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Amateur Radio June 2015

Delivery expected from 28 May

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The WIA AGM and Conference
The annual WIA AGM and Conference has just been held. I managed to make it this year, thanks to taking a couple of days of annual leave to make the timing work reasonably.

I headed east down the Princes Highway on Thursday morning, making a very short diversion off the main bitumen to find a spot to set up a portable station in the Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-761. This was one of the Parks recently added to the Reference list for the World Wide Flora and Fauna scheme. I operated for about 45 minutes, mainly on 40 m. I called for about 10 minutes on 15 m without any responses, so returned to 40 m. There were few callers around on this weekday in the middle of the day – I worked only 12 stations over the operation. I decided to pack up and head further east.

Once I reached Orbost, I headed south and then east to Cape Conran to set up close to the Cape. Cape Conran Coastal Park is another of the new WWFF references. I set up and started on 40 m SSB. My fourth contact spotted me on the ParksnPeaks website and this resulted in more callers. After about 50 minutes, I had 18 contacts in the log on 40 m and I decided to try 20 m SSB. The usual preferred operating frequency for Parks operators was unusable, so I searched around for a clear frequency, working a couple of EU stations when I came across them. I started calling on a clear frequency higher up the band. After about seven minutes, I worked a Russian station who must have spotted me on the cluster network – shortly after the contact I was swamped with a wall of callers replying to my CQ. I was busy for almost an hour with the EU dogpile, working 55 stations in 57 minutes. That gave me 73 stations worked, comfortably more than the 44 required to qualify the Park for WWFF.

I packed up and back to the Highway and drove to Nimmitabel to stay with a friend for the night.

Friday morning was an early start and I drove through Cooma and up the Boboyan Road, parked the car and climbed up to the SOTA summit Boboyan Range VK1/AC-044, also located in the Namadgi National Park VKFF-377 – an activation that would count for more than one award scheme. I worked 32 unique stations over the next two hours or so, by which time I needed to pack up and head back to the car – I had a meeting to attend in Canberra.

The drive north to Canberra offered some excellent views of the mountains to the west, many of them SOTA summits. I was only a few minutes late for the meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee, which discussed issues surrounding band plans. See the announcement in the News column.

After the meeting concluded, the informal social gathering commenced at the same venue, so there was lots of interaction with other amateurs over a drink or two and a nice meal.

Saturday was taken up by the relatively brief Annual General Meeting, the Open Forum and the afternoon Conference session. At the Open Forum, several awards were announced.

After the end of the afternoon Conference sessions, I invited Paul VK5PAS to join me on a trip to Mount Ainslie VK1/AC-040 for quick activation. We both made the required minimum four contacts in short time, thanks to some of the locals and Gerard VK2IO/1. It was then back to the venue for the Dinner.

Sunday was spent travelling home, but with a couple of stops for radio, of course! First stop was Livingstone Hill VK2/SM-093. The hope was to make contact with Andrew VK3ARR/ HL1ZIH activating a SOTA summit near Seoul. Andrew was on 10 m and a couple of the stations in Melbourne managed to make contacts. Unfortunately, I only heard short segments of signal from Andrew, so was unsuccessful. I did qualify the summit, including some summit to summit contacts.

I returned to the car and resumed the journey south. As I was approaching the Victoria/NSW border, one could see clear evidence of recent rain, as had been predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology. I decided to abandon my initial plans to activate a couple of Parks and headed back to Lake Tyers State Park for a second activation.

Once set up, I tuned up on 20 m, immediately making a chaser contact with Bob VK5FO/p on a SOTA summit. After finding a clear frequency, I started calling after spotting myself on ParksnPeaks. The Europeans are certainly keen chasers/hunters of stations operating in WWFF entities – I worked 54 stations in 45 minutes. I then changed to 40 m to work 18 stations before packing up and resuming the journey home.

Overall, it was a very worthwhile trip: two Parks qualified for WWFF, one Park qualified for VKFF, three SOTA summits activated – all new Uniques for me – and lots of discussions about many things radio related. The travelling was tiring, but that is the price one must pay.

My next question to ponder: Can I get away to attend the next AGM? The proposed venue looks very attractive!

Until next month….


Peter VK3PF

This month’s cover:

From spark to near space: In this month’s issue we look at an early experimenter from Queensland Andy Couper Jnr who built and operated spark station XQM. See the story starting on page 22. At the other extreme, we hear of the near space activities of the MARTG with small balloons – see the story beginning on page 10 and photos on the inside back cover.

WIA President's Comment

Out from under the umbrella!

Late last year I found myself walking through Hong Kong in the middle of the pro-democracy demonstrations, coined the “Umbrella Revolution”, where more than 100,000 student protesters were attempting to force Beijing to revisit a decision by the National People’s Congress. Since the time of the handover from British administration in 1997, Hong Kong has operated under a “one country two systems” policy, which maintained its capitalist economic system and guaranteed the rights and freedoms of its people for at least 50 years. The decision by the NPC effectively gave Beijing control over the selection of candidates for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, thus eroding Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms.

The struggle played out on social media and became an international public relations nightmare for Beijing, reviving memories of Tiananmen Square some 25 years earlier.

Also in Hong Kong at the time was Micha Benoliel, a 42 year old French born entrepreneur and CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up company “Open Garden” which had just released the Smartphone app “Firechat”, which allows smart phones to use their Bluetooth transceivers to form an ad-hoc mesh wireless network, passing messages to each other by bouncing from phone to phone, completely independently from the telecommunications networks.

