Ego loqui ad viros super montes

Month: January, 2016

The Power of Influence

My parents have recently moved back to Victoria, as part of a downsizing effort, and that means a lot of stuff from my childhood is coming back to me.  Photos, memorabilia and the like, is all flooding in to our house.  Last week, I took possession of my old cub scouts shirt, complete with badges and insignia.

I had planned to remove the badges and throw the shirt away – it no longer fit, obviously, and the uniform itself has changed enough that no one would ever use it again.  Unbeknownst to either my parents or myself, in the top pocket was a letter.


I found it while wondering why the pocket was stiffer than the other.  It was a letter sent to me by my ex-Akela, Russell Clark.

It has been almost 25 years since I last saw Akela, so my memories have dimmed, but I remember a man similar to many I have met over the years since.  He was someone who cared passionately about the development of young people; he gave opportunities to many, and he trusted us, the 10 year old Sixers, to run a lot of the day to day activities.


The letter

The letter reads as follows:

Hi Andrew, it’s your ex. Akela here, please find enclosed with this letter 2 Badges which we still owe you.  The first one is the Blue level achievement Badge for Codes, Congratulations on achieving this higher level badge, it shows me once again that you were willing to spend that extra time to aim for that higher level, above what was set for the cubscouts to do.

The second badge give[s] me great pleasure to award to you, it’s the Gold Boomerang.  Even though we had trouble finding a leader / parent to teach the Gold Boomerang, you still managed to complete the requirements necessary to pass this badge.  Once again congratulations on attaining these badges Andrew, You were an excellent and well behaved cubscout and I hope you remember and use the things you learnt in Cubscouts in the coming years.

Finally, as you grow older don’t forget your Law and Promise, let those words guide you through life, and I am sure you will grow up to be a fine youn[g] man.

All the best for the future,

Russell Clark


I must admit, I had to look up the Cubscout Law and Promise.  I did not go on to do scouts or the higher levels.  For the record, these are below:

Cub Scout Promise

On my honour
I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to my God, and
To the Queen of Australia
To help other people, and
To live by the Cub Scout Law


Cub Scout Law

Cub Scouts are loyal and obedient
Cub Scouts do not give in to themselves

Worthy ideals to strive for, I feel.  Whether you believe in a God, or are a republican, the idea of duty to a higher purpose (even secular), to helping other people and being loyal and obedient citizens are fine qualities.  The last term, not giving in to themselves is a mark of tenacity, but also of having a respect for yourself and your capabilities.

In terms of my personal memories, my time in the Air Training Corps (now Australian Air Force Cadets) has a much more prominent place.  This is undoubtedly due to the AIRTC/AAFC occupying a time as I developed into the young man that Russell refers to.  The leadership and management training I received there I use regularly in my current job.

One of the learnings from there was a Sergeant who told me early on that as you develop as a leader, you absorb the characteristics of those leaders you most admire, until you find yourself saying something that you realise is the manifestation of that leader inside you.

For me, Russell’s legacy to me is to trust people to do the right thing.  I look now at my leadership style and I see the influence of Russell, of my COs and NCOs in the AIRTC/AAFC, of previous managers in my career.  This influence is strong, and your leadership style will always absorb that.

In the amateur radio space, it may not be obvious, but consider how many of you, humble readers, had an influencing person that you involved in the hobby? Have you paid this forward and brought new people into the hobby, into SOTA, or into your favourite area? Without those who influence, hobbies and movements die out, and we are lucky to have, and I have been lucky to meet, many who influence others as second nature.

In reading Russell’s letter, my overwhelming desire was to write a reply to him, so that he understood the impact and influence that people can take in other’s lives.  So that he could recognise that the simple act of taking the time to put encouragement into such a letter might have an impact on someone 25 years later.  In trying to find out if he still lived at the address on the letter, so that I could reply, I discovered he passed away on January 30, 2010, relatively young, from cancer.

