SOTA Double Points Day

It’s been a long time between drinks!

Been a bit busy with other aspects of the hobby of amateur radio!

New Year’s Day 2018 – Reu VK7FREU and myself decided to activate Hartz Peak VK7/SW-008 for the Summits on the Air UTC Year changeover. The Eastern Seaboard of VK (Australia) offers the opportunity to activate a summit twice in one day and get double the points!

SOTA rules specify that you can only get the activation points for a summit once a year. However, on the first of January of each year in Eastern VK the UTC year change-over occurs at 11:00am local time. This allows for the SOTA activators to get to the summit before 11am – get at least four contacts and then reactivate after 11am for double points across two years.

Reuben and I did not activate Hartz Peak in 2017 so we chose this one!

You drive from Hobart through Huonville, Franklin and Geeveston. In Geeveston you turn right off down Arve Rd as if you are heading to Tahune Air Walk. On the Air Walk road there is a turn off to the Hartz National Park on Hartz Rd. It took about 1h:15m to drive from Hobart. You need a National Parks Pass to enter the Park. It was raining on/off from Franklin to the National Park.

We signed the walk book to see that a party before us had set off at 4:30am and returned at 9:00am – must have tried to see the sunrise of 2018 from Hartz Peak! We set off and only saw one family coming back down. It was raining on/off and the westerly (Roaring-40s) were strengthening. We were walking through mist all the way.

Duck board path into the misty distance

It took us about 70 minutes to climb to the top with some stops along the way. We didn’t see the summit until we were actually on it due to the thick mist.

Erie horned tree across a tarn

We setup on the leeward side of the Peak to get out of the wind and was setup around 10:44am. The propagation on 40m was crap and our signal reports reflected this.

Operating position on the leeward side of Hartz Peak

Selfie on the peak before heading back

We only managed to get three contacts each before 11am and therefore unfortunately did not activate the Peak for 2017. Oh well! We did manage to get seven contacts each after 11am. We had some early lunch and headed back to the car.

There were lots of plants in bloom along the track and one in particular was fascinating – the cushion plant.

Cushion plant flowering

Cushion plants ( Donatia novae-zelandiae ) are incredibly slow growing and take many years to get to this size plant. They have small five pointed flowers that embroider the cushion. Thanks to Reuben for this photo.

Another successful SOTA trip.

Hear you on a summit soon!

73, Justin, VK7TW

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WIA Election Results – Thank You

G’day All,

Thanks to all who voted for and supported me during the election process for the Board of Directors for the Wireless Institute of Australia.

WIA Election Results

I am humbled by the result and have this feeling of being in the foothills about the climb a very large mountain range.

There is much to be done to put the focus back on amateur radio and so little time to do it!

The hard work begins!

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, Board Nomination, Hobby, WIA | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nomination Backgrounder

Why am I willing to be a candidate for election as a director of the WIA?

Good question!

I’ll start with some background information….

I have been an amateur radio operator for the last 30 years, my callsign – VK7TW – previously VK5ZJV, VK7ZTW, VK7KTW and have been “active” since about 2004.

Current amateur radio interests include:

I have written the VK7 column for AR magazine since 2003. I collate and write the Sunday VK7 Regional News broadcast for 51 weeks of the year and have done this since 2004. I have held President, Vice-President and Secretary roles in the local club since 2004. I am also a WIA Assessor.

I was awarded the 2007 WIA – Ron Wilkinson Achievement Award, the 2010 WIA – Al Shawsmith Award with Rex Moncur VK7MO and the 2012 WIA – Al Shawsmith Award.

My formal qualifications include a Bachelor of Science (Geology and Geochemistry), Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management and Graduate Diploma of Public Policy and Management.

I started my working life in 1983 in a small private IT firm where I learned my computing/IT trade. I then went back to study then started working in the Tasmania State Government in 1993 and have worked in a range of roles including IT, Policy, HR, IR, Project, Change and Management positions. A couple of highlights have been the project management of major government system implementations and being a member of the team that introduced new state government employment legislation. I am currently a public service manager within the Tasmanian State Service, Department of Premier and Cabinet.

