Activity & Expedition News

VK5KI 2.0 – On the air (at last)

The family and I have arrived safely on Kangaroo Island and have settled into our temporary home. As there is only myself interested in radio this time things are taking longer than expected. However I have now at least completed 24 hours on the air for about 300 contacts this trip.

The antennas so far consist of a MW0JZE HexBeam on my new Clarke pump up mast (ideal for one man installation but too heavy for anything but domestic operations) with a tuneable vertical built on a 12m Spiderbeam pole that I can configure for all bands from 160-30m (160/80m are inverted Ls).

Operation So Far

So far I have been active on a few bands including 6m with some domestic QSOs to VK4 and VK6 yesterday. The busiest band however has been 20m SSB into Europe. Both nights so far I have attracted a crowd. The lack of DXPeditions over the past few months have certainly allowed some stations to forget pileup etiquette unfortunately which slowed things down. Switching to split helped – although in the end the pileup was 10kHz wide! I haven’t worked traffic like that since A35JT in 2019.

There were a couple of stations that were duping me on the same band and mode last night. Please, if you worked me the night before don’t work me again. Lets give other IOTA chasers a chance to get OC-139 Kangaroo Island into their logs too!

Where am I operating and did you make it?

A good way to keep track of where and when I am on the air is to look at the Clublog Livestream. You can see it here: https://clublog.org/livestream/VK5KI

QSL Cards

Charles M0OXO, my QSL manager, has VK5KI QSL cards available right now! You can  order your card via the Online QSL Request Service (OQRS) within 24-48hrs of making contact. I am sending daily logs to Charles as the activation progresses.

Thanks again Charles for all your hard work!

Clublog Log Feed

You can also check (within minutes of a contact) to see if you are in my log here on Kangaroo Island by looking at Clublog, thanks to Michael G7VJR. The log on Clublog includes both this activation and the previous activation back in July 2020.

See you all on the air!

VK5KI – 160m Operation Planned

Final antenna packing lists are being drawn up today and at this stage I hope to also include an inverted L for 160m. Having tried to operate 160m at home recently I decided I was silly not to give it a go in a much more RF quiet location, and with a better antenna with a better ground plane. I will try and pay attention in particular to my morning grey-line into Europe, but will also do some activity during the NA morning grey-line as well.

Only 4 days to go before we depart Adelaide and head down to IOTA OC-139. See you on the air!

VK5KI – Return to Kangaroo Island – IOTA OC-139 – 11-22 January 2021

As announced in October, I am heading back to Kangaroo Island over the summer holidays with the family.

This time it will be more holiday and less radio, however I am taking the station down with me and will be down there for nearly 2 weeks as opposed to 5 nights. I hope to be active on 40/30m with a vertical, 20-6m with my Hex Beam and possibly 80m with a dipole. There is a chance 160m might get activated as well (depending on what gear I can fit into the car). This is a single op trip holiday style. I will be down there from the 11th to the 22nd of January. Most likely operating hours will be evenings and mornings. Daytime will be spent with the family and touring the island.

I will run the live logging into Clublog for the activity to help you find me. OQRS will be available via Charlies M0OXO and logs will be loaded to Charles at least daily. QSL cards are already available so there will be no waiting for this one.

Activity will be a combination of CW, SSB and FT8, possibly with some RTTY and PSK thrown in for fun. I also hope to put VK5KI on air during the WIA Summer VHF/UHF field day on 6m/2m/70cm (and maybe 23cm). With the 90m elevation we will have I hope to be heard at least up in Adelaide. Worst case I will take some gear mobile up to Stokes Hill for the day (200m elevation).

See you on  the air from VK5KI Kangaroo Island – OC-139!

 

VK5KI Expedition 2.0 Announced – January 2021

We are returning to Kangaroo Is OC-139 – January 11-22 2021

After a successful trip in July 2020, I will be returning to Kangaroo Island in January for a longer break. This will be a part time holiday style operation, while  we spend 2 weeks over the summer holidays away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The nature of the station that will be taken hasn’t been decided yet. As we get closer, details of what bands and modes will be active will be announced.

VK5KI – Logbook of the World posted – QSL Cards are in the mail!

 

The final acts of this expedition are now complete. The log has been posted to LOTW, eQSL and QRZ.com for the Kangaroo Island activation from July 13-18th 2020 (IOTA OC-139). Charles has completed the mailout of all of the OQRS cards that have been requested. Should you still wish to make an OQRS request for the VK5KI activation you still can. Please visit M0OXO’s OQRS service.

