HAMNET Report 11 November 2018

Today, I would like to share with you a sobering report of the stupidity of mankind.

Writing in New Times, Al Fonzi says:

A hundred years ago today, November 11, the cataclysmic “Great War” (the “war to end all wars,” aka, The First World War or World War I) came to a close as the warring powers signed an armistice at 5 a.m. However, the armistice would not take effect until 11 a.m., which meant life or death for thousands of soldiers. (A formal peace treaty, the Treaty of Versaille, would not be signed until June 28, 1919.)

Until another even greater war occurred barely 20 years later, the First World War was likely the bloodiest war in human history. The slaughter took place on an industrial scale never before experienced by humanity. Unfortunately, many generals were tied to the past and failed to recognize the revolutionary effect technology was to play during war in the 20th century.

WWI introduced not just the field telephone but wireless radio communications that outpaced the ability of any “runner” or military aide’s ability to send or receive messages from a commander to subordinates. It also introduced not only the airplane, but its use as “flying artillery” capable of bombing or strafing enemy positions far to the rear of front lines. It also introduced the use of poison gas, tanks, and the submarine. Most importantly for war on land, it introduced the machine gun, which was, next to rapid-firing artillery, the greatest innovation for killing on the battlefield. When integrated into defensive or offensive operations, the effect of these weapons was decisive on the battlefield.

World War I began in the first week of August 1914 and, by the end of October 1914, more than 325,000 combatants from all sides had been killed in action with three times that number wounded. Instead of a war of manoeuvring, vast armies with hundreds of divisions of troops (an average division consists of 10,000 to 15,000 men) had been mobilized, bogged down in a 600-mile-long trench system across western and central Europe and fed into a grinder that crushed men’s souls. The generals failed to learn and insisted that old tactics need not change, just urge the men forward. Disaster upon disaster became names associated with needless loss of life, such as Gallipoli, the 1915 amphibious invasion of the Dardanelle’s (300,000 casualties); the Somme in July 1916, where the British Army lost 60,000 men in a single morning between 8 and 11 a.m.; and Verdun in 1916, where virtually every French division served at one time or another and the souls of more than 600,000 French and German soldiers were lost. On the Russian front, casualties mounted into the millions as the Russian Czar’s generals herded Russian peasants into murderous machine-gun fire without regard for common sense, let alone strategy. On the southern front, Italian generals employed brutal discipline against their own troops, who were fighting Austrian troops in the Alps, hauling disassembled cannons up sheer mountain cliffs to create avalanches to bury their Austrian counterparts.

The war was truly global, with 200,000 Vietnamese troops providing battalions to the French on the Western Front and colonial troops fighting on behalf of their colonial masters in East Africa and the Arabian Desert. A Vietnamese soldier of note with the French on the Western Front was the future Ho Chi Minh, who led his people to drive out the French from his homeland in Indochina and would later wage a 10-year war against America and South Vietnam.

America mobilized for war in 1917, but also fought a hidden enemy in the form of the 1918 influenza epidemic, a pandemic that eventually killed more than 200 million people worldwide. American troops were especially susceptible. Of the 116,000 American fatalities in WWI, 53,513 were battle deaths but 63,195 succumbed to disease, mostly influenza. It was so virulent that a soldier could show symptoms at 6 p.m. and be dead before 6 a.m. the next morning. At Fort Devens in Massachusetts, soldiers in training died at the rate of 100 per day during the pandemic’s peak. The German Army was also affected; their March 1918 offensive ground to a halt when they exhausted their reserve divisions, which had been decimated by influenza, allowing the Allies to regain the initiative and launch a counter-offensive.

Although the armistice was signed at 5 a.m. on Nov. 11, no order was given to cease combat operations before it was to take effect at 11 a.m. As a result, for the next six hours, every gun on the Western Front continued to fire, (literally millions of rounds) as hundreds of thousands of soldiers continued to fight and “go over the top” in last-minute offensives ordered by the military high command.

Remember the sacrifices made by those soldiers of the Great War and all the ones that followed, this Remembrance Day, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, at the many memorials throughout the country.

On a much happier note, HAMNET Western Cape has already been approached to assist at the 2019 edition of the 99er Cycle Tour out of Durbanville on February the 9th. Arrangements are already in an advanced state amongst the organisers, and HAMNET will be drawn into the meetings in January 2019.

Then the most beautiful marathon in all the world, the Two Oceans Marathon takes place over Easter Weekend next year, and the race date is Saturday the 20th April. The organisation for that one starts before the previous race has been run, so you can rest assured that everything has already been taken into account for that one.

