Conquering the Mask Monster

Day one, eyes open

Conquering the Mask Monster

As far back as my PADI Open Water I “struggled” with my mask skills. I simply couldn’t handle the water touching my nose - more correctly I couldn’t handle the water touching my nose with my eyes closed or covered. Whether it was the partial flood, the full flood or the full mask off. I hated it until as little as a month ago - even then hated is not quite showing just how much I was petrified off the mask skills.

 

Fast forward to day one, week 1, of my DiveMaster training, I rolled into our training pool here at the training school to observe a Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) Program. I was offered by one of our instructors to give the demonstration of ‘masking clearing’, the simple every dive requirement of divers to remove water from their mask. It isn’t the clearing that had me white with fear, it was the letting a small amount of water in the mask (thereby touching my face) for the demonstration.

Mask off, 21m, Scared

What did I do on the spot? I did what all great cowards do - I faked a reason for why I couldn’t. The good ol’ “I have a stomach ache” - believable in rural Asia - no mean feat to explain underwater using hand signs, but it worked. 

Here I was, on the cusp of being welcomed into the professional ranks of the Scuba Diving family and I can’t get past skill one of Open Water 1 confined dive.

For a number of weeks, I fumbled along, either not having to do the skill or doing just enough to get by, all the while the clock was ticking until reaching the DiveMaster Skill Circuit assessment task that requires demonstration quality skills including mask clearing, mask removal and a no mask swim.

 

During the assessments I BARELY passed scoring a 3 (of 5) for each of the mask skills, sure I passed my dive master and was welcomed into the ranks of professional divers, but I felt bothered by the fact I was so weak in the skill.

It was not until I read a few professional articles and blogs that outline the dangers of having mask fear. I knew I could overcome this. Logically of the two breathing holes’ in my face, one would be covered in water and one would be have a fully functional air supply, Ijust needed to get in control of choosing which one to use.  How, I hear you say.. by making the ‘scary’ every day.

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On every single safety stop after reading these articles, I was determined to take my mask off. It started off just being off then back on, then off, two breaths, back on then longer etc. The big breakthrough game came when I could open my eyes in the ocean. Sure I don’t have much vision underwater - no one does - but by seeing the body shape of my buddy or my relation to the bottom etc really helps. If I feel the tingle in my nose telling me it feels like breathing in the water - I simply hold my nose for a few seconds.

What’s next? Before I leave Indonesia in a month, I am determined to obtain my PADI Self Relient Diver rating that equips me with skills to dive solo, without a buddy. The main assessable skill of this course is 2min with my mask off, swimming a distance of 18m simulating, I believe, a mask failure (including the spare you carry) and the need for you to return directly to the surface slowly.

The deep dive that killed my Suunto Zoop Dive computer

As a newly qualified 40m deep diver, the itch to get deep and explore as yet unseen sites needed to be scratched. 

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So here is what happened:

The dive shop I am diving with is one of the few that visit the deep part of a particular dive site - Turtle Heave - or Deep Turtle Heaven as we call it.

My buddy on the day was an Instructor as well as a Self Reliant Diver - Adrien. As a matter of course Adrien carries 2 dive computers, this is relevant as you will soon see.

We entered the ocean to commence a deep dive (35m). During the dive at 35m depth, just after spotting 2 small reef sharks and 3(!) eagle rays (a first for both of us!!!)

 

As time was running out before we hit 'the nonstop required time' (aka 'no deco stop time') neared zero, Adrienand I started a normal rate of ascent, to a shallower depth. As we were ascending, Adrien indicated a ‘deep stop’ was requested by one of his computers at 18m (approx 1/2 of the max depth), I checked the ‘Zoop’, it indicated we were at a depth that would be inconsistent with a 'deep stop'  (26m). Thinking he was just indicating ahead of time I maintained his level. This is the first thought I had that the ‘Zoop’ might be indicating different depths than what we actually were at.

