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.
The documentation was cleared during January 2013 by the SOTA management team after some amendments and updates. VK1 was then given a start date of 1st February.
To make the day memorable we encouraged VK1 activations via email lists and a presentation at the local club a week earlier. We asked chasers to tune in and help us get our required contacts. Activations at 0000 UTC were by Andrew VK1NAM at Booroomba Rocks, Matt VK1MA at Mt Stromlo, Russell VK1JRM at Tuggeranong Hill and by me at Mt Taylor. I logged 20 contacts on a combination of 7 MHz SSB and 146.5 MHz FM. Later in the day Ian VK1DI walked up Mt Majura and activated successfully with VK3 and VK5 contacts.
There are a few possible approaches to climbing Mt Taylor. The route I chose was from Sulwood Drive, Kambah. This route may be a little longer than the Pearce or Chifley approaches. Parking on Sulwood drive near the intersection with Manheim St, the walking path is easy to find and leads up a steady rocky path, which eventually becomes a bitumen sealed path, gives way to compressed gravel, some concrete in places and some wooden framed steps in other parts of the trip.
On arrival at the summit, the squid pole was extended and the central feedpoint of the 40m dipole was attached to it using cord. The ends of the dipole insulated by several metres of cord are attached to tent pegs hammered into the ground. A stone could be used as a hammer but I took a rubber mallet for this purpose.
The FT817 was powered by a 2.1 AH SLA Battery. Note the miniature morse paddle, purchased as a kit at Dayton Hamvention in 2010. This paddle is nice but too light so it needs to be held with one hand while you send with the other. Attaching it to a lump of heavy metal (not a Metallica album) would solve the problem but also add to the weight in the backpack (see below).
Signals on 40m were very good. Easy contacts were made around VK1 and with VK3 stations, including some SOTA activators on summits in VK3.
After liaising with Bruce VK1HBB on 2m we also made contact on 7090 where we had our first SOTA contact for VK1. After that the fun began and at times three frequencies were in use on 40m, while on 146.5 FM the Icom radio chattered away with a continuous series of contacts between VK1HBB, VK1FPIT and VK1FTAY who were portable at Mt Ainslie, VK1NAM at Booroomba Rocks, VK1MA at Mt Stromlo, VK1JRM at Mt Tuggeranong, VK1DR, VK1SV and VK1DI.
On HF I did call cq on CW at one stage but activity on CW during week days is rather low. This must be why my signal was discovered by an automatic skimmer run by Lyle VK1LW, whose station logged my CQ call and that ended up on SOTAWATCH as a spot.
Everyone involved seems to have enjoyed the day. A field day with a difference. Several operators took leave from work to activate on this day and we appreciated also the efforts of VK3 and VK5 activators and chasers who turned up on time to give us contacts and get these new SOTA summits into their chaser logs. No doubt from this point on we will gain new activators and chasers as familiarity with the award increases.
I would like to use more bands for these events. Some activators are routinely making CW contacts into Europe and the USA, some are making some ssb contacts, using 20m and 15m bands.
I underestimated the amount of equipment I would be trying to stuff into my ordinary backpack, and how much it weighed when I did! And that was a single band wire antenna, and a 2m handheld with its own flexible antenna. Carrying a real 2m antenna would add more complexity and weight. The SOTABEAMS enterprise in the UK offers readily assembled beams for various bands. For HF, some operators like horizontal antennas, both centre fed and end fed. Some like verticals. Your mileage does vary depending on what you are trying to do. The verticals would surely be better for DX contacts.
On the way down Mt Taylor I noticed a panoramic map installed by our friendly local government, showing the features of the Tuggeranong Valley and naming the mountains in the distance and on the horizon. Some of these will be familiar to readers, and some will be more familiar in a year’s time as many of the names seen here are SOTA summits.
The prominent mountain behind the town centre is Mt Tennent, named after a bushranger. The fable is that he buried treasure of some kind up there before being captured.
Picture taken two days earlier without the mist was a lot clearer.
The SOTA registration for VK1 has been submitted to the SOTA Management Team (MT) and is under consideration and review with them. The hope is to have SOTA-VK1 operating by the end of summer. There are a number of keen operators wanting to participate in SOTA in VK1.
For VK2 I have agreed to coordinate surveys for the summits in VK2. Jack VK2AXL has surveyed almost 90 summits in the mid north coast area (Coffs Hbr and southwards) and Wayne VK3WAM has surveyed summits in the Snowy Mts area. Ian VK1DI has documented some summits in the south coast region from the border northwards to Narooma. Software has been written by Brenton Schulz VK2MEV to identify potential summits and this should make the process a lot faster.
For anyone interested in SOTA and wanting to connect with others, there is a Yahoo group for SOTA in Australia. The link is http://au.groups.yahoo.com/group/SOTA_Australia and you don’t need to have a yahoo id to join the mailing list, but it is recommended as it lets you look at shared files, photos and a database showing progress towards documenting summits.
The VK3 section of Summits On The Air, having been launched in February 2012, is gaining momentum with several activators carrying their portable stations up to various mountain tops in Victoria and handing out contacts for an hour or so, even in winter.
As this programme is still in the planning stages for VK1 and VK2, I have so far only been able to participate as a home station, or “chaser” as SOTA jargon has it.
There is a Yahoo Group you can join to receive emails from group members on activations happening. The group URL is http://au.groups.yahoo.com/group/SOTA_Australia and apart from the email list services, this provides a place for documents, files and photos from members. There were just over 50 members of this group on 1 July 2012.
SOTA originated in the UK and more details can be found here.
See current spots (SOTA stations heard and worked) at sotawatch.org and register to post your contacts in the log at SOTADATA. These allow you to build points towards awards and also provide confirmation of activators’ contacts.
As I write this Alan VK3HRA is en route to VK3/VN-016 aka Mt Alexander in the northern zone of VK3. If I’m at home at 0900 (local time) I will look for him around 7090 and give him a contact.
A few VK1s are interested in getting the VK1 association going and some work identifying summits has been done already by Wayne Vk3WAM. Wayne is speaking about the SOTA program at Gippstech 2012.
Amateur Radio, Computing and other activities of Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH