trying to have breakfast at the same time. After a few band changes ended up on 15m which proved fruitful for a couple of hours and there were useful contacts on 10m as well. Being a Sunday morning there were people shooting past on mountain bikes and the occasional bushwalkers too. At around 1pm it was clear that a storm was coming. The colour of the sky and the view on the BoM radar indicated that it was about an hour away. I started to pull down the station beginning with the 160m antenna and all the non-radio stuff inside the tent. Kept calling using the keyer in the KX3 but there were few responses other than the growing static crashes.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPShack

Operating at the indoor shack

The last contact was made at 1:50pm and then the whole lot was quickly packed up before any lightning came into view. Three trips up the track to the car and it was all over for the contest. This is quite an early close considering the contest goes until 7pm. However, I was very glad not having to pack up in the rain.

Bulgandry Aboriginal Carvings

Drove a couple of km north towards Kariong and found the Bulgandry aboriginal carvings area. This is also inside the National Park and my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to visit. With the occasional crash of thunder high overhead I proceeded along the track to the carvings. It seemed unexpectedly far from the carpark, but I was rushing in anticipation of rain. Luckily it stayed dry and I was able to admire the carvings at leisure.

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Returning to the car I considered whether it would be possible to continue contesting in spite of the storm. The lack of sleep and the difficulty of re-establishing a radio site swayed me against the idea. The storm was bearing down with increasing force and within the hour heavy rain was falling. I was glad to seek shelter with a relative and sit it out.

Statistics

  • Contest contacts: 81
  • Non-contest contacts: 3 (SSB SOTA)
  • Hours contesting: 11.5
  • Hours in park: 23.5
  • Bands used: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m
  • Locator: QF56PM
  • Claimed score: 26727

Compared to the SSB contest, contacts were much harder to find and there were many stretches without a contact. I made half the contacts but operated for much less time owing to the early closedown due to the storm. It will be interesting to see the outcome of the contest.

OCDXCW2015stats-VK2IO

Contest contact and multiplier accumulation over time

Band   QSOs Mult  Pts  Inv 
160 m    3    3    60   0 
 80 m   18    9   180   0 
 40 m   31   23   155   0 
 20 m    5    5     5   0 
 15 m   19   16    38   0 
 10 m    5    3    15   0 
  QSOs/Multiplier:   1.4

Equipment

  • Elecraft KX3 transceiver
  • Computer headset/microphone
  • Two LiFePO4 4200 mAh batteries
  • 7200 mAh SLA battery
  • Hi-Mound MK-706 CW paddle
  • Lenovo S10-3 netbook computer
  • VK Contest Log (VKCL) v3.12b software
  • ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (28m long) on 9m mast
  • Double size ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (56m long) on 9m travel mast
  • Headlamp
  • Turnigy Accucell 6 charger

Thanks to all who made contact!

151011BrisbaneWaterContactMap

Map of contacts from Brisbane Water NP VKFF-0056

Oceania DX Phone Contest – Wyrrabalong NP 3-4 Oct 2015

The Oceania DX Contest is an amateur radio event held annually on consecutive weekends in October. The first weekend is phone (SSB) and the second is CW (morse code). The first (and last) time I participated was in 2010 as a portable station using a kite antenna. It was a lot of fun and the video has been quite popular. This year I wanted to operate for the full length of the contest, not just for a few hours. I also wanted to operate as a portable station and this meant using low power (QRP). Luckily the contest has a QRP category so I would not need to compete with much bigger stations using beams and high power. Going portable has three advantages: (1) away from city noise; (2) have space for 160m antenna; (3) can qualify a national park for WWFF.

Wyrrabalong National Park map

Wyrrabalong National Park map showing north and south sections

Location

The criteria for the location was based on: (1) must be in a national park; (2) have reasonable car access; (3) near a body of water; (4) room for antennas; (5) clear RF takeoff in all directions; (6) away from RF noise sources; (7) 24hr availability. Most of the criteria for a location can be assessed beforehand by studying internet sites. For this exercise I looked at national parks on the Central Coast of NSW and drew up a short list of possibilities within the Wyrrabalong National Park VKFF-0550. The park is coastal and divided into a large northern section and a smaller southern section. The northern section is virtually at sea level with the ocean to the east and a lake to the west. It is bisected by the Central Coast Highway running north-south. A road off the highway provides access to the park and the beach. Unfortunately the road is gated and closed at night, but I added it to my short list anyway. There did not appear to be any other accessible locations in the northern section of the park.

The southern section of the park was much more familiar as I had done the coastal walk many times. This section has ocean to the east and housing to the west and consists of a long narrow strip. The prominent features are the Crackneck Lookout providing stunning ocean views and a favourite for hang-gliders, and the Wyrrabalong TV translator tower on the southern end of the coastal walk. Of these only the Lookout is suitable. Another location was also found half way along the coastal walk next to some water tanks with access from a nearby suburban street.

