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Chasing Weather Balloons

Recently a number of South East Radio Group members have been tracking weather balloons here in South East South Australia.

A balloon is released automatically from the Mount Gambier Airport each Monday and Thursday morning at 10.45 a.m. local time and if some unusual weather conditions are expected, at any time.

We watch the predicted flight path on Hab Hub Predictor and then track the actual flight path on Hab Hub Tracker. Sometimes the two plots agree and others not very well.

The prediction for yesterdays balloon originally had it landing somewhere near Hamilton but this was revised to a spot just East of Strathdownie in Victoria.

Charles, VK5HD rang me at about 11 a.m. and asked if I was going to chase it or if I might be interested in doing so. As it was not going to be very far from the Mount I suggested that I ring Tom, VK5EE, and invite him as well. Charles agreed and Tom and I met up with him at his home in Mt. Gambier at 1 p.m. and off we went.

After crossing the border on the way to Casterton we turned right onto West Strathdownie Road and then turned right onto McGrath’s Road. We travelled along McGrath’s Road for a short time until our GPS indicated that we were getting close to the landing area.

Charles had his hand held on and tuned to 401.500 Mhz. and right on cue we started to hear the signals from the Sonde. It had landed pretty much exactly where the tracker had placed it. We turn off McGraths road and drove a few hundred metres up along the Western edge of a stand of pine trees and parked.

After climbing over the fence into the paddock Charles thought he could see the Sonde but it turned out to be the wool from a sheep carcass.

Col, VK5HCF thought that he saw it just a bit to the North and so we changed direction and carried on walking. Bingo. There was the Balloon, (in tatters of course), and the parachute. Col traced the flimsy line from the tangled mess of the Balloon back to the actual sonde. The line was surprisingly long, maybe 30 metres or so.

All good. Charles coiled the whole mess up and we carried it all back to the car pretty happy with such an easy recovery.

We were only away for about an hour or so which meant minimal disruption to our day.

S.E.R.G. is now connected to the N.B.N. network.

The Club is once again connected to the internet.
The I.R.L.P. and the remote station are all working properly and there has been a dramatic increase in upload / download speeds.

John, VK5DJ, has updated the Remote Access details on the relevant page of this site.

A huge “Thank you” to Brett of T.D.R.S. for:-

1. Supplying us with excellent internet at no cost.
2. For maintaining the system – also free of charge.
3. Updating the system to the N.B.N.

If you are looking for a new provider – look no further than T.D.R.S. who are, of course, locals. 

Brett, hard at work, setting up our Clubroom’s for the N.B.N.

1296 Beacon Currently off Air

SERG’s 1296 beacon located on Mount Graham is currently off air due to antenna issues. The site was visited by some of the clubs repeater volunteers led by Col VK5DK and assisted by Leith VK5FLAR, Niv VK5NC and Tom VK5NFT. Eventually after a couple trips it was verified a antenna issue. This will be attended to in coming weeks.

Tom VK5NFT on behalf of the website team.

Working bee at The Bluff

Peter VK5BE finding the best spot to get a good photo of the whole cabinet

Peter VK5BE and John VK5DJ visited the VK5RMG site on Monday 7th January 2019. This followed a visit the previous day to install the new link chassis and filters.

The link receiver from Naracoorte was program damaged (it lost its default frequency). A quick burst with the programmer at home and all is sweet. The whole system is now working with a somewhat faster ID. That’ll test your CW skills.

John (showing as Webdev)

S.E.R.G. 2018 CHRISTMAS BBQ

This year our Club end of year BBQ was held at the home of Greg, (VK5ZGY), and Gabi at Worrolong. This proved to be a very lucky move as the weather was cold, wet and windy and their back patio provided shelter from both the wind and the rain.

Attendance was possibly down a little on last years event but the quality of those attending was excellent.

President Peter, VK5BE, formally thanked Greg and Gabi for allowing us to hold the BBQ at their home and he also thanked those present for coming along. He then wished everyone all the very best for Christmas and the New Year.

Much chatter was evident and some lucky members got a tour of Greg and Gabis very environmentally conscious garden and all the electronic and bio friendly wizardry that is associated with it.

There was also a bit of “Show and Tell” with Chris, VK5MC, parading his recently acquired Elad S.D.R. radio and Tom, VK5EE showed off his Solar Panel.

 

All present had an enjoyable afternoon.

Installation of Club’s new 2 metre Yagi.

On Monday 5th. November The Club held a working Bee at the Clubrooms.

