Saturday, 27 August 2016

Aranda Bushland Nature Reserve VKFF-0833

With a nice sunny Saturday afternoon decided to activate a nearby WWFF park. I chose Aranda Bushland Nature Reserve VKFF-0833, as it is close by and only needed 9 contacts to complete for a WWFF activation point.

Last time I activated it walked up Aranda Hill, so for a change picked a spot off Bindubi Street, where there was an access gate off the road.

This gate is in the South West corner of the park, at the end of Old Weetangera Road, an old road from a time when Canberra was a group of sheep stations... Map courtesy of Openstreetmap

Note this is not very far away from Black Mountain, SOTA summit VK1/AC-042 and Telstra Tower. Walking a bit to the South I could see it quite well.

Set up the squid pole on the park sign, running one of the dipole legs out to the fence

The other leg to a nearby tree. The dipole cleared the road okay, did get some use by joggers, walkers and mountain bike riders.

Radio shack on the table, my TS-480SAT set to 40 W output.

Got on 40 m. The band was in good shape, nice to hear as has been poor conditions lately with nearby NVIS signals missing.

Started with a couple of park to park contacts, Ken VK2KYO/3 in VKFF-0620 Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP, and Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0627 Organ Pipes NP.

Got on 7.144 Mhz and got spotted, a steady stream of hunters followed.

Another couple of park to park contacts, Neil VK4HNS/p in VKFF-0702 Pidna NP, and Stuart VK5STU/p in VKFF-1739 Para Wirra Recreation Park.

After hunters dried up on 40 m briefly tried 20 m, but no contacts. Saw a spot on 40 m for John VK2AWJ/p in VKFF-0373 Murray-sunset NP, and made my 5th park to park contact.

Had made 26 contacts so qualified the park okay. Headed home for afternoon tea.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Clyde River National Park VKFF-0102

I'd driven down to Batemans Bay from Canberra on Friday night, spending the day there to escape Canberra winter for a while. The temperature in Canberra on Saturday was a maximum of 8 degrees, a nice sunny 17 degrees Celsius in Batemans Bay, a lot more pleasant :). I did need to return, so stopped for a quick activation of Clyde River National Park VKFF-0102 on the way home.

As per my last activation turned off the Kings Highway just to the North of Batemans Bay onto Rotary Drive, stopping at Holmes Lookout overlooking Batemans Bay

Set up the squid pole on one of the tables and tied the dipole legs to a couple of nearby trees.

Radio on the table. Used my FT-817 this time running 5 w.

Got on 40 m. This was the ILLW (International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend) so started by chasing a lighthouse station, VK3ATL/p activating Point Londsdale Lighthouse AU0028, with a good 59 signal.

Spotted myself on ParksnPeaks. Worked Hans VK5YX, Mike VK3GYH, Peter VK3PF, Geoff VK3SQ, Craig VK3WAR and Peter VK3TKK mobile in Melbourne.

No close by contacts such as VK1, NVIS propagation seemed to be missing, as has happened a lot lately :(

Contacts seemed to dry up after this, and still had a fair drive home, so packed up after 7 contacts. A nice spot though, plan to return to complete the 44 contacts needed for a WWFF point.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

WWFF Hunter 308 References Award

For the WWFF program, park hunters can claim awards every 44 references worked. I've now chased 44 x 7= 308 parks, so claimed the award on Logsearch. Received promptly from Pit YO3JW, WWFF Awards Manager.

Monday, 15 August 2016

WWFF VKFF Hunter 300 Honour Roll Award

I recently managed to work my 300th VKFF park, so applied for the VKFF Hunter Award (Honour Roll) 300 on Logsearch and received from the VKFF Awards Manager, Paul VK5PAS.

It features Nelson Falls, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in Tasmania.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Stony Creek Nature Reserve VKFF-0986

With a nice sunny Sunday afternoon decided to do another WWFF park activation. Chose a park where I still needed to make up the remaining contacts for the required 44, and returned to activate Stony Creek Nature Reserve which I had activated in November last year.

Entered via the rangers access gate off Brindabella Road as per my last activation.