HAMNET Western Cape has also been approached to assist with the monitoring and reporting of those “magnificent men in their flying machines”, who take part in the President’s Trophy Air Race next year, near Saldanha Airfield between the 2nd and 4th of May.

There will be ten turn points along the 300 nautical mile route, some of which will need to be manned on the 3rd and 4th of May. Duties of the HAMNET ground observers include recording of the times as the aircraft pass the turn points, with directions and approximate heights, and reports back to the control station  over ham frequencies.

About ten operators will be needed to assist, and the organisers are already in communication with HAMNET Western Cape.

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

HAMNET Report 4 November 2018

Super Typhoon Yutu, which I mentioned last week having battered the Northern Mariana Islands, reached the Philippines this week, and Greg G0DUB mentions that he had been advised on last Monday by Dani YB2TJV that, to prepare for the effects of Typhoon YUTU in the Philippines, 7.095MHz is now in use by ‘Ham Emergency Radio Operators’ in the Philippines. The changing path of the typhoon had not pinned down the impact area but definitely the Northern and central part of Luzon would be affected. The strength of the wind had abated a bit to 130km/h, but at least 10 million people were threatened by that type of wind, as it crossed the Northern tip of the Philippines, and then veered to North-East along the coast of China. It is due to be between Taiwan and China today

Greg also mentions in another communique that Tilen S56CT reported that ARON in Slovenia were in a state of preparedness because of the bad weather last weekend. Flooding is now striking parts of NE Slovenia along the river Drava and high winds are also expected to cause problems in the Western part of the country.

ARON teams are QRV on DMR network TG 293112, VHF/UHF net-Echolink conference *SLOVENIA*, local repeaters and simplex channels and of course Winlink system. S50ARO monitors 3605 kHz voice as well. The channels are being kept active by sending a few radiograms on the 80 and 60 m band in MFSK32 mode with the content being weather forecasts with warnings.

Meanwhile in Greece nearly 50 earthquakes have struck the country since the 25th of October, with a magnitude just under 5.0 which is where property damage can occur. In Italy we also have flooding affecting Venice, with high water in the centre of town at 1.52m, but also in other parts of Italy, especially in Liguria with a sort of tsunami, and up to 12 people dead. Civil Protection is involved locally and at national level, and the critical situations were flood damage and electricity outages. France had snow and also suffered high winds and rain from Storm Adrian.

Europe has taken a battering, and Winter has hardly started there!

Wilderness Search and Rescue in the Western Cape has noted that Working On Fire (WOF) and other agencies are currently engaged in the containment of the raging wildfire in the mountains between George and Wilderness, and that the area has been closed off for a number of reasons:-

  1. It is very unsafe for members of the public to be in the area. The obvious fire and smoke hazard can be life threatening to any recreational outdoor user.
  2. The area must be clear of all civilians to allow the firefighters to concentrate on their job, which also includes starting secondary fires for the purpose of back burning. Being caught between two or more fire fronts will be a serious concern for the Wildfire Incident Commanders.
  3. The roads have to be free for the emergency vehicles to  use.
  4. It may happen that burning or burnt trees will be falling across roads.
  5. Firefighting aircraft are operating in the area as well.

The area mostly affected is the Outaniqua mountain range above George which is managed by Cape Nature (a signatory of Wilderness Search And Rescue).

WSAR asks the public to please be aware that this area is closed for the following activities until further notice:-

  • hiking
  • trail running
  • mountain biking
  • driving
  • and guest accommodation which may also be affected

Thank you to WSAR for these notes.

Meanwhile, Johan Terblanche, ZS1I, in Mossel Bay, has reported on the intense heat wave and gale-force winds in that part of the Western Cape, which have resulted in the devastating runaway fires, threatening the towns of George and Karatara in the Southern Cape area since October 24. An Amateur Radio Joint Operational Centre (JOC) was established on October 29, and radio amateurs were put on standby when parts of George experienced telephone and power outages in the Knysna area. Several new fires were also reported due to lightning.

At one point, those living in the affected areas were ordered to prepare for evacuation, although that order was later rescinded.

Radio amateurs in the Southern Cape have been asked to make their stations available to support emergency communication, should commercial systems fail. Johan Terblanche, ZS1I, in Mossel Bay, who administers the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN), reports that the Amateur Radio JOC is currently active on the AREDN Mossel Bay Mesh Network, Echolink, AllStar, Twitter, and Zello. The Amateur Radio JOC will remain active until all fires are brought under control. The death toll as a result of fires in the Southern Cape area now stands at 8, and more than 800 have been evacuated. Disaster relief operations continue. 

