Pooginook Conservation Park VKFF-0929

Map ImageOn Saturday 5th of May I activated another park for WWFF and VKFF.
Pooginook Conservation Park is a plot of mallee about a 45 minute drive, approximately 50 km west of my home QTH.

From the National Parks website…
“The dense Mallee scrub in the northern part of the park provides shelter to a range of wildlife, including Kangaroos, Echidna, Hairy-Nosed Wombats, Fat-Tailed Dunnarts and the rare Malleefowl. In contrast, the southern section features open Mallee as the area was once largely used for wheat farming.

The park provides good opportunities for bird watching. Keep a look out for Black-Eared Miners, Honeyeaters and many other colourful Mallee birds. During spring the park blossoms, displaying a variety of colourful Mallee plants. The park’s camping ground is accessible to conventional vehicles, however, some sections of the boundary road are only accessible by 4WD.”

I drove in to the park from the Goyder Highway, it’s signposted but the sign is old and faded and is white on a brown background. As I pass this sign regularly for work road trips, I knew it was there but if you’re unfamiliar with the area you might miss it.
file5The Park sign itself is old and dilapidated, I’ve noticed a lot of the South Australian Park signs have been upgraded to nice clear easy to read Green/white signs but this one hasn’t made the grade yet…

I only had to drive in a short way until I found a nice clear area to park my vehicle and set up the station…

file1Although the signs have long disappeared I’m fairly sure this is one of the designated camping areas in the park. If you do come here to camp overnight or longer, you will need to bring absolutely everything, as there are no facilities here.

 I wasted no time in setting up the station between my car and a convenient tree. The weather was perfect for a park activation, around 22 degrees with a coolish, light south westerly breeze. Although there were some visible 22Kv power lines running east west about 500 metres away to my north , I hoisted my Link dipole up on its Squidpole so that both legs were at 90 degrees to them to hopefully quench any noise they might generate. I didn’t have to worry however, as the noise floor was non existent, the joys of a quiet park!



This activation was an interesting “first” for me. This was the first time I would be using a logging program on my iPad to log the Park contacts, instead of the usual paper logs. I hate paper logs, and the work involve in getting the contacts into a computer and emailed off to the right people.

I had done a fair bit of research in looking at a log programs that would be suitable for a park activation. My requirements were quick entry capability, support for VKFF/WWFF and generation of the correct ADIF formatted logs for direct emailing off to the coordinator. There didn’t seem a lot out there.

I was at the stage where I was considering buying an Android tablet so I could run the most excellent VK-Port-log (http://vk3zpf.com/vk-port-a-log). After registering and downloading the app from the files section of the yahoo group, I gave it a try on my android phone. It’s very good but the phone format I find is a little small for the eyes and fingers.

It was while I was looking at the parks and peaks web site where I saw a link to the Parks and peaks iPhone app (https://www.vk5ayl.com/). Sue only had the non logging version available via the App Store so I got in contact with her about the newer V2 version that supports logging. To cut a long story short I soon became a beta tester and was now trying the app in the real world for the first time…



The app offers spotting and alerting to the parks and peaks website, along with logging of contacts for an activation…

This is all entered as you log the contact, directly into the phone or iPad. It’s very quick and easy to do. Most fields can/will auto populate, for example when you enter a call sign, if there is a matching name in the database (which is updated at the push of a button under settings) it will magically appear in name field.

file11After the QSO’s are done you are left with the log for the activation. You can Scroll through and edit any entry with a double click if you need to.

Then export the log…


It’s really that simple.

Just like Port-a-log has revolutionised portable logging for the Android platform, Parks and Peaks will soon be the go to app for the iOS platform.

Ok, there was a few things about the app that I felt that needed attention and Sue, VK5AYL was most receptive to ideas. I’ll be using this app on all my park activations
from now on, it’s fantastic! No more dread of converting paper logs into the computer. (Yes. There will always be a pen and paper in the go kit just in case)

I ended up with 55 contacts in the log in about 2 1/2 hours. You tend to learn something each activation and for this one, it was “Don’t forget the Aerogard”
I did, and the flies were INCREDIBLY annoying!!

