VK3/VC-018 Buninyong, Andrews’ Modulation and NA from a summit

by vk3arr

For some strange reason, my place of employment considers me suitably responsible for maintaining the health of the rest of the workforce. As designated First Aid Officer, I’m required to counteract the sudden yet inevitable effects that a diet of donuts, fried chicken and caffeinated, carbonated beverages has on your average IT worker. More than a few of my colleagues wonder if indeed I would save their lives in that situation; I prefer to let them worry, and in the meantime pander to my needs in an attempt to curry favour should a sudden cardiac event grace their no-longer-svelte body while on my watch.

In any case, once a year I have to review the process of bringing them back from the dead. A day out of the office filled with borderline inappropriate actions on various plastic dummies in the name of workplace safety. The plus side of that? A slightly later start, which meant I could fill the time with a quick activation of Mt Buninyong to join in the April 1st AM activation day (not quite) called by Andrew VK1DA. Andrew VK1NAM was also going to be out in the evening, making it a day for us to use Andrews’ Modulation.

I got up earlier than usual, packed the gear in the car, and headed up the road, filling up with petrol first. There is something about me and Buninyong that seems to involve low quantities of fuel, so I decided to skip the excitement of riding the fuel light home this year. I arrived a few minutes prior to 0830, set up the linked dipole and scanned for a free frequency.

I’d decided to operate up a bit higher on 40m to avoid the Hip Replacement Nets that seem to occupy 40m during the weekday, and discovered 40m was open to South Africa, although the operator there was working a pileup. I ended up on 7.180kHz, almost unheard of for a SOTA activation in VK, turned the radio to AM, power to 20W and put out a call.

I can understand why we don’t use AM now – the battery rapidly started to decrease in capacity as I wasted time sending a carrier. I dialled the power back to 5W to try keep things nice, and after a while, Ian VK1DI came back with a great 59 signal. After about 10 minutes, John VK2YW came up across almost 500km. I intended to only work another few minutes on AM to give those waiting on SSB a chance before heading up to 10m, but I picked up Ian VK7IF at the mouth of the Derwent River who heard my CQ and came back and suddenly I felt I needed to qualify the summit on AM. One more needed.

I called for another ten minutes, and finally Bernard VK3AV came back with a horrible signal. I gave him the most charitable 4/7 signal I’ve ever given (probably 2/7 if I was being fair – it was badly distorted), and the summit was qualified. I switched to SSB and worked another group of signals, including Amanda VK3FQSO and Gerard VK2IO, who’d barely heard me on AM, a 800km path. True to form, a “final call” netted a bunch more, and then I switched to 10m SSB.

Ernie VK3DET was my first contact, ground wave over a path of maybe 20km. That was followed with what I was after, a nice bit of DX into America from a summit. Rich N4EX first from Raleigh, North Carolina. He gave me a 2/3 and after a lot of repeats, he got his report of 3/1. It was a tough haul, but we got there. I was using the linked dipole cut for 12m, which has a 2:1 SWR on 10m. I had an ATU in place to bring that down to 1:1, and I used a transmitter power of about 50W, increased to 60W as I finished the activation and knew I had battery capacity to spare.

Raleigh, NC is a familiar place for me, as my company is headquartered there, and in fact I’ll be over there in a few weeks time. I hope to be able to get a summit activation in to address the issues from last time.

Second was Dan NA6MG, with similar signals, and then I called CQ for a while. A station starting in Alpha Bravo(?) was also barely audible above the noise and trying repeatedly. Had we been able to give reports, I’d have given a 2/1, but the signal never came up enough for a complete callsign, much less a QSO. If you were that station, let me know. I’m sorry we couldn’t work.

Needing to go QRT at 2225 UTC, I put out a final call and NN2X Tom from Texas called in with “only 100W”. He eventually got the linear fired up and hit me with the full 1.5kW, but the S-meter didn’t move, and his 5/7 signal with 100W from his 4 element yagi was perfectly readable anyway. Tom was a nice guy with a chatty demeanour, and we exchanged details on our set up – he was surprised at 60W from a dipole getting the distance to Texas, and he offered to spot me on the cluster, but by that stage, I was desperately late to get off the mountain, so declined and went QRT.

So, success:

  • Qualified the summit on AM. Probably the first instance of that in VK?
  • Worked NA DX from a summit. First contacts for me on that band despite a few tries previously.
  • Had a heap of fun, despite not getting back to that ZS station.