Colin, VK5DK, had made arrangements for Blue Lake Cranes to come along and help us to swap the old and dilapidated 2 metre antenna for the brand new one built by Ian, VK3DNQ and modified by Trevor, VK5NC.

With plenty of willing helpers the exercise went well, (after a few minor hiccups) and the new antenna is now ready to use.

Here are a few shots taken of the event by Club Treasurer Andrew, VK5VKC.

2018 Jamboree Of The Air

Let the Hunt begin

        

The South East Radio Group supported the local Scouts and for the first time in a very long time the Girl Guides in a combined event. Andrew VK5KET, Tim, VK5AV, and Col, VK5HCF, met at the S.E.R.G. Clubrooms to hide the transmitters and setup the receivers, also known as sniffers. The Scouts and Guides were doing J.O.T.I. at the scout hall and from there they were going to do the fox hunt.

Scouts, Cubs and Guides paired off to find a hidden transmitter. Once found they were to return and get another one to hunt. To make it even more confusing they were not all hunting the same transmitter at the same time. To prove they had found the transmitter they had to report back the numbers.

Some pairs were quicker than others, however once they found the first one, they were all eager and keen to find the next one. Overall 9 pairs were fox hunting for the afternoon. Everyone found at least 2 transmitters.

At the end of the event we were asked into the hall where a senior scout thanked us for putting on the foxhunt. Koala asked the troop if they wanted us to return next year and it was a very loud yes from the kids.

Special thanks to Tim, VK5AV, and Col, VK5HCF, for giving up their afternoon to help put on the activity.

73

Andrew

VK5KET

 

Working Bee Willalooka

After meeting President Peter at Penola on Friday 12/10/18 at 8:00AM to collect the antenna analyser and climbing harness, we refused to have him in the car as he appeared to be near death with the flu. We sent him home to bed.

Our working bee  began in earnest at Naracoorte to remove the backup antenna from the tower at VK5RNC. Tom VK5NFT climbed while John VK5DJ manoeurved the ropes and avoided a nose bleed caused by climbing higher than 1 metre.

Once at Willalooka we were joined by Alan VK5ZLT with his recently (that morning) finished 2* 5/8. A quick test with the club’s antenna analyser showed a nice broad banded response with SWR less than 1.2VSWR across more than 5MHz and relatively low reactance across the same spread.

So with the aid of his ladder Alan ascended to a lofty height of 6 metres to temporarily attach the antenna. The antenna replacement was necessary as we currently have intermittent problems with the main antenna losing signal strength at a distance and mixing interference from an AM station near Horsham. We suspect a poor connection at the antenna or damaged coax. The working bee was held to establish a test if the main antenna/coax is the cause of the problem.

Unfortunately an interference problem at one site has an effect on the whole four linked repeaters. We now need to monitor for a few weeks before tackling the next step.

Results as Tom and John travelled south indicate we haven’t lost much (if any) range as a result of the low antenna, although toward Kingston it may well be shaded by the tower.

Tom and Alan examine the new antenna

Alan VK5ZLT works on the installation

What’s next? Once we know where the problem lies we’ll get a tower climber to replace the old antenna and install better coax than the existing RG213.

Balloon chase. Thursday 11th. October 2018.

Greg, VK5ZGY, and Gabi salvaging the balloon

Gabi, Greg, VK5ZGY, and I looked at the prediction for the weather sonde for 11/10/18 and decided that it would be an easy one to recover.

On the morning of Thursday the 11th Gabi, Greg and I jumped in the car armed with smart phones and an ipad with the idea of tracking the weather sonde for the morning.

We had a few issues on both the ipad and the phone with the website not loading the data for our local sonde. A quick trip home later to collect the laptop ensued. The problem was quickly sorted with Tom, VK5EE advising us to clear out the search bar and press enter.

This resulted in Greg getting the ipad working as well.

Because we were only tracking the sonde via the webpage we had to be sure that the receiving stations, (VK5KET and VK5TA), could always hear the sonde and that we had 3G coverage.

 

The Sonde finished up landing in an open grassy paddock in the Burrungule area. It was a very easy recovery of the sonde as we had a visual from 3000mts. We were able to watch the sonde land in a clear paddock just 50 metres from the car. (using the binoculars of course).

It was amazing how easily we could see the sonde from such a high altitude. We had to drive around the block, (a very big block at that), to gain access to the farm house to ask permission to enter the paddock. The owners granted permission without fuss. A quick walk and we found the sonde and proceeded to pack it up.

This is just the second sonde I have collected and the first for Gabi and Greg. It was interesting morning and hope to collect more as time and weather permits.

Charles. VK5HD