So Vale Russell Clark, and here’s to your legacy, and the legacy of those who have influenced me, to Russell, to Hoppy (dec), to Bill and Chris, to Steve, to Smithy and Jim, to Dan Lowe (dec), and to those not mentioned whose leadership and life I have in some way absorbed into mine.


VK3/VT-006 – Mt St Phillack

The usual UTC New Year frenzy for VK meant I was looking this year at a 10 point summit that would yield 20 points in the usual manner. This meant a 10 pointer I hadn’t activated this year (easy – there weren’t any), and something that was relatively easy to get to for us folk on the Western side of Melbourne. My initial choice was VK3/VE-008 Mt Buller, and Allen VK3HRA and I decided we’d do a joint activation, as Allen had not made any plans at this point.

In conversation with Allen on Mt Warrenheip as we hatched the plans, I found out that it was possible that Ron VK3AFW had also alerted this summit after me. A quick email to Ron confirmed this fact, and as he had booked accommodation there, and I was keen to chase S2S points, Allen and I decided instead to tackle Mt St Phillack VK3/VT-006.

I picked Allen up from the Little River service station and we drove to the Mt Baw Baw car park. From there to Mt St Phillack is about an hour’s walk. We made good time both on the drive and on the walk – largely due to me taking big steps and walking quickly, to Allen’s chagrin.

Along the way, my 2m handheld made a noise as Tony VK3CAT set up on Toorongo Range, so we both chased him there. This was not a S2S, as we were not in the activation zone yet.

We reached the summit after about 45-50 minutes, and were bemused. It appeared like the summit cairn was gone – nothing but a hole in the ground. After a quick bit of investigation, Allen discovered we were 100m short and in the wrong clearing, so we shifted across. Allen set up his End-fed on 40m the summit cairn, and I set up the linked dipole on 20m, in a tree.

My set up was delayed repeatedly by S2S opportunities on 40m, working Paul VK5PAS, Adam VK2YK, Justin VK7TW, Andrew VK3BQ and Gerard VK2IO. I managed to get up onto 20m, and worked Ron on Mt Buller, before finishing before UTC with Tony for a S2S. Nothing was heard of the ZL activators, nor from the VK1s.

After UTC, we called for a bit on 20m, and got no reply, before Allen found Bernard VK2IB/3 on CW. I worked him using Allen’s paddle, which resulted in horrible CW from me (worse than usual!). My apologies Bernard, but we got the contact. A few more S2S with VK3AGD on Donna Buang, Paul VK5PAS and Andrew VK3BQ wrapped up 40m.

In the interim, my dipole had fallen down into a tree and my attempts to fix it had not been successful, so Allen climbed the tree and sorted it all out. We decided then to experiment a bit more with some other bands.

I had made a 6m flower pot antenna the day before to VK2ZOI’s instructions (and on the recommendation of Andrew VK1AD), so we put that up, and worked Tony first on 2m then 6m for another S2S, and worked Bernard VK3AV and Steve VK3MEG on 6m as well.

By this stage, the linked dipole had been attached to Allen’s squid pole, and after an abortive attempt where we discovered one leg was snapped, we repaired it and jumped on 20m again. We worked Rick VK4RF, John VK6NU for a S2S with my first VK6 summit, and Brett VK2VW.

We struggled continually with phone coverage at the summit, Allen spotting me via SMS when possible, and myself sending the odd text to Warren ZL2AJ who was out on a summit. We couldn’t make contact unfortunately, on 20, 15 or 10m. I will cross ‘the dutch’ at some point and work ZL summits. This is yet another case of me qualifying an association for Mountain Explorer before I’ve worked it for Mountain Hunter (VK4, all the W associations and HL also fit that boat).

All up, despite the nice walk and chat with Allen, I found this year’s UTC a bit disappointing. Conditions were poor, and my hope for 200 S2S points was only half achieved. I now sit on 909 S2S points, and hopefully I can get out on Australia Day and work the last few. My wife’s face on returning a bit later than planned means that might be unlikely for a while, though!