Andy, VK5LA


Recent Andy VK5LA Activations

On Sunday the 29th April I decreed it “Get out and play Radio day”, as it was the last day of a 2 week Annual leave break for me. A relaxing day in one of our beautiful parks seemed like a perfect way to end my break.

I’m lucky enough to have the Murray River National Park VKFF-0372 within a stone’s throw from my home location, (see the map) so it was a trivial matter to pack up my portable station (more on this later), pack a lunch and put everything in the car and head out.

The Katarapko section features 9,148 hectares of black box, red gum and lignum covered floodplains and wetlands, that are alive with aquatic bird species. Katarapko Creek itself is a significant creek that flows through the park and provides great canoeing All the creeks and waterways in the park are a very important habitat for native fish. The Ngak Indau walking trail is great for viewing the abundant wetland birdlife. Rilli Island, Media Island and Kapunda Island Conservation Parks are also part of Katarapko. These are easily accessed from the River proper, best from the Loxton boat ramp if in a power boat.
Katarapko itself is divided into three sections: Lock 4 section, Eckert’s Creek section and Katarapko Creek section. Each section has a separate entrance with visitors being unable to move from one section to another through the park.
Katfish Reach is a community environmental rehabilitation project that encompasses the Katarapko and Eckert Creek area. The area has been identified as a priority floodplain for environmental flows, and for broad‐scale rehabilitation works for native fish.
In about 5 minutes I was at the park entrance of the Katarapko – Eckerts Creek section of the Murray River National Park.

I wasted no time in setting up after finding a suitable site. I had a brief look at several potential areas before deciding on Campsite 14. This area is marked on the map and is at the junction of the Eckert Wide Waters and the South Arm.

There wasn’t a soul around, and the Squidpole was suitably strapped to a convenient tree and the 20-30-40 Metre link dipole hoisted up and the antenna ends tied off. My portable table was called to arms and the station set up in the shade of a lovely old tree in about 10 minutes.




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After a quick bite of lunch, I spent an enjoyable afternoon, easily qualifying the park, making 77 QSO’s across 40 and 30 metres. The band conditions were quite good, and the super low noise floor of operating in an area with no man made noises from power lines or electrical goods allowed me to work stations low down. Most stations were ‘armchair” copy, 5 by 7 being the normal signal report.

I have often been asked about my Antenna and radio setup by operators I contact on the air during my park activations. My portable station seems to work well. I can usually work anyone I can hear, including DX stations. It is a simple setup, and it’s quick and easy to deploy.


The Radio
For the majority of activations, where you drive in to the park and set up “Picnic Style” with a table and chair, you can’t beat a 100 Watt class radio. My choice is the Icom IC-7300, a fantastic rig with a large, easy to read display, excellent receiver and punchy transmit audio. This is my preferred rig, 100 watts of TX power seems to be the way to go while the sun is half asleep and conditions are average.
I also have a Yaesu FT817 that has been a trusted companion over quite a few SOTA activations, many, many VHF/UHF Field days and a few park activations. If I need a light weight option then this little Radio is a fantastic choice.

32081608_10214326171180973_8703392690064064512_nThe Antenna
My antenna at the moment is a very simple “Link Dipole”. There is a million pages of info on the internet about these so I wont elaborate here. A picture tells a thousand words. Mine is for the 20, 30 and 40 Metre Amateur bands, and has been adjusted so that the VSWR is below 1.5:1 on each band. This is so it can be used with a Radio that doesn’t have an antenna tuner, like the FT-817.

32074746_10214326167580883_4781961727749128192_nSquid Pole
The ubiquitous Squid pole has be a handy dandy addition to the portable Ham Radio station for quite a few years now. Mine is a one of Australian distributor “Haverford”, 7M heavy duty model. This has served me well over the years. It gets strapped to a Tree, post or other support with an octopus strap.
The Table
My table is a lightweight fold up aluminium job I obtained from Cheap as Chips around 10 years ago. It packs up into a bag that’s slightly smaller than your average camping chair.
Other things to make life easy out in a park come from experience. The chair for instance, is quite important since you spend a fair bit of time in it. My wife has a very nice “Jetpilot” branded chair that just seems to be 10 times more comfortable than the average camp chair so I take that with me at every opportunity.
I’ve recently begun using a quality external speaker that points at me when sitting at a table, this makes stations easier to copy. What about headphones? Sorry, not a fan of them. Don’t forget your Hat, your sunscreen and the bloody AeroGaurd!!!



