On Boxing Day 26th of December 2003, two lucky stations found they had been looked upon favorably by Mother Nature and were given one of the ultimate VHF radio paths into VK6 (Western Australia).

The stations involved were Brian VK5BC (ex-VK5ZMB ex VK5UBC) at Gawler, 40 km north of Adelaide. And myself, Leigh VK2KRR, western side of The Rock Hill, 30 km SW of Wagga.

We had an idea that conditions could be OK today, but we did not ever really think that we would get as far as we did. As a guide in relation to conditions for Boxing Day we were able to see a prediction of possible Duct conditions from the following Hepburn Duct Forecast Chart - 

And also a MSLP map taken just 3 & 1/2 hours before the path was first noted - 

The contact was from both VK5UBC and VK2KRR into the Boddington Mt Saddleback repeater on 147.250 MHz. This repeater is the highest in VK6 at 590 masl, has 20 watts ERP with an Omni directional vertical antenna.

The distance to the repeater for Brian VK5UBC at Gawler is 2062 km.
The distance to the repeater for Leigh VK2KRR at The Rock Hill is 2817 km.

What an amazing path this was! I first noticed the path at about 2030 utc (7.30am my time), as a weak signal noted behind the Mt Macedon repeater VK3RMM. It took about about 27 mins for me to make the Identification of VK6RMS as the repeater that I was hearing. You can imagine the excitement when I confirmed I was able to access a repeater 2817 km to my west.

Listen to some audio from the Boxing day duct on youtube-

Hear Brian VK5UBC trying to get through to Frank VK6ZGU via VK6RMS -

Hear Glen VK6IQ and Brian VK5UBC exchanging information on the VK6RMS repeater -

The listing below is taken from the local internet chat page at the time, this is the actual log on the internet site from when I first noticed the repeater to when I could no longer hear it. Also note that I was copying quite a few VK5 areas before this opened up to VK6RMS. Due to the last message appearing first on the logger, you must read the loggings below from bottom to the top.

