Here is the story of what happened whilst we were here!
Day 1 – Travel to Kangaroo Island
We have arrived on the island yesterday and managed to get the station running by about 9pm. Have a slight issue with TVI to contend with to keep the family happy (everytime I transmit below 21MHz the TV signal disappears). This will prove problematic for some operating windows.
Station Setup in the kitchen of the holiday home we are staying in.
Day 2 – Day of rest and tinkering
I added 30m elements to the antenna today so I have access to 80-10m now with reasonable VSWR. Last night 30m would not tune. The 160m antenna is proving problematic – so it might not make an appearance this trip. Will see how we go. No touring today – might be Wednesday when we head out as the weather is supposed to improve.
Look out for me on the digital segments calling CQ in PSK or RTTY. I hope to break out the SSTV software shortly as well.
Day 3 – Fixed the 20m Antenna – Did some touring
Travel around Kangaroo Island is pretty easy with most of the major tourist roads now sealed bitumen. The distances are deceiving however and it is worth remembering that the island is over 100km long! We made our way down to Flinders Case National Park and visited Cape de Coudic Lighthouse, Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks.
The QSL card (now post processed at home) can be seen here!
Day 3 saw a start on 15m followed by several runs of 20m. 30m was tried at one stage but everyone was more interested in working the “rare” DX rather than little old me 🙂 (They also made it hard to find a spot on the band). Thanks to everyone who called me today!
I did have a request to try some JT65. I got up on 20m a couple of times but hit problems with a wall of signals responding everytime I called CQ. Even the new WSJT 1.7 development code couldnt separate the signals. JT isnt my favourite mode and it is quite slow for comntacts too compared with rapid fire PSK or RTTY. Will perservere but more for 80m than any other band.
When I returned to air on 20m tonight I was finding the ATU a bit unhappy. Turned out the addition of 30m to the dipoles has interacted with 20m somewhat. So at 8.30pm I lowered the dipoles (they were rigged to do this easily) and made some adjustments. End result, the VSWR was now back below 1.5:1 making a much happier radio on 20m. It also cleared up the TVI when transmitting on 20m so more EU long path time is now available!
Day 4 – Thursday – My Birthday!
Well, the space weather gods were smiling today – what a birthday present and what amazing conditions! I have never heard signals on 12m before but they were there aplenty, and 15m was wall to wall as was 17m. Unfortunately I was learning very quickly that my antenna, which the ATU would accept and tune, really didnt radiate all that well on those bands (I should have understood that alrready but it didnt really sink in – practical feedback while experimenting – real amateur radio hi hi). So, yet more elements needed to be added for 17/15 and 12m! Materials were a little short however so I ended up using LOTS of cable ties and drinking straws to get the spacers built for the 18/21 and 24MHz elements. I now call it the drinking straw antenna!
In the end it took so long building it that I never got to put it into action on 12m (and couldnt get that band to tune either) but after returning from Kingscote to obtain more supplies I did put it to good use on 15 and 17m and was rewarded with a run of contacts on both bands. 21MHz was open to Europe as late as 11pm at night local time and I scored by first contact with Africa on that band. 17m PSK was the standout of the evening too where I found myself being chased by other stations as I was calling other stations who were themselves calling CQ! I found myself asking those calling me to standby while I completed my own initiated contact and then i went off and found my own frequency to cause a PSK pileup on. Late in the evening I dropped back down to 80m for another try on JT65 and was rewarded with a couple of trans-Pacific contacts to the USA and Costa Rica. My biggest problem with 80m JT was staying awake too long for the EU Short path openings on 20-30m and then not being up early enough for EU 80m greyline! I need another operator with me if I was to do this as a serious amateur radio expedition and not a family holiday.
Of course there is always an end to excitement and the inevitable crash was coming. As the sun come up on day 5 it decided it didnt want to cooperate. Bring on the geomagnetic storm.
Day 5 – Touring Trip 2 – Caves and Seals
Today opened with HF conditions being very poor. JT65 was about the only mode working. We had some good contacts on 30m into Europe but many of the other bands were not brilliant (although 20m JT worked pretty well later in the day). I managed to stabilise the PC when running WSJT so it stopped crashing (mostly) although a couple of times mid contact it just spontaneously restarted on me. Apologies if I appeared to “disappear” for a few minutes mid contact at times…..
For the touring we made the trek down to Kelly Hill caves. This was the first time my daughter had been in a cave and while she was a bit apprehensive at first she loved it down there in the end. We also stopped at Vivonne Bay for lunch (you have to try the lamb burger at the general store – delicious!) before heading on to Seal Bay. This bay is famous for being one of the few colonys of Australian Sea Lions. The national parks rangers take you down onto the beach and you can walk amongst the animals as they laze in the sun or frolic in the waves.
Day 6 – Sheep Dairy and wind down
This was the final day on air. Conditions started our fairly poor in the beginning but picked up through the day. I worked a couple of VK Parks’n’Peaks activators on 40m in the morning on SSB and had planned on trying for 80m Europe at greyline. This was thwarted however with a major Windows 10 update having snuck onto the laptop overnight. Due to the low power processor on this particular laptop it took nearly 2 hours to complete installation. Sigh. I missed most of the morning 30m opening to Europe as well as a result.
We didnt travel far today but we did visit the Island Pure sheep dairy and sampled their cheese! Highly recommended if you are visiting Kangaroo Island. (http://islandpure.com.au/). We also went to the Pelican Feeding at 5pm in Kingscote. It was hilarious watching these enormous birds arguing over fish.
In the afternoon we discovered that we had clashed with the JARTS RTTY contest! A blessing (as far as generating activity) and a pain (because of the lack of space on the band plus the confused answers from contesters who didnt know what to make of someone not participating in the contest actively).
In the evening, the station went to air for one last time. I worked a long run of stations on 40m JT. After then skulking around the WARC bands for a while drumming up some RTTY contacts on 30m I went back to 20m, sat on a slightly unorthodox frequency (14075) for RTTY and just added the contest response to my IOTA response too. I worked some north American stations on 20m RTTY as a result before dropping back to 40m. I then gave up and started return calling some of the contesters to give them multipliers (and probably some IOTA surprises when they finally get their QSL cards). Ordinarily I would have joined in with the contest itself but as I had to pack the station up that night there was little point.
Finally at 2am on Day 7 I gave my final CQ, put my final country in the log (Luxembourg) and packed up the station. In the morning, the antenna will come down for the last time and we will make our way home.
Thanks to everyone who called me whilst on Kangaroo Island. It was great fun working so many stations who were actually pointing at VK! I find it is a common problem for lower powered VK stations, particularly in the southern states, get get some DX digital stations to answer a CQ call. A dipole usually doesnt make the grade because everyone is looking elsewhere with their beams, noise floors and QRM on digital modes. It was great to see that it didnt always hold true!
Looking forward now to doing the QSL cards and getting your cards back as well!