I am 50 years old, married and we have a 14 year old son, Reuben VK7FREU.

Back to the question of why I nominated?

I bring a skill set that I hope will be of value to the WIA especially in the area of inter-government relations, process re-engineering, project, change & financial management and legislative interpretation.

I am passionate about my hobby of amateur radio however, I also realise it is just a hobby.

I am also passionate about getting more young people interested in amateur radio and this was highlighted for me through a recent experience where I was involved in the Festival of Bright Ideas for Science Week 2016. This demonstrated to me that there was huge un-tapped potential for amateur radio in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) learning and promotion. We as a national organisation need to provide practical material to support STEAM teachers to integrate amateur radio into their primary, secondary and tertiary curriculum.

We need to continue to foster and build on the relationship we have with the Australian Communication and Media Authority and ensure we are in a stable, financial and strong position when the opportunities present and future World Radio Conferences. We need to be a strong advocate, contributor and supporter of the IARU in Region 3 and continue to build on the fantastic work of Michael Owen and the many others who work tirelessly in a volunteer capacity for our National organisation.

I am concerned about the slow erosion of our National body and declining membership. We can only survive with a strong and effective national voice to represent, advocate and educate existing and new amateur radio operators throughout Australia. We have a great foundation upon which to build thanks to those before us.

If you are a financial WIA member and you are concerned about our National body then please 1). Vote and 2). Carefully consider who you want representing you at Board level.

There is a short YouTube video introducing myself and my platform available at:

I will be attending the AGM in Hahndorf, South Australia and if you would like me to be a proxy at that meeting then please contact me as I have a pre-filled proxy form I can send you.

Catch you on the bands and/or a summit soon.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, Board Nomination, Hobby, WIA | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

VK7/WC-005 & 013 – Rodway Range and Mt Field East – 17-19 January 2017

Reuben VK7FREU and I set off on the afternoon of the 17th January 2017 and drove up to Mt Field National Park, about an hour’s drive from Hobart. We called in at the Ranger station and signed in the Alpine walks book outlining what we were intending to do. Then a 20m drive up to Lake Dobson. Given the weather report we planned two and half days of bushwalking, camping and SOTA activations. There was rain forecast for the first night then two days of reasonable weather!

We walked up to Rodway Range via the Mt Field West track up past the ski lodges and ski tows.

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Panorama of duckboarding between Mt Mawson and Rodway Range

The path then takes you past the Rodway ski tow and the end of the Tarn shelf track and up onto Rodway Range where the low cloud started to roll in. We walked to the highest point and setup our SOTA station around 4:15pm. We were in low cloud the whole time.

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Walking across the top of Rodway Range

Condition on 40m were not good and we struggled to get contacts with poor signal reports. We moved to 15m and managed another two contacts. We decided to pack up and keep walking so we reached K-Col and Clemes Tarn with some light to spare. We walked down over Rodway Range and down the block field to the K-Col/Newdegate Pass track turnoff. We called in to the Peterson Memorial Hut and said hello to a couple who had setup for the night. We then walked about 500m further on to Clemes Tarn and setup our tent, had tea and went to bed – that’s when to fun started!!

Around 4am we woke to gusty wind that was hitting our little tent really hard. Unbeknown to us we were in an exposed saddle that was taking the full westerly wind and rain force. Around 5pm one of our aluminium tent poles broke (went off like a gun!) and ripped the tent. I was able to tape up the break with the roll of electrical tape but we decided to pack up  and head back to the Peterson Memorial hut. We then got some sleep and breakfast and bid the other bushwalkers goodbye as they were heading back down. The morning was still blustery and low cloud covered Mt Field West and Florentine Peak with bursts of driving rain and sleet.

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Panorama of Peterson Memorial hut and Mt Field West covered in cloud.

We hung around the hut for a few hours and read all about the hut as it was opened by Sir Edmund Hillary back in Easter 1960 and had recently been lined with Tassie Oak and is in really good condition. The cloud didn’t clear and we decided to abandon the Mt Field West and Florentine Peak activations and come back another day. We decided to walk back the K-Col Track over Newdegate Pass and along the Tarn Shelf as Reuben had never been along Tarn Shelf.

