1st VK summit to reach 1,000 QSO’s

After I activated Mt Gawler last Monday, I noted that the Sotawatch page was showing 971 QSO’s and 64 Activations.

Knowing this is a favourite local hill, I gathered up some contacts and got in touch with a few of the regular activators to see if they all wanted to get together on Saturday morning to push the QSO count up to over 1,000.

I had replies from VK5NIG  (36 Activations), VK5STU (7 activations),  VK5AKH (the first SOTA Activator of this summit) and myself VK5FO (7 Activations) and we all planned to meet and make it happen.

We all met near the trig point around 23:00UTC on the 29/08/2014 and we decided to set up 2 stations –  one on 20M and one on 40M.

I got on 40M and called and started working some of the regular VK Chasers.   Conditions were not that good and it was pretty hard going, but I did manage to gain 18 contacts in the log, including 1 S2S before UTC roll-over.

At the same time, Nigel and Stuart were calling on 20M and made a couple of contacts.

After roll-over, Nigel was calling and worked 5 or 6 more stations, then Stuart VK5STU called.  We were close to our target.  While we were doing a count of the contacts in the logs, Stuart worked VK3CAT S2S from VK3/VC-001 Mt Matlock for the 1,000th Contact from Mt Gawler.  Yes, around 00:10 on 30/08/2014 we achieved what I hoped we would.

After we made the milestone contact, Andy set up a 30M dipole and made a call and made 4 more contacts.

Conditions were not great, so we decided to call it a day, but not before a photo!

VK5_se-013-1kThe Team (L-R)  VK5FO Bob, VK5RR Ray, VK5AKH Andy (front) VK5STU Stuart and Mr Mt Gawler himself – VK5NIG Nigel.


This is a pretty big milestone event for SOTA in VK – as it is now officially the first VK summit to have 1,000 QSO’s.

We had awesome weather and made a great time of it, and we all look forward to working everyone from our local hill for the next 1K and beyond.  The next target we have our eyes on is to see if we can get into the top 50 list of most activated summits, but this might take some time!

It was such a nice day

.. And I slept in and missed something else I had planned, so I went out and Played radio instead.

A quick look on sotawatch and noted a few people out and about, so a quick dash up to Mt Gawler – VK5/SE-013 after I had a great time yesterday.  Arrived around 01:00 UTC and just had a bit of a listen around the bands for a couple of hours,

Finally, saw a spot for VK3HRA on VK3/VT-013 and jumped on for a S2S contact.  At this point the charsers realized I was about to I moved up 5khz and put out a call to work a steady stream of takers over the next 30-40 minutes.  A lot of regular chasers in there and another S2S with VK1NAM on VK1/AC-027

Worked a few more – for a total of 25 contacts from VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK5 stations, most on 40M , but gave a quick call on 20M before leaving for the last couple of contacts who could not hear me on 40 before heading home for a late lunch.

When we got home, I turned on and had a quick listen around the bands – only to be confronted by my usual S9+ on 40M and S7-9 on 20M noise.  Yep, Mt Gawler, only 10km away is a whole different experience.

After Lunch, made the rash decision to shoot up to Mt Lofty – VK5/SE-005 to see if we could work a bit of Europe on 20M if it was open.

And work Europe we did! Found a clear frequency – as 20M was quite busy – put out a call and self-spotted.  For the next 40 minutes worked 29 EU stations.  There were a whole lot more but really had a hard time pulling callsigns out of the pile-up at times!  It was 0710 to 0748 UTC, which was the last hour before sunset here.

I didn’t log who, but I did have 1 station say that I was their First VK SOTA summit, quite a few saying that it was a new summit for them as well.

The noise started coming up and a couple of strong stations who could not hear me came up on the frequency, but given the sun was just starting to go down, I called it quits on 20M and dropped the dipole and unwound it for 40M and pushed it back up.

Again, a single spot and a 10 minute mad dash on 40M and had another 13  calls from VK1,2,3 and 5’s in the log.

A quiet RF environment for RX, a 10W Radio and calling CQ sota when EU is open – Fun!  Today was the first day that I have really used the KX3 – and Yes, it is a great little radio for taking portable – a great RX and very easy to operate all-band, it might just be the perfect portable 🙂

Given that the days are starting to get longer, and Mt Gawler is a lot closer for me to get to, I can see me jumping up there maybe on a few week days and calling on 20M as well and seeing how that goes.

VK5/SE-013 is not Mt Nigel!

