HAMNET Report 18 March 2018

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, or GDACS, is reporting on Tropical Cyclone Eliakim, which since Thursday has been approaching the North-Eastern aspect of Madagascar. By 18h00 on Friday it had crossed the coast South of Maroantsetra heading South-West with winds in excess of 83kph, before turning due South on Saturday and losing some strength on its way to cross the coast again today (Sunday) at about midday. Intense rainfall could trigger flooding and mudslides, and evacuations are taking place in some areas. We’ll tell you of any loss of life and property we hear of.

From R&D Magazine comes an interesting development in the field of power generation in your rucksack.

Most soldiers carry a heavy burden in the field, including an 35 Kg backpack filled with essential supplies and tools. If that’s not heavy enough, soldiers often carry an additional 10 to 15 Kg in backup batteries to power their radios and other necessary electronics.

However, a new innovation offers a solution.

Lighting Pack—a 2017 R&D 100 Award Winner—is able to generate electricity as soldiers walk and run through the field, eliminating the need for them to carry batteries.

The backpack works by harvesting kinetic energy, while also reducing the heavy load soldiers have to carry around the field, said Lawrence Rome, PhD, the founder and chief scientific officer of Lightning Packs LLC, in an interview with R&D Magazine.

“Essentially in our backpacks there are two frames, there’s a frame connected to the person with a hip belt and shoulder straps and there is a second frame called a moving frame in which the bag is attached and the whole load sits there,” he said. “In normal backpacks, the two frames are locked together and move in unison.

“What we did is we suspended the moving frame from the fixed frame attached to the body by a spring mechanism,” he added. “So essentially as you walk up and down the moving frame moves in respect to the fixed frame and that generates electricity.”

By reducing the need for extra disposable batteries, soldiers using the backpack can opt to either reduce the overall weight of their backpacks or use the extra space to carry other necessary supplies. The pack also permits longer mission durations and reduces the demand for resupply operations.

In addition to providing a benefit for soldiers, the electricity-generating backpack could provide wearable, renewable electricity for disaster-relief workers operating in remote locations, as well as forestry service workers, medical aid relief workers, hikers, campers, and hunters.

Thank you to Keith ZS5WFD of HAMNET KZN for bringing us a brief report-back on Hamnet KZN’s involvement in last week’s rally:

He says “Ten operators assisted with the event which covered a total of 11 stages over the two day event which started on Friday 9th March.   Ballito Lifestyle Centre was chosen as Rally HQ with the top parking level area  being cordoned off for the use of rally support teams.  This gave a good opportunity for the general public to get up close and see the rally cars and their service crews at work. A shuttle bus service was also on offer to take the public to designated spectator points in the various stages throughout the two days.

“Weather conditions were very hot and dry on both days making for some difficult conditions for the radio operators at start and end of the dusty stages out in the sugar cane fields.

“A total of 20 teams entered on day 1,  9 teams in R2N Class with the remaining 11 teams in the Open Class.  I am pleased to report that no serious accidents or medical emergencies occurred, but only 11 teams completed the event, the majority having to retire with mechanical breakdowns.  It was also pleasing to note that no incidents were received of private vehicle incursions onto the live rally stages which was a problem encountered on the previous rally on the South Coast.

“The special stage on Friday night around the Ballito beach front drew a large crowd who came to see the blazing headlights, hear the screeching of tyres and the exhaust explosions around the very tight circuit.

“Communications between stages worked extremely well with probably 90% conducted on 145.550 MHz simplex.  From Rally Control I had direct communication with all but two operators, but Dave ZS5HN, strategically situated on a high point on both days, was able to relay their communications to me.  The previous monotonous task of passing stage book-in, start and elapsed  times was replaced by taking a picture of the time sequence sheet and sending it in via a WhatsApp group.  This eliminated any error from our side and the organisers were very happy with the result.

“A big thank you to all that assisted in making the event the success that it was.”

And thank you to you Keith and your team for ensuring the rally went off safely!

In case you thought the Western Cape had cornered the market on droughts, let me tell you that South Africa has declared that the drought afflicting Cape Town and other parts of the country is a national disaster.

The government announcement on Tuesday allows officials more easily to direct resources to drought relief and long-term recovery plans.

The government says the drought is especially severe in the three Cape provinces in the south of the country.

City of Cape Town warned for months of the threat of “Day Zero,” the date when the city would have to close most water taps because of the drought. However, the opposition party running the city said last week that “Day Zero” might not happen at all this year because of water conservation efforts.

The opposition Democratic Alliance says the government’s declaration of a national disaster should make relief funds available for affected areas.

Aid must therefore be equitably distributed among all the affected areas, to bring relief to all communities waiting anxiously for rain.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 11 March 2018

Our neighbour Mozambique was struck by a magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Thursday the 8th, at 10h49 our time. The quake struck at a depth of 6.4km in an area not far from the Malawian border in Zambezia province, exposing a population of about 16000 people in the area to danger. So far, we have not heard of any serious loss of life or injury, but the area is remote and communications sparse.

Meanwhile, in Papua New Guinea, one of the 80 or so aftershocks I mentioned in last week’s bulletin was a 6.7 magnitude shock that left another 18 people dead or injured. This adds to the death toll of over a hundred lives lost last week.

The original quake and subsequent aftershocks were centred in the country’s remote Highlands Region, and a complete picture of the scope of the destruction has been slow to emerge, says a report in the New York Times of 7 March.

“Loss of family houses is spread across the province,” said a report by the Hela Council of Churches. “Many families are sleeping together in temporary camps under canvases.”

The report added that health clinics, water supplies and gardens that residents depend on for food were all damaged in last week’s earthquake.

“Citizens have become traumatized,” the report said. “People are confused and frightened and many more are refusing to return to their own houses.”

The Papua New Guinea Red Cross said as many as 143,000 people could have been affected by the earthquake, with 17,000 displaced from their homes.

William Powi, governor of Southern Highlands Province, told the Associated Press that collapsed homes and landslides had killed at least 39 people in his province, and the blockage of feeder roads was impeding recovery efforts.

“It is beyond the capacity of the provincial government to cope with the magnitude of destruction and devastation,” he said. “Our people are traumatized and finding it difficult to cope.”