As we continued our ascent, the ‘Zoop’ read 18m and had not reduced the 'no deco stop time' by enough to keep me out of ‘deco’. This concerned me and I indicated to my Adrien, he returned a quizzical look as his computers were reading 10m, shallow enough to clearly see the boat above including the sign writing on the side! This is the second indication that the ‘Zoop’ was not reading correctly. Upon surfacing after clearing all stop time on Adrien's computers, my ‘Zoop’ was still indicating 8m while at the surface and did not readjust to ‘end the dive’ at the surface.
It continued to count the dive even as we were on the surface. Back at the dive shop I showed a number of other professional divers and they indicated it might be a simple low battery issue. However the battery indicator remained near full. After washing the computer in freshwater, reading a depth of approx. 8m.

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It has remained in dive mode ever since even after a battery replacement from a kit I had with me.

I will keep providing updates on the progress of the 'case' of my discussions with Suunto to have the computer repaired.

NB - its a dive computer not a watch, it does sooo much more than tell the time.

UPDATE_1 10-Sept-2017:

As the Zoop left warranty in early 2017, initially Suunto rejected any attempts to have the computer examined and ultimately repaired by them, however after some 'frank discussions' via Facebook messenger with their customer service team in Norway, the computer is on its way to HongKong for investigation, as it appears the depth sensor failed.

UPDATE_2 8-Sept-2017:

To continue diving professionally while the Zoop is being evaluated, I needed a new computer. The Zoop is no longer the current model being replaced by the Zoop Novo, which like the Zoop is a perfectly acceptable dive computer. I like the conservatism of the Suunto decompression table so wanted to stay with their stable of computers. I ended up getting a Suunto D4i - a smaller form factor, watch sized computer which has an easier to navigate menu structure. If/when the Zoop makes it way back to me in fit and working condition, it will move to second fiddle in my collection - which will be vital if I do move on to the 'self reliant' qualification, allowing me to dive alone.

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Update _3 10 October 2017

A package has just arrived from Suunto, guess what was inside... a brand new Zoop Novo, an updated model of the Zoop to replace my dead Zoop. Thanks for coming to the party Suunto.

Island Life - tech gear

MY LITTLE ISLAND HOME

Island Life - tech gear

This is the first in a series of posts called Island Life about the gear, techniques and tips I use to happily continue living on a small island, off Lombok in rural Indonesia.

Travelling long term, whether in one location or many presents a few challenges for the wanting to remain connected and sharing content.

Prior to heading off on this trip, I knew there would be a number of things I wanted to achieve that a tablet only setup would not be either best suited for or not convenient - such as video and photo editing. Possible, just not convenient. 

Computer
 

The Apple MacBook Air 11in with the TP-Link wifi adapter attached.

The Apple MacBook Air 11in with the TP-Link wifi adapter attached.

I resolved to retain my 2012 MacBook Air (MBA) as it had performed well since I purchased it, however, I more than tripled the onboard SSD to allow me to move my Photo Library on board, where previously I had managed it via external USB. 

Additionally, I added a higher sensitivity USB Wifi antenna, the TP- LINK TL-WN822N, mounting it using velcro dots onto the back of the MacBook Air Screen. This has been invaluable for 2 reasons:

  1. it does receive more wifi access points than the internal MBA wifi chip owing to its two folding antennas and
  2. it allows me to rebroadcast or retransmit the internet connection of the TPLINK via the internal wifi chip creating a hotspot for my phone to connect to an internet connection that the phone its self could not previously receive. I do this daily in my rented bungalow as I can not receive a wifi connection without the TPLINK adapter.

Photo & Video Quick View

Ursa loving our deep dive

Ursa loving our deep dive

Another challenge I needed to overcome is quick download and display of photos and videos. Often I am showing customers unedited pictures I just took of fish, turtles or them, on the dive we just came back on. Using the Lightning to SD card attachment on my iPhone 7plus has been a godsend. However In hindsight, I would have purchased a decent android tablet, with 4G and microSD / OTG capability for this very purpose along with quick sharing to customers emails etc.

Photo & Video Workflow

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After each dive I download all new photos shot on my Olympus TG 4 tough camera using the method I described above, however for videos that I shoot on my permanently rolling GOPRO 3 Black, I use my laptop to pull all the videos off and store for later editing and including in any youtube content I am making. When I return to my bungalow each night I download the day's photos that I now have on my iPhone7Plus to the laptop and do a backup using an external USB Drive.

