Tuesday, 3 October 2017

WWFF VKFF Hunter 475 Honour Roll Award

Noticed on the WWFF logsearch page I'd managed to get confirmed contacts with over 475 VKFF parks, so applied for the award.

Received promptly from the VKFF awards manager, Paul, VK5PAS.


Friday, 29 September 2017

SOTA Rileys Mountain VK2/SY-002

After doing some walking in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney, wanted to do one more SOTA activation on the way home to Canberra, so drove to the start of the walk to Rileys Mountain VK2/SY-002. This is only the 2nd summit of 2 in the SY - Sydney Region, a new region for me to activate.

This is reached via Mulgoa Road, then following Fairlight Rd to the end to a car park for the walk. The track and summit is in Blue Mountains National Park, which is also WWFF park VKFF-0041.



Sign for Rileys Mountain walk


Walked along the track for 2.4 Km. Fairly easy dirt track walk, if a little warm as the day was around 25 c. After about a 20 minute walk reached a track on the left to Rileys Mountain Lookout


A short walk later reached Rileys Mountain Lookout. Spectacular views over the Nepean River. View to the South.


View to the North. Think it is Penrith in the distance.


The Nepean River about 200 m below.


The dot is a small power boat. Zoomed in on my camera.


Quite rocky and scrubby at the lookout so would have been tricky to put up the dipole there. Returned to the lookout track turnoff and used the sign for squid pole support, strung out the dipole legs up and down the road.


Shack on the tarp.


Started with a S2S on 40 m SSB with Glen VK3YY/p on VK3/VC-016 Mt Beenak. Then worked Nick VK3ANL/p activating a WWFF park, VKFF-2103.

Went on to work some of the regular SOTA/park hunters. Tony, VK3CAT, Col VK3LED, Steve VK7CW. Peter VK3GQ, Nev VK5WG, Peter VK3PF, John VK4TJ, Adam VK2YK. Allen VK3ARH/m. Rick VK4RF/HA, Gerard VK2IO.

Finally before packing up another park to park with Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-1947 Kattang Nature Reserve near Port Macquarie. He was a very strong signal and was receiving my 5W signal strong too.

Track log of walk.







Wednesday, 27 September 2017

SOTA Mt Tomah VK2/CT-043

After activating Mount Banks VK2/CT-032 continued along Bells Line of Road to Mt Tomah. Turned off onto Rainbow Ravine Rd and Charleys Rd, reaching the summit, a communications tower.


From reading other activators logs I didn't even try setting up here, there is apparently heavy QRM from the tower... just wanted to take a look.

Drove back to the picnic area at the junction of Bells Line of Road and Rainbow Ravine Road. Gerard VK2IO had operated here in his blog. This is still within the summit activation zone. I set up in the same spot and has S8 of noise all over 40 m :(

Packed up and drove a bit up Rainbow Ravine Rd. Just down from the rural fire station hall found a patch of scrub with a sapling suitable for squid pole support. The fire station hall can be seen. Apparently the hall is also another noisy site... Was still in the activation zone here.


Looking back down the hill.



SOTA shack on the tarp. Quite pleasant in the semi shade.


Got on 40 m. Still about an S1 of noise but considerably easier listening to the picnic ground nearby.

Worked the following stations. VK3PF Peter, VK2WRL/p Ben, VK3IQ , VK2IO Gerard.

Got called by VK3MCD/p Brian on VK3/VE-105 Mt Big Ben for a S2S.

Packed up and headed back to Katoomba.


SOTA Mount Banks VK2/CT-032

I'd taken a week off work to do some walking in the Blue Mountains National Park, to the West of Sydney. Booked into a Motel in Katoomba.

As part of my walks decided to try activating a SOTA summit, Mount Banks, VK2/CT-032. From Katoomba drove to Mount Victoria, turning off to a sign to the village of Bell, on Darling Causeway. Later at Bell turned off onto Bells Line of Road. Followed this until turning off onto Mount Banks Road. Followed this dirt road to the end, with a picnic ground and a sign for the start of the walks.


There are 2 ways to climb Mount Banks. The road on the left passes Mount Banks then you take a track back to the summit, the track on the right is steeper, but goes more directly to the top. I chose the shorter steeper route.

Once you climb out of the car park valley Mount Banks is visible ahead.


Some good views here. Looking back to the right.


Another small rise before the final ascent.


Approaching the summit. The track continues to the left and once you enter the treeline there is not much of a view.


Just before the top you reach the junction with the track coming in from the road walk.


Mount Banks trig. Quite impressive with a large concrete base.


Name plate on the trig, King George.



Strung out the 20m/40m linked dipole, also as there was plenty of room my full size 80m dipole in a fan configuration.


Set up the shack on the trig concrete base. My FT817. Mobile reception good here on Telstra, able to spot myself okay.


Started on 80 m. Only 1 contact, Gerard VK2IO in nearby Sydney. He had problems with a local noise. I did get Phil VK2JPL/p on Mt Canobolas call me but he couldn't hear me.

Went to 40 m. Conditions a lot better, made a S2S with Phil VK2JPL/p on VK2/CT-001 Mt Canobolas, not that far away.

Went on to work VK3PF Peter, VK2FADV Jim, VK4RF/VK4HA Rick, and Gerard VK2IO again with a good signal.

VK4HNS Neil called me, VK2YK Adam with a strong signal, VK4YJ John and VK3MRH Ron. As conditions poor in the afternoon packed up and headed down.