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

HAMNET Report 28 October 2018

HAMNET would like to congratulate the 79 new radio amateurs who passed their South African exams this month, and welcome them to the world of communications, electronics and experimentation. We hope you will stay with us for many seasons, and teach us as much as we can teach you. Selfishly, we hope some of you have already decided to join HAMNET, to use your skills in emergency communications and during sporting or community events. Welcome aboard, indeed!

In the wake of Category 4 Hurricane Willa, battering the Pacific coast of Mexico, Greg Mossop G0DUB posted news that The Federación Mexicana de Radioexperimentadores (FMRE), Mexico’s IARU member-society, is asking radio amateurs to avoid 7060, 7130, and 14120 kHz, where Category 4 Hurricane Willa emergency nets are operating (in Spanish).

As of 1200 UTC, on 23rd October, the storm was some 240 Km south-southwest of Mazatlan, with maximum sustained winds of 210km/h. Willa was moving north at 8 km/h and was expected to make landfall later that day along the west-central coast of mainland Mexico. Mexico’s National Emergency Net activated the nets yesterday. Alternate systems include IRLP, node 0077, and DMR TE 33450 of the FMRE.

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) considers a Category 4 hurricane a “major” disaster, with “catastrophic damage” likely. Thanks to Benjamin Kuo, AI6YR.

Far away from the US mainland, American citizens are reeling from a direct hit by Super Typhoon Yutu.

Writing in Grist, Eric Holthaus notes that, during its landfall on Thursday, Yutu lashed the Mariana Islands with more than a foot of rain, coastal flooding in excess of 15 feet, waves the size of five-story apartment buildings, and winds of 290 km/h.

Saipan and Tinian are the two most-populated islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the central Pacific Ocean about 12800 kilometres from Washington, D.C. — nearly twice as far away as Honolulu. Both islands took a direct hit. About 50,000 people live in the Commonwealth, and after Yutu, they’re fighting for survival.

Most structures have lost their roofs, and even the leaves have been stripped from trees and bushes, local lawmaker Edwin Propst told the Associated Press. Closed circuit video from near the point of landfall showed an entire hotel lobby destroyed in seconds.

Just hours after landfall, local news reports said that food, drinking water, and fuel were already in short supply. “This damage is just horrendous, it’s going to take months and months for us to recover,” Propst said.

If recent history holds, he’ll be right. Yutu is the third tropical cyclone (the scientific term for typhoons and hurricanes) in just over a year to plunge a remote U.S. territory into humanitarian crisis. Last year, Hurricane Irma’s devastation in the U.S. Virgin Islands was eclipsed just days later when Hurricane Maria made a direct hit in Puerto Rico.

Like so many recent hurricanes, Yutu rapidly strengthened just before landfall, going from a Category 1 to a Category 5 in just 36 hours. Waters near Yutu were 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, consistent with the effects of climate change and a key factor in rapidly strengthening storms.

Residents of the Islands are set to be without electricity and running water for months, after the category 5 storm wiped out the territory’s infrastructure.

A US military plane is bringing food, water and other emergency supplies to the 50,000 people living on the islands.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) said it would aim to help restore power, reopen ports and airports and ensure mobile phone towers can operate on emergency power until utility services return.

At least one person was killed and several people were injured by spraying glass and other debris, as winds of 25 km/h pummelled the islands on Thursday.

The only hospital on the Northern Marianas said it received 133 people in its emergency room on Thursday. Three patients had severe injuries that required surgery.

A 44-year-old woman taking shelter in an abandoned building died when it collapsed in the storm, according to the governor’s office’s Facebook page.

The hospital in Saipan was running on backup generators but otherwise operating normally, said Esther Lizama Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. She said she expects more patients to seek medical help on Friday and is worried the hospital could run out of medical supplies.

Yutu has now passed the Northern Mariana Islands by, and is plodding on across the Western Pacific, where it is still expected to bring powerful winds and torrential rain to the Philippines and Taiwan next week, endangering even more residents.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the third hurricane still in our minds, residents of the Florida Panhandle are still reeling from the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael. As a snapshot of where they stand now, 16 days after the storm, about 70,000 customers remain without power, some water and sewer systems are not working, and cellphone service is spotty.

A complete breakdown of communications during and after the storm crippled the emergency response, and now it hinders recovery.

It has been a major problem throughout the region, where hundreds of people have been reported missing because the phones aren’t working. It’s also hampered search and rescue operations because first responders can’t talk to one another.

Finally, Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) in the Western Cape were involved in two group rescues amongst hikers this week.