The major downside of this workflow is the quick sharing without using a 4G or wifi connection is cumbersome. As Apple does not have an OTG capability yet, I can not simply put the day's pictures and videos onto a customers’ SD or USB Drive. I do however have a SANDISK iXpand 64Gb USB and Lightning Drive that makes moving larger files easier between iDevices and USB and then onto customers devices.

Cameras

THE ENTIRE UNDERWATER CAMERA PACKAGED, OLYMPUS TG4 CAMERA, PT056 UNDERWATER CASE, GOPRO3 BLACK, KNOG LIGHT, RED FILTER

THE ENTIRE UNDERWATER CAMERA PACKAGED, OLYMPUS TG4 CAMERA, PT056 UNDERWATER CASE, GOPRO3 BLACK, KNOG LIGHT, RED FILTER


The heart and soul of my land based picture and video work are the great cameras of the iPhone7Plus. Whether hand held or on a selfie stick - it is never far from me and ready at moments notice to snap a great picture.

EDIT: I wanted to also give a highly honourble mention to LifeProof for their iPhone7plus case. It has taken multiple drops from my pocket while riding my bike, been splashed with fresh and salt water (I'm a diver, always near water) as well as generally added grip to the normally slick iPhone7plus.  I did have a lifeproof on my 6plus in the past and it was horrendous - the design flaws of the locking clasp for the charging door have thankfully been overcome  

However underwater, the two superstars are:

  1. Olympus TG4 Tough Camera - without the PT-056 underwater case it can happily go down to 15 meters, with the PT056 it will chug away down to 40m. Taking simultaneously 16mb JPEG and RAW images as well as 1080p video - I love this camera. I want to get a strobe for it eventually too.
  2. GoPro 3 Black  - with a side mounted Znog Sports light in the ‘cold shoe’ mount on top of the PT056. The GoPro generally is running from the entry until the battery dies (only 45 min.. this is terrible for me). I also use a red filter to compensate for the loss of the colour red at depth. Recently the hard GoPro Case has started leaking slightly during dives. Without the use of toilet paper in the bottom of the case I don't know if it will be remaining in the underwater set up for much longer.

PROTIP: Do not use devices with hard to source or proprietary cables. If they break (and they will) they can be hard to get. My Olympus is one such device. I purchased two cables on ebay before I left - first broke week 4.

 

Battery banks

Living on an island where the power goes off a number of times a week, I like carrying a full USB battery at all times, whether it is to charge my iPad, my iPhone, my cameras or even my Bluetooth keyboard. Currently, I carry one and leave one on charge swapping on a daily basis. Alternating between a no name, 2 USB port 10,000mAh or a large 20,000mAh quick charge capable no name brand white brick. There is always one in my bag. Having the ability to charge everything and not slow down has been fantastic. I now only plug into mains power at night - mainly to charge the batteries.

Sharing &  staying connected  

While wifi is available in almost every eating or sleeping venue on the islands, wifi doesn't crack more than than about 3mbs shared across all the other users in each hotel. This lead me to investigate the large data packages available for 4G that is accessible on the islands. I stumbled across a 48gig package (Aug2017) by XL for 270,000rp for 30 days. This has been my lifeblood connection - uploading daily for instagram, emails and normal web browsing. I often tether my laptop to my phone as the 4G is more stable than the wifi.  

DiveMaster life - post graduation

My first decent underwater selfie

 

It has now been a couple weeks since I graduated as a DiveMaster here on Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia.

Another Amazing Island Sunset

I was able to spend a week in Bali last week at Mum & Dad’s house using all of their WIFI and hot water - things that are sorely lacking on Gili Air.

My feet! After the shoeless life on Gili Air they needed work!

 

Now I am back on the Island, my days have been filled with helping out in the shop as well as tagging along as qualified DM to assist Instructors with students who require assistance as well as taking photos and videos to share with you!

Ornate Ghost Pipe Fish

I will be posting a series of blog posts in the coming weeks about Island Life and things that people should be aware of when traveling / living long term on Gili Air, Indonesia.

Dive Master Week 6 - Gili Air - Indonesia

Wow. I can't believe it is week 6 already. 