NOTE: My new Clublog IOTA matching policy is as follows. Clublog/LOTW matches for IOTA Award credit in the iota-world.org system will be available for VK5KI in February 2021. I still prefer that, those who take the trouble to request QSL cards, should have first rights of claiming the IOTA using those cards rather than via electronic means. After the yearly honour roll listings are counted, any new IOTAs activated by me in the previous year will be then become available for electronic matching. I am one of those amateurs that still likes to receive paper cards and, while electronic matching is valuable, particularly in this age of disrupted postal services, I still wish to see the art of paper QSLing preserved.

Thanks for all the contacts! See you all next time we take Amateur Radio out into the world!

VK5KI – Kangaroo Island in Pictures

As many will know, Kangaroo Island was ravaged by bushfires in January this year. Over 50% of the island was involved and much of the tourism and forestry infrastructure was destroyed. The community was hit very hard by the tourist cancellations, and then it was compounded by the COVID-19 outbreak and lock-downs that swept across the nation. Fortunately the pandemic situation in VK5 has been controlled and we were in the end able to rebook and still travel to Kangaroo Island.

Part of the aim of this trip then was to give a little bit back to the Kangaroo Island economy by visiting the tourist attractions that are open and supporting local businesses and suppliers. It also gave us a chance to see first hand how the island is starting to recover from the fires.


Getting There

To reach Kangaroo Island, we drove down to Cape Jervis from Adelaide (the capital city of South Australia), roughly a 2 hour trip. We then boarded the Sealink Ferry service and sailed across to the island. We were very lucky on the trip over as the conditions were calm. We were concerned about what we might face on return as payback for lulling us into a false sense of security on the way over!

After 45 minutes on the ferry and another 45 minute drive we arrived at our home for the week at “Hilltop” located about 10-15 minutes south of Kingscote, the main town on the island. By the end of the day we had both stations running with antennas operational for 40 and 20m. The following day we added antennas for 30m and 80m as well.


Flinders Chase National Park

Day 3 saw us trek west across the island to visit one of the premier parks on the island, Flinders Chase suffered the most from the fires. The visitors centre plus the one at Kelly Hill Caves were both completely destroyed along with much of the boardwalk infrastructure around the Remarkable Rocks area. However, across the park there is signs of new regeneration and life.

Admiral’s Arch

Once inside Flinders Chase, the first attraction we reached was Admiral’s Arch and Cape De Couedic Lighthouse. Fortunately the fires were stopped before the engulfed the lighthouse grounds, which also spared the boardwalks to the arch. This gave us a chance to visit the Fur Seal colony that lives around the arch.

While at the arch, we were lucky enough to spot an Echidna hiding in the bush. It was great to see some wildlife alive and well on land deep inside the fire zone.

 


Remarkable Rocks

Our next stop was the Remarkable Rocks. Here the damage caused by the fires was most apparent. I have a couple of before and after photos, comparing 2016 to 2020 that graphically illustrate what went on

The rocks themselves are as mystical and magical as ever.


Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island

Later in the week we visited Seal Bay, home to one of the largest colonies of Australian Sea Lions. This colony is special as it was virtually inaccessible to the 1800s seal hunters due to the reefs just off shore. The reef is one of the reasons the seal lions here have not been hunted to extinction. This is another of the premier tourist attractions on the island and is on the must visit list for anyone travelling here. Note however that you do need to book as beach access and group sizes are restricted.


There were many other attractions to be found on the island, all of which are open and looking for your business. I know Andrew and his partner had a grand time touring the various artisan cafe’s, Gin distillery and sights all over the island. For me, this was more about just stopping, relaxing and escaping the madness of the last 6 months with family. It certainly is a most excellent place to do that in thats for sure.

The Trip Home

I would love to bring you some photos of the trip home, but as you will recall my initial comment at the start of this story – we had our payback for such a smooth crossing over. The trip back was anything but, with northerly winds driving very choppy seas side on to the ferry. Lets just say it was very rough indeed – and not all of our party survived the trip without needing the infamous paper bags supplied on board. None the less, the journey is only 45-60 minutes and the discomfort was worth the trip to beautiful Kangaroo Island!

VK5KI QSL Card – Preview

The QSL Card design is complete for VK5KI! Remember you can order your copy via Charles M0OXO’s Online QSL Request Service. Note Bureau card requests will receive a simplified 2 sided card only. Only paid requests receive the full double sided card.

LoTW will be released for all contacts after all direct QSL cards are mailed (expect an approximate 6-8 weeks given current postage service delays).