Last November it was warm so set up in the shade, this time of year wanted to get in the sun... set up the squid pole on a small gum tree sapling in the middle of the cleared area just off the road. Bit of a lean on the pole but still a solid support. Dipole legs tied to some nearby saplings. A bit of a noisy location from traffic on the nearby road, seemed to be a race track for Sunday motor bike riders...

Park radio my TS-480, running 40 w off my 8400 mAH LifePO4 battery.

Got on 40 m. As usual grabbed any activators first for park to park contacts on 7.144 Mhz, getting Rob VK4AAC/3 in Wilsons Promontory National Park VKFF-0539, and Les VK5KLV/p in Winninowie CP VKFF-0820.

Followed this with another park to park contact with John VK6JON/7 in VKFF-1137 Gunn Plains Cave State Reserve VKFF-1137.

Spotted myself on 7.110 Mhz and started working the usual park chasers. Good signals from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK5.

Made another park to park contact with Roald VK1MTS/p on SOTA summit VK1/AC-040 Mt Ainslie, also in Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve VKFF-0850. He was using a recently constructed home brew radio, running just 2 W, and was S9 with me...

Saw a spot from Mike VK6MB on ParksnPeaks that he was not receiving me on 40 m, could I try 20 m, so switched the links to the 20 m band and spotted myself on 14.315 Mhz.

This was then I discovered the band was open to Europe :) Worked some of the regular EU chasers, Max IK1GPG, Marek SP3FHV, Slava RU3GB, and Luigi IK1QFN. A few more EU hunters, Luciano I5FLN, Hinko S52KM.

Also worked Mike VK6MB, some deep QSB but made it okay. Then the band seemed to close to EU... odd as only worked Southern and Eastern EU countries, nothing from France, Spain or Belgium stations, who are keen chasers.

Returned to 40 m and worked 3 more chasers, then another park to park with Stef VK5HSX/p in VKFF-1031 Fort Glanville Conservation Park.

Getting cold and dark so gave it away after 27 contacts. With the 20 contacts in November this put me over the 44 contacts needed for a WWFF point.

Stations worked on 40 m

1. VK5KLV/p Les in VKFF-0820
2. VK4AAC/3 Rob in VKFF-0539
3. VK6JON/7 John in VKFF-1137
4. VK3ARH Allen
5. VK4RF Rick
6. VK4HA Rick
7. VK3PMG Mick
8. VK3GGG Mick
9. VK1MTS/p Roald in VKFF-0850
10. VK3SQ Geoff
11. VK2KYO Ken
12. VK2LDN Glenn
13. VK3NCR/p Craig
14. VK2HHA Dennis
15. VK5PAS Paul

Stations worked on 20 m

1. IK1GPG Max
2. SP3FHV Marek
3. RU3GB Slava
4. IK1QFN Luigi
5. I5FLN Luciano
6. S52KM Hinko
7. VK6MB Mike

Stations worked on 40 m

1. VK5FANA Adrian
2. VK4JK Jay
3. VK3BSG Erik
4. VK3UCD David
5. VK5HSX/p Stef in VKFF-1031

Sunday, 7 August 2016

SOTA Yellow Rabbit Hill VK1/AC-039

Andrew VK1AD had organized the Annual VK1 Winter SOTA party, and I selected Yellow Rabbit Hill, VK1/AC-039 as I had not activated this summit this year.

Travelled via Cotter Road, Brindabella Road, turning off at Warks Road. Not far along the road noticed a new sign, proclaiming the area as Lower Cotter Catchment Reserve. This is to protect the water catchment of Cotter Dam from contamination.

Continued along Warks Road, turning right into Yellow Rabbit Road, which the summit is named after. Otherwise it is an unnamed hill on maps.

Turned off left onto a side road running around the Western edge of the hill, then took a minor track on the right, heading along and up the hill. Note the erosion gully at the start, needed to keep well left to get over this.

Otherwise the drive wasn't too bad, just a few minor bumps to go slowly over. Got level with the blocked off road that runs over the summit top. Parked opposite here, after continuing up and finding no-where to pull off the road, reversed and parked pointing down the hill. Not a lot of room to park but off the road here, not that this road would get much traffic anyway.

Hopped over the logs and reached the top of the hill, only about 150 m away. Set up the squid pole and radio on a handy log, and laid out the dipoles.

