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Published: July 18th 2015
I Wanna Hold your Hand
Me at the desk doing my first Sked, trying to look like I was not terrified
11 July 2015
Wasn’t it the Beatles who said, I wanna hold your hand,
Now I don’t want you guys drifting off to sleep, or hurting yourself out of sheer boredom but the above date was an important one for me and as this blog is not just for your entertainment, its also an aide memoir for us, so we can look back and go wow, do you remember when we did that..
Lets start with the simple stuff first.
You know we drove 60,000 K’s circumnavigating Australia in 2008-2009 and when we did the only communications we had was a UHF radio, this only has line of site range.
When we lived in Canberra and in the ACT 4 Wheel Drive Club we purchased a satellite phone, which was good but not quite the solution we thought it would be.I do have to say that in the wilds of the Brindabella Mountain Ranges, when we had absolutely no mobile phone signal the Satellite communication was good and very handy, we did not need to use the sat phone in anger fortunately but it was handy for the odd occasion that we needed to speak to
I Wanna Hold your Hand
Caroline with the vehicles
someone, it did look pretty cool.
On our arrival in Australia I periodically saw vehicles with what I thought were these huge fat black aerials, and didn’t know what they were for and as time passed I was told they were HF (High Frequency) Antenna’s. Caroline always said I had "Antenna envy".
If we fast forward to April last year I decided to purchase an HF set and set about mounting into the Landcruiser, from that day forward I was hooked.
HF Radio is long range, I have spoken to friends of ours from here in Perth whilst they were in Laggan, New South Wales, this is a 4 ½ hour plane journey to Sydney and then a good couple of hours drive, so lets say about 3,370 Kilometres and a 1 1/2 day drive from where we live. HF works by bouncing the signal off the ionosphere, so to help you picture it, some pretty large Kangaroo jumps.
You can just fit a radio in your truck, set it up and speak in to it, but you would only have limited success as the air waves are tightly controlled as its not a toy but
I Wanna Hold your Hand
Mine and Andy B's VKS Number plate the number 1136 and 1766 are our selcall numbers, these identify us on HF radio
a life saving system and due to the shear size of Australia, there are a lot of bases you need to be able to log onto because of your geographical location.
We have made you aware that “most” people live around the perimeter of Australia as central Australia is pretty much uninhabitable, its as pretty as a picture, but go out there unprepared and you won’t come back, this is where we like to go and play, but you need reliable communications.
Our HF service is provided by VKS 737, basically volunteers “man” the basesfrom special software on their home computers and technically dial in to any base in Australia to run the “Sked” at predetermined times, as we are in the west, we usually log in to Meekatharra, Perth or Derby base.
We have a service in Australia called the Royal Flying Doctor Service, they are basically a medical recovery service and there are bases all over Australia and they will land an aircraft at the remotest landing strip to fly out people who are injured, its purely a charitable organization, who have something like 30 or so Aircraft dotted around the country and they get
a lot of their funding from clubs, societies and from some of the major mining companies who realise that the service RFDS provide has a synergy with the remote locations these mining companies operate in.
So back to my important day, I have been using our HF radio through VKS 737 for about a year we just keep them abreast of where we are so the operator of the base physically logs us in when we are at home or when we have little trips away, the object is to log in at predetermined time at bases that are the closest to the users to log our positions and hopefully tell the base operator that everything is OK, these base operator are volunteers, who give their time and expertise to man the bases as required.
About 5 months ago I applied to be a base operator for VKS 737 and after about a three month wait I was accepted, there are about 35 people Australia wide who do the same and step up as operators and my first sked was last Saturday at 07.30 and my log on was through Derby base on Channel 2.
I Wanna Hold your Hand
The RFDS Base at Broken Hill
thing was that I had so many e-mails and messages from people saying we are all with you just made me feel great, I also had Andy Bayley (1766) and Jack Dowling (6127) who are both VKS operators, members of the TLCC and very good friends of our sitting unitedly on other bases just in case it all went horribly wrong and they could get me out of the mess I may have got myself in to, thanks fella's you were ace
I logged in to the software and booted up my system, slipped my head phones on and at 07.30 my first words were:
"Good morning this is VKS-737 DERBY
Base standing by for any mobiles wishing to make urgent contact. This is DERBY
Base STANDING BY FOR URGENT CONTACT ONLY
After a short pause , I said, NO STATIONS HEARD FOR URGENT CONTACT
This is VKS-737 DERBY
Base, part of the Australian National 4WD Radio Network Incorporated and we are about to commence our regular voice call sked for 11 July."
We have the latest weather and road information available if requested, however we cannot be held responsible for any events resulting from the use of this information. It is the responsibility of users to confirm accuracy from all sources such as Police and Road Traffic Authorities.
Our operators cannot give professional advice for example Medical and Technical but will try to access Professional advice for you.Whilst every effort is made to deliver messages, we cannot guarantee delivery."
The time is now 07.30 and your operator this morning is Andy Trenfield-1136."
The whole idea that travellers who subscribe to VKS 737 call in and tell us where they are, if everything is "A.OK" or if they need help, things range from where can we get fuel as we are on say the Canning Stock route or what the weather going to be like in Derby tomorrow as we are heading that way, our logs are legal documents and accuracy is the name of the game, we are there to offer a professional service and not just there for a chat, though when a caller gives us their selcall number, we log them in and it gives u their name, so at least we can say Hi David, how’s it going , and where are you heading and so on.
My half an hour sked, turned out to be about 42 minutes and I had about 13 callers, it was busy and a real baptism of fire, at the end of it I was phisically exhausted.
Caroline sat with me and "held my hand" metaphorically speaking of course, to give me confidence she had her iPad and key websites on standby, when someone did ask me a question good old Caroline looked up the answer on the iPad I logged the call then transmitted the answer to the waiting recipient of the information.
With my morning sked complete by about 08.15 Caroline went off to have her hair done and I got myself ready for my 6.00pm sked, with renewed confidence. Yes I was going to do it all again in the same day!I
I am next due to be rostered on think the first of August, god we love this country, we have so many opportunities to do amazing things
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