VK5KI OC-139 – OQRS is Open + QSO Statistics

The full and final logs for the VK5KI activation of IOTA OC-139 – Kangaroo Island – have now been sent to our QSL Manager, Charles M0OXO. OQRS is open for you to request your QSL cards either direct (at a cost of US$3.00) or via the bureau (Free). You can access our OQRS service by clicking on the M0OXO logo here:


How did we go whilst on the island you might ask? We have just finished compiling the statistics and it is an interesting story. We are firstly impressed wih the high number of unique calls worked on this expedition. We put that down in part to working only a small selection of bands, each one targeted to a specific area. As it was the middle of winter here in southern Australia, nighttime maximum usable frequencies (MUF) can struggle to make it to the 14MHz (20m) band. Indeed we saw very few workable night time openings this trip, not helped by the CME which hit on Monday. 30m became the stand out band with 40m very close behind. Domestic contacts were most easily obtained on 80m, although we had some surprises with South America and the Falkland Islands being worked on 80m as well using FT8 as well as a small number of 80m SSB contacts to the USA.

Given it was a holiday style activation, and during the day we were often out looking around the island or spending time with family, to achieve the contacts that we did was very satisfying.

We were also a little surprised at the number of people actively chasing contacts with us for ATNIs (All time new Islands). The interest in the IOTA aspect of the operation was fantastic and made the trip down here with the style of station that we took worthwhile. We also were conscious of some anti FT8 sentiment in the IOTA community and so did attempt to work an even amount of SSB and CW as well. In the end FT8 did account for half of the contacts, with the other half a combination of CW and SSB. The split we feel was more reflective of it being a weekday activation in combination with the poor propagation making SSB difficult. It cant be said that we didnt try. One of our best openings was in fact to Europe on 30m CW on the Wednesday night. We had a sustained pileup for over 4 hours. It was fantastic to see the interest in chasing us.

Finally, thank you to everyone who made contact, and to those who missed out dont worry, VK5KI will continue to make trips down here over the next few years. Kangaroo Island is only 120km from home. While it is a bit expensive to travel across to the island, it doesn’t compare to the costs of a big international effort. We most definitely will be back!

Where did we Work?

Activation Statistics

MetricResult
QSO Count:1290 (82.4% Unique calls)
Operation Dates:0814z 13th July 2020 to 2141z 17th July 2020
Operating Time:41Hrs 51Mins
Operators:2
Average QSO Rate:30.7 QSO/Hr
DXCC Worked:80
CQ Zones Worked:31

Our Station

Our station was a relatively modest one, comprising two operating positions.

Station 1 was based on an Elecraft K3S, KPA500 Linear and KAT500 ATU with a Microham Keyer II. The software stack was based on N1MM running on an i5 Intel NUC PC.

Station 1

Station 2 comprised an IC7600 with an SPE 1.5K-FA amplifier (running only 400W as we are in VK) supplied by Andy VK5AKH

Antennas – 40m

The antennas we used comprised a monoband 40m vertical with an elevated feed and radial system. This was built on a 12m fibreglass pole (and in fact was one element of the 40m 4-square array used in Tonga last year on A35JT). We didnt erect the complete 4-square this time as we simply weren’t on the ground long enough to justify the time it takes to erect vs how long we would have left to use it.

Antennas – 30m

The 30m band antenna was very similar but was based on a CrankIR but rigged on a 9m fibreglass pole allowing for elevated radials to again be used. This configuration again was similar to one of the elements of our Tonga 30m 4-square. These two antennas were spaced about 60m apart which allowed us to operate both bands simultaneously with the help of a set of W3NQN filters.

Antennas – 20m-10m + 80m

The 20m-10m antenna was based on a MW0JZE designed light weight portable Hex Beam mounted atop a KR150 rotator supported by a Spiderbeam 10m aluminium portable tower. Just below the beam we also strung an 80m inverted V dipole. (The dipole wasn’t on the tower when the photo was taken). Adding the rotator was a godsend in the chilly conditions we faced down there. While we had great weather, it was very cold at night (around 5 deg C). Having the ability to stay inside was appreciated by the team. It also meant it was easier to chase the fleeting openings we found on 20m. The 20m beam was located about 150m away from the 40m antenna which also helped greatly with our ability to run both the beam and either 40 or 30m simultaneously which we did on occasion.

All of the antennas were fed with Hyperflexx-7 feedline (RG8 equivalent) which accommodated the nearly 100m cable run out to the 40m antenna.

So there you have it – that was our modest mini-DXpedition station.

Again thank you to everyone who worked us. We look forward to when we can next bring you yet another IOTA potentially from around VK!

(Stay tuned also for the holiday blog which I will write up later in the week).

73 from Grant VK5GR and Andrew VK5AKH – operators at VK5KI – Kangaroo Island – July 2020.