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Thanks for reading,
Andy VK5LA


1.. 2.. 3.. Sonde

Ivan VK5HS and I, Danny VK5DW, was out again the morning of Friday May 4th for another hunt of the illusive Radio Sonde. The Sonde was expected to be landing in the Wanbi area near the Karoonda Highway about 60kms South of Loxton.

We were hopeful that Rob’s VK5TRM Auto RX tracking station and Ivan’s VK5HS new Auto RX tracking station would provide reporting into HabHub at relatively low altitude.

20180504 - Sonde Hunt - Mindarie - RFHEAD Prediction

So Ivan being from Renmark picks me up on the way through Loxton. As neither of us have the applicable setup for a chase car we headed out leaving my QTH in Loxton at about 0900 (local) with:

  • Android Tablet
  • Lap Top PC
  • GPS Engine for the Lap Top
  • Mobile Phones
  • 2 x Home Brew Yagi’s (Ivan made his in 30mins)
  • Boefeng Hand Held
  • Icom IC-R10 SSB Receiver
  • a lot of positive thoughts!

As we don’t have the capacity to decode the data from the Sonde direct to the laptop we have to rely on internet services such as HabHub. So here are the problems with relying on internet services.

  1. The Sonde tracking is from fixed ground stations in this case the nearest being VK5TRM station over 55kms away, while VK5HS station is over 85kms away. This results in the last known location and altitude being potentially several hundred metres away and up. This makes the potential landing site less definable.
  2. You need to have mobile phone service to have internet access!

OK so the challenge set we get into Alawoona and pull up to monitor the balloon progress for a bit while we still had internet. With increasing confidence it was going to land around the Wanbi / Mindarie area we moved on to Wanbi pulling over periodically so to hold the mobile phone up out the window to get service and thus updates from HabHub.

20180504 - Sonde Hunt - Mindarie - HabHubAfter a while indications were that we needed to be nearer to Mindarie, indeed a few kms East of Mindarie. So into Mindarie we went then East onto McCabe Rd, Great!!! No internet! Do we rely on Direction Finding (DF) with yagis etc or move back till we find service??? Nope, back to get some internet service, there were simply too much risk of change that we would otherwise miss and render us in the middle of nowhere with respect to the Sonde.

Now we’re back into Mindarie just North of the township by a 100m or so, sitting on a slight rise with mobile phone on the roof of Ivan’s car so we could get a bit of signal for the phone. Ahh that’s better we can monitor what the Sonde is doing.

20180504 - Sonde Hunt - MindarieNow we have service again we watch intently while HabHub predictions show the Sonde landing around Wanbi… are we heading back to Wanbi??? It was about now we got a TXT message over the HF radio from Pete VK5PE saaying it looks like it’s going to land on top of the Wanbi PUB. Do we move or do we not? Nope let’s wait and see for a bit… … … Hmmm it seems to be predicting landing sites closer and closer and closer to us, we’ll site tight for a bit longer.

After a while we found ourselves under the flight path, staying put was the correct call, we were going to be within a km or 2 at this stage. I’m still monitoring HabHub while Ivan is out with his yagi and receiver trying to DF it on its approach. Before long data was showing we were in the hot seat. I jest-fully prompted Ivan to walk West to the train track (dis used) and hold his hands out to catch it.

Next thing you know Ivan asks what directing I thought it was coming in, to confirm his DF skills, then I hear a yell from Ivan… “It’s right there, quick get a camera!” Too late, it’s down! Now we had another issue that in the haste to get a camera, remember the phone is still on the roof, we lost sight of the thing… where is it? OK OK stop laughing!

Right lets see if we can get a bit closer, we chose to drive to where we thought would be closer. So this was another lesson… we weren’t closer!!! Not that we knew that yet.