 

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Panorama view from Newdegate Pass to Florentine Peak left and Mt Field West still in cloud.

We had lunch just before Lake Newdegate and walked back along Tarn Shelf which is a great walk as you weave your way through many tarns and glacial features. This is an excellent ice age Permian landscape with some great geological features.

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Looking North along Tarn Shelf from Rodway Ski Tow – Rodway Range on the left.

We walked back to the car at Lake Dobson via the ski fields huts and signed out at the Rangers headquarters and headed home for a night. The next morning we headed back to Mt Field National Park and signed in and up to the car park near Lake Fenton for the Mt Field East walk. The day was glorious with blue clear skies! The walk into Mt Field East takes you past Lake Fenton and steadily up and over the saddle between Seegers lookout and Mt Crooke then down into Windy Moor and up the rocky knoll that is Mt Field East. It took us about 1.5 hours up and 1.25 hours back.

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Panorama across to Mt Mawson and Rodway Range from the saddle.

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Panorama looking toward Mt Field East across Windy Moor.

Windy Moor lived up to its name and it’s muddy as well! Definitely gators and walking boot are the go! We climbed to the summit and there is a rock walled enclosure that provides shelter from the wind. We setup our station and started calling CQ around 1pm. The contacts on 40m were slow and signal reports not strong. We moved to 15m and managed to contact ZL1BYZ and could hear JL2OES but he could not hear us. Back to 40m and contacted a few more and up to 144MHz and managed to get VK7DX at Arthurs Lake on the 40m dipole!

Given the bright sunshine the skinks were out in force and at one stage I counted 11 in the little rock enclosure.

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Friendly and curious skinks!

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More friendly and curious skinks – one even jumped on to Reuben’s back and explored!

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Panorama – North to South looking East from Summit.

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Panorama – South to North looking West from Summit – Florentine Peak and Mt Field West – Perfectly clear!!!!.

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Selfie L2R: Reuben VK7FREU and Justin VK7TW

Thanks to all who contacted us during our three days in Mt Field National Park.

In the words of Arnie…..”We’ll be bach”.

Catch you on a summit soon.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Camping, SOTA, SOTA Activation, Uncategorized, VK7 Association | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

High Performance Software Defined Radio (HPSDR)

I was invited to give a presentation at the Open Radio Mini Conference that was being held on the first day of the National Linux Conference 2017 being held in Hobart from 16-20 January 2017 thanks to Scott VK7LXX and Ben VK7BEN.

My topic – An Overview of the HPSDR – I jumped at the chance to bang on about my favourite Open Source Software Defined Radio platform – I only have three of them at last count 😉

The presentation was videoed and made available on You Tube:

I included some material that was drawn from the SDR generations presentation from Dr Howard White KY6LA who presented at the SDR Academy at Freidrichshafen Hamfest in 2016. This enabled and explanation of where the HPSDR fits in the SDR evolution.

I was also able to include information on the fantastic work that John Melton G0ORX/N6LYT and Dr. Warren Pratt NR0V have been doing in developing the Open Source PiHPSDR control surface.

I was able to demonstrate both the Apache-Labs version of the piHPSDR and I have written a review of this unit that will appear in the national AR Magazine for March 2017:

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Apache-Labs piHPSDR Serial Number 006

This unit was controlling a traditional HPSDR with Mercury, Penelope, Excalibur, Metis and Alex band pass filters with a Codan 100W power amplifier.

I also demonstrated the truly Open Source nature of the HPSDR project through my homebrewed HPSDR – Hermes based with piHPSDR control surface, Alex band pass filters  and Pennywhistle 20W power amplifier in a re-purposed Philips TX-815 case:

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Homebrewed HPSDR with piHPSDR control surface

There will be more on this unit in a future blog post.

Thanks to the Linux Conference organisers for allowing me time to bang on about one of my favourite subjects.