This morning, decided to give the New KX3 a go – given that I had finally got everything all together!

Should have taken a couple of photos, but hey, too busy working everyone today!

Of course, Mt GAWLER being only a 15 minute drive and a decent quiet HF location compared to home, it is my “go-to” location for portable operations.

Finally managed to get together my new lightweight 40M dipole wound up on some new winders cut from corro board.  So, with 1/2 of each dipole un-wound, a quick check on 20M and it was tuned pretty close – bumped the ATU and it locked right in.

Gave a call for about 15 minutes, but no replies, so switched over to 40M at 2341 and made a call – only to be flat out until the day rolled over – when I was smashed!

The KX3 Rx is very nice! was able to hear just about everyone today, possibly only missed 1 or 2 who were calling who were right down in the noise.

What was good today, was a couple of S2S contacts – 1 before and another after UTC roll-over, both not the best conditions, but glad to be able to complete and log them both.

With 23 Contacts before UTC and a further 29 after roll-over, it was a very busy time for about 40 minutes!

And for all the chasers who tried to tell me that this summit has now been named Mt Nigel, well, keep an eye on the spots – this sounds like a challenge to me 🙂  With the days starting to get longer, Chasers better keep an eye out, I might just head out on weekday evenings so we can re-name this Hill to Mt Bob!

I won’t list all the contacts, just the Prefixes:

VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, VK6 and VK7 stations were all worked today, logs are all uploaded, so chaser’s the points should validate once you upload your logs.

VK5/SE-013 is Mt Gawler, or It can also be called Mt Bob, but NOT Mt Nigel 🙂

for something completely different

This morning had an interesting email that led to a pretty interesting day!

The email was from VK3YT saying that a pico balloon he had launced earlier in the week was coming down near our remote digi (vk5thb-1)

We had a few things that we should have been doing, thought about it for about 30 seconds and loaded up all sorts of gear into the car – we were going balloon chasing!


Andy sent the above image taken from the spacenear website  showing the track of the balloon and the predicted landing site along with the frequencies that the telemetry and timings etc were being sent by the payload.

We headed out and made our way to the predicted landing site as per the above image and waited around for 3 expected telemetry transmissions but heard nothing.

So, made our way back to the highway, closer to the last transmission point, again we heard nothing, so finally moved again.





We moved just north of the highway – and drove along a non-existent track, to near the “Red Dot” and finally managed to hear some telemetry on UHF.  We only partially decoded it and only got the Long – and not the Lat – so we were 1/2 way there.  But we  were also able to DF the signal and get a direction! Using a YNG sniffer and a 5 ele Yagi, not strong -but with the signal only being 10mw it was hopeful.


So we waited again and did not get a signal – the batteries were getting weak and the time between signals was increasing!


We moved, based on the direction of the DF’d signal and heard it at an S5 near the Red Mark, but didn’t decode the signal at all.

Given we had a strong signal at this point, we stopped the car, and just waited, and waited and waited.  Finally 30 minutes later, we got a signal, decoded the telemetry with the GPS co-ords in it.


We took a screen shot of the decoded Oliva 8-250 Telemetry we received on UHF – The IC-7100 in the car meant simply plugging the laptop into the radio and have the appropriate software loaded.

We punched the details into the GPS in the car, and drove to within 400M – the closest point we could get to.

We could see a silver thing on a fence and thought that it must be the balloon. So, grabbed a handheld with a GPS/APRS in in and started walking.  Sure enough, it WAS the balloon!

And I had actually spotted this on our first pass up the road on the way to the original predicted landing site and commented that maybe that was the balloon (approx 2 hours earlier).


Above photo was of the balloon on the fence, you can just see the string heading down to the payload.  The treeline in the background is the approx 500M  back to the road where we could drive to.


The balloon, looking along the string to the payload – which is there in the wet grass!


A zoom of the above photo – follow the string, you can just see the final resting place – You can just make out the yellow covering of the payload  and 1 of the Solar cells.


The actual payload, once I had moved it so I could see it!

The reality is, given that the final resting place was in wet grass, yes it was raining! and given that the antenna was entirely at ground level -we were pretty lucky to hear anything at all!

The first signals we got from it were around 3km away and very weak.  The final signals were from about 2km directly across an open paddock!

Well, Andy, this is one that got away and is going to come home!

Look at the details of the flight of PS-16.

It was a fun afternoon to assist another Amateur with the recovery of their experiment and will follow further launches.