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On Saturday I found out I am "graduating" on Tuesday night - the customary "snorkel test" - the drinking of a swamp brew of grog through a snorkel with blacked out mask. A light hazing of sorts to welcome you to the professional side of diving. 

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With the clock now firmly set I needed to get a move on to get all my tasks completed. 

On the Friday before the surprise graduation, the following tasks were completed:

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  • Another hurdle for me to climb over was again the dreaded mask skills components of the "skills circuit". This is - to demonstration quality - show the 24 skills of the "open water" course.  Minimum rating is 3/5 for each skill with at least 1 to a 5/5. Below is my score sheet. A pass.  
  • The planning for a deep dive including the rigging and use of a static decent line - something we don't often use in the Gilis due to incredible 25m+ visibility. Additionally, the task called for the rigging and deployment of a "deco breathing set" or separate air and regulator deployed for use at the 5m safety stop.  This was all completed easily. 
  • The next task that required considerable surmounting of my fear of taking my mask off under water was the equipment exchange... this requires the full exchange of all scuba equipment with another person minus your wetsuit and weights.  As we did it mid water I required three attempts to overcome the current to retain the position. Oh did I mention throughout this whole time you and the person you are exchanging with are sharing a single breathing regulator? Another pass 
  • The last task requiring completion was in my mind the easiest. In fact, it is the one I had the most trouble with - search and recovery. The search for a missing item around 10kgs of weight and lifted using a lift bag. Also required are the underwater demonstration of three knots, the bowline, 2 half hitches and the reef knot. 
  • I also finally submitted my dive site map, this was reviewed in the early stages by our resident navigation and map "nerd to ensure that it was accurate and able to be used as a briefing tool for students and visiting divers.
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And finally, I submitted an extension for my visa to remain in Indonesia on a month by month basis. An interesting experience dealing with the regional outpost of the Indonesian Immigration

What next? Stay tuned

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Dive Master Week 5 - Gili Air - Indonesia

Wow time is flying fast now I can’t believe it is now 5 weeks since I started the DMT.

Local Dive Master Soni with one of our local turtles on Hans Reef

Local Dive Master Soni with one of our local turtles on Hans Reef

 

I have ticked over 100 dives - and no the 100th dive was not naked as is usual convention because I was with clients.

 

This week I have had a number of firsts - seems to be happening a lot:

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  • First UV night dive - Half the dive is using normal white light and then we switch to a blue light that simulates UV light which coupled with a yellow mask filter creates awesome reactions from coral - only a tiny proportion of fish react with UV light so they mostly appear black.
  • This week also saw me brief and guide 2 customers on a local fun dive. We went in search of sleeping white tip reef sharks on a site that they are regularly seen - Sunset Reef. Sadly they were not spotted, however we saw a school of 5 line snapper torpedoing as well as a hawksbill turtle munching on the coral. When I told the customers after the dive that it was my first - they said they were very impressed.
  • I am really starting to enjoy my assisting role while assisting Discover Scuba Diving programs. I seem to have developed a knack with divers that are struggling to equalise and risk ending their dive. I manage to calm them, and show them - underwater - techniques to relax and equalise their ears.
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Ramadan has come to an end so shops are returning to their normal opening hours and dive masters who were not diving during ramadan are returning so I am looking forward to learning from more of the local DMs

 

As now been in Indonesia for almost 6 weeks including staying my parents prior to commencing DMT I am now at a point I need to extend my visa so that process starts soon too.

Dive Master Week 4 - Gili Air - Indonesia

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While week 3 was centred around guiding and learning about fish this week was full on courses - starting with the hardest and most challenging - PADI Rescue diver  

Assisting on a PADI Rescue Diver course this week really challenged my rescue skills, drills over 4 days included

 