As well as my usual 20/40 m linked dipole, had a full size 80 m dipole that I had just made up the day before. An 80 dipole is long, very long! :) Bit of a walk each way to lay it out. One end of the dipole looking North. The squid pole is way in the distance... Had both antennas on in a fan configuration so could switch bands easily.

Looking back to the South from the other dipole leg.

SOTA Shack on the log.

Got on 80 m. Found the SWR wasn't that good, but wanted to grab a few activators first before investigating. Worked Andrew VK1AD/Tony VK1VIC on nearby Castle Hill VK1/AC-032, Matt VK1MA on Black Mountain VK1/AC-042, Gerard VK2IO on South Black Range VK2/ST-006 and Andrew VK1DA on Mt Ainslie VK1/AC-040. Had a break and examined the antenna, it wasn't the dipole, just a loose earth wire on the coax, so had been running on half an 80 m dipole! After fixing this signals were nice and strong. The dipole was resonant on 3.570 Mhz and fairly flat across the band. Managed to work Ron VK3AFW on VK3/VN-012, and a strong signal from home station Roald VK1MTS.

Switched to 40 m. NVIS signals missing so only able to work close by stations on ground wave and more distant stations. Worked Andrew VK2MWP on nearby Mt Stromlo, VK1/AC-043, VK5PAS Paul on VK5/SE-016, Andrew VK1MBE on VK2/ST-001, Paul VK1ATP/2 on VK2-ST-008.

Saw a spot for Brian VK3MCD on VK3/VE-006 Mt Hotham, so returned to 80 m and worked him with a 53 signal. Also Bernard VK2IB/3 on VK3/VE-165.

There was a spot on 20 m for Kyle ZL2KGF on ZL1/TN-006. My 20 m dipole didn't seem to load up too well, but managed to work him at a 52 signal.

Returned to 80 m, working Nick VK2AOH on VK2/CW-043, Mt Nangar, a first activation in Nangar National Park. Also another chaser, VK2AYM Bruce near Albury.

Returned to 40 m following a spot by Ian VK5CZ on VK5/NE-028.

At around noon started packing up and headed back down. An enjoyable lunch later in the afternoon with some of the other VK1 SOTA party operators.

80 m proved its worth taking along when the bands are not so good. Just need some space!

Friday, 5 August 2016

80 m daytime propagation

With poor propagation recently on 40 m there has been a move lately to activating SOTA and WWFF parks on 80 m during the day. I have wondered how well this might work as I have assumed the sun during the day increases D layer absorption and blocks lower frequency signals, yet I have worked stations on 80 m during the day.

Decided to test 80 m propagation by measuring the signal level of a constant transmitter, the VK2WI CW practice beacon in Dural Sydney. This transmits 24 hours on a frequency of 3.699 Mhz and provides a handy beacon about 250 Km away.

A search of the net found a suitable S meter logging program, S-Meter Lite by Greg W8WWV. This is freeware. On installing it found my Kenwood radio isn't supported... A bit more googling found a workaround, using N4PYs Pegasus software to get the S meter signal, feed this into a virtual crossover modem, made with another program called VSP Manager, and fed the output of the virtual modem into S Meter Lite. A confusing mess of virtual com ports that I eventually got working... :(

After sorting out the software side set up S-Meter Lite to log to a csv file, and collected S meter readings on the Dural 80 m CW beacon from just before sunrise at 6:55 am, past sunset at 5:24 pm, stopping the program at 9pm local time. Opened the CSV file up in Excel and created a chart.

Here is the result. I've marked sunrise and sunset.

I used some attenuation to help scale the signal. Note the low noise floor, S1, just before sunrise. Initially the Dural CW beacon was low, but shot up around sunrise around S6 to S7. So did the background noise, up to S3-S4... The signal came in quite well, with some QSB, eventually fading away into the noise around 12:30 pm, and returning around 3 pm. The signal continued to build, peaking a bit after sunset at 5:24 pm, dropping down around 7pm to a steady S4 to S5.

So you can use 80 m during the daytime for SOTA/WWFF activations, just avoid the afternoon!...

The CW beacon is not the most steady of signals, as it transmits CW at varying rates, making it hard to get a steady signal on the S Meter. Might be better to use a broadcast shortwave AM signal close to the 80 m band as a beacon instead, something to investigate.