Note the summit was in the Blue Mountains National Park, WWFF reference VKFF-0041.


Track log of walk


Graph of walk. About a 1.2 Km walk with a 200 m climb





Saturday, 9 September 2017

WWFF Queanbeyan Nature Reserve VKFF-1988

Following the publishing of CAPAD 2016 a whole lot of new WWFF Nature parks were added to New South Wales, including several close to the ACT by the VKFF manager Paul, VK5PAS. Decided to try activating one of these, VKFF-1988 Queanbeyan Nature Reserve. This has not been activated before.

After studying the park in Google Maps and Street View there seemed to be just one public entrance, a gate off Hoover Road in Queanbeyan. Drove there and parked nearby. The gate is locked but there was a gap on the left for walkers.


Headed through the gap into the park. A sign for the park, access for walkers only.


After the sign the road continued into the nature reserve. As mainly open grassland no suitable trees to use for the squid pole, so used the sign as a squid pole support and set up next to it. Dipole legs tied to the nearby fence.


Operating spot on a map of the park. Map from the Protected Planet website. The park is against the Eastern edge of the ACT border.


Operating shack on my camping table. Used my IC-7300 powered by a LifePO4 4300 maH battery. Kept the power to around 20w, but did use around 40w later as conditions were not good today.


Started by trying a park to park contact with Bill, VK4FW/p in VKFF-0485 The Palms National Park. I could hear him okay but he couldn't hear me, even using higher power. He was struggling to work other chasers, including some park activators in VK3, who I couldn't hear at all.

There was a solar disturbance which had knocked out all the close by NVIS propagation on 40m. Anyway tried spotting and calling, got Brett VK2VW in Northern NSW. He had trouble coping me but made it with a 35 report.

Continued working some of the regular chasers. VK3GGG/VK3PMG, VK2YK, VK7DW, VK5PAS/VK5FMAZ and VK5PL.

Saw a spot for John VK7JON/p in VKFF-1804 Forth Falls State Reserve. Got him on a 52 report, he usually booms in, so conditions were well down.

Went on to work VK5KLV, VK2FSAV, and my regular chaser Rick VK4RF/VK4HA.

Got a mobile call from Peter, VK3PF activating a park in VK3, who said he couldn't hear me on 40m and could I try 80m. I agreed to give it a go and strung out the 80m dipole, but no luck hearing him, and no calls to my CQs on 80m.

After my poor results on 40m and 80m switched to 20m. I could hear some VK4s and ZL stations chatting away but no replies to my spotting and calling.

As obviously a poor day for playing portable radio gave it away after 13 contacts. At least this park is not too far from home so can return to try and get the remaining contacts for the 44 required for WWFF.


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

New FT8 digital mode

I haven't been on air much lately due to poor HF band conditions, so thought I'd get on air using  digital mode, as this will get through when bands are not too good. After reading some blogs decided to try the new digital mode, FT8. This is a lot faster to use compared to JT65, instead of waiting 60 seconds per over it transmits an over in 15 seconds. This makes it good for modes such as sporadic e where there is rapid QSB. The downside to overs speed is a drop in sensitivity, only able to decode down to around -20db, but this is good enough for contacts.

The software is still in beta and can be downloaded from Joe Taylor K1JTs website at https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html It was v1.8.0-rc1 when I downloaded it.

Install was fairly easy. I needed to update JTAlert as well to the latest version, and also edit a couple of config files in my logging program Log4OM to include this new mode.

I started on 80m, as this is fairly quiet and not much range, mainly around VK, so wouldn't make a spectacle of myself testing it out. Note the FT8 working frequencies are 2 Khz down from the JT65 working frequencies. The software tunes to this for you.

Spotted a CQ call by VK4AAN, Alan in Stanthorpe. He was strong, -01 so gave him a call, by clicking on his spot on the waterfall and waiting for his CQ to end and hitting the Enable TX button.

Once he answered my call the software takes over and controls the QSO. Usual swapping of reports, RRR and 73s exchanged. This was a strange experience, a computer controlled QSO!
Screenshot of the QSO



I checked after on PSKReporter, he was the only station to hear me. There is not much digital activity on 80m as most hams tend to head to 40m for DX. A pity as it can be a good DX band, opening up to the USA later in the evening here.


As a bit more confident I changed to the main evening DX band, 40m. Plenty of signals on here from VK, Asia and the USA. Tried a call to N6QQ John in CA. It took a few goes to get heard above other USA stations calling him as well, but eventually he came back to me Screenshot of the QSO


Checked PSK reporter, seemed to be getting out okay to several parts of the USA. Running around 30w from my IC-7300.


FT8 contacts logged to eQSL okay. LOTW is still to be updated, so will wait for this new mode to be added in before uploading.

A fun mode that will be good when bands are poor... Could even be used for SOTA or parks activations with the right location and equipment. Would need a laptop with time sync to an internet connection.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

VKFF Hunter 450 Parks, Activator Sapphire 75 and Murray River Parks 30 Awards

After working over 450 World Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) Australian VKFF park references was able to apply for the VKFF 450 parks VKFF Hunter award (Honour roll)

Received promptly from the VKFF awards manager Paul VK5PAS


Also following my portable activations of 2 new parks recently down the NSW South Coast reached 75 park activations with 10 or more contacts. Therefore able to apply for the VKFF Sapphire award.


Lastly, managed to work 30 park references listed in the Murray River Parks Award, and able to apply for the next award level.

The next level is to work all the Murray River parks, this won't be easy...