  • Unconscious Diver at the surface - Getting the process and timing down to deliver rescue breaths and remove all kit - this included 2 hours in the pool getting timing and positions right before going into the ocean to repeat and towing the ‘patient’ for over 100m in the ocean to the beach and right up to the point of commencing CPR. While I was assisting on this course with a customer, this drill is also an assessable task under the Dive Master program, so I completed it along side the customer 5/5
  • Additionally my DMT Task of  a Tired diver tow - timed over 100m was also undertaken on this course: 3/5 - I was slow in the current
  • Assessing a conscious diver on the surface who is panicking and how to retrieve them using objects such as ropes, buoys and poles that keep you in the boat, then doing the same using techniques while you are in the water
  • I assisted as the rescue diver trainee’s buddy during a search for a missing diver scenario, once locating the missing diver (in this care it was a surface marker buoy hidden on the bottom, I switched to being the unconscious missing diver and had to be brought to the surface slowly and safely.
  • DIVE FROM HELL - This was a test of the rescue diver’s ability to diagnose problems and keep things going smoothly underwater. our instructor at various points during the dive had his fins off, used as mitts, BCD off and riding, tank band loose and weights out, mask upside down all needed fixing by the rescue diver trainee.  I was laughing so much while observing my mask leaked.
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This week I also ticked off a couple more of the tasks required to complete my DMT:

 

  • Emergency Plan for a dive site - in my case I put together a comprehensive document that details location of emergency oxygen acrsss the islands, decompression chambers and their capacity along with ‘how-tos” for a number of common issues such as bites and stings, burns, missing divers etc. This is being evaluated and a score will be issued
  • Mapping a nominated dive site. I am 90% finished on my mapping and I passed my map around for evaluation by the other instructors for feedback. Apart from one section not being correctly oriented to the rest of the site owing to the face I have only visited that part twice. That will be updated and resubmitted.
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Prior to commencing the rescue course I spent a few days assisting one of the local dive masters with some fund dives with a family that was visiting. It is so much fun showing people new sites and new animals they don’t get to see often.

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Dive Master Week 3 - Gili Air - Indonesia

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To recap week 2 my physical learning pack arrives, I made a start on a few of my assignments - site mapping and emergency procedures, as well as some pool time working on my demonstration skills for underwater teaching.  

 

This week I have been able to assist our two in house instructors on their courses. In particular my role is starting to form on Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) programs. A DSD is not an actual course more a program that give a first time diver enough skills in the pool to be taken out under guidance onto a 12m deep reef and, as the name suggests, discover scuba diving. Many go on to undertake the PADI Open Water qualification - the first of many steps on the diving ladder.  My role is the provision of an overwatch / safety role to assist the instructor in keeping the group safe while exploring the site

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Also during week 3 I undertook 3 of my assessment tasks:

  1. Timed 800m Snorkel swim (no hands used, head not leaving the water)  in the picture below that equates to 8 laps with a slight current one way: 3/5
  2. 15 minute tread / float in water too deep to stand, with hands out of the water in the last 2 minutes 5/5
  3. Perform the role of dive master on our dive boat during a fun dive - provide the boat briefing, outlining the safety and comfort features, introduce the crew and dive professional staff as well as monitor the air and time both prior and post for each diver. 5/5

 

Also this week I was able to accompany qualified divers on ‘fun dives’ with some of our local guides to see often overlooked areas of local sites. It is from these local guides I can learn to hone the craft of fish and marine life spotting, group management and guiding around under water sites including the wreck of the tugboat Nusa Glenn seen in the pictures here (my new fav site)

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Dive Master Week 2 - Gili Air - Indonesia

I took this picture showing the joy after almost an hour underwater on a discover scuba

I took this picture showing the joy after almost an hour underwater on a discover scuba

 

Bit of a recap of week one - house sorted, transport sorted, dive site orientations, shop orientation and the discovery of my inability to take my mask off underwater.

 

During week 2, I started settling into the rhythm of Gili Air and diving operations. 

 

After my attempt in week 1 of the first of a number of timed activities being a timed 400m ocean swim (week 1 attempt resulted in DID NOT COMPLETE due to current). I re-attempted in week 2 and received a mark sufficient to gain a pass.

 

Clocking up almost 15 dives since day one, tagging along on "fun dives" with qualified divers and guides as well as observing a variety of courses from Discover Scuba (base program) through to Advanced Adventure Dives including Deep Adventure dives to 30m.

Also this week I dug deeper in the "PADI Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving" - key text for any diver looking to gain a deeper understanding of many aspects of diving and the diving environment.