Papua New Guinea, which comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and several smaller islands, has eight million people who mostly live in rural areas. It is one of the least developed countries in the region, and the lack of road and communication networks across its mountainous central region has slowed the disaster response, officials said.

“The rugged terrain and loss of communications in the area impacted means it is taking time to build a complete picture of the damage but we know that tens of thousands of people are reported as requiring humanitarian assistance,” Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister, said in a statement on Monday.

A well-known amateur radio personality in America, Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, is this year’s recipient of the Hamvention Awards Committee “Amateur of the Year” award.

Valerie was first licensed in 2006 and has been very active in local Amateur Radio clubs and in ARES. Once she “discovered” HF, she became obsessed with DXing and contesting. In the past few years, she has enjoyed inviting new hams to her station to DX or contest. She has been the pilot or lead pilot for four major DXpeditions.

Hotzfeld is a co-host of the netcast “Ham Nation” and has created several how-to videos on YouTube for the ham radio community. She also enjoys giving presentations on various topics via Skype to Amateur Radio clubs across the US.

She is currently the treasurer for her contest club and the prize chairman for W9DXCC and SMC-fest. In 2017, she became very active in public service, travelling to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to help rescue small animals. She was subsequently deployed to Puerto Rico with the American Red Cross for 3 weeks as part of a group of volunteer Amateur Radio operators, facilitating critical communications after Hurricane Maria. Hotzfeld has said that Amateur Radio has enriched her life because of the challenges and great friends the hobby brings. Thanks to the ARRL News for these notes.

Our congratulations to Valerie – she is a deserving winner! You can watch her insert on Ham Nation every week on You Tube.

Incidentally, her partner, Jerry Rosalius, WB9Z, was one of the Bouvet Island DX’ers pictured in Cape Town after the ship brought them all back after the unsuccessful expedition. Visit his QRZ page if you want to see their antenna farm!

Friday and Saturday saw HAMNET KZN assisting at the Tour Natal Rally on the North Coast, as mentioned last week. We’re hoping the weather was acceptable, that the rally went off without mishap, Keith, and that you will send us a short report of the event for inclusion in next week’s bulletin?

And today sees about 35000 cyclists exploring the Cape Peninsula in the Cape Town Cycle Tour. After last year’s disastrous start, which saw the race called off because of the windstorm at the start, which prevented riders from even getting on to their bicycles, the start has been moved this year to the roads near the Grand Parade, which will prevent the wind tunnel effect experienced last year! Hamnet is partially involved in the communications for this race, and we are aware of some Hamnet members actually riding it. We hope to have some news of this one for you next week too.

From then on, HAMNET Western Cape will concentrate on the Two Oceans Marathon, over the Easter weekend. The Organisers of that race are extremely up-to-date, and everything has been thought of already. Our team has helped to supervise this race for 19 years now, so we are fairly used to it too. Let’s see if the Western Cape will live up to its reputation for raining over the Easter weekend, for which it is notorious. We down here don’t know whether we will be glad or sad if it rains that weekend. Either way, the race will probably go on!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 4 March 2018

Papua New Guinea has been in the news all week. On Sunday the 25th, at 17h44 UTC, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck in the Southern highlands province, endangering a population of 314000 people. By the end of the week, another 82 aftershocks between magnitude 4.5 and 6 had been recorded, an astonishing number.

The powerful earthquake this week killed 31 people, injured dozens and brought work to a halt at four oil and gas fields in a remote Papua New Guinea region, the local governor said Wednesday.

His comments were the first confirmation of deaths from a high-ranking official after the magnitude 7.5 quake severed communications and blocked roads in the central region, hindering assessment of the scale of the destruction.

Southern Highlands Governor William Powi told The Associated Press that communication remains difficult and the death toll may rise. “We are looking at massive, catastrophic havoc and destruction,” Powi said.

“There are people who are traumatized, people in terrible devastation who have never felt this kind of destruction before,” Powi said. “It has really brought a lot of fear into people’s lives.”

Powi said three oil fields and a liquefied natural gas plant run by ExxonMobil Papua New Guinea have halted operations for now as they assess the damage to their operations.

The quake also disrupted work at a large gold mine and at coffee plantations in the region.

Powi said many roads remain cut off by landslides and that supplies will need to be airlifted. Many people live subsistence lives in the area, Powi said.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced an immediate State of Emergency had been Declared for Highlands Earthquake Disaster areas in Hela, Southern Highlands, Western and Enga Provinces.

“This is an unprecedented disaster in the Highlands Region and the appropriate response is underway by the National Government,” the Prime Minister said.

“A State of Emergency has been declared to expedite the restoration of essential public services including healthcare services, schools, road access, airports, power and communications facilities.

“The Emergency Disaster Restoration Team will be supported by Department of Works and Implementation, and all other relevant Government agencies,” O’Neill said.

A spokesman from the country’s National Disaster Centre said a preliminary damage assessment from the quake, which struck the mountainous Southern Highlands some 560km northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, was still incomplete.

Thank you to SBS news for that report.

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, HAMNET Provincial Director for KZN, reports that Hamnet KZN will be providing 10 operators to assist at the Trade Brands Tour Natal Rally taking place next week Friday 9th and Saturday 10th March on the Natal North coast with around 150Km of  special stages (11 stages in total). The Tour Natal Rally has been around since 1959. Traditionally the rally stages for this event have all been on the South coast, so this will be a welcome change for the participants.  Keith Lowes ZS5WFD will be positioned at rally control based at the Ballito Lifestyle Centre.  Friday night will see a special stage along the beach front of Ballito which should draw a good spectator crowd. Saturday sees stages run in Kwa Dukuza (Stanger), Compensation, Doringkop, and Blythedale.

Dave ZS5HN will again operate as “Ops Control” to assist with relaying messages with the challenging hilly terrain in the sugarcane fields in the area.  The Highway Amateur Radio Club 145.7625 repeater gives good coverage into the Rally Control Centre at Ballito.  Communications within the stages will primarily be on 145.550 simplex.

Operators will be positioned at the start and end point of rally special stages to record vehicles entering and leaving stages as well as passing times back to rally control for scoring purposes as a back up to the electronic rally clock systems. Medical Response vehicles will be positioned at the start of stages in case of any reported incidents.