DannyOk so now we’re out of the car, Ivan with R10 receiver and yagi and I with Boafeng Hand Held Transceiver and yagi, trying to DF the signal. Of course the signal at such close range is quite strong so the signal had to be attenuated somehow. Ivan could use the SSB function and also use the squelch functions. He also used the yagi in horizontal polarisation for further attenuation and ran off the back of the yagi. I used the Boafeng, of course FM only, and progressively de-tuned the frequency to create attenuation, used the yagi in horizontal and off the back. Both methods used by Ivan and myself certainly work well enough for DFing the Sonde.

Well that decision to drive a bit closer didn’t work out that well. We ended up walking about 300m instead of my be 100m from where we watched it come down. Anyway we got it and we were pretty chuffed none the less. All packed up and the Sonde (with string, reflector, balloon remains) recovered we headed home.

20180504_122433Taking the ‘bakery’ lead from Mark VK5QI we called into the Loxton Anzac Crescent Deli for our version, ‘Espresso Coffee Thick Shake’. Liquid gold! A great way to wrap up a really fun hunt.

So the lessons here:

  • Anyone can do this with little equipment
  • Laptop or Tablet with internet access is all that is needed
  • In car and independent tracking capacity is desirable
  • Be patient… Keep yourself best positioned for changing predictions
  • You don’t need expensive kit to DF a Sonde
  • If you see it descending… have your camera ready and don’t look away!!!
  • Don’t always think you can drive a bit closer, especially when you see it land in front of you!

Just a little note and suggestion. Please collect the whole shebang, don’t collect just the Sonde and leave the rest for the farmers, or whoever, to have to deal with.

Thanks for reading,

Danny VK5DW

We Did It Again!

G’day all,

Well we did it again. Our website has again exceeded its previous months results in most aspects.


We broke into the 1.3k views for the month, increased unique visitors for the month by 70%, almost 30% increase in ‘Post’ Likes, and went from only 4 Countries viewing our site in March to 18!

I prepared a speech…

I’d like to thank Mum and Dad… Seriously though I do sincerely want to thank the contributors to our site, particularly Andy VK5LA and Ivan VK5HS for the articles they have sent in for me to post. Also to anyone that has been behind a camera and sent me their happy snaps that I could use to add that something to the articles.

To our Riverland Radio Club members for getting out and about to give us something to blog about, be it park activations, Radio Sonde Hunting, or project building… thanks!

Special mention to Paul VK5PAS and Marija VK5FMAZ for their photos and some would say relentless commitment to Amateur Radio and the allied WWFF program. They are forever posting and sharing not only their own stories but also sharing ours. So thanks Paul and Marija for contributing to our successes here in the Riverland.

Thanks must also go to our patrons, our visitors to our little site. The Riverland Radio Club says thank you!

Please continue to visit our site, keep clicking those ‘Like’ buttons, and please leave a comment or three as we would love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers and 73’s,

Danny VK5DW

Loch Luna, Ron VK5MRE’s First Activation – 26/04/2018

On Thursday 26th April, the day after our ANZAC day activation of both the Chowilla Game and Regional Reserves, several members of the Riverland Radio Club had expressed a desire to come along on a park activation and “see what it was all about”, so I decided to activate another close by park in VKFF-1723, The Loch Luna Game Reserve.

Map - GeneralI put out a notification on our Riverland Radio Club SMS group and Ron VK5MRE responded that he was keen to come along and give it a go.

The park is located just West and North of the town of Cobdogla, in the Riverland region of South Australia, about 250Km North East of Adelaide. It’s a beautiful area, very popular with campers, RVers and canoists. Superb creek and river scenery and an abundance of bird life. It’s also full of great fishing spots from both boat and bank and a popular area for those targeting Murray Cod and Callop (Yellow Belly) on lures amongs the hundreds of snags and deep holes in the river and creeks that form part of the Reserve.

It’s easily accessed vith a conventional vehicle, by travelling though the town of Cobdogla and driving out past the Caravan Park and Bruno Bay boat ramp, continuing along the bitumen road for about 1Km.