Catch you on the airwaves.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, Hobby, HPSDR, LINUX Conf 2017, Software Defined Radio | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

VK7/SC-063 – Mount Montagu – 1 January 2017

SOTA double points day came around again and Reuben VK7FREU and myself decided to try Mt Montagu VK7/SC-063. This is a new summit that was added to the VK7 Association back in November 2016 after a review of summits.

There are three ways into Mt Montagu:

1). The first Reuben and I did back on 31 December 2013 when we were dropped off at Betts Rd Nieka and walked up to Cathedral Rock, then along to Montagu Thumbs and then up Mt Montagu and walked out through Mountain River where we were picked up.

2). Walking in from Mountain River up the fire trail – a long steep rocky walk!

3). Drive up to the Mt Wellington and parking in the large carpark just about 500m past the Big Bend track. Slightly hidden on the Western side of the road is start of the Thark Ridge track to Mt Montagu. Our first mistake – we estimated two hours and the sign said three and the signs usually underestimate! We started the walk about around 8:15am.

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Start of the Thark Ridge Track to Mt Montagu

The top of Mt Wellington was in low cloud and we could just see the next track snow pole through the cloud however it wasn’t raining and didn’t rain until about a third the way back from Mt Montagu so it was a pleasant walk.

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Eerie low cloud for most of the walk in

The track takes you up onto Thark Ridge then along the ridge and steadily down into the saddle next to Mt Montagu and Wellington Falls. The track is a combination of rock hopping across block fields, muddy sections and pushing your way through vegetation which was wet from the moisture in the low clouds so, we got reasonably wet from the waist down. This soon dried out once we cleared the vegetation.

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Top of Thark Ridge

The turnoff to Wellington Falls is marked by a cairn on the track. We got to the base of Mt Montagu around 10:40am and we still had a 180m steep climb and we abandoned any chance of making 2016 contacts before UTC year changeover.

We made it up to the summit of Mt Montagu at around 11:10am and setup the squid pole and radio and tried to make some contacts. Signals on 40m were pounding in!

Then we had our second problem – no power being transmitted – traced this to the microphone and managed to get two contacts made with VK1DI/2 Summit to Summit and the microphone died altogether! I took it apart and couldn’t see anything obvious and played with the cable thinking it was a broken wire but could not get it going.

Later found out the Yaesu MH-31 dynamic element went open circuit (wasn’t going to fix that one in the field!!!). The microphone has since been converted to an electret condenser element thanks to the M0UKD design.

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Trig point Selfie

We then used Reuben’s handheld to make some 2metre contacts to complete the activation. These did not come easily as we had to find the best spots on the summit to get best reception. Thanks to all who persisted with us running around the top to find the best radio location.

We had lunch and packed up and made our way back. It is mostly down hill when you walked in so, walking out is mostly uphill and my knees were telling me just that!!!

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Panorama of dead snow gums coming down Thark Ridge

About a third the way back the rain started and got progressively heavier all the way back. With rain coats and pack covers on we still got drenched through and the boots were a little squelchy! Even though it was wet it wasn’t cold and we were walking through a sea of wildflowers.

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Spice bush (that’s what we call it) flowering

Coming down off Thark Ridge into the start of the North West Bay River basin we watched the low cloud slowly roll in over Dead Island.

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Watching the cloud roll back in over Dead Island

We got back to the car around 4:30pm and literally “poured” ourselves into the car and headed home.

Thanks to all who contacted us.

Catch you on a summit soon.
73, Justin, VK7TW and Reuben VK7FREU.
Posted in Amateur Radio, Bushwalking, First Activation, SOTA Activation, Uncategorized, UTC Year Changeover, VK7 Association | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