Glen ZS5GD will be in the Chief Marshal vehicle with Barry Neal, and Duncan ZS5DGR will be with the Route Director Jimmy Dewar.

Good luck to you, Keith, and your troops. We hope you have a successful rally.

With the kind of luck that radio amateurs and HAMNET members seldom have, amateur astronomer Victor Buso had a lucky break on September 20, 2016, while he was testing a new camera mounted to his 16-inch telescope in Argentina.
Once the sky was dark, Buso pointed his telescope at NGC 613 — a spiral galaxy located some 70 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor — to take a series of short-exposure photographs. To ensure his new camera was functioning properly, Buso examined the images right away. This was when he noticed that a previously invisible point of light had appeared on the outskirts of NGC 613, and the point was quickly growing brighter in each successive image.

In no time at all, astronomer Melina Bersten and her colleagues at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata learned of Buso’s fortunate photo shoot. They immediately realized that Buso had caught an extremely rare event — the initial burst of light from a massive supernova explosion. According to Bersten, the chances of making such a discovery are between one in ten million and one in a hundred million.

“Professional astronomers have long been searching for such an event,” said UC-Berkeley astronomer Alex Filippenko, whose follow-up observations were critical to analyzing the explosion, in a press release. “Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that cannot be directly obtained in any other way. It’s like winning the cosmic lottery,” he added.

Once Bersten realized that Buso had accidentally witnessed the first optical light from a normal supernova explosion, she contacted an international group of astronomers to plan and carry out additional follow-up observations over the next two months.

Based on all the available data, the researchers believe that Buso captured the first optical images of a supernova undergoing “shock breakout,” which occurs when a supersonic pressure wave from the star’s rebounding core slams into the gas at the star’s surface. This generates a tremendous amount of heat at the star’s surface, which causes a burst of light that rapidly brightens.

Thank you to Astronomy Newsletter for the story of this lucky break and valuable photographic evidence.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.


HAMNET Report 25 February 2018

HAMNET is shocked to read in ARRL News that the chair of the International Amateur Radio Union Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee, Jim Linton, VK3PC, of Forest Hill, Victoria, Australia, died on February 22 of thyroid cancer. For many years, Linton was a consistent and reliable source of news and information regarding Amateur Radio disaster response activities in IARU Region 3.

A Life Member of the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA), Linton received the G.A. Taylor Medal in 2011, the WIA’s highest honour, for his service to the WIA Centenary Committee and contributions to Amateur Radio over many years. Linton was involved in WIA’s communications, marketing, and publications efforts, and he served as the news editor for Amateur Radio magazine. He was a past president of Amateur Radio Victoria and was its public relations officer.

A veteran radio enthusiast, Linton joined the WIA as a teenager and shortwave listener. IARU Secretary David Sumner, K1ZZ, called Linton, “a tireless worker for the common good.”

HAMNET sends its sincere condolences to his family and to the Wireless Institute of Australia.

Cape Town DX and HAMNET enthusiasts went the extra mile to host the 3Y0Z Bouvet Island team, who got a warm welcome back to terra firma on February 17 upon arrival at Cape Town, South Africa, following their return voyage from Bouvet Island according to ARRL News.

The 3Y0Z DXpedition had to be called off due to adverse weather while the team was sailing within view of the sub-Antarctic island, which is #2 on the Club Log DXCC Most-Wanted List. The team’s vessel Betanzos also suffered an engine failure, and it was decided that, with just one engine, Cape Town was the closest safe destination.

Among the greeters in Cape Town was South African Amateur Radio League (SARL) President Nico van Rensburg, ZS6QL. A 37-foot ketch with a crew of South African hams on board met Betanzos outside the Port of Cape Town. The beleaguered 3Y0Z team had been at sea for more than a month, logging some 9,000 maritime mobile contacts en route.

“For some, this has been a difficult time, but now stability and dry land are on the horizon,” team co-leader Ralph Fedor, K0IR, tweeted as Cape Town came into view. “Thank you once again to all of you for your support during this difficult time.” The team presented a signed 3Y0Z banner to the Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre.

There is a ten minute insert in this week’s “Ham Nation” videoblog covering the 3Y0Z team’s arrival in Cape Town, with pictures and description of the Sunday buffet lunch hosted by the Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre at the Royal Yacht Club. Look up “Ham Nation 339” on YouTube, and skim to the 44th minute, to see the insert.

Further news from the (other) Bouvet Island DXpedition 3Y0I, is that Members of the expedition to Bouvet Island will be doing more than handing out contacts to the world’s community of DXers. According to the 3Y0I Bouvet Island DXpedition, this will mark the first-ever Polish-led expedition to Bouvet, and it will include geographical exploration of the island, a trek to the top of the island’s glacier, Olavtoppen, at 760 meters (nearly 2,500 feet) above sea level, and photo and video documentation of the team’s voyage to Bouvet and stay on the island, both for sponsors and the Norwegian Polar Institute. The DXpedition also will place what 3Y0I is describing as a “time capsule” on Olavtoppen. A dependency of Norway, Bouvet is considered to be among the most remote places on the planet.

“Such gigantic geographical isolation, combined with severe weather conditions, and a lack of communication channels in this region of the world, Bouvet Island is one of the least-visited places on Earth,” the 3Y0I website describes. “Fewer people have put their feet on Bouvet than on the surface of the moon. Our expedition is really an expedition into the unknown.”

Bouvet is #2 on the DXCC Most-Wanted List, right behind North Korea, from which 3Y0I DXpedition leader Dom Grzyb, 3Z9DX, operated briefly in December 2015. “Over 1 million hams from all continents are waiting for a contact with Bouvet. No wonder. The last time Bouvet Island was heard on the amateur bands was 10 years ago,” the team’s website said.

The DXpedition’s members face a voyage of up to 3 weeks on often-stormy South Atlantic waters. Grzyb has raised the possibility of live online video feeds from the trip, as well as social media exposure. The contingent of DXers will set sail from South Africa on a seagoing yacht adapted for extreme weather.

No dates for the 3Y0I DXpedition have been announced, but it will take place during the sub-Antarctic summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thank you to the ARRL letter of February 22 for these notes.

