SOTA Activation – VK7/SC-052

View east towards Tasman Peninsula and Iron Pot

View east towards Tasman Peninsula and Iron Pot


On Saturday the 11th of October 2014 I undertook my first SOTA activation and the first activation for VK7/SC-052 – Tinderbox Hills. It was a rushed affair with work and family meaning I was not properly prepared come Saturday morning. But after an initial stumbling block (15 minutes into my walk, realising I’d left my batteries at home) I did successfully activate the summit.

The summit is easily accessible via a good track maintained by Kingborough Council. With both easy parking found at the end of Estuary Drive, and then a clearly signposted start of the track. And as per the sign, it’s a ‘moderate’ walk taking at most 45 minutes to get to the top.

Start point (car park) for VK/SC-052.

Start point (car park) for VK/SC-052.

Along the way you’re presented with rather nice views both east and west – as after all, you’re walking along the single ridgeline of a peinsula. To the west you look down over Northwest Bay to Margate, and out to the east you can clearly see Iron Pot, Opossum Bay and onto Tasman Peninsula – and also clear to New Zealand (but obviously not visible). And if you look back down the track you can see Mt. Wellington rising above the tree line.

Overview of the walk for VK/SC-052.

Overview of the walk for VK/SC-052.

There are a couple of rocky areas and some step bits to keep the heart moving, however I did see two ladies arrive at the top after me arrive on mountain bikes.

Of note though – and something readily seen on the maps from LIST map – is that the summit is actually on private land. This is further emphasised by signs from the Council as there is no fence line. However, the boundary is between about 10 to 15 meters vertically of the summit, and luckily SOTA rules are that you must be within 25 meters of the summit (vertically). And better yet, the sign-post provided for a reasonable support for my squid pole extend and 2m half-wave dipole attached.

(The boundary line can be seen as the grey line intersecting the close up map on the right.)

Map showing set-up location right on the private boundary line - noting the summit of VK/SC-052 is actually on private land.

Map showing set-up location right on the private boundary line – noting the summit of VK/SC-052 is actually on private land.

My plans for the day were to activate on 2m FM, 2m SSB and 40m SSB. As it was, on 2m I only made three contacts (not enough for an activation), so lucky 40m than filled in the remainder by providing 18 contacts.

A resulting rough breakdown for 40m:

  • VK7 x 2 (however, I think neither had heard of SOTA so I’m not sure they’ll be logged)
  • VK2 x 2
  • VK5 x 1 – as a S2S (and obviously my first for that, and his – VK5CZ – to a VK7 summit)
  • VK3 x 13

I’m hoping that in future I might have more success on 2m – especially some SSB – but I think I’ll need to make sure I attempt to make more locals aware of the activation. Indeed, I would love to be able to activate some of the local peaks (Mt. Wellington – VK7/SC-001 and Mt. Rumney – VK7/SC-045) with nothing but 2m. But we’ll have to see what can be done.

But that all said, a fun time was had and some lessons were learn’t – such as, I carried far more battery power than I needed, and seeing they were two 4Ah SLABs, it would’ve been great to have taken only one. And I’m definitely looking to get organised and get another activation happening soon!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply to the calls. 🙂


VK7 SOTA Peaks Available for Preview

VK7 SOTA Peaks Available for Preview

In the early hours of this morning, Justin (VK7TW) shared what may be (still needs final confirmation) the peaks and ARM for VK7 go-live. You can find them in the files section of the SOTA Australia Yahoo Group.

So now it’s possible to start planning ahead for the big day. I’ve just had a quick play with the list and provide the following images for your viewing. It includes:

  • A view of all of VK7 and its peaks – gives you a good idea of just how many there are;
  • The a focus around Hobart – still heaps just around the capital
  • The a look up at some peaks that caught my eye around Lake Pedder
  • And finally a zoom in on those interesting peaks/islands in Lake Pedder – plus a 50m contour overlay to give an idea of difficulty – it’s not just a quick whip around in a kayak to all three. 🙂


New Locator Tools


I’ve put up an early release of some maidenhead locator web tools I’ve been playing with. Full details can be found on the locator tools page or you can just jump straight in and have a look over at

It’s currently just using various free hosting services, but if I find there is any use of it I may change that. So don’t expect anything too superfast (or reliable). 🙂

Feedback welcome.


Reading through the various SOTA doco on the sites, I felt it was missing one key element. A simple documenting the steps for getting started – ie. your first chase/activation.

Thankfully in VK land, Andrew Davis (VK1DA/VK2UH) has come to the rescue with yet another great addition to his VK FAQ.

I highly recommend if you’re keen to get started in SOTA and you’re after some good concise info – with links out to all the other stuff – then you can do no worse than visiting Andrew’s Summits of the Air section of his FAQ. I especially point you to the section titled ‘What next? How do I join in?’ – as that’s what I’ve found lacking on the official SOTA sites.


Bendix Radio – Cape Bruny

Was taking another visit down to the Cape Bruny (Tasmania) lighthouse a couple of weeks back. While there I took some time to capture the Bendix radio setup in the museum there. It’s a transmitter and receiver combo made up of:

  • Receiver: Bendix RA-10FA
  • Transmitter: Bendix TA-12D

These were WWII era and there are some snippets of info online (especially regarding the TA-12 series of transmitters). Also, they seem to pop up for sale on eBay and the like from time to time.

Enjoy the pics!