To tech savvy protesters, Firechat offered a way to stay connected and organised, even if the authorities were to shut down the networks, and in a short time the app was downloaded several hundred thousand times with millions of messages being passed between protesters.

Key east-west arterial routes in the districts of Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok were closed for over 70 days and, although there were violent incidences, I thought the authorities showed some restraint and avoided a repeat the disastrous events of 25 years earlier.

All that time sitting in Hong Kong’s clogged traffic got me thinking: In a mesh network, digital wireless transceivers called nodes become arranged in a self-healing mesh and pass messages to each other based on an automatically configurable routing table. Sometimes called a “web without the world wide web”, messages can be passed seamlessly from one node to any other without anyone really knowing (or caring) how they got there. Gateway devices can link isolated mesh networks together using telecommunications networks, satellite, or maybe even HF radio links.

So, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think that amateurs could build-out a wide-area mesh network themselves, so amateur radio related messages and small files could be passed around using simple low-cost equipment and small antennas. The applications for emergency communications are obvious, and the technology itself is interesting and leading edge. The more people that use it the better it gets.

Some amateurs are already doing this: Glenn KD5MFW, David AD5OO, Bob WB5AOH and Rick NG5V have formed a system called Hamnet, in their words “a high speed, self-discovering, self-configuring, fault tolerant, wireless computer network that can run for days from a fully charged car battery, or indefinitely with the addition of a modest solar array or other supplemental power source. The focus is on emergency communications”.

Their system uses Linksys wireless routers and operates on channels 1-6 of the 2.4 GHz ISM band, which overlaps with the upper portion of the 13 cm amateur radio band – but maybe something at a lower frequency, providing greater range albeit with lower data speeds, could be more interesting. Just think if every amateur had a small low-cost, solar-powered, 6-metre mesh transceiver on their roof with a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi link down to their computer. Text messages, small files and news items, could be passed around between radio amateurs and the whole system would be available for emergency traffic if and when required.

Crazy idea... maybe, and there are probably better ones, but I wanted to start readers thinking about the possibilities.

Last year the WIA part-financed the GPS beacon locking project which was initiated and administered by Alan Devlin VK3XPD. Being a keen VHF/UHF/microwave operator with significant experience in weak-signal operation and the pursuit of distance records, Alan was very aware of the advantages of GPS-locking transmitters and receivers to enable very narrow band communications techniques. Alan also knew that many privately owned amateur stations were GPS-locked, but beacons – the very things intended to support weak signal operation by providing a propagation indicator and a frequency reference – were not.

In Alan’s words, “as an active amateur radio enthusiast, I want our beacon network upgraded to GPS-locking for the benefit of all amateur radio operators in Australia...” and he proposed that he and the WIA should share the cost of the Beacon upgrade, to a total of $5000, half provided by himself and half paid by the WIA. That project, which acted as a test-case for a new type of WIA special purpose grant, is now largely completed.

The WIA will soon be calling for submissions for the second round of WIA special purpose grants. Maybe you or your club have a good idea that would benefit amateur radio, and you need a little financial help to develop it. Whether it’s as adventurous as developing a wide-area amateur mesh network, or something a little more down to earth, if it could assist the development of amateur radio in Australia we need to know about it. So, if you have a good idea, let it out from under the umbrella and share it.

Watch out in the coming months for more information about the new WIA Special Purpose Grants, and a call for submissions.

Phil Wait VK2ASD
WIA President

Table Of Contents

VI3ANZAC at the Flying Boat Museum Jim Linton VK3PC
The boredom factor John Kirk VK4TJ
Andrew Couper Jnr Spark Station “XQM” Michael J. Charteris VK4QS ~ VK4-“XQM”
VK100ANZAC Activation in Western Australia in August Bob Bristow VK6POP
Awards made at the 2015 Annual General Meeting & Open Forum WIA
Guy Fletcher Gridsquares Table at 12 April 2015 David Smith VK3HZ
Honours for the ILLW our prime fun-event Jim Linton VK3PC


Amateur radio group has its head in the clouds The Melbourne Amateur Radio and Technology Group
The repeater you have when you don’t have a repeater John Edwards VK4IE
Product Review - INAC AH-1430 Loop Antenna Peter Hartfield VK3PH

Plus all the usual Club news and columns

Andrew Couper Jnr Spark Station “XQM”

Michael J. Charteris VK4QS ~ VK4-“XQM”

We have another interesting historical article, this time provided by Mike Charteris. Mike details some of the activities of Andy Couper Jnr in building and operating the spark station XQM and Andy’s activities in the military during WWI.

VI3ANZAC at the Flying Boat Museum

Jim Linton VK3PC

An account of the activation of the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum over the ANZAC Day weekend by a group of amateurs using the special callsign VI3ANZAC. The story includes an outline of the activities at the base during WWII.

Amateur radio group has its head in the clouds

The Melbourne Amateur Radio and Technology Group

A very interesting story of the development, deployment, chasing and ultimate recovery of two helium-filled party balloons carrying low-powered but high-tech payloads.

Product Review - INAC AH-1430 Loop Antenna

Peter Hartfield VK3PH

Another antenna story: This time, a review of a commercially available small magnetic loop antenna. The loop tested covers 14 to 30 MHz and appears to perform well for its size.

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