VK7/EC-030 – Mount Graham & VKFF 0188 – 3 October 2016

Just back from a fantastic three days hiking, camping, SOTAing and VKFFing trip!
Confused by those acronymns?
SOTA = Summits On The Air – making radio contacts from the top of summits!
VKFF = Australian (VK) Flora and Fauna – making radio contacts from within National Parks.
Sunday 1 October, 2016 Reuben VK7FREU and I drove to Freycinet National Park on the East Coast of Tasmania – about 2-3 hours from Hobart (170km). This National park is very popular with tourist and hikers and we chose Freycinet NP as the Spring weather can be quite unpredictable and this proved to be the case. We had planned to spend four days and three nights camping and activating and this was cut short to three days and two nights as the weather closed in.
Our walk in took us 4.5hours with full packs and radio gear – my pack was about 17kgs which is nearing my limit! The walk was across the Hazards saddle down in to Wineglass Bay, across the Isthmus Track, along Hazards Beach, over the Peninsula Track and along Cooks Beach to Cooks Hut camp ground. The distance was about 12km and was very picturesque.
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Panorama of Hazards Beach. Mt Freycinet on left.

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Cooks Beach due South – camp ground is at the other end of the beach. Track to Mt Graham is off the left.

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Our Cooks Hut campsite

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This Bennet’s Wallaby Mum and Joey visited each morning around breakfast time.

On day two we repacked our day-packs and setup off back along Cooks Beach to the turn-off to Mt Graham. This track risessteadily up onto the East Freycinet Saddle that takes you around the back Mt Freycinet then up into the saddle proper between  Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham. The track then steeply rises up Mt Graham to the summit. The track is cut into the vegetation down to the granite bedrock and this forms a water courses that can make the rocks slippery along with the weathering granite. It can be a challenge at times!!

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Panorama L2R – Schouten Island – Mt Freycinet – Mt Graham (Foreground) – Hazards

We setup the antenna in gale force winds on top of Mt Graham (SOTA Designator – VK7/EC-030) and keeping the antenna in the air was a real challenge – we each made 6 contacts and decided to give it away as we just couldn’t keep the antenna in the air! Thanks to all who did contact us. We had lunch in a sheltered place and took in the view from Mt Graham.

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The Hazards looking down into Wineglass Bay from Mt Graham

We decided not to do Mt Freycinet as the wind was strengthening and the round trip to Mt Graham and back was 13km. We headed back to the campsite and had tea.

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Cooks Hut – used by the farmers who drove sheep on Freycinet peninsula before it became a National Park.

The Cooks Hut campsite has all the modern conveniences! – composting toilet, rain water tanks as well as sheltered campsites. Note – it is a fuel stove only area – not fires allowed. Surprisingly there was good Telstra mobile coverage at the campsite – which was good as we were regularly checking the weather reports!After tea we setup the radio and started calling on the VKFF 40m calling channel (7.144MHz) for contacts for the Australian Flora and Fauna award – Freycinet National Park is VKFF-0188 and we managed to get another 14 contacts to activate the National Park for VKFF. Thanks Paul VK5PAS for spotting us on Parks and Peaks.

http://www.wwffaustralia.com/tasmania-vk7.html

We woke on Wednesday morning and the weather report was still for rain and storms in the afternoon. We had wanted to go through to Bryans Beach and then on to activate Point Geographe but decided to head back out in the morning as try and miss the storm.

We packed up and started our walk out and the sun came out! It doesn’t get much better than this 17degreesC and relatively clear skies. Although there were storm clouds forming in the distance!

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Life’s a Beach! – Looking back along Hazards Beach toward Mt Graham and Mt Freycinet.

Our walk out took us along Cooks Beach, across the Peninsula Track, along Hazards Beach and then back around the Hazards Beach Track around to the car park. This is a slightly longer but flatter path back to our starting point. It is about a 13km walk out which took us 5 hours.

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Looking across to the Freycinet Peninsula on the drive back to Hobart!

By the time we got back to the car the grey and black storm clouds were starting to blow across Great Oyster Bay and by the time we left Swansea the storm cell was over the Freycinet Peninsula as evidenced in the above photo. I think we made a good decision to leave early!
A great trip and there are certainly some activation left to do. Thanks to all who contacted us we had a great time and will certainly be back to this piece of Tasmanian paradise!
Catch you on a summit soon.
73, Justin, VK7TW and Reuben VK7FREU.
Posted in Amateur Radio, Bushwalking, Camping, First Activation, SOTA, SOTA Activation, VK7 Association, VKFF Activation | Tagged , , | 1 Comment