Southern section of Wyrrabalong NP showing operating point

Southern section of Wyrrabalong NP

Scoping It Out

On the Saturday of the contest I packed the car and set off for the northern section of the Wyrrabalong National Park at about 3pm. The goal was to reach the location by 5pm and set up in time to start contesting at 6pm. Most of the drive was along the Sydney-Newcastle freeway then head head east through Budgewoi then south through Norah Head to the park. Upon turning off the Central Coast Highway there was a large gate into the park and a sign showing the opening hours. I checked out the carpark at the end of the road and decided that it was not that suitable. Probably the best spot would be on the beach.

Left the northern section and drove through The Entrance township to Crackneck Lookout in the southern section of the park. On the approach road there was a wedding entourage and photographer actually on the road. Proceeding on and just before the lookout there was a gate – one that I had not seen before. Seems the lookout carpark now has restricted hours which seemed odd. The views from there at night are pretty nice. As a consolation, two car spaces have been provided just before the gate about 100m down the road. After a quick scout around and a gawk at the stretch limousine I decided the spot wasn’t as suitable as I was expecting.

Now down to the third option I drove back through the gate and around to the closest road to the water tanks. The road to actually get near the water tanks is gated too but intended to be used by pedestrians to access the coastal walk. The walking distance to the park is about 200m. The area around the tanks has been cleared and was within the national park according to the GPS.  I decided this would be a good spot to operate from though I was unsure how much electrical noise would emanate from near the tanks and the nearby houses. The nearest power lines were 50m away. Maidenhead locator: QF56RO.

Shack at Wyrrabalong National Park

Operating chair and tent at Wyrrabalong National Park

Setup

Getting the gear to the site took three trips and then I set up the ZS6BKW antenna on the 9m squid pole with the wire oriented north-south. Next was the double-sized ZS6BKW which was awkward to set up due to the available cleared space. There was little undergrowth as the park had been burnt out recently, but there were still quite tall trees. It took some time to weave the antenna wire through and over these. I used my 10m travel mast leaving the top sections unused, and there was a pronounced bend in the mast due to the load. One antenna crossed the other one but only at about 30 degrees. They were almost parallel. A ground sheet was put down and then an operating chair which would serve as the shack for the evening. Then the KX3 and computer were installed. The chair has a small side table useful for putting things down when not seated in the chair.

Operating chair and tent at Wyrrabalong NP

Operating tent at Wyrrabalong NP

Contesting

By 6:20pm I was on the air but it was getting dark so I used a headlamp to see what I was doing, especially with the computer. The bands were all very much alive. I started on 40m by hunting and pecking my way up and down the band. After half an hour there were a bunch of VKs and a couple of ZLs in the log. Then to 15m for a couple of JAs then 20m for more JAs and a US station. My 5 Watts was cutting through though not to every caller – some of them completely ignored me. Then to 160m and even though it was still early, 2 contacts were made and then to the 80m DX window for 2 more including a ZL. Back to 40m and it was definitely the busiest band and some new stations were calling. Continued to cycle through the bands calling all I could hear that i hadn’t already worked. Occasionally I would put out some CQ calls and was sometimes rewarded with a call.

After a few hours it started to cool down quite a bit and the wind was a little cool. It was time for more shelter so I started to set up the tent. I had a new “mosquito” tent so had not put it together before. The instructions consisted of a series of numbered pictures printed on a tag attached to the tent bag. By a process of trial and error the tent was set up in about 15 minutes then the radio gear was moved inside. I could continue contesting in more comfort though I was squatting instead of sitting. I managed to work Indonesia, PNG and more US stations. VK2IM who lives nearby was worked too. His signal was so strong on 20m that the KX3 automatically switched off its preamp as a protective measure. Later it was found that he was line of sight and only 6.5km away running a linear amp and a beam. It normally takes a very strong local signal for the radio to react in this way – impressive!

Two antennas at sunrise in Wyrrabalong NP

Two antennas at sunrise in Wyrrabalong NP

Some more hours of contesting and contacts had slowed down to a snail’s pace. After an hour making no contacts I decided at 1am to close down for the night. A trip to the car was made to recharge one of the 4200 mAh LiFe batteries that had been powering the computer after its own internal battery went flat after 4 or 5 hours. The radio was still running fine on its battery of the same capacity and did not need charging. Only one battery can be charged at a time. Returned to the tent for some much needed sleep.

Morning

Arose just before dawn, took some photos and retrieved the battery from the car. By 6am I was back on the radio though with the changeover to daylight savings time, this was now known as 7am. 40m was running well and I made many contacts. After 2 hours I tried 10m and 15m and made a few DX contacts with Japan, Indonesia and Russia. This was great because contacts had now been made on all the bands available in the contest. From 10:30am to 11:30am there was a spate of SOTA activations, all on 40m. Some were CW so were not logged as contest contacts and instead recorded in the regular portable logbook. At midday the KX3 was shutting down when PTT was pressed. It was time for a run to the car to charge the battery powering the radio which had dropped to 8 volts. It looked to be bulging a bit too – oops. The charger accepted the battery and started to charge it without complaining about the voltage.