In the first, a group of hikers along the multi day Whale Trail in the De Hoop Nature Reserve Overberg, needed help on Tuesday, and two of them were casevacced to a hospital in Swellendam by the Air Mercy Service (AMS) rescue helicopter. The rest of the group continued on foot to a point where they were safely off the trail.

In the second, a group of 3 hikers on Table Mountain, who were unfamiliar with their route, became disorientated, and started to become dehydrated, in the hot sun on Friday the 26th. Rescuers drove up to the Back Table from Constantia Neck and proceeded on foot in the direction of the Smuts Track, where the group was found, assessed, found to be well enough to be walked out, and were proceeding towards Kitchen Ravine, when they were met by 4×4 support vehicles and brought safely down.

This week’s heat wave has indeed been intense in the Western Cape.

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

HAMNET Report 21 October 2018

Our National HAMNET Director, Glynn Chamberlain, ZS6GLN has announced that the SARL council has appointed Grant Southey (ZS1GS) as the new HAMNET Deputy National Director. Grant will also continue as regional director for HAMNET Western Cape as well.

Glynn thanks Grant for taking on this role and looks forward to his positive attitude and enthusiasm going forward, and hopes we will all join him in welcoming Grant to his new position and give him all our support!

The ARES E-Letter notes that more vehicles have non-steel roof panels constructed of fibreglass, aluminium, or carbon fibre these days. This makes placing a temporary mag-mount antenna on the roof difficult. We have run into this issue several times in the past when our radio operators were riding in Support And Gear (SAG), sweep, or pace vehicles during special events or riding along with a Jeep Patrol in the mountains. Recently, John  was assisting a neighbouring ARES region with a special event and was riding in a new law enforcement vehicle that had an aluminium roof panel. The solution was to use an HT Window Mount Clip. There are BNC, SMA, and female SMA versions of this clip so you can easily attach an HT antenna and get it outside of the vehicle. It is small enough to throw in a ruck sack if you know you will be operating from a vehicle other than your own. Operators may find other uses for this mount such as to get an antenna outside of a room, or to get some extra height for an HT antenna. It may not have the same ground plane effects of a mag-mount, but it definitely works.

Thanks to John Bloodgood, KD0SFY, for this suggestion.

News4JAX reports that the North Florida American Radio Relay League is looking for local amateur radio operators to help facilitated communication in areas of the Panhandle hit hardest by Hurricane Michael.

“During the first 24-48 hours after Michael made landfall, the only communications that were available in several of the impacted counties was through HF (high frequency) radio and amateur radio operators,” said Scott Roberts, with the NFARR.

Several counties with damage to critical infrastructure remain without any form of communication. In some areas, the only method of communication between shelters and emergency management is through ham radio.

A handful of volunteers were deployed from Duval County this week to assist at shelters in the Panhandle. But more are needed to help relay information and direct resources inside the affected areas.

“If they need cots, more food, or they’re running low on anything, they would pass that information over radio to the state emergency operations centre, or the resource centres to get them sent to the shelters,” Roberts said.

Volunteers could be deployed for as long as seven days. They will need to bring their own amateur radio gear, as well as food, water, a sleeping bag and other personal supplies.

The 25-meter Dwingeloo Radio Telescope in the Netherlands has received photos of the dark side of the moon, transmitted by the Chinese Longjiang-2 lunar satellite (DSLWP-B), Lunar-OSCAR 94 (LO-94). One especially dramatic image shows the far side of the moon with Earth in the background, taken by the Longjiang-2 satellite and transmitted by an onboard Amateur Radio transceiver. The Dwingeloo Radio Telescope had been restored by the C.A. Muller Radio Astronomy Station (or CAMRAS) PI9CAM group.

“This image represents the culmination of several observing sessions spread over the past few months where we used the Dwingeloo telescope in collaboration with the Chinese team from Harbin University of Technology, who built the radio transceiver on board Longjiang-2, and with radio amateurs spread across the globe,” a CAMRAS report said. “During these sessions, we tested receiving telemetry through low-bit rate and error-resistant digitally modulated transmissions, as well as the JT4G modulation scheme designed by radio amateur and Nobel prize winning astrophysicist Joe Taylor, K1JT, for weak-signal moonbounce experiments.” Other images are of the lunar surface, lens flares, and the starry sky as seen from lunar orbit.

The Longjiang-2 transceiver was designed to allow radio amateurs to downlink telemetry and relay messages through a satellite in lunar orbit, as well as to command it to take and downlink images. Some Earth-bound radio amateurs and sky watchers have already received images from the moon-orbiting satellite.

