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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

The 2018 BRL Gathering Story

Map - Overland Corner Hotel

What a great weekend. The Riverland Radio Club (RRC) again hosted the BRL Gathering at the historic and iconic Overland Corner Hotel, located on the Goyder Highway a short 21km drive North West of Barmera, SA.

Originally set up as a watering hole for drovers and overlanders operating between New South Wales and the Adelaide Colony, it also served as a temporary camping ground for steamers passing through on the River Murray, which flows a mere 600ft from the hotel. The historic building was erected in 1859, and since that time has served as a staging point, a general store, a police station and even the local Post Office.

In 1965, the building was purchased by the National Trust of South Australia and, with the aid of locally raised and commonwealth funding, the fossilised limestone building was completely restored. It now stands as a beacon of history in the Riverland, and is the oldest structure to remain standing in the area. Today, the Overland Corner operates as a hotel, serving some of the finest cuisine in the Riverland amongst the beautiful backdrop and serene settings of Overland Corner.

DSC_0742The Saturday kicked off at about 0700hrs as usual with RRC member Andy VK5LA cooking up a storm for breakfast. On offer was an all time traditional favorite, Bacon and Eggs.

Andy also followed up with a bit of a cook up fare-welling the remaining on the Sunday morning.

As most would know Saturday is the 20180407_085157traditional day for the BRL HF Saturday Net (I know right… the Saturday Net is on a Saturday!), which is typically run by Ron VK5MRE from his home QTH. Of course we couldn’t have the BRL Gathering without the also iconic Ron so we set up a HF Field Station, thanks to Danny VK5DW for the equipment, for Ron to operate from. So from 0830hrs local the BRL Net went on as usual with much better propagation compared to the 2017 BRL Gathering Net. The net was as always quite popular with about 30 some contacts. Those that coundn’t make it to the Gathering could call in and chat to several regulars that did attend.

As one of the activities for our guests three of the RRC members bought along their satellite crossed yagis etc for anyone to have a go at. The yagis have been of interest to a number of our members of late with a couple different variations on the common theme. A number of contacts were made with Ivan VK5HS, Rob VK5TRM, and Danny VK5DW all contacting ZL.

We also had a pre-loved section for those to move their pre-loved equipment to a new-loved owner.A few things up for grabs from multi band HF yagi, rotator, receivers and other odds and ends.


The Home Brew Competition is an area we are looking at DSC_0766growing for future Gatherings. There was antennas, a cross band portable repeater, antenna tuner, and others. The inaugural winner, Grant VK5VGC walked away the winner this year with the trophy.

We at the RRC are proud to be the hosts of such a wonderful Amateur Radio social event, an event feel we are keen to maintain.

Attendees at the 2018 BRL Gathering were:

  • Ron VK5MRE, partner Jeanette
  • Rob VK5TRM
  • Ivan VK5HS
  • Danny VK5DW
  • Andy VK5LA, partner Liz (Chef and Sous Chef)
  • Peter VK5FPLR
  • Rob VK5TS, partner Sandy
  • Tony VK5MRT
  • Robbie VK5FRSM, partner Mary
  • Allen VK5FD, partner Jean
  • Mick VK3GGG, partner Anne
  • Joe VK2EIR
  • Frank VK3VEF
  • Marija VK5FMAZ
  • Therese VK3FMTT
  • Keith VK5ND
  • Roger VK5WE
  • John VK5MJC
  • Bill VK5MBD
  • Ray VK5RR
  • Bob VK5FO
  • Mal VK5MJ
  • Steve VK3FSMT
  • Paul VK5PAS
  • Adrian VK5AJR
  • Tony VK5ZAI, partner Jill
  • Keith VK3FMKE
  • Grant VK5VGC
  • Dennis VK5LDM, partner Robyn
  • Adrian VK5AW
  • Dennis VK2HHA

And the winners are…

For support to the BRL HF Nets:

  • Dennis VK2HHA Relays for the Group

Most BRL Members Worked with 47 stations:

  • Mal VK5MJ
  • Frank VK3VEF

Home Brew Competition:

  • Grant VK5VGC

16000th BRL Nets Check In:

  • Paul VK5FUZZ

XYL Awards:

  • Marija VK5FMAZ
  • Therese VK3FMTT

Long Distance Awards:

  • Frank VK3VEF
  • Tony VK5ZAI

Thanks for having a read. Cheers and 73’s,

VK5BRL – Riverland Radio Club


2018 BRL Gathering Taste of Happy Snaps

Hey everyone, I have here a couple photos for an early taste of the Riverland Radio Clubs’ 2018 BRL Gathering.

I will be posting a more comprehensive suite of photos when they become available from our official event photographer, Marija VK5FMAZ. So keep an eye out for the next post.

Cheers and 73’s,

Danny VK5DW