Returning to science for a moment, you will have noted the high Planetary A and K figures of the last few days as high speed solar wind streams reach Earth.

On 22nd February, a magnetic observatory in Lofoten, Norway, picked up unusually pure low-frequency magnetic waves rippling around the Arctic Circle.

Known as “pulsations continuous” (Pc), these rare magnetic oscillations can energize particles in our planet’s magnetosphere, boosting the brightness of auroras. Indeed, strong auroras are being seen right now in Scandinavia.

You may visit Spaceweather.com to learn what caused these Pc waves and to monitor the ongoing display. Even when the Sun has no spots or activity on it, it influences our ionosphere.

Continuing our thoughts on contact with Extra Terrestrials, world renowned physicist, Prof Michio Kaku, has said we will first discover extraterrestrials by “listening in” on their radio communications. He concedes there is no way of knowing what their intentions will be. However, he does believe there will be a major gap that renders communication impossible.

He was asked: “If we make contact with alien civilisations, then what? And how will we talk to them?”

Prof Kaku responded: “Let me stick my neck out. I personally feel that within this century, we will make contact with an alien civilisation, by listening in on their radio communications. But talking to them will be difficult, since they could be tens of light years away.

“So, in the meantime, we must decipher their language to understand their level of technology and their intentions. Will they be expansive and aggressive, or peaceful?” Only time will tell. Thank you to the Daily Star for these thoughts.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 18 February 2018

Hamnet is in a pickle! Why, I hear you ask?

Well, in an article published in Science Alert, the question is asked: “If we receive a message from Aliens, should we delete it without reading?”

Scientists have been conducting multiple surveys in the hopes of find indications of “technosignatures” – i.e. evidence of technologically-advanced life (such as radio communications), for at least 50 years.

To put it plainly, if humanity were to receive a message from an extraterrestrial civilisation right now, it would be the single greatest event in the history of civilisation.

But according to a new study, such a message could also pose a serious risk to humanity. Drawing on multiple possibilities that have been explored in detail, they consider how humanity could shield itself from malicious spam and viruses.

The paper, titled “Interstellar communication. IX. Message decontamination is impossible”, recently appeared online.

The study was conducted by Michael Hippke, an independent scientist from the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany; and John G. Learned, a professor with the High Energy Physics Group at the University of Hawaii.

Together, they examine some of the foregone conclusions about SETI and what is more likely to be the case.

To be fair, the notion that an extraterrestrial civilisation could pose a threat to humanity is not just a well-worn science fiction trope. For decades, scientists have treated it as a distinct possibility and considered whether or not the risks outweigh the possible benefits.

As a result, some theorists have suggested that humans should not engage in SETI at all, or that we should take measures to hide our planet.

As Learned told Universe Today via email, there has never been a consensus among SETI researchers about whether or not ETI would be benevolent:

“There is no compelling reason at all to assume benevolence (for example that ETI are wise and kind due to their ancient civilisation’s experience).

“I find much more compelling the analogy to what we know from our history… Is there any society anywhere which has had a good experience after meeting up with a technologically advanced invader? Of course it would go either way, but I think often of the movie Alien… a credible notion it seems to me.”

In addition, assuming that an alien message could pose a threat to humanity makes practical sense.

Given the sheer size of the Universe and the limitations imposed by special relativity (i.e. no known means of faster-than-light travel), it would always be cheaper and easier to send a malicious message to eradicate a civilisation compared to an invasion fleet.

As a result, Hippke and Learned advise that SETI signals be vetted and/or “decontaminated” beforehand.

In terms of how a SETI signal could constitute a threat, the researchers outline a number of possibilities.

Beyond the likelihood that a message could convey misinformation designed to cause a panic or self-destructive behaviour, there is also the possibility that it could contain viruses or other embedded technical issues (i.e. the format could cause our computers to crash).

They also note that, when it comes to SETI, a major complication arises from the fact that no message is likely to be received in only one place, making containment possible.

In the end, it appears that the only real solution is to maintain a vigilant attitude and ensure that any messages we send are as benign as possible.

As Hippke summarised: “I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that a message will be positive, but you cannot be sure. Would you take a 1 percent chance of death for a 99 percent chance of a cure for all diseases? One learning from our paper is how to design [our] own message, in case we decide to send any: Keep it simple, don’t send computer code.”

Basically, when it comes to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, the rules of internet safety may apply. If we begin to receive messages, we shouldn’t trust those that come with big attachments and send any suspicious looking ones to our spam folder.

So if Darth Vader decides, with evil intent, to send you a possibly encrypted 3D hologram from Death Star, either by audio, or digitally on your PC, do think twice before opening the attachment, will you?!

On the other hand, if some of you had given up all hope of receiving a HAMNET message from Bouvet Island because the 3Y0Z team is sadly in Cape Town licking its wounds instead of working a pile-up on the island, there may be hope ahead.

The ARRL Newsletter of 15 February notes that Peripatetic Polish DXpeditioner Dom Grzyb, 3Z9DX, and four other operators announced over the weekend that their postponed plans to mount the 3Y0I DXpedition to Bouvet Island are back on.

“Our trip, planned originally at the end of 2017, was cancelled at the request of the organizers of the 3Y0Z expedition,” an announcement said. “Due to the cancellation by the [3Y0Z] organizers, we are now returning to the implementation of our project and preparations for our trip as a matter of urgency.”

DX-World has reported that the 3Y0I license has been renewed and a landing permit — good for 1 year — issued by the Norwegian Polar Institute. While no specific dates for the DXpedition have been announced, the 3Y0I team said its plans call for operating during the sub-Antarctic summer, which suggests they could be on the air late this year.

The 3Y0I team said it has chartered a seagoing yacht adapted for extreme weather conditions to make the 12-day, 2,800-nautical mile trip from South Africa to Bouvet Island. The team anticipates operating for about 2 weeks. In addition to 3Z9DX, the 3Y0I operators will include Stanislaw, SQ8X; Leszek, SP3DOI; Branko, YU4DX, and Frans, J69DX.

However, the sun is having the last laugh at the moment. The magnetic canopy of sunspot AR2699 exploded on 12 February, for more than 6 hours. The blast produced a C1-class solar flare, and hurled a Coronal Mass Ejection directly at Earth.

