On Sunday 6th October I activated VK2/ST-001 which is the site of a weather radar installation owned by the Bureau of Meterology.
The previous activators from Canberra had provided plenty of good information about how to get there and what to expect when I arrived. See VK1NAM’s blog and VK1DI’s blog for those details.
The Cowangerong Track off the Captains Flat road was littered with stones, rocks, dirt etc, due to recent road treatment by the machine parked on the side of the road a few hundred metres in. It is about 10 mins drive to the mountain from the Capt Flat road. I drove right up to the peak and turned back down to be sure of being outside the activation zone. This took me almost all the way back to the Cowangerong Track.
It was a few minutes walk back up the slope to the summit, where the compound surrounds a few buildings and the weather radar tower.
I first setup in the clearing to the south of the compound but after listening to 7 mhz and having one contact with the background noise at s7 I decided to spend a bit more time and move my whole station further away from the compound, going about 20m into the forest roughly south of the compound.
And after 0000 UTC, VK3CAT, VK2JI (30m) VK7NWT VK5LA VK5PAS VK3AFW VK3UP VK1DI VK3PF VK1MA/2 VK3FPSR VK3UBY VK3MRG and VK1NAM mobile in vk3.
Duration of operation from first contact to last was about 2 hours 30mins less the 20mins while moving the station away from the noise. This operation was completely done using a 3S LIPO battery, which was 12.4v at the start of the operation and was 11.4v at the end. The two SLABs I took were not needed. The ATU ran off the LIPO too, for the few seconds of power it requires when changing bands and resetting.
Delayed by work, I did not have enough time to walk up the mountain from the base so I settled on a walk from the parking area and lookout that is 2/3 the way up the mountain. The road to the summit from that area still requires 40 to 50m of climb, satisfying the 25m activation zone rule.
The summit path from the parking area has some decorative fallen logs over it.
Some views of the Canberra CBD buildings through gaps in the trees.
At the top I passed the tower building and the car park and found a suitable location where I could put up the antenna and sit on a rock to operate the radio.
The 40m band was very active with many signals from Australia, New Zealand and some US and Canadians heard working VKs. I made 10 contacts on 40m band using ssb (voice) and two on 20m using CW (morse), one of which was to Germany.
The Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club received authorisation to use the callsign Vi100ACT during the month of March 2013, to recognise the Canberra Centenary. I volunteered to coordinate the roster of members who were keen to use the callsign during the month and rostered myself on for the 40m, 20m and 2m bands on the evening of 1 March when I would be activating Mt Ainslie as a SOTA station.
For this activation I set up the 20m dipole as well as the 40m dipole. I made about 15 contacts on 40m including VK1/2/3/4/5/7, ZL2 and FK8. A few contacts were made on 2m FM, then I moved to 20m and self spotted on sotawatch.org to announce that I was calling on 14.061 CW. I then worked 8 contacts into England, Germany, Austria and France (G, DL, OE and F) with reports varying from 339 (weak) to 559 (fair). This seemed a fair result for the first use of the 20m dipole, not yet optimised for length or angle. The power output of the FT817 is 5 watts.
The two dipoles shared a common feedpoint at the top of the squid pole support, and the dipoles were strung out in roughly the same plane, the longer one at the top and the shorter one below it. No impact on the 40m antenna behaviour was apparent. The SWR on 20m was not ideal as there was some reflected power indicated on the 817 meter.
The Vi100ACT callsign is to be used on various bands by different club members during the month of March 2013. The official centenary of Canberra’s founding/naming ceremony is on the 12th of March.
This activation was on Friday evening after work, similar timing to the Majura exercise a week earlier. The climb was not as long but had some slippery rocky sections.
I had forgotten to put the 2m hand held radio back into my backpack so I used the FT817 on 2m FM for some local contacts, including two other SOTA summits. On 40m the conditions were quite good yielding 18 contacts into south eastern states of Australia and one to New Zealand (VK1, 2, 3, 5 and ZL2). All on SSB with 5 watts to the dipole supported by the squid pole at the feedpoint, coaxial cable running down the squid pole to the radio. Powered by the 2.1 AH SLA battery.
Stayed talking on 40m too long, did not pack up till about 20:30 and it was quite dark when I got back to the car around 20:45 local time. This would be ok at a site with a decent path but the rocky slippery road is not a good one to descend in the dark, even with light from a torch.
As planned I operated in this relaxed event tonight, for a couple of hours.
