Charles our QSL manager has advised that the cards for the VK5KI IOTA activation have arrived. He is currently preparing them for postage. If you havent yet ordered your card via the Online QSL Request Service (OQRS) now is a good time! Thanks again Charles for all your hard work!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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?
1290 (82.4% Unique calls)
0814z 13th July 2020 to 2141z 17th July 2020
Average QSO Rate:
CQ Zones Worked:
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 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.
Thanks to everyone who has worked us. Andy and I will start final teardown in the next 30 minutes and get ready to take the ferry ride back to the mainland this afternoon. I will write up the trip and publish the photos over the weekend.
Remarkable Rocks – Flinders Chase Nat Park – after the January 2020 Bushfires
We made it! The first two antennas are up and we have been active for an hour or so on 40m SSB and FT8 tonight. We will erect the multiband vertical tomorrow and spend some time on 20m. Everyone is happy, safe but exhausted after the early start from Adelaide to make the ferry on time (a 2 hour drive from home). Here are some photos from today – more tomorrow!
NEW UPDATE: 7:40pm (ACDT) 12th July – final preparations for the VK5KI expedition are complete. We have confirmed with the owner and the weather for the ferry crossing looks excellent. With luck we will have fine weather in the afternoon and get all of the antennas up tomorrow. If all goes well we should appear on air, most likely on 40m first sometime tomorrow night our time. Watch the DX Clusters and out Clublog live feed for details.
VK5KI DXpedition to Kangaroo Island – IOTA OC-139 – UPDATE
Preparations are almost complete for the VK5KI mini DXpedition to Kangaroo Island. We are on track to depart Monday week (July 13th) on the Sealink Ferry to the island, part of the South Australia State East Centre IOTA group.
Andrew VK5AKH and I are preparing to take two stations, the first comprising an Elecraft K3S+KPA500, with the second consisting of an Icom IC7600 and SPE 1.5K-LFA (the amplifier that didnt make it to Tonga). We will have a HexBeam on 20-10m, a dedicated 40m vertical and a multi-band vertical for 160-10m.
We will be operating SSB, CW and multiple digital modes, including FT8. We do not expect to run Fox/Hound mode this trip but stay tuned on the clusters as we could switch over if we are receiving excessive calls.
So why Kangaroo Island?
IOTA Chasing is something you do with a long haul horizon in mind. In my own IOTA chase I have accumulated 300 credits over in 3.5 years. It is clear that this is no quickly DXCC in a weekend activity using FT8. IOTA chasers are dedicated souls who loose vast amounts of sleep digging weak signals out of the noise to add to their tally! No one makes any progress however unless these island groups are activated. As Kangaroo Island is relatively easy to access, it seemed a worthy candidates to place on the air, especially given many other destinations are currently not reachable. Details about IOTA group OC-139 can be found on the iota-world.org website.
This is a Holiday Style expedition
Credit: Kenny Douglas-Hill (Facebook) – Kangaroo Island Fires Jan 2020
VK5 is not rare nor are we most wanted. In IOTA terms, Kangaroo Island (OC-139) has been claimed by an average of 48% of all IOTA award applicants in the last 5 years. As a result, we are going to be on the island more with a view to operate and experiment than chasing hard for a big QSO total. We are also down there to escape the reality of the world in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic for a few days. As such, it is a time for us to unwind, and relax with family.
Having said that, we know there are people out there who need OC-139 in their quest for IOTA awards. We will be happy to give as many ATNi (all time new Islands) out as we can! We will be monitoring the clusters and our social media pages on Facebook so if you are desperate for OC-139 drop us a line and we will see if we can help you with a sked!
While we are down on KI, we also will do our small part for the economy of the island which was so badly damaged by the bush fires in January 2020. We will be spending some time visiting much loved attractions and businesses, spreading a little cheer and the word that (at least once Australia’s borders reopen), Kangaroo Island is still here as wild and beautiful as ever. We will blog about our activities and give you a small look at how the Australian bush recovers from fire as a result of our time on the island as well.
Finally, as always, I will prepare a special bi-fold QSL card that you can request via our QSL manager. The card will feature some information on the bush fire recovery and how it is going on Kangaroo Island.
VK5KI On Air Plans
So when will you see us on air? We will be arriving on the island by ~midday on Monday July 13th. Myself and Andrew will then set about constructing the station while our families and partners head into Kingscote to obtain provisions for our stay.
Monday night (~0700Z) 13th July – We hope to have the station operational on at least 40-10m by then – through until at least 1400z.
Tuesday July 14th– The 160/80/30m antenna will be erected by lunchtime Tuesday. There is a fair expectation that we will be on air more much of the day looking for whatever openings we can find on a wide range of modes. Particular focus will be placed on EU Short path in the morning on 20m, NA/AS during the day and EU long Path after 0400z 20m. Nightime will likely be 30/40/80m into NA and AS/OC and some attempts will be made to run 80/40/30 early morning into Europe.
Wednesday 15th – Friday 17th– we will have usually one station active early in the morning 2100-0000z and probably again with stints between the hours of ~0400-0800z plus after 1000z (until we need to get to sleep). One or two nights will see activity on 80m and possibly 160m (depending on conditions). There are no guarantees however of activity in any of those windows, and activity may occur at other times as well subject to what is happening elsewhere with the family.
Saturday 18th – The station will be QRT most likely before 2200z on the 17th (~7.30am 18th July)
Partial tear down will occur Friday afternoon 17th July. We haven’t planned exactly what will be pulled down when. We have a 1.30pm Ferry ride home on Saturday 18th July, and need time to pack and get to the terminal. The multi-band vertical may be the only antenna on air on Friday night but at least it will give us flexibility to operate on any band we choose.
While this expedition simply operating with the view that we will work everyone, we will preference stations further away if there is a worthwhile opening. If we are, please be aware that we maintain the following policy (as per our other expeditions)
The team has agreed that if you are located in Oceania, South America or Africa, we will accept your call at any time, regardless of which specific region we are calling.
This will apply to VK, ZL, Oceania, South America and African stations only. All other regions, please stand by if your region isnt being called, or please look for us on another band.
I am very pleased to announce that the VK5KI Expedition to Kangaroo Island (IOTA OC-139) has been rescheduled, although it has also been scaled down. It will not be coinciding with the IOTA contest for 2020 and instead will be held during the South Australian school holidays between July 13-18th. It is also being converted into a holiday style expedition with myself (VK5GR), Andrew (VK5AKH) and my family. Bands and equipment are to be finalized but it will likely be only one station covering all bands from 80m to 10m. (it remains to be seen if 160m can be activated – we will see).
We are thankful here in South Australia that the authorities have successfully managed my home state’s way through the COVID-19 crisis so far. They were able to reopen intra-state travel over a week ago, including ferry travel to Kangaroo Island. Consequently, many of the other holiday spots locally will be potentially quite busy as people try to overcome cabin fever from the lock-downs. Kangaroo Island, which requires that extra amount of effort and cost with the ferry crossing, should be much quieter, with fewer people and plenty of serenity. We now have a different venue confirmed on the island also, which is quite isolated from the main community. All in all, it should be a great week with some family time , amateur radio and a chance to unwind.
We therefore hope to see you on the air as VK5KI from Kangaroo Island OC-139 in July after all!