Less S2S points and more Brownie points.

VK3/VC-007 – Mt Macedon

Mt Macedon was another of those summits needing urgent activation prior to the new years. Having not managed to convince my children to give up a few hours drive, I completed my chores at home, then jumped in the car on my own, with instructions to pick up dinner on the way back. A quick calculation meant I’d probably only have 30 minutes or so on the summit to set up and activate.

I set up on one of the picnic tables near the car park, away from the crowds, and closer to the summit marker cairn. I got onto 40m, and scanned around, finding Gerard VK2IO low down on Mt Solitary VK2/CT-056. Try as I might, I couldn’t break in with a S2S call, which made me suspect a problem in the antenna system, as per the previous activation at Mt Warrenheip, despite using the linked dipole rather than Buddistick.

Linked dipole amongst the clouds

Linked dipole amongst the clouds

Deductive reasoning managed to narrow it down to my Power/SWR meter, so I ran without it, and miraculously, Gerard came up from 3/1 to a 5/8. The S2S was completed easily, and I worked 11 more stations on 40m, moving every so often to escape QRM.


Selfie. Note the disconnected SWR meter!

An earlier request to move to 10m was padded away, as I wouldn’t have a lot of time, and the antenna fixing had taken up some time, but I figured I could spend maybe 5 minutes there, so dropped the links to 12m, figured the abuse to the radio wouldn’t be too bad (it wasn’t), and worked 7 stations on 10m, taking much more than the 5 minutes expected!

I packed up, drove home, stopping briefly to phone in an order so that it would be ready to pick up as soon as I arrived, and then delivered the pizza home to a happy bunch of kids.

The summit peacock came nice and close

The summit peacock came nice and close

VK3/VC-019 – Mt Warrenheip

The lead up to the New Year period results in an activator frantically scanning the summits that he hasn’t activated this year to see what he can squeeze in. In this case, Mt Warrenheip, about an hour from home, was unactivated for the year.

After a quick trip to Scarsdale to pick up some bought goods, and lunch in Ballarat, I drove with the family to the top. At the top, we parked near another car, a Subaru, which I figured was probably a Kryal Castle employee taking a smoking break near lunch time.

I set up using the Buddistick as it allows a quicker deployment, usually. This time, however, I managed to pull one of the telescoping sections out too far. Luckily, the Buddistick package comes with two of them. I set up in my usual spot on the rise near the main comms tower, and whilst doing so noticed a dodgy looking gentleman come out of the bush behind the tower and head back to his car briefly. I’m loathe to ascribe motivations, but I got the sense I’d either disturbed him injecting some substance, or enjoying a little ‘private time’.

Try as I might, I could not get the antenna to tune up. Eventually, I found a strong signal on 40m, and decided I’d try to break in with a bit of extra power. As he gave out his summit reference, I was shocked to find that the reference that was being given out was my summit. A mistake? A person trying to cheat the system.

No, it was Allen VK3HRA, enjoying a little ‘private time’ with his 817 and an end-fed on the other side of the comms tower out of sight. It was his Subaru, and he was the dodgy looking fellow. I headed over to his set up, and we laughed about it. From my wife’s perspective, I just disappeared down the hill without a word in the direction of the dodgy guy.

Allen let me use his radio to qualify the summit, and I worked S2S with VK1VIC and VK2FPMC on VK2/ST-053, Peter VK3PF on Mt Granya VK3/VE-165 and Ian VK1DI/2 on VK2/SM-090. I also worked Amanda VK3FQSO and my good friend Leighton VK2LI/3, supplementing his chaser score.

At that point, I headed back to the car, and Allen apologised to my wife for all SOTA husbands everywhere. 4 more points, to take me to 150, and all thanks to Allen for saving the day.