For the last three days, Earth has been experiencing a Geomagnetic storm, with high A indices of about 12, and K indices of 4 or higher. With a Solar Flux Index currently of 72, you’re not going to hear Darth Vader or Bouvet very clearly for a while yet!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 11 February 2018

Riaan Greeff ZS4PR has sent me a very comprehensive report of the 2018 Value Logistics “The Fast One” Cycle Race, held on the 27th of January. He says Gauteng South, West Rand and Vaal Region HAMNET members teamed up to provide the main communications interface for the event.

On behalf of Leon ZS6LMG and Glynn ZS6GLN, he writes “Just under 5000 cyclists entered this annual event this year.  Regular planning meetings involving the event organisers, the Rotary club, The Midvaal Raceway owners, the Midvaal traffic department, SAPS, the volunteering car guard company in Meyerton, all the sponsors and the emergency services in the form of St. John Ambulance and ER24 ensured that the event started off on a smooth note on Saturday 26 January.

HAMNET set up the operations centre, installed and activated additional 70cm repeaters and used the 145.6375 Vaal Triangle repeater for the main communication services.

APRS tracking units were installed in every ambulance, sweep vehicle and the lead vehicles.  In the operations venue the different representatives of each organisation were set up to connect with their own people via radio and/or cell phone contact.  The cyclists were given access to “MySOS” as a service to send emergency messages to HAMNET.  The national HAMNET phone lines were also active.

HAMNET used an electronic dispatching system for the first time, to manage the dispatch and tracking of all resources.

Every vehicle with APRS tracking was also in contact with the operations centre via UHF repeater coverage.  It is essential that all vehicles on the track have direct communication with the communication centre at HAMNET, since HAMNET provides the most effective interaction between all the parties involved.

Some experiments with the Vaal DMR repeater, as well as the East Rand DMR repeater, also proved successful and this may be a way forward in future events since these repeaters also work very well.

In the operation centre all the APRS positions of all the units around the two routes of 48km and 96km were tracked in real time and displayed on LCD projectors.  These clear and up-to-date displays were very efficient in the transfer of location and real-time incident reporting.

Feedback after the event from the Rotary Club and organisers confirmed that HAMNET was a key role-player in the success of the event.  Swift reaction to the accidents on the route ensured that the ambulances were dispatched to the correct places, saving time.

The team of 24 SARL HAMNET members are keen to return in 2019 for the next event.  Being visible and efficient makes this service such a success.  The public and the people involved all played their parts and HAMNET through amateur radio ensured smooth operations.

Over all, the race had very few casualties, in fact less than 2017, and this is partly due to the effective communication service rendered by HAMNET.

Thank you Riaan, Leon and Glynn, for sending us the photos, and for keeping our flag flying high!

On a smaller, but just as important note here in Cape Town, HAMNET managed the race communications for the 99er Cycle tour yesterday the 10th February. For the tenth time in a row, we provided all the roving stations for the short 64km race, and the long 99km distance. The Western Cape had been promised about 10-15mm of rain overnight by the Clerk of the Weather, but he/she was hopelessly wrong, with less than 5mm measured. However, the little rain did cool the day down, and the wind was mild, while some cloud kept the race temperatures in the early 20’s.

The Metro Incident Command Centre bus was used by the medical team, and two HAMNET members managed radio communications with 10 Rovers out on the route, divided up into suitable sections. All Rovers, all ambulance and response vehicles, and the three main sector marshals, were monitored on APRS, which was enhanced by a temporary digipeater installed on the slopes of the farm Meerendal, as a gap-filler for blind spots.

The long race set off at 06h00, and the winners were back by 08h35, while the short race started at 07h30. Three thousand one hundred riders rode the two races, and a cut-off to weed out the stragglers was effected at 10h30 about 30km from the finish for both races, while the race closed at 12h30. There were a few minor injuries, but no serious multiple pile-ups, and all the plans to manage major catastrophes were unnecessary. In fact the race was mildly overshadowed in Cape Town by the fire which broke out at Mitchell’s Plein District Hospital, almost requiring us to surrender the Metro Bus for use managing the fire. We understand there were no actual casualties at the hospital, but over 200 patients had to be transferred to other facilities. Never a dull moment in Cape Town!

Anyway, the race authorities were their usual magnanimous selves in thanking HAMNET Western Cape for contributing to a safe race, and we arrived home in the early afternoon after a job well done. This author thanks ZS1’s EEE, OSK, DAV, PXK, JM, VDP, JNT, GS, XS, CO, S, DUG, MOM and OK, for their generous help.

The Cape Town Cycle Tour comes next down here, for part of which HAMNET shepherds the riders, and then at Easter, the Two Oceans Marathon takes place, for which we take full responsibility for the roving, and the cut-off points.

There has a been a 0.7 percentage point drop in the dam water levels in Cape Town, to 25.1% this week. However, because the agricultural quotas for the season  down here have been met, future water usage will diminish a bit, and so our predicted day zero date has been shifted out to 11 May. It is clear that more people are trying more to live on as little water from their taps a day as possible. The inhabitants of Cape Town will never look on water as a  never-ending supply ever again.

Even if the drought is broken, it will be very difficult not to shower with a bucket between one’s feet, or not to attempt to use the same litre of water as many times for as many purposes as possible! Never a dull moment in Cape Town!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 4 February 2018

An article in RADIOWORLD, on 1st February, discussed the false incoming missile alert raised in Hawaii on January 13, 2018.

In the minutes after the false missile Emergency Alert System alert was delivered in Hawaii, there was a great deal of general confusion — a lack of communication, general perplexity about the next steps, and phone call after phone call that didn’t get through to the right recipients.

But one group in particular said it knew exactly what it felt it had to do. While an official retraction from emergency officials of the alert did not come until 38 minutes had elapsed, amateur radio operators were able to confirm within 13 minutes that the Hawaii EAS alert was false.

“The big thing is, when all else fails, we’re able to provide emergency communications as required,” said Mike Lisenco, a member of the board of directors for the Amateur Radio Relay League.