1524831338013373134941You will soon see the sign designating the Kaiser Strip section of the Game Reserve. Other access points to Loch Luna are from the Barmera-Morgan Road, near Nappers Bridge (6km from Sturt Highway) and also from the Sturt Highway causeway approximately 1.2km (1 min) from the Kingston Bridge.

There are several campsites and lovely canoe access area in which to operate for a park activation, and if you are camping overnight you must book a site.

National Parks South Australia has a good web presence for our parks and the following links are useful. If you are staying overnight you need to book a site from this page…




1524831271085594618473I arrived just after lunch and decided Campsite 6 in the Kaiser Strip looked as good as any, and easily accessible. Campsites 8-14 required a drive on the dirt, so I left that to more capable vehicles.

I parked the car in a cleared section of land between a Large Gum tree (that I planned on strapping the Squid Pole to) and the River Murray itself. It was a delightful location and perfect weather to be playing Radio!

I soon had my linked Dipole laid out after setting up the station on the portable table and the Squid Pole ready to be thrust skyward. Ron, VK5MRE arrived just as I was connecting the coax to the dipole centre and helped me hoist the antenna. We soon had the ends tied off to some other sturdy limbs and the apex of the dipole at about 7M high.

Ron and I made ourselves comfortable at the operating position and tuned to 7.144Mhz. After asking if the frequency was in use a couple of times and finding it vacant, I was soon under way… 15248312883002022962951

the band seemed lively and it didn’t take too long to attract the attention of Brett VK2VW, for my first station in the log. It took a whole 9 minutes to get the first 10 contacts!

15248312280131394856968I then put Ron in the drivers seat and he was soon working stations like a pro! Ron has many years experience as a net control operator, and has a very good set of ears. He is an expert at running stations, and took to working the park pileup like it was nothing.

We had great conditions and most stations were easy copy, especially the VK2, 3 and 4’s The closer VK5 stations were ordinary earlier in the day, but soon conditions changed and Adrian VK5FANA was 59 instead of 31.

Later in the day we began to hear some Euro stations in the background, and were then surprised to be called by both a French and Italian Stations.

All in all a great afternoon introducing Ron to the wonderful world VKFF. I’m sure it will be the first of many for station VK5MRE

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Video thanks to Paul VK5PAS

Andy, VK5LA

Stations worked by VK5LA on 40M


ANZAC Day Activation 25/04/2018

Chowilla SignAfter a terrific start to ANZAC Day, attending a wonderful Dawn Service at the Loxton Cross Of Sacrifice then checking on my Grandfather and a couple friends at the Loxton Cemetery, I headed of to the QTH of Ivan VK5HS. The master plan was for Ivan VK5HS, Pete VK5PE, Andy VK5LA, and myself Danny VK5DW to all meet up at Ivan’s place and head off to a couple parks that had not yet been activated.

Map - GeneralWith us all loaded up into a couple vehicles we headed North (well Northish) up to Chowilla. Chowilla parks consist of the Chowilla Game Reserve VKFF-1697 and Chowilla Regional Reserve VKFF-1698. These parks incorporate the Chowilla Floodplain which contains the largest remaining natural river red gum forest in the Lower Murray and a range of diverse aquatic habitats. It is a part of the Chowilla Game and Regional Reserve as well as the Riverland Ramsar wetland of international importance. Chowilla is home to many iconic and endangered native species, including the Murray cod, regent parrot and the southern bell frog and is the traditional home of the First Peoples of the River Murray and Mallee region

For more info on the Chowilla Floodplain check out: Chowilla Fllodplain – DEWNR.

Our first place to activate was Chowilla Game Reserve which  is located adjacent to Murtho on the Northern side of the Murray River, North East of Renmark. Shown on the map here shaded blue.

We headed in on the Old Wentworth Rd, nice bit of track that in a 2WD tray top ute!!! Before turning into the Game Reserve back toward the Murray then following Chowilla 20180425_121156Creek along to the Chowilla Regulator. Finding a nice little spot not far from the Regulator we set up a couple portable stations and got to work at about 0000z. Andy and Ivan fired up on 80m while Pete and I went to 40m.