 

 

 

This week also saw the first of a series of pool sessions with instructors to work on my underwater demonstration skills.

Me floating in the pool observing skills

Me floating in the pool observing skills

 

My day off during week two was spent in the large regional city of Mataram on Lombok getting a bit of a look at regional Lombok life and shopping.

Dive Master Week 1 - Gili Air - Indonesia

I have not been online much this week - as you will see I have been too busy!

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I arrived after a boat delay, late on Monday afternoon. After making my way to the dive center by horse cart I met the staff and crew. 

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Later that night I viewed a number of available homestay type rooms. Bedroom with bathroom and outdoor shared kitchen. 

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I have also purchased a bicycle - the main form of transport on the island. For the cost of 6 weeks rental I purchased one - a massive investment of $70AUD. 

Oh. And I think my bed has bed bugs. So next task is destroying them- all 

This week I have also done 10+ dives, following dive groups, observed regulator servicing, learnt how to use the refrigerated (air dryer) compressor to fill tanks and been working on my underwater marker deployment (DSMB). 

  

The journey begins!

It has been months in the planning, with daily countdowns starting well into the 80s.

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With my dive gear is packed, my drone and filmmaking gear and clothes tapped out my 20kg baggage allowance to jamming all my stuff in my bag has been a challenge in itself. 

Just to remind you about the purpose of this trip - After 10 years with my employer, i am now eligible for 3 months paid leave, with the option of taking that at 1/2 pay.  I am using my allowance in one whack and heading to the Island of Gili Air, Indonesia to "study" for my PADI DiveMaster qualification. This can be done in as short at 6-12 weeks.  Obviously I am in no rush to get the qualification, so will work with my instructor. There is a possibility of also moving on to do my Instructor qualification. 

 

For those that don't know, Gili Air is a tiny island off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. The island is so small there is no motorised land transport, instead of get around on foot, bicycle or small horse drawn carts. 

 

 

 

 

SOTA: Mt Livingston VK2/SM-093 - Wet n Wooly

I will be the first to admit the last 3 months have been amazing.

Every activation has been under clear skies, the sun on my back (or frying my neck).

Well, Mt Livingston turned that on its head. Checking weather reports all week - windy but only 10% chance of rain.

And when did my activation come? you guessed it during that 10% window.

I had planned a LONG last activation hopping around the bands - sadly, all in all, I managed 10 min before and 10 min after UTC before succumbing to numbness of the logging fingers and worrying about water in the radio that was already nestled in the pack. Summit temp was below zero with windchill.

 

Although I said to John @ZL1BYZ and Jacky - no video, I made one on the hill and a few QSOs later.

 

Thanks for all the fun guys and girls. I will be back around Nov/Dec 2017. Until then I will be scuba diving in the Gili Islands of Indonesia undertaking my Dive Master program. Oh and I might have a new callsign by then - will also need to buy that web address too...

All 16 SOTA videos are here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA20AqXLbeiaNFfDBEAx7zZWX_iXSnQ9i2

The first couple are with a verticle - the rest on my Linked Dipole up a 7m squidpole.
Thanks again,

Wade

VK1FWBD.com
Wadeabout.com

SOTA: VK1/AC-044 Boboyan Ridge - Bush-bash and DX S2S

Summit number 15 for 2017 was HARD. Not because it is long but it is a bush bash. Zero formed trail. I couldn't take my eyes off the GPS track for more than a minute and I would be well off track.

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Temps have dropped in Canberra as they normally do after ANZAC Day on 25 April. I left home at about 0800 in 5C. The walk to the summit was in 7-10, not a breath of wind. a crisp clear day!

Driving about 90 mins south from my home location in North Canberra, entering Namadgi National Park which occuipes the entire south of the Capital Territory.

The summit is in the very south east of the park even off the tar road and about a 30-45 min bush bash. Not only any I watching the GPS track, I am making sure I don't fall into Wombat holes - and there are a few of them.

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The actual summit is a small rock Cairn, I added two to the pile.