At a hearing on  25th January, called by the Senate Commerce Committee, Lisenco discussed the role that amateur radio operators played in responding to the Hawaii EAS alert response. He noted that amateur radio, as a distributed form of communications infrastructure, is easily adapted to changing emergency conditions in disaster response situations.

And in this case amateur radio operators in Hawaii were well-prepared for the emergency event.

“Ironically, amateur radio members in Hawaii had just been drilling 20 hours before the actual false alarm, so everything was fresh on their minds,” Lisenco said during the hearing.

Rumours and stories began to circulate through various VHF and UHF repeaters about the alarm as part of the Hawaii State Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. Amateur radio operators picked up a conversation from a Coast Guard vessel outside the area that was relaying news that the alert was false. The operators, taught to listen for a local siren that indicates a true emergency, realized that siren had not sounded.

The result was that amateur radio networks were able to disseminate validated cancellation information long before the cellular networks via WEA were able to do so, Lisenco said.

“Because they were able to disseminate that information freely, they were able to get word out right way [that the alert was false],” Lisenco said.

At the hearing Sen. Roger Wicker asked why amateur radios are considered valuable in a situation such as these.

“We’re not dependent on the [same] infrastructure to operate,” Lisenco said. “And because we understand how radio works, we’re able to adapt quickly to many situations.”

The use of amateur radio proved vital during Hurricane Katrina, Wicker’s office said, when amateur radio operators helped restore communications lines with FEMA, the Red Cross, and other disaster relief entities when the primary emergency response network was down.

“We have amateur operators both within and outside a disaster area,” Lisenco said. “That gives us a unique ability to disseminate information within a disaster zone that others don’t have.” During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, amateur radio operators within the flood zones sent information to the outside to get first responders to where people needed help, he said.

And the official NASA website has issued an article written by Erik Lopez, discussing the ways in which Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) connects and inspires the world. The four ways are:

1) First-hand education about life in space

ARISS events educate students, teachers, and parents about living and working in space.

2) Direct connection with astronauts

Each ham radio contact brings a  student closer to space by connecting them directly to an astronaut aboard the space station. Each contact could potentially plant the seed of a future career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

3) Sharing amateur radio technologies

Ham radio educates the general public about amateur radio technologies, providing an opportunity for amateur radio experimentation and evaluation of new technologies.

4) Building global partnerships 

Like the space station, ham radio represents a multinational collaboration among different organizations to achieve one shared purpose. Each contact connects audiences from around the world, further uniting the world in the efforts of space exploration. Since 2000, ham radio has reached 57 countries in which more than 1,000 schools or organizations have been involved.

Thank you, Erik, for these thoughts!

The Martinsville Daily wonders if you have ever wondered why 2-way communications around the world commonly include the person on the receiving end saying “Roger” or “Roger that?” Well… here’s the story of how it came to be…

The first radio communications were in Morse code. In order to speed things up, abbreviations were used for everything. If the message was received the receiver would indicate this by responding with the letter “R”, abbreviation for “received.” When voice replaced Morse code as the preferred method the phonetic alphabet was used for letters to avoid confusion. The word “Roger” was assigned to the letter “R” at that time, so when the receiver got the message he/she would respond by saying “R” which meant received. Since protocol dictated the used of phonetics, “R” became “Roger.”

The first meeting of the Western Cape Division of HAMNET takes place this week on Wednesday evening, the 7th, at 19h30, at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg hospital, and all interested hams are welcome to attend. And our first sports event takes place this coming Saturday the 10th, out of Durbanville. It is the 99km cycle race, called appropriately the “99er”, and takes the riders out almost as far as Wellington and then back towards the N7 via Philadelphia, before using the N7 to get back in to Durbanville via Vissershok. Thirteen radio teams will shepherd the riders along the route, and the weather looks good at this stage for next Saturday. I’ll report back in a future bulletin. Umm.. Roger?!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 28 January 2018

Writing in Tech Times this week, Samriddhi Dastidar mentioned NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which will go on a historic journey in the summer of 2018, skimming through the fiery atmosphere of the sun.

The probe will see the spacecraft get seven times closer to the sun’s surface than any other man-made object in human history.

The Parker Solar Probe, which will travel at 725,000 kilometres per hour, is going to reach within 6.4 million kilometres of the solar surface. It may seem like a long distance away from the sun but even at that length, the spacecraft will face a temperature of 1,700-degrees Celsius.

Simultaneously, it has the monumental task of keeping the lab equipment intact within its room-temperature interiors. Incidentally, this excessive temperature is high enough for iron to melt.

The spacecraft will be launched from Florida. It will pass Venus, which will give it a gravitational boost to swing into a series of orbits around the sun. The probe will travel through the sun’s atmosphere known as the corona, with each close approach.

The spacecraft will have a Solar Probe Cup, which will collect samples from the barrage of high energy particles that escape from the sun by poking out from behind the heat shield. Test lead Annette Dolbow called it the bravest little instrument on the probe.

The spacecraft will also have a cooling system, which will function like a radiator and have 5 litres of pressurized water. The system will be unlike any other ever used on a spacecraft before, especially because there is a combination of water and electronics.

The mission will help scientists learn why the atmosphere of the sun is hotter than its surface and how high-energy particles get expelled into space from the corona.

The answers to these mysteries are relevant to life on Earth. Disruptions in the atmosphere of the sun can produce coronal mass ejections that are huge explosions of ionized gas as well as solar flares that are bursts of radiation.

When CMEs interact with the magnetosphere of Earth, they induce electric currents that could reach the ground and damage power grids. Solar flares, meanwhile, disrupt radio communications and result in radiation poisoning to any astronauts in space who are not protected by the magnetic field of the planet. The prediction of such events requires researchers to know more about the sun.

“These are questions we were trying to answer from 93 million miles away,” said Eric Christian, a Goddard physicist, and an investigator attached to the probe. “But the fact is, you’ve got to go where the action is in order really to understand what’s happening.”

Essex Ham News reminds us that the latest edition of TX Factor, Episode 20, has been released this week.. You’ll note a revamp of the introduction to the show, to celebrate the 20th episode.

In this latest episode of the online TV show dedicated to amateur radio, here’s what’s being featured: Yaesu Fusion Repeater DR2;  SOTAbeam’s “Click2Tune for Icom” lead;  Graham from bhi demonstrates the ParaPro EQ20 DSP;  and Jon shows the SDRplay RSP1A SDR receiver. Just Google the words TX Factor, and look for episode 20.