This was a terrific spot along side the Chowilla Creek with great company and a swag of great and most appreciated contacts. The weather was mid 20 degrees a little overcast and a very light breeze. The site was as quiet as a mouse, QRM and people… we didn’t see anyone until we were leaving. Pete and I stayed on 40m for the duration of our activations while Andy and Ivan made their quotas on 80m and 30m. The ANZAC Day privilege of the ‘AX’ callsign certainly got a fair workout as well.

20180425_120929Ivan made 44 contacts, Andy 45, Pete 28, and I made 46. By this time we were all looking pretty pleased with ourselves.

While Andy was working his last couple Pete and Ivan fired up the BBQ and started to cook up a couple snags, onion and spuds.

After we fed the worms (had lunch) we headed off to our next location in the Chowilla Regional Reserve. Have a look over all our pics of Chowilla Game Reserve in this mosaic.


OK so now were on our way to the next site, Pete and I following Ivan and Andy in complete faith with only one 20180425_133634little issue… what’s that… Ivan cracking a U-bolt?!?!? Ummm wrong way?

Anyway a little while latter we pulled into the Chowilla Regional Reserve and found ourselves a comfortable little spot under a bit of shade.

We went straight to work and set up a station and Andy got right into calling CQ Parks.


Andy12Pete kicked back and just enjoyed the surroundings while Ivan, Andy and I shared the mic passing back and forth. The constant changing of operators, callsigns, slipping the ‘AX’ prefix in, and the odd little pile up proved to make for a very entertaining time. Sorry to anyone that was getting confused. No fear we knew exactly what we were doing… that’s what we kept telling ourselves.

We were having a wow of a time and in no time at all we had over 10 contacts each. Satisfied we decided it was time to retire back to Ivan’s QTH, unpack and call it a very enjoyable day.

Here is a mosaic of the second Operating Location, Chowilla Regional Reserve VKFF-1698:

For a bunch of ratbag friends just having a fun time we think our contact counts are pretty cool:

  • Ivan VK5HS / AX5HS
    • VKFF1697 – 44
    • VKFF1698 – 17
    • Park to Park – 14
  • Andy VK5LA / AX5LA
    • VKFF1697 – 45
    • VKFF1698 – 18
    • Park to Park – 14
  • Pete VK5PE / AX5PE
    • VKFF1697 – 28
    • Park to Park – 1
  • Danny VK5DW / AX5DW
    • VKFF1697 – 46
    • VKFF1698 – 17
    • Park to Park – 12
  • Totals:
    • VKFF1697 – 163
    • VKFF1698 – 54
      • Combined – 217
    • Park to Park – 41

Here are our 2 Operating Locations:

Chowilla Activation Map

Thanks for reading. Please click ‘Like’ and/or leave a comment.

Cheers and 73’s,

Danny VK5DW

Update 27/04/2018 – A couple more pics in from Pete VK5PE:

Moorook Game Reserve Activation 21/04/2018

20180421_141734Another new park activation again today. Moorook Game Reserve, VKFF-1729, is 1236ha of reserve located just downstream of the Moorook township. Incorperated in the reserve is Wachtals Lagoon which is visible on the right of the Sturt Hwy as you approach Cobdogla then Barmera. Opposite this is Loch Luna Game Reserve.


Moorook Game Reserve Activation area map

Ivan VK5HS, Danny VK5DW (me) and Pete VK5FPLR (Pete come along to have a look at this park activation thingy), headed to the reserve this morning setting up my equipment initially on 40m while Ivan set up his gear on 80m after rigging 20180421_111435up a quick makeshift 80m extension for his 40m linked dipole antenna. Ivan thought he had his 80m antenna with him so when the propagation wasn’t playing very nicely we had to do something, after all this was the first time this park was to be activated… we weren’t about to let a bit of a propagation challenge get in our way. So with a bit of Fig’ 8 speaker wire Ivan had in the back of his car we measured out a piece, split it in half (now 2 single strands) and twitched it in place. Hmmm not quite resonant but luckily the home brew tuner worked a treat.