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After setting up I ended up working about 23 stations, including ZL2ATH, a DX summit t0 summit. My first. a real buzz

 

Due to the location (no phone service) as well as the restrictions of my VK Foundation License (No APRS / DATA modes), Andrew @VK1AD provided radio overwatch via our local 2M repeater, which even on the valley slope I couldn't hit until getting higher. He did all my spotting too. I have said it before - everyone should get themselves an Andrew!

On the way back I stopped off at Hospital Hill Look out which gives an excellent look at the more challenging summits within the park.

 

The long video is uploaded and live now:

 

This will likely be my second last summit until almost Christmas 2017

Wade
VK1FWBD.com

SOTA: Quick activation of Canberra's iconic Black Mountain VK1/AC-042

As you can see there is a fair bit of interferance possible from the tower site, I have been advised that 2M is practically a no go.
However even with the quiet morning activation I managed to snag enough to activate a 'day' eariler than I had planned!

Video is up.

Summit number 14 for me.

Wade

VK1FWBD.com

SOTA: Double Activation today - VK2/IL-001 & VK2/IL-005

Thanks to @VK1AD for the suggestion of 2 summits close by each other that allows a fast double activation.
As you can see from the log, the calls came thick and fast.

Odd trig point hidden amoung the bushes

Dual summit log

This was also my first activation with my partner. He wasn't too keen on the sitting around while I was having the fun.

I think I counted 5 or more S2S, in fact IL-005 was activated in short order with just S2S!

Thanks to Compton for trying both FM which I was just monitoring and 40m later too!

Fluffy carpet of soft moss

Did anyone follow on APRS? VK1FWBD-5. It if it useful for chasers to know my timing I am happy to run it again.

EDIT:  received a number of comments from other operators - NO I did not transmit on RF. I was using the phone network. Entirely within the rules. Checked multiple sources and multiple times. This was at the request of much more experienced and knowledgeable operators. 

Does this look like a rooster to you??

Does this look like a rooster to you??

Taking my summits to 13 since Mid Feb '17 when I was activated. I am out again tomorrow near UTC to keep an eye on sotawatch.

Wade
VK1FWBD.com

SOTA Mt Rob Roy VK1/AC-031 - 3/3 summit challenge - Are my legs still there????

The locals not happy I disturbed their publish holiday sleeping  

The locals not happy I disturbed their publish holiday sleeping  

After the initial tortuously steep climb out of the suburbs, bursting into the morning sunshine before entering the Rob Roy Nature Park was a very pleasant surprise - i suspect the sleeping locals (above) were not impressed with my intrusion.

 

Rob Roy was the 3rd of the 3 summits I had challenged myself to complete by the end of the Easter long weekend. Each increasingly more challenging in height and approach as the last.

The actual summit is off the track however the entry to the foot trodden bush track is marked by a mini carn (below) .

 

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Mt Rob Roy's trig point is unusual, I have not seen one like this before.  3 metal support arms with a wooden upright indication.  Which makes for a good squid pole support!!

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As the log shows before I had a really good day on the radio, scoring some more ZL stations (NZ for non radio folks) 

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Map of my contacts: 

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Summit to summit contacts: 

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Video of the day's activation: 

 

 

SOTA: VK1/AC-033 Bullen Range - Gates, Deer and DX- Summit 2/3 this weekendOTA:

Summit number 2 of 3 this weekend, I shall remember Bullen Ridge for 2 things - its gates (5) and the BIG Buck Deer that snuck on on me in the AZ while I was setting up.

This summit also saw my first DX stations on my own gear on 5w - 2 ZL stations.

LOG:

 

 

Some of the locals enjoying the afternoon sun:

QSO, including 2 ZLs

4 S2S 

Video:

Long video but its all good 

SOTA VK2/ST-053 Mt Mundoonan Summit 1/ 3 of the Easter weekend

I set myself the challenge of knocking over 3 summits over during the easter long weekend - and they are all more challenging than my others to date.

The Mt Mundoonan Summit is exactly 50km North of GPO Canberra city, just to the east of Yass NSW.

It was an absolute smashing day, no wind and with early low lying cloud - the summits was above them!

A great day on the radio, knocking over my 1st NSW summit along with my 1st of my weekend 3.

 

SOTA and Mental Health - how it's helping.