Southgate Amateur Radio News advises us a week in advance that, on Wednesday, Jan. 31st, the second full Moon of January will pass through Earth’s shadow, producing a rare ‘Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse.’

The Moon won’t look blue, however. Researchers are predicting a bright orange eclipse–a forecast based on studies of recent volcanic activity. Volcanoes, climate change, and lunar eclipses are linked in ways that might surprise you.

More information about this, along with eclipse observing tips, are highlighted in Wednesday’s edition of Spaceweather.com.

And here is a gloomy forecast for you. A global catastrophe is but two minutes away, according to the Doomsday Clock, which measures, metaphorically, how long the world has left before it succumbs to a man-made disaster.

Managed by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a group of scientists and academics, the clock was moved 30 seconds on Thursday. The clock’s hands had been at two-and-a-half minutes to midnight in 2017.

Rachel Bronson, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists CEO, said this year that nuclear weapons and the unpredictability of nations holding them were a major consideration.

“All of the major weapons states are investing in their nuclear arsenals,” said Robert Rosner, research professor in the Department of Astrophysics and Physics at the University of Chicago.

“North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests demonstrated an acceleration in building a new generation of weapons of mass destruction. In South Asia, the emphasis on missile capabilities grows.

“The nuclear arsenals of all of the major weapons states are being updated and imbued with enhanced capabilities. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review appears likely to increase the types and roles of nuclear weapons in US defence plans,” he added.

For decades the clock has been used as an ominous reminder of how close humanity is to destroying the world. Midnight represents total disaster or an apocalypse.

Originally decided on by Bulletin Editor Eugene Rabinowitch, the clock is now in its 71st year. It’s settings are now based on an academic board’s view on the advancement of nuclear arms, climate change and artificial intelligence.

The Doomsday Clock originally featured in a magazine back in the 1940s, when the development of nuclear arms first became a global fear. In its first outing the clock read seven minutes to midnight. The furthest away from midnight it has ever been came in 1991 after the end of the Cold War – when it struck 17 minutes to midnight.

Thank you to RT News for those notes.

Finally, in this week’s chapter of water woes in Cape Town, combined dam levels are down by 1.4 percentage points, to 27.2% full. Day zero is now set for 12 April, though City Officials say all taps won’t run dry simultaneously. 149 Points of Distribution have so far been identified, but set-up at the sites will start as late as possible, in case, by some miracle, queuing for water can be avoided. Judging by the weather forecasts for the next 10 days, that miracle is not going to happen!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 21 January 2018

Tropical Cyclone Berguitta-18 has been moving South-West all week, missing Madagascar, but pummelling Reunion and Mauritius, and other small French Islands to the East of Madagascar. The FaceBook page entitled “Mauritius Cyclone Updates” has some vivid video of ravines and rivers coming down in torrential flood, threatening to wash bridges and properties away. There has not been much news in the press of damage or loss of life, and Saturday’s reports say that Berguitta had weakened into a moderate tropical storm by Friday evening. Presumably the flooding will take a week or so to subside. HAMNET is not aware of any emergency traffic being passed from that area.

Meanwhile a tropical depression has been present in the Mozambique channel for the last few days, but does not seem to be moving Southwards, so stormy conditions in Mozambique or over the North-East of South Africa have not been experienced. We’ll keep our eye on that one.

Arrangements are being made with the Western Cape HAMNET Division, for the two sporting events soon to happen in the Cape. The 99er Cycle Tour takes place on Saturday 10th February, where at least 16 of our volunteers will do their stuff along the way. Plans are at an advanced stage for that one. And I have been contacted by the organisers of the Two Ocean’s Marathon, on Easter Saturday, to start the wheels turning amongst the HAMNET operators who are already starting to volunteer for that. If you are a Western Cape HAMNET Member, and would like to assist us, please contact the writer at ZS1DFR@TELKOMSA.NET. Thank you.

From the ARRL letter of this week is the news that uncharacteristically cold weather in central Florida in early January prompted members of the North Brevard Amateur Radio Club (K4NBR) to assist the area’s homeless population. The New Year began with a bitter cold front descending upon central Florida, bringing below-freezing temperatures, especially concerning for those lacking regular shelter from the elements. NBARC members Ricky Deluco, K4JTT; Robert Ortiz, KJ4VEH; William Klosowski, K4SVT, and Michael Ellixson, KE4MWZ, set out in their own vehicles, searching the city of Titusville for homeless residents. For the next two evenings, and using Amateur Radio as communications, the group worked in the cold, wet weather for more than 12 hours, logging some 190 Km on the roads around Titusville.

The Disabled American Veteran Centre in Titusville had opened its doors as a cold weather shelter and offered a warm place to sleep and eat. The ham radio group alerted local law enforcement, so they were aware of the effort, and in the hope that on-duty officers might also reach out. The group was able to locate five homeless individuals on its first evening tour of the town and provide them with transportation out of the cold. Local police also contacted the team to help and to provide transportation for other homeless individuals located by on-duty officers.

One additional homeless person located late on the first night had a need for immediate medical attention and was transported to a local hospital. — Thanks to Ricky Deluco, K4JTT

From the same source, we are told that a November 2017 Department of Defence (DoD)-sponsored communications interoperability exercise involving Amateur Radio was a success, according to information received from US Army Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY. The November 4-6 drill, which focused on interoperability between DoD elements including MARS, other federal agencies, and the Amateur Radio community, simulated a coronal mass ejection (CME) event. Army and Air Force MARS organizations worked in conjunction with the Amateur Radio community, primarily on the 60-meter interoperability channels as well as on HF NVIS frequencies and local VHF and UHF, non-internet linked Amateur Radio repeaters.

The Amateur Radio portion of the exercise kicked off with a high-power information broadcast on 60-meter channel 1 (5,330.5 kHz) from a military station on the east coast and the Fort Huachuca HF gateway station in Arizona. The high-power broadcast provided basic exercise information and requested that amateur stations make contact with MARS stations on 60 meters and provide county-by-county status reports for the 3,143 US counties and county equivalents, in order to gain situational awareness and to determine the extent of impact of the scenario. Radio amateurs also were given the opportunity to submit a reception report and receive a QSL card.