25Dec, 23:45 VK2KRR No sign of Perth currently
25Dec, 23:45 VK2KRR I heard him call you David 
25Dec, 23:40 VK3AUU I worked VK5ACY about 1 hour ago
25Dec, 23:36 VK2KRR Barossa on 70cm is still there
25Dec, 23:35 VK2KRR Perth S3 now cant raise anyone for QSO  
25Dec, 23:26 VK2KRR Perth back up again now about S5 
25Dec, 23:23 VK2KRR VK5ACY on Macedon 
25Dec, 23:19 VK2KRR Perth still there but again very weak
25Dec, 23:18 VK2KRR Geelong and Crafers (Adelaide) still there, Adelaide the stronger on 147.000
25Dec, 23:17 VK2KRR Central North (Adelaide) 5/9 
25Dec, 23:16 VK2KRR Murray Bridge 20dB 
25Dec, 23:16 VK2KRR Barossa Valley is still 20dB
25Dec, 23:14 VK2KRR Checking others, Mildura still there and I think Cowell on same freq 
25Dec, 23:12 VK2KRR Repeater very weak now 
25Dec, 23:11 VK2KRR Brian VK5UBC was trying 146.550 with VK6ZGU as far as I can tell, unsure if contact was made at this stage
25Dec, 23:09 VK2KRR Oh. um ..147.250 is still there just, S2 currently  
25Dec, 23:01 VK5ACY Shorthand ! whats going on ? !!
25Dec, 23:00 VK2KRR Eh? 
25Dec, 22:57 VK5ACY Skarnon Leigh ?  
25Dec, 22:48 VK6KOJ 73s from Geraldton have a happy new year, be a way for 10 days,John 
25Dec, 22:47 VK1ZQR Nothing of keyer 
25Dec, 22:46 VK5ACY VK1ZQR anything heard ? 
25Dec, 22:45 VK2KRR VK5UBC is back in signal is now S7 
25Dec, 22:43 VK5ACY Running now 15 WPM
25Dec, 22:42 VK1ZQR Ok listening 
25Dec, 22:41 VK5ACY VK1ZQR listen for my keyer on
25Dec, 22:40 VK5ACY TNX Leigh 
25Dec, 22:40 VK2KRR Repeater has dropped again and now coming back
25Dec, 22:40 VK2KRR I just tried Bill mentioned you were listening 144.1  
25Dec, 22:38 VK1ZQR Vk1zqr listening 144.100000 beaming west
25Dec, 22:37 VK5ACY Stir up some SSB for us in VK6 Leigh !
25Dec, 22:36 VK2KRR Signals S5 currently on VK6RMS Mt Saddleback near Perth   
25Dec, 22:33 VK3HZ Not much in Melb yet though 
25Dec, 22:33 VK3HZ Just heard Leigh's signals over the telephone - impressive stuff and could get better as VK6 wakes up! 
25Dec, 22:30 VK5ACY OK KOJ - maybe another day !! 
25Dec, 22:29 VK6KOJ VK5ACY Yes I have, but 450 klm north of Perth nothing heard.
25Dec, 22:28 VK2KRR Just had vk5acy 20db
25Dec, 22:26 VK1ZQR Vk1zqr has 144.1 110w 4 * 12e yagi beaming west
25Dec, 22:18 VK5ACY VK6KOJ - do you have 144 SSB ? 
25Dec, 22:17 VK5ACY VK5NJ calling you on RWZ Leigh 
25Dec, 22:08 VK2KRR 5/7 at present, Dave looking for your ph number
25Dec, 22:07 VK2KRR *&%@#!! some knob is playing some crap on Macedon 
25Dec, 22:04 VK2KRR Thanks Mark!!! 
25Dec, 22:03 VK2EMA Bye all GREAT STUFF LEIGH!!!!!!!! 
25Dec, 22:03 VK2KRR Back in 
25Dec, 21:55 VK5ACY I hear it in the noise here on the little rock 
25Dec, 21:51 VK2KRR I have pretty much lost it now, but Brian is still working it from Gawler 
25Dec, 21:51 VK2KRR Amazing stuff 
25Dec, 21:49 VK2KRR Signal is dropping
25Dec, 21:47 VK2KRR Brian VK5UBC is also getting through
25Dec, 21:44 VK2KRR I am recording hehe
25Dec, 21:44 VK2KRR S7 now!! Frank, VK6ZGU, Wagin
25Dec, 21:37 VK2KRR VK6ZGU I am quite sure is replying
25Dec, 21:36 VK2KRR I wish someone would answer 
25Dec, 21:30 VK5ACY Geelong bcn S8 - finally you get some fun Leigh !! 
25Dec, 21:29 VK2KRR Someone came back on the Perth repeater but now they have gone 
25Dec, 21:25 VK2EMA Great stuff leigh 
25Dec, 21:25 VK5ACY It is very early in VK6 !!!
25Dec, 21:24 VK2KRR Can someone ring someone over there! 
25Dec, 21:24 VK2EMA Nothing from here at all
25Dec, 21:23 VK2KRR Just worked it out as 2817 km
25Dec, 21:23 VK2KRR Definitely still got VK6RMS repeater near Perth on 147.250 about 4/2 signal 
25Dec, 21:22 VK2KRR Its weird 
25Dec, 21:17 VK2EMA What the hell is going on down there Leigh!
25Dec, 21:13 VK5ACY I hear you through 3RWZ Leigh 
25Dec, 21:12 VK2KRR U may have been on Mt William Bill, I think I heard u there
25Dec, 21:11 VK5ACY 6950 just breaking mute here
25Dec, 21:09 VK2KRR VK5UBC is now getting Canberra 146.950 from Gawler
25Dec, 21:08 VK5ACY I have beam to west but no beacons
25Dec, 21:07 VK2KRR Its Mt Macedon Melb, but also VK6RMS Boddington near Perth 
25Dec, 21:05 VK5ACY 147.250 is where Leigh ? I hear a bit of it.  
25Dec, 21:01 VK2KRR Talk now type later 
25Dec, 20:59 VK2KRR VK6KZ mobile is turned off!!!!! 
25Dec, 20:58 VK2KRR 147.250! 
25Dec, 20:58 VK2KRR Just confirmed VK6RMS
25Dec, 20:36 VK2KRR OH MY GOD 
25Dec, 20:35 VK2KRR PERTH!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
25Dec, 20:29 VK2KRR Wow! Port Lincoln 70cm 438.225 5/9 @ 1026 km 
25Dec, 20:28 VK2KRR Mt Terrible 70cm @ 778 km 
25Dec, 20:24 VK2KRR Summertown Adelaide 70cm 5/9+10dB @ 760km - W  
25Dec, 19:55 VK2KRR I have Brian 5UBC there now and Murray Bridge is about 50dB over here 
25Dec, 19:54 VK2KRR Just testing with VK5UBC on Port Linclon, I cant get back to it   
25Dec, 19:47 VK2KRR Crafers Adelaide now 40dB @ 764 km - W 
25Dec, 19:22 VK2KRR VK5UBC now on 146.550 FM from Gawler SA 4/3 @ 764 km W  
25Dec, 19:08 VK2KRR Wow - Ararat is now FULL SCALE @ 410 km - SW  
25Dec, 19:02 VK2KRR Wow - Barossa Valley 70cm is S9+20dB @ 737 km - W 
25Dec, 19:00 VK2KRR Kingston link still there weak 4/2 @ 672 km - WSW  
25Dec, 18:56 VK2KRR Just heard Warrnambool 4/4 @ 512 km - SW