So here we are, Ivan on 80m and I had moved to 20m by this time… we had to try something. After a bit of hard work we had made a small handful of contacts each. Pushing on we finally returned to 40m after a while and the propagation gods must have had a change of heart, things started to go our way.


With propagation now going our way, fantastic weather (a few clouds, low 30’s, light breeze), terrific surroundings of nature and of course the mighty Murray flowing past we felt like kings.

While things were going much better now on 40m, Ivan fired up on his satellite outfit and easily made a number of contacts including into ZL. Of course none of these counted to our park activation.

We were fortunate to have contacts from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7 with a good handful of Park to Park contacts each as well. In total we made about 90 something contacts between us, so we both got over the 44 each. Ivan and I would like to thank all the stations we made contact with today… we had a great fun day which would not have been without all the Hunters and other Activators. Thanks everyone, much appreciated.

A couple photos are included here for you to have a look over.

Thanks for reading,

Danny VK5DW

Ivan VK5HS Radio Sonde Hunt

It’s not often Radio Sondes travel as far as the Riverland, but on Friday evening Mr Balloon aka Mark VK5QI sent me a message advising the predictions looked good for us to maybe have a go at retrieving a Sonde. The seed was sown, I quickly hobbled a bit of kit together and prepared for the chase.

After a successful  first chase attempt along with Danny VK5DW on the Saturday morning flight I watched the Saturday evening flight hoping to learn more about the tracking program and flight information.

Observing the data as it was displayed on Habhub,  https://tracker.habhub.org, I took great interest in learning about the speed the balloon travels at and the varying temperatures, balloon height and other variables.

HabHubI watched the Adelaide area reporting stations data as the balloon drifted to the East and after a while the stations of VK5THB and VK5TRM started reporting the data. I also monitored the prediction software, comparing the accuracy of the program and the actual landing location.

The  balloon finally landed very close to the reporting station of VK5THB.  The last heard position of the balloon was at 51m and travelling at 31km/h and 88 degrees.

So with the data in mind I thought I might head out early Sunday morning to try and retrieve the equipment. With the data from the HabHub and APRS, https://aprs.fi, websites I then used google maps satellite view to look at the terrain the balloon had likely landed in. It looked to be cleared scrub land, so I made the decision… I will attempt an early Sunday morning  retrieval.

In preparing the necessary equipment for the retrieval, I mounted a quarter wave 402MHz vertical on the Cruiser roof attached to a Yaesu VX7 handheld. This was to alert me when I was getting close to the landing site. I loaded up my 70cm yagi along with a AOR8000 scanner set to USB, this was to be used while on foot to locate the Radio Sonde. I recorded the location info from HabHub  by means of a photo of the screen on my mobile.

OziExp2I then entered the last known position of Radio Sonde in to the OziExplorer software on my laptop. I also attached my GPS receiver so I could run the moving map function. I also entered the last known position on my hand held GPS unit.

Setting off at 0600hrs Sunday morning I headed of to the last known location. When I got within a couple of Km’s from the site I turned on my VX7 with external antenna attached so I could hear the transmitter. To my dismay… not a peep from the Sonde!  I then pulled up as close as I could to the last known position and put my direction finding gear together. Sweeping around in all directions, still no signals. I hadn’t thought about the battery life of the Sonde.

After a calming coffee and a bit of thought I grabbed my hand held GPS, 402MHz receiver with yagi attached  and started walking in the general direction of the Sondes plotted location. After about a 500m walk I was rewarded with a visual location of the silver radar reflector. I collected all Reflector and GPSthe equipment up and proceed back to the vehicle.

Lessons learnt from my 2 Sonde chases are:

  • Don’t rely on the internet when chasing balloons in remote areas where you may loose phone signals
  • Consider the battery life of the Sonde, I had been told it is approximately 6 hours
  • You do not need expensive tracking antenna’s, mine is home brew the plans are on the   https://rrc.org.au/2018/03/27/tech-night-march-2018/

This Sonde landed not far from Bob VK5FO’s receiving station so I sent Bob a quick early morning text message so he knew I was chasing this Sonde. I didn’t want either of us wasting our time, luckily for me I had it all to myself. Interestingly Bob has setup a site, http://vk5fo.com/553/wx-sonde, so you can enter planned chase. This is to advise other chasers you are out retrieving a particular Sonde so they don’t travel big distances to find the Sonde has been retrieved by another chaser.