“Leaders from the supported DoD headquarters as well as the chiefs of both the Army and Air Force MARS programs appreciated the nearly 2,000 Amateur Radio stations that trained during this exercise,” English said. — Thanks to US Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, and The ARRL ARES E-Letter.

Exciting news comes from Mars, the planet, where the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) investigated eight steep and eroded slopes (known as “scarps”) at various locations across Mars. At each of these locations, they found thick shelves of relatively pure water ice located as little as 1 meter below the planet’s surface. Furthermore, some of these massive ice deposits were found to be more than 100 meters thick.

According to the research paper, “The ice exposed by the scarps likely originated as snow that transformed into massive ice sheets, now preserved beneath less than 1 to 2 [metres] of dry and ice-cemented dust or regolith near ±55° latitude.” In 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander discovered similar ice deposits along Martian scarps, but they were found in regions much closer to the planet’s northern pole.

The discovery of these large reservoirs of pure water ice adds yet another piece of evidence supporting the increasingly held theory that water ice not only exists on Mars, but also is surprisingly common. Although the ice could obviously be used as a source of water for future manned missions to Mars, scientists have a long way to go before then. However, with the Mars 2020 rover just a few years away, the discovery of eight more tantalizing sites ripe for investigation is still an exciting find.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 14 January 2018

Tropical Cyclone Ava passed through Madagascar on Friday and Saturday of last week, hitting mostly the Eastern coast of the island with wind speeds of between 140-190 kph.

“The provisional report of cyclone Ava hitting Madagascar, (shows) 29 people were killed,” Melisa Venance, communications officer of the National Office of Risk and Disaster Management, said.

The administrative region of Haute Matsiatra, located 400 km  South of Antananarivo, said that among those killed were eight people from a family who had been at a funeral vigil on Sunday when their house was hit by a landslide.

“The bodies were searched for all night, and the corpses of eight people, including an 11-month-old baby, and the body of the deceased person were found under rubble on Monday morning,” the post said.

The National Office of Risk and Disaster Management had earlier on Monday put the dead at at least six, and that more than 13,000 people were displaced by the cyclone, while more than 16,000 pupils had classes suspended until Thursday, due to flooding and risk of landslides.

Meanwhile, as AVA has drifted away in a South-Easterly direction, Tropical Cyclone SIX-18, has formed East of Madagascar, and is not threatening the island country yet. It may in fact drift South and miss Madagascar completely. Maximum windspeeds are estimated at 176kph.

Tom Morgan, ZS1AFS/G0CAJ, reports in Southgate Amateur Radio News that many rare DX operations are by hams who are working in that ‘needed’ location – and giving contacts is secondary to the reason the operator is in that far-flung spot. So, operation is limited.

It is very rare that an operator has to go QRT because he or she is in a life-threatening situation. One in which fuel and food are in short supply, happened recently on Marion Island.

With fuel restricted to essential purposes, ham operation ceased in November. There is doubt whether ZS8Z will be on the air again before the South African ship arrives in April 2018 for the changeover.

Fortunately, an Indian relief ship was found that was able to take supplies and is in passage with food and fuel. The fuel is for the one remaining operational generator – two are in need of maintenance and repair.

At the American Astronomy Society’s meetings this week, the intriguing matter of Fast Radio Bursts was discussed. Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs, are brief, bright flashes of radio energy from extragalactic sources. They are hard to study because they’re so short and they don’t repeat, except for one. The Repeater, as it’s known, offers a window into the nature of these objects because it repeats, allowing for multiple and higher-precision measurements of this source. It has, for example, allowed astronomers to pin down its location to a dwarf galaxy over 3 billion light-years away. It’s also sitting conveniently close to a source of persistent radio emission.

Based on the duration of the bursts, some of which are only about 30 microseconds, the source itself must be small — only about 10 kilometres across, which is conveniently the size of a neutron star (which was already the likeliest candidate). It was learned that the polarization of the signal is extremely “twisted,” which may hold clues about its environment, which must have strong magnetic fields responsible for twisting it in the first place. The persistent radio source near the burster is also a likely clue. Currently, the best theories state that this Repeater is likely a neutron star bursting from either the region very near its galaxy’s supermassive black hole, or from within its own extremely bright, young nebula. These ideas still remain theories, but within the next few years, we may finally begin getting some answers as more FRB’s are recorded and more is learned about their origins and environments. In response to a question, it was noted that FRB121102 is the only repeating burst, and that it perhaps doesn’t represent the rest of the class of FRBs. It’s still hard to tell, and only more data and more discoveries will hold the answers.

Fortunately, astronomers estimate that about 10,000 of these go off every day, resulting in one about every 10 seconds. As radio telescopes become better able to catch these events, those answers may be just on the horizon.

Perhaps it’s someone out there trying to teach us superfast morse code! Thank you to the AAS for these notes.

The HAMNET Duty Logistics Manager has been busy round and about Table Mountain this week. From Monday morning until Saturday evening, eight rescues were logged, and needed some help from HAMNET. Of course, SANParks rangers, Mountain Club of SA rescuers and the Off-Road Rescue Club were also involved, so it was always a combined effort. Thank you to all who volunteer.

As of the beginning of this week, the Cape dams stood at 29.7% full. A small amount of rain fell last Sunday the 7th, perhaps 5mm in the suburbs, not enough to do anything for the dams. The community in Cape Town is pre-occupied with one mission – to acquire a rainwater tank to catch every last drop of rain or dew that might fall. In that there’s not much rain about, it is going to take a long time to fill all these tanks! Professional water-tank suppliers are having a very good season, and the rest of us are rigging up all sorts of Heath-Robinson devices to get the water from the gutters into the tanks. It’s all quite fun, actually! We have all developed a very healthy respect for that stream of water coming out of our taps, and are catching every wasted drop possible.

And, from your writer’s point of view, a new medical condition has sprung up in Cape Town. It has been termed “bucket-carrier’s elbow”, like tennis elbow, and just as painful, but  can be acquired without ever having played tennis! I wonder whether I should write it up in a medical journal somewhere!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.