Shack inside the operating tent in Wyrrabalong NP

Shack inside the operating tent in Wyrrabalong NP

Afternoon

The break gave me an excuse to have something to eat as breakfast had pretty much been skipped. Returned to the airways at 12:45pm and set up the voice keyer on the radio to put out calls while munching away. I started to call on 7.144 which is a popular frequency for World Wide Flora and Fauna activations. There were some responses but not from the usual VKFF hunters and I could not self-spot under the contest rules. 40m and to a lesser extent 20m were the bands I was able to make contacts during the afternoon. Occasionally another SOTA station would come up and I would chase them. The most notable was Takeshi JS1UEH on 15m CW.

The weather got quite hot in the afternoon and peaked at 34 degrees in the shade. I was glad to have the tent for protection from the sun. The wind kicked up too and was nearly at the point of blowing things away like the chair sitting outside the tent. During the afternoon I noticed that the UTC time and time to contest end was advanced by one hour. The clock on the computer was showing the correct daylight savings time. I decided to continue on and fix it up later. At about 5pm the long path to EU opened on 20m and many contacts were made. This dried up by 6pm and it was back to 40m. At 6pm the logger reported end of contest, but there was still an hour to go. I set the clock on the computer back by an hour and this fixed the problem. With only one hour left and darkness approaching I started to pack up and just left the voice keyer calling on 40m. The 160m antenna was pulled down first as it would not been needed at all and would take some time to roll up. Responses to calls were very infrequent by 6:30pm so the main activity was packing up the tent. QRT happened at 6:45pm, 15 minutes before the contest end and it took another 20 minutes to collect everything and transport it to the car over multiple trips. The timing worked out well with sunset at 7pm, the same as the contest end time and no need to use lights.

Path to local station VK2IM

Path to local station VK2IM

Log Processing

After the contest the log needed to be massaged and submitted. Entries in the log after the changeover to daylight savings had to be manually edited to take off an hour except for the last few contacts after 6pm (0700z). There was no easy way to do this other than manually. The author was contacted and could not shed any light on why the UTC time was incorrect after the switch to AEDST. Cabrillo format can be generated by the software and directly emailed to the contest manager. ADI format can be generated as well and after some editing to include National Park information, callsigns, locator, etc, the log can be imported into my station log running in Log4OM. When logging I always put in the exact frequency in the comment field. This must be extracted and put into the frequency field, and any SOTA or WWFF reference must be extracted from the comment field and new fields created for those. After importing the contest log, the non-contest QSOs can be added manually in Log4OM. Then the log is exported in ADI format for submission to WWFF to claim the national park activation. SOTA chaser contacts are also exported in CSV format and submitted to the SOTA database. There is also upload to eQSL as well, and it is all handled through Log4OM.

Contest contact and multiplier accumulation over time

Contest contact and multiplier accumulation over time

Statistics

The chart on the right shows for each hour the number of contacts made in red and the number of multipliers made in green. Contest contacts made per band are summarised below:

Band   QSOs Mult  Pts  Inv 
160 m    6    3   120   0 
 80 m   12    7   120   0 
 40 m   92   15   460   0 
 20 m   36   31    35   1 
 15 m   13   12    26   0 
 10 m    6    4    18   0 
 
 QSOs/Multiplier:   2.3

Highlights

At the end of the contest I had logged 165 stations plus another 15 non-contest stations (5 CW). I had worked 3 other national parks and 23 SOTA stations. All this using 5W except for the JS1UEH on 15m using 10W. Contacts were made on all 6 bands from 160m to 10m. Local station VK2IM was worked on 5 bands – all but 160m.

As a QRP station I found making contacts to be a very active process of chasing up and down the bands looking for callers and also switching bands regularly. Its not enough to just call away on one frequency and continuously log contacts like the high power stations do. I found myself calling CQ only a small percentage of the time. Often a higher powered deaf station would take over the frequency so one would be forced to QSY. However, this can happen regardless of output power.

It’ll be interesting to see how my contest score compares to other QRP stations.

Thanks to all contest stations and hunters. Great to get you in the log!

151004WyrrabalongContactMap

Map of contacts made from Wyrrabalong NP VKFF-0550

Equipment

  • Elecraft KX3 transceiver
  • Computer headset/microphone
  • Two LiFePO4 4200 mAh batteries
  • 7200 mAh SLA battery
  • Hi-Mound MK-706 CW paddle
  • Lenovo S10-3 netbook computer
  • VK Contest Log (VKCL) v3.12a software
  • ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (28m long) on 9m mast
  • Double size ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (56m long) on 9m travel mast
  • Headlamp
  • Turnigy Accucell 6 charger