SOTA, Amateur Radio and how it is helping me fight depression and anxiety

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I mentioned in one of my more recent SOTA videos that I was going to write about how SOTA was helping me fight depression and anxiety. I understand that some might consider it a long bow or even not get it entirely.

Before I get into the how or why it is helping, lets get some definitions at least as they relate to my brands of anxiety and depression.

Anxiety

In basic terms, Anxiety is the miss-timed or miss-activation of the fight of flight response. Faced with a bear? Flight or flight is normal, having an heart racing, mind running at a million miles an hour and feeling out of breath, having that repeating thought that some one is out to ‘get’ you in the middle of the supermarket? Thats my anxiety. Supermarket, car, work, laying in bed, it springs up on me .

Depression

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You know that thing you love? Being outdoors? Being with friends? Fishing? Building things? Exercising? You know that feeling you get even thinking or planning to do that? Yeah for me depressions is the colour sucked out of life, I simply do not get the same buzz from things that I know I love and enjoy. Some people see that as ‘Wade is just being lazy’ - I can tell you I WANT to do things, but my brain is all like “why bother”.

OK so those out of the way. Think mental health is just a ‘mental’ thing? Yeah tell that to the 10kgs that joined me this year since diagnosis because the normal active things I like have no ‘colour’ to them.

So back to SOTA and Amateur Radio

I recently obtained my Australian Amateur Radio License (Feb 2017) and since completing it, I discovered this section of the hobby that combines elements I really enjoy. Being outdoors, learning new skills and tinkering with different set ups. And it is making the depression and anxiety disappear - at least for the day I am outdoors!

What is SOTA?


There are designated mountain / hill summits world wide, in the ACT there are currently 48. They are assigned a rating based on height and difficulty, with some earning a bonus 3 points in winter due to possible snow.
The aim of SOTA is to make 4 contacts (voice or morse code) from the summit to consider it ‘activated”.
A station / operator on the summit is the activator, the home station is called a chaser. Summit to summits contacts between 2 ‘activators’ are a real bonus with points shared.

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Every weekend (apart 1) since I have been licensed I have been out activating a summit. This involves selecting a summit, planning or researching a route, packing gear, planning the activation, recording video and photos to share with you.

How is it helping? Well many MH professionals suggest being outdoors and doing physical activities along with having goals that are achievable - guess what ticks all those boxes?? SOTA it is. Also side note have lost between 3-4kgs lighter!

SOTA: Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037

I keep saying it, another weekend and another summit!

The VK summer is definitely coming to an end, the weather is Canberra has started its usual turn for the worse in April. That being said yesterday it was a rather glorious day on the summit of Mt Taylor, VK1/AC-037 one of the tallest summits located within the ACT residential area at 850m ASL.

Taking Andrew (VK1AD)'s advice I stayed clear of the trig point as it gets VERY busy with walkers of all descriptions. This gave me a chance to test out not only my new 7m squid pole which was much lighter than my 10m one but, also my DIY free standing guying system. Up until now, I had always had the trig or another structure to strap the squidpole to.

 

Activation:


Another HUGE (by my standard) day with the summit qualified on HF 40m in under 5 mins!

Longest distance was over 950km just north of Brisbane (VK4).

I had not looked much into the WWFF or Parks program however the last 2 summits were also in parks. My (limited) understanding is 44 contacts are needed to activate the park over a UTC year, I managed to activate both parks in 1 sitting each!
4 2S2 

Working VK1DI, Ian on 2 summits in one day!
 

 

 

 

 

DIY guying system:

I had been looking for a super lightweight guying system. I had seen some operators using 3D printed collars etc, but as I was building it on a Friday prior to a Saturday activation (I am a bad planner) to a trip to the local hardware was in order.

I managed to put together a system using a plumbing collar and 3 stainless steel wire key ring loops.  
How did it work? PERFECTLY. It sits about 3m up so gives a good stability point.
 


 *Video will be pasted here once uploaded*

Resources:
Log to Map: http://www.on6zq.be/w/index.php
Summit logging, I use a Lenovo tablet ($90AUD) and VK-Port-a-Logger

Hope you enjoy, look forward to hearing you on the air.

Wade
VK1FWBD
VK1FWBD.com