Sonde and GPS

My plans for the recovered Sondes are to have them reprogrammed so they can be used for future Riverland Radio Club projects.

I would like to thank Mark VK5QI for all his work in the Sonde tracking programs. All the RX stations need a special mention, without them we wouldn’t be able to have accurate data to retrieve the Sondes. Rob VK5TRM tracked the first Sonde Danny VK5DW and I found down to approx. 150m and Bob VK5THB tracked the second Sonde down to 50m, this assisted in a speedy retrieval of both units.

As Mark VK5QI always mentions the bakeries on his chases, I stopped at the Waikerie Bakery to have a coffee and cake. Have to keep the tradition up, Hi Hi.

Thanks for reading,

Ivan VK5HS

Radio Sonde Hunting

A quick little last minute outing for Ivan VK5HS and Danny VK5DW.

The weather albeit terrible for most things, blowing a gale and dust a plenty, it provided an opportunity not always available to those of us in the Riverland. The winds were predicted to carry a Bureau Of Meteorology Radio Sonde Weather Balloon over Loxton/Berri areas.

After a bit of very late planning on Friday night we were to set out, the first time for the both of us, on Saturday morning to see if we could get ourselves one of these Radio Sonde thingies.

We don’t have anything specific set up for balloon chasing so we pulled together a couple bits and pieces with the hope we would get a bit lucky. We took with us a laptop PC, an Android tablet, a UHF SSB receiver, a 70cm hand held and a 70cm yagi. We were anticipating failure but hoping for success.

We met up and got underway only to have the predictions change, which was going to take us into a no phone coverage area… what will we do without internet??? Oh well we’re moving now, lets see what happens!

We managed, somehow, to hold onto internet coverage for a good part of our outing but when lost we worked as best we could from the point last known, thanks to the last info we had from HabHub (Rob VK5TRM, RRC member, was the last data we saw), albeit still several hundred meters high… the thing could be anywhere!

20180414_104828Luckily the things hadn’t died when it hit the ground and we managed to pick up a signal. After a bit of radio detection finding we moved into position along Gordon Rd. We worked to a point near a farm house and had some certainty by this time it was in their paddock.

We called into the farmhouse and met up with Bill the property owner, luckily also known to Danny VK5DW. We explained what we were doing and that we believed a weather balloon had come down in his paddock. Bill was more than happy for us to go and have a go at finding the thing.20180414_104842

After about a 2km drive into Bill’s paddock the signal seems to be adjacent to us… on the other side of the fence. So out we get and a couple more sweeps with the SSB RXer and yagi we agreed it was out there. After about 150m walk… eureka there it was, and so was the cattle. Not really time to hang around and attract too much attention to ourselves.

20180414_105857Just a little pleased with ourselves we headed back to the car, being sand blasted as we went, and back home.

This is the first time either of us had been in a balloon chase and had a blast. The Radio Sonde is likely to be reprogrammed so we can use it for Chase training by the RRC.

Cheers and 73’s,

Danny VK5DW

VK5FMAZ Marija – Field Radio Group Cover Photo

The Field Radio Facebook group has almost 4000 group members from the world over, and it is with great and proud pleasure that the Riverland Radio Club recognises one of VK5’s own for being featured as Field Radio Group Photo.

Screenshot_20180409-182549More over, Marija VK5FMAZ, is a Foundation call and one of far too few lady operators. Marija is an avid and experienced field operator frequently out and about in the parks and on the peeks with husband Paul VK5PAS. In a hobby that seems to be largely dominated by males we think it’s wonderful to see Marija featured along with the respect availed, and rightly so, to a Foundation operator. Well deserved recognition for a terrific advocate of Amatuer Radio.

Full credit to Marija from the Riverland Radio Club, congratulations and well done!

Field Radio Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/groups/FieldRadio/

Field Radio Website: http://www.fieldradio.org