Tuesday 17th April, 2007
There was a clear sky this morning and pleasantly warm,
around 20deg. I chatted for a while then said my goodbyes to the Dutch
couple in the camper van and wished them luck on their adventure.
I borrowed a tape measure from John and cut the di-pole wires
the correct length and selected two trees near the camp kitchen
approximately 30 meters apart. I then did my trick with the
blind cord and hoisted the di-pole up so that the centre of the antenna
was about 2.5 metres above the ground. I brought the Sulo bin (to
utilise as a work table) from the camp kitchen over to the point where
the coax feeder was hanging from the balun. This was now at the mid
point of the antenna, stretched pretty tightly between the two trees. I
then hooked it up to the
radio and plugged in the 12V NiMH battery pack that was now fully
charged and turned on.
WOW!! I tuned around the 40 metre band and picked up lots of voice
First was VK3FI
Noel in Mildura
, Victoria on 7.090MHz. I spoke to him and he
received me "strength 9". That is just about the best there is. He was
surprised that I was only using 5 watts.
Then VK3FNKC (the "F" indicates a foundation amateur radio
operator who has an entry level license and probably got it recently).
And VK3UH, both also from
Victoria. Bill told me later that he heard me talking to these
"contacts". This is bloody good news. I had been wondering if the
amateur radio was going to be a viable solution to the communications I
would need when I was "further out". Now that worry could be put to
Now I have to
tell you I was excited. I proceeded to tune around the band and then
heard VK2SD, Jay from Charlestown, in Newcastle. Wow again. If I could
talk to this guy, I would be able to get Bill.
Next I got onto VK5HJS
Shane who is "underground" at Coober Pedy opal fields. This is a lot of
fun. Well, for me at least. Although I know how it all works, I still
get excited when I experience technology in action (and working
I will now stop listing all the contacts I make with the
radio except those that are particularly significant. Otherwise, I
would bore most readers to tears. If you are interested, or perhaps you
are one of the contacts I made "on air", please have a look at my amateur radio contacts
page where I will list them all.
And there was more great news this morning. After I had had a
good play with the amateur radio and had spoken to QLD, NSW, VIC and
SA, I decided to give it a rest and see what I could find out about the
satellite phone. Not that I was an over-excited about getting the sat
phone. It would add considerably to my pack weight and I was already
not overjoyed at the way my shoulders ached after only half an hour. I
would not be able to use it as freely as I had my cell phone because of
the high cost of the calls. The main reason I was now thinking "next
problem, get the sat phone" was that I had now been in Hawker for five
nights and only the arrival of the sat phone was holding me back.
I have really enjoyed my stay in Hawker. Met lots of great people,
locals and travelers and, especially, "Big" John. We have now developed
a friendship that will last and have discovered that while it is my
goal to finish at Karumba
on the Gulf
late August, John will be at the end of his
lease at the hotel at about this time and he has planned to got to,
wait for it... Sweers
. Where's that? What's the significance? Sweers Island
is a resort island in the Gulf of Carpentaria just 160km from Karumba.
John has friends there and we reckon we might get a spot of fishing in.
Sweers island is famous for its fishing.
Back to the sat phone. I rang Australian Satellite Services
(the supplier) in Adelaide
and was assured by Glennis that it would was being dispatched from Perth
that day. It would arrive here in another day or so and I could be on
I was back on the radio
at 4pm and made some more contacts. I have put the details in the ham contacts
The very good news is
that, at 4.30, I called Roger, VK4BNQ, and got an immediate reply.
Four Bravo November Quebec, this is Victor Kilo Four X-ray Juliet
Juliet, do you copy?
5, VK4BNQ. Afternoon Jeff. Good signal."
I was so anxious that I had forgotten to add
"portable 5" to my call sign to indicate that I was not in Queensland
but in South Australia. Roger had politely reminded me by
adding the "port 5"
when he replied. I was still pretty raw (and I must admit
considerably "mike shy") but I felt much more comfortable communicating
with Roger who would be kind on me while correcting my "on air"
misdemeanors. It is generally true that amateur radio operators (hams)
are very forgiving of "newbies" and grant a lot of latitude and give
lots of advise. Also, the amateur radio clubs meet regularly all over
Australia (and the world) and a lot of the time there is given over to
teaching and learning, mostly in small groups or one on one. They also
hold "classroom" type, structured lessons whereby the older, more
experienced hams can pass on their knowledge.
works. I made the balun with the bits you sent and followed your
instructions. It was pretty easy really. And I am happy with the
results. I have spoken to half a dozen hams from all over and IT
I was not sure if I should be adding the 'over' bit or not. I may have
seen too many movies.
"That's great, Jeff, you're
coming in nice and clear here too. I heard you being interviewed on the
Brisbane ABC yesterday and managed to record it on tape. Back to you."
Ah. By adding 'back to you' Roger has indicated
that it is appropriate to 'hand over' when you have finished your bit.
Unlike a telephone,
can't hear the other person while you have your microphone button
pressed and you are transmitting. So it is best to have a 'formal'
handing over from one speaker to the next. Sometimes, though, with
clear signals and familiarity with the person you are speaking to, it
is often left off.
We 'chatted' for 15
minutes or so and agreed to come on air again in the morning.
And more good news for the day was that the battery pack that
I had 'designed' to be charged from the solar panel and run the radio
had done its job. I had now been on the air today for over an hour and
the batter was still going strong. After a pretty shaky start to my
journey, technically speaking, I now had no major worries about being
able to communicate. Specifically to Bill and Roger and, in
emergencies, I would always be able to speak to a ham somewhere in
Australia and have my situation relayed by phone to Bill or Roger, my
'support team on a string'.
With a song in my heart and an obvious spring in my step, I
packed up the radio gear and headed over to the pub for dinner with
John and do some boasting about my successful day with the radio.
Tomorrow, a 'hang
around' day and more radio contacts