RTL-2832 and Raspberry Pi for ARPT and FUNcube

RTL-2832 and Raspberry Pi for ARPT and FUNcube

Last year I was playing with a cheap USB dongle for weather satellite reception. Eventually though I gave up on it, as although I could receive reasonable pictures with it, the device kept causing my machine to freeze.

Anyway, I recently dropped a raspberry Pi in the shack to act as a router between my shack and my wireless network. It got me wondering as to the possibilities of running the dongle via it. Turns out, it was as easy as… pi! (Sorry… 🙂 )

It really only takes a few simple steps:

  1. Download the rtl tools source code via git from OsmoSDR
  2. Build up the tools (make sure you’ve installed the build-tools package on your pi)
  3. Make sure you unload an DVB kernel modules with rmmod (after checking with lsmod)
  4. Run rtl-tcp on the raspberry pi
  5. And then connect via TCP from something like SDRSharp

Doing this I’ve had no problems with anything freezing, and have captured images with as much ease as I did before – although I have a dodgy coax cable I need to fix.

Further, I’ve gone on to receive beacons (6m, 2m and 70cm) as well as the FUNcube telemetry. Actually, to my surprise I’m the only VK7 to have recorded reception of any telemetry (according to the FUNcube Upload Ranking page).

To finish, here’s a couple of images received via this setup (one from NOAA-15 and one from NOAA-19). And the title picture of New Zealand is from NOAA-19.

SOTA in VK7 Imminent!

Attended the REAST SOTA presentation last Wednesday night, and to my great excitement Justin (VK7TW) informed the group he’s been told by the SOTA organisers that most likely VK7 will go live 1st October 2014!! I can’t wait!!

So I spent the week-end scoping out and hiking up one of the local candidate peaks and making another antenna. On both accounts things didn’t go quite according to plan, but fingers crossed, the first week-end in October I’ll be hilltop activating something! 😉

And here’s a copy of the short write-up I did for the news:

Wednesday, 3rd September at the Queens Domain saw another interesting presentation by Justin (VK7TW), this time on SOTA – Summits On The Air.

The presentation started with the exciting news that SOTA is expected to go live in VK7 on the 1st of October 2014. In preparation for this Justin ran the group through the important aspects of SOTA. This included the rules and reference manual, the possible awards, along with the common frequencies and considerations when going summiting.

Of great interest, a preview and discussion was provided of the 695 candidate summits. This was followed by a discussion of some potential portable setups people may wish to consider, including a look at an FT-817ND, portable tuner and squid pole arrangement – not to mention the key concern of portable power.

Sources for additional information online were provided, including the Yahoo mailing list, SOTAwatch and the SOTA Australian FAQ by Andrew Davis (VK1DA/VK2UH).

Thanks go out to Justin, Peter (VK3PF) and the team for all the work of getting SOTA active in VK7 and following it up with an informative presentation.

Links are available on the text edition of the broadcast.

SOTA Australia FAQ –

Mailing list –

SOTA Watch –

(73, Ian, VK7IS)

WSJT-X Going the Distance – 16,900 km

JT65 QSO with AB1J at some 16,917 km.

JT65 QSO with AB1J at some 16,917 km.

After successfully getting WSJT-X 1.3 up and running last night, I decided to throw out a quick CQ on JT65. Even though my waterfall was showing some interference I still managed to pick up a contact way out over on the West Coast of America some 16,900 kms away!

Other than being my longest QSO to date, what really surprised me was:

  • The fact the QSO was achieved with such high level of interference with the signal barely visible on the waterfall (see below); and
  • That this was with JT65, so imagine what could be achieved with JT9 – shame the majority of activity of the two is JT65!

Looking forward to doing more with WSJT-X!!

Waterfall showing QSO with  AB1J. Note the interference and how weak (visually) the successfully received signal was.

Waterfall showing QSO with AB1J. Note the interference and how weak (visually) the successfully received signal was.

WSJT-X and Windows XP

As mentioned in my post about my first experiences with WSJT-X and JT65/JT9, I had issues getting any version other than 1.1 to successfully decode. A bit more searching and some playing around last night and I now have successfully decoded with 1.2.1 and 1.3 on Windows XP.

My solution in the end was to simply open up wsjtx.ini in the install directory, and then add the following lines at the very end:


This (I understand) has the effect of returning the sampling methods back to what was in version 1.1 – which essentially uses 12kHz sampling rather than 48kHz. There is another option however this is sound card driver specific, and that’s to set the default sampling rate (via the control panel, etc.) to 48kHz. However, for my sound card (Audigy 4) I was unable to find this setting so went with the above solution.

I hope this helps others who may have been stumbling on this. Albeit, I do now realise it’s documented in two places:

  • The above solution is in the manual’s FAQ section – however currently the formatting is a bit askew in the manual; and
  • The details about making sure your sound cards default sampling is set to 48kHz is specified in the Windows install instructions in the manual.

Good luck!

An easy 15,800 with JT9

An easy 15,800 with JT9
JT9 QSO with K8TLC at some 15,813 km.

JT9 QSO with K8TLC at some 15,813 km.

I was passing the shack’s computer last night before dinner and I noticed JT9 showing a very clean waterfall. I saw someone calling but it was really on the edge of my filters passband. So in case someone else was about I threw a CQ out up in a stronger section of my passband.

To my surprise the other caller (K8TLC) saw it and immediately replied. This resulted in a full QSO at some 15,813 km. Full exchange can be seen in the screenshot.

I’ve also found some information on getting WSJT-X versions 1.2 and up working on Windows XP. Seems in my haste I missed the pertinent information in the manual. If all works out I’ll be sure to share.