I decided to use my IC703, partly because it has a CW filter and I know how useful that is even in a quiet cw contest. (I should get one for my FT817). The other advantage the IC703 has over the FT817 is that it has a speech compressor which improves the average power output on SSB. But as a test and a self imposed handicap I decided to cut the IC703 power level down from its nominal 10 watts to 2 watts for this event.
First an hour on CW, where I made 11 contacts. As you can tell this is not a hard paced, highly pressured event.
Then an hour on SSB where I made 17 contacts, a few more than I did last year. I recognised some of the callsigns from last year and also made contacts with friends such as Mike VK2IG, Murray VK1MDP, Waldis VK1WJ and Peter Vk3YE.
I don’t think running 2 watts instead of 5 or 10 made any difference to the number of contacts made. While 10 watts is 5 times higher, which translates to 7 decibels, 80m generally provides good propagation and there is more than enough “head room” in the available signal levels for QRP signals to be easily readable. 80m can be a noisy band on SSB especially late at night. There was some electrical storm noise but it wasn’t too bad. Another time those 7db might have been quite important.
A few interstate stations gave me good signal strength reports so the old 80m dipole at 6 metres above ground was doing its usual job.
The low dipole isn’t any use for dx though. I have heard some US and JA signals on the CW end of the band but even the strong ones rarely even return a QRZ? to my call. Have to get a decent vertical going on that band to work dx.
This is a short contest for QRP operators. It runs for one hour on CW mode, then 1 hour on SSB. A truly easy contest to participate in. All licence classes can participate as QRP (low power) or their ordinary power. The contest was sponsored by the CW operators QRP club.
I wasn’t sure I would have an opportunity to operate in this contest but at about 6:30pm on Saturday 2nd April I decided I should put up an 80m antenna and have a go. At 6:40 I had identified a two section telomast and was measuring out some guy ropes for it. Having found some stakes, guying ring and found the wire antenna cross-boom with the attached halyards and pulleys, I was able to assemble the mast, attach the cross-boom, lay out the guy ropes and do a trial setup to get the guys set to the right lengths. Once that was done I hammered in three stakes and attached the guy ropes to two of them. Walking the mast up to vertical showed I had set one guy at an impossibly long length so it all had to come down. Next time was ok so I could walk the third guy out to the stake and tie it off. One 20 ft feedpoint suspender ready for action. Time about 7:15.
I had a 80/40m dipole assembly last used two years ago at a rental property in Canberra. I attached the centre conductor to one of the halyards and hauled it up to the dizzy 20ft height of the mast. Then I attached some light cords to the antenna ends and tied it to the fence at one end, and to some ground stakes at the other end of both dipole wires. This work was completed in the dark as the sun set at about 6pm local time.
The two dipoles are joined at the centre. This works because the 80m antenna is a very high impedance on 40m, so is virtually “not there at all”. The 40m dipole detunes the 80m one slightly but I went through the adjustment process with this antenna about 20 years ago and have simply rolled it up when I finished using it each time.
Then I got out the FT817 and found a suitable keyer cable, microphone, power supply. On 80m the dipole presented a 1:1 match on the CW end of the band so that was fine. On 3690 it was about 1.3 but my Emtron tuner handled that mismatch with a fairly broad dip. The time now was about 19:45 local and the contest started in 15 minutes, or so I thought.
At 20:00 local time I heard a station calling CQ TEST so I answered, received a number, gave a number, signed off. Good start to the contest, I thought. Then I called CQ TEST myself. No replies. Tuning around showed nil activity. Called CQ again. This time I got a reply from an operator who kindly advised me that the contest was not due to start until 2100 local time. I opened up the computer and checked the contest rules. Start time 1000 UTC, which was 9pm local, but somehow I had reverted to non DST in my calculations due to daylight saving ending later that night. 1000 UTC was almost an hour away. So I had time for some dinner!
About 45 minutes later I went back to the radio and started the contest again at the right time. Signals were strong and most stations were in the vk2, 3 and 4 areas though there were some vk5, vk7 and ZL stations worked too at signal reports of 559 or so. I made 10 cw contacts in this hour. A slow contest compared with the DX contests but it was also quite relaxed and unrushed.
At 1100 UTC the SSB section commenced, operating between 3550 and 3590. Signals were very strong from some stations. Again a few names were exchanged as well as the contest numbers. 15 contacts on SSB, and I got the impression the antenna was working well, as mostly my replies were answered after only one call. Quite good for a 5 watt signal.
I have sent in my log and I don’t think this is the only QRP event I will operate in. This was a very enjoyable process and quite rewarding for the minimal effort required to get on the air. Next time: antenna up another 10 feet. And the ends should be higher too! Should be no problem. I might even do most of the work in the daylight next time.