As you can see, by reading the log entries above, the path was suddenly very good at Port Lincoln, enough to support 70cm at quite a strong level. This could perhaps be an indicator to look for in future duct events as Port Lincoln is just north of the straight line path to Perth. Conditions to Perth will obviously depend on weather conditions out further west.

The first station I was able to confirm on the Boddington repeater was Frank, VK6ZGU located at Wagin, which is 90 km to the SE of the repeater. Frank was calling me while the conditions were still quite weak.  I recall that Frank had my callsign but I could just not copy all of his, I could hear VK6???, then next few tries I eventually got VK6-?-Golf-Uniform, very close, as the repeater signal strength increased I finally got the missing letter VK6-Zulu-Golf-Uniform, VK6ZGU. I was wrapped! and very excited.

I cant recall if it was before or after I confirmed Frank on the repeater, that I luckily found VK5UBC Brian, on the Murray Bridge repeater. I remember Brian mentioning to me he had just worked the Canberra 2m repeater and I just said "that's good! I am COPYING PERTH HERE!!!" then the mayhem began and I let Brian know it was on 147.250 and we both went to see what we could do.

To my amazement, and probably Brian's, he eventually could also get to the VK6RMS repeater. It was great, we were the only two stations in eastern Australia getting through on a path quite close to Perth.

The next station that got on air at the Perth end was Glen, VK6IQ, located at a place called Wandina, 45km NE of Perth, putting Glen approximately 200 km from the repeater. Glen did well and went to raise some other operators in VK6 but only came across one, which was Doug, VK6TDC in the Perth area.

The duct to the Boddington repeater, for me lasted to approx 10.40am local time (2340utc). I believe it dropped out for Brian about 40 mins before this.

What a brilliant morning for radio, Boxing Day 2003 will be remembered for a while to come.

Below are two MSLP maps issued at 0000 utc or 11am my time or 8am WAST. Ignore the time on the Weather Co chart as it is wrong. These charts are issued just 20 mins after the loss of signal my end. Note that in the week preceding this contact, there was a Tropical Cyclone North East of Darwin which weakened as it moved over land and at the time of contact is the LOW 997 reading on the map.

Below is a confirmation letter from Frank VK6ZGU

Do not have QSL cards at present but confirm the rarest of contacts 26.12.03 at approx 0530 WST on 147.250 MHz via VK6RMS - Boddington. Also had contact with Brian VK5UBC and Glen VK6IQ.
At time of our contact I was using a IC2000 (mobile type unit) in the shack 25 watts - 40 ft out to a home brew 4 ele quad. Wagin is in a hollow all round and about 120 km to Mt Saddleback and mostly a difficult path. Early morning to sun up is best, but very spasmotic.
To hear a VK2 and a VK5 at the same time was quite frankly dumbfounding and it took a few moments to believe what was being heard. Quite difficult copy at first then the signal lifted to a good 5/9.
Will forward a QSL card when printed. Will be listening as usual on 2m but that contact - really rare - hopefully we can do it again but have grave doubts.
Kind regards
Frank 73