Contest Shack

With the Radio Contest season fast approaching, I though I would do a post on previous years contests that we held at Blue Knob Fire Tower, high in the mountain ranges of the Great Divide, New South Wales, 60 kilometers inland from the Mid North Coast.

We first found the fire tower while on a Four Wheel Drive trip in 2010. It sits on a summit in Bulga State Forest at an altitude of 1020 meters & has a 360 degree view for at least 100 kilometers. The coast of Australia is around 60 km to the east, it can be seen from the tower.

The tower it`s self was in pretty bad condition, all the windows have been shattered, the ladder leading up has only one bolt holding it on. The fiberglass module itself is in good shape. The weather can be changeable, fine one minute, thunderstorms the next. We’ve had a few close calls while there.

The first contest that the team used the tower was the Winter UHF/VHF contest in 2010. We arrived around 10 pm on the friday night before, the weather was cold, with a bit of light rain. First job was to get camp set up, with the wind picking up, Cris & Brenda had a bit of a problem with their tent …….. the wind blew it down the hill with Brenda, who had a broken arm at the time, trying to save it. It got a fair way down the hill before she managed to stop it, all back safe and sound.

The wind blew all night, the tents flapping away, not a very relaxing start to the weekend. Up pretty early to assemble the tower and antennas, hauling each piece up by rope. The table and radio gear was next, then a coffee break before putting it all together. A couple of hours later and the station was up and running, the contest was starting in about an hour, plenty of time for a meal and a test run.

Some of the equipment used in the contests that we did from Blue Knob included a 3 meter contest tower with extension to 6m fitted with Yaesu rotator and controller. Antennas were from top to bottom, 2 meter vertical, 15 element 1.2Ghz yagi, 15 element 70cm yagi, 8 element 2m yagi & a 6 element yagi for 6 meters.

Radio`s were an Icom 910 & Andrews PA-350W amplifier putting out 400 watt on 2m, 75 watts on 70cm & 100 watt amplifier for 1.2Ghz. An Icom 706 M2g supplied the signal on 6 meters. Feed lines were RG213 for 6m, 2m & 70cm and hard line for 1.2 gig. Power was supplied by two Manson power supplies fed by a 2 Kva generator. Other bits & pieces were a laptop for logging, note pad etc.

The contest got of to a start at midday, the weather had cleared, the view from the tower was spectacular. Calls started coming in, a lot on 2 meters & contacts on 70 cm from as far away as Canberra, nearly 500 km away. Contacts were made on all bands over the weekend.

With the 24 hour contest coming to a close at midday on Sunday, we started to pack up. Many stations were logged that weekend, and the following contests held at Blue Knob were also very memorable, high winds, lightning, thunder, rain & hail, even rowdy visitors in the middle of the night. From memory the team came 7th or 8th overall that contest, with similar results on following visits.

I will always have fond memories from Blue Knob Fire Tower, it has been a great contest site over the years. This year we are heading west, to Coolah Tops at the head of the Hunter Valley, NSW for the John Moyle Memorial Contest. The new site is at the same altitude, 1020 meters on private property. We hope to be able to work South Australia, Northern Territory & Western Australia, as there are no mountains higher looking  that way. Victoria & Queensland should also be able to be worked, along with most of New South Wales on UHF & VHF.

I will post a bit more information about the upcoming John Moyle Memorial Contest contest as it gets closer. A new member to the team joines us this year, clad to have another contester. We will also be working on the HF bands, 160 though to 6 meters……………can’t wait.




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