Longjiang-2 was launched last May into a lunar transfer orbit and deployed as a secondary payload with the Queqiao relay satellite as part of the Chang’e 4 mission. The satellite will test low-frequency radio astronomy and space-based interferometry; no transponder is aboard.

 

In preparation for the mission and discussion of the possibilities of the antennas and receivers in the radio telescope, MingChuan Wei, BG2BHC, and Hu Chaoran, BG2CRY, both of the Harbin Institute of Technology, visited Harry Keizer, PE1CHQ, and Jan van Muijlwijk, PA3FXB, of CAMRAS.
The Chang’e 4 mission will mark the first-ever attempt at a soft landing on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e-4 lander and rover are scheduled to launch in December.

The spacecraft transmits on 70 centimetres (435.400/436.400 MHz) with 250/500 bps GMSK using 10 kHz wide FM single-channel data, with concatenated codes or JT4G.

Thanks to this week’s ARRL Letter for the report.

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

 

HAMNET Report 14 October 2018

At the top of the EMCOMMS list this weekend is news of Hurricane Michael’s effect on the Southern United States.

The ARRL reports that an array of Amateur Radio public service assets was active as Hurricane Michael — now a tropical storm — made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle on October 10, with devastating 250 km/h winds. The storm is believed to be the first Category 4 or stronger hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned of life-threatening storm surges as well as hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall.

The Hurricane Watch Net activated on October 10th and closed operations the following day.

WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Centre, was active to receive observed weather information and data via Amateur Radio to aid forecasters.

The VoIP Hurricane Net activated on October 10th  to support communication with the National Hurricane Centre.

The Southern Territory Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) stood down on October 11th. SATERN was requested to provide Amateur Radio operators for Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Tampa, as well as some local units in Georgia, and at Divisional Headquarters in Atlanta.

The ARRL North Florida and West Central Florida sections assisted SATERN with additional operators in Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Tampa. North Florida Section ARES was at full activation.

Miller Norton, W4EMN, the Communications Watch Officer at the Duval County Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Jacksonville, Florida, was monitoring SARnet  — a UHF-linked repeater network in Florida — when he heard an urgent call for help that needed to be sent to the State EOC in Tallahassee. All other forms of communication were out, and Norton was able to relay the message via Amateur Radio. He also passed along messages and requests from the Jackson County EOC to the American Red Cross. Norton said officials in Tallahassee and Jackson County were both incredibly grateful for the way the SARnet system functioned during the weather emergency.

Jackson County Emergency Coordinator Ricky Whittington, KD4AST, was deployed to the county EOC in Marianna.

“We took a direct hit by the centre of the storm at 220 km/h,” he told Clay County ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator and Public Information Officer Scott Roberts, KK4ECR. “[The] county maintenance building across the road from the EOC was picked up and slammed into the north side and over the roof of the EOC just prior to the eye passing over.”

The incident took out the HF antenna, which has since been restored. Whittington said the internet failed, as did cell service for a while. Hams have been passing material and resource orders to the State EOC via HF and SARnet. Whittington reported “total devastation of Bay, Jackson, and Gulf counties,” with loss of electrical power and water service, in addition to damage in Franklin, Holmes, and Leon counties. “[The] only mode of communications after the eye came across was ham radio, until we got minimal cell service a few hours ago,” he reported.

The ARRL Emergency Response Team has been coordinating with Field Organization leadership in ARRL Sections affected by the storm, as well as with WX4NHC, the HWN, VoIP Hurricane Net, Department of Homeland Security SHARES, and US Army MARS.

Thanks to the ARRL for the report.

As of Saturday afternoon, the death toll from Hurricane Michael stood at 14.

A message from Greg Mossop G0DUB of IARU Region 1 says that it is a busy weekend in the Region with two major exercises and at least one emergency happening.

In Oman Younis A41MA reports that as Tropical Storm Luban heads towards Oman and Yemen, the National Committee of Civil Defence has deployed resources to the South of the country ready to deal with the flooding predicted to hit the area. An initial four amateur radio volunteers are present to help provide links to any isolated locations. This operation is initially on VHF but HF is ready to be used if required. Storms in this area generally go under-reported but are just as severe as other disasters with the previous two tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea claiming nearly 300 lives.

In Spain, their ‘Field Day 2018‘ exercise took place yesterday ( 13th October ) with a focus on Net Control activities. HF was expected to be in use on 7110, 7145, 7175 and 14315kHz. Winlink and VHF/DMR was also to be used

Finally Radio Amateurs in Romania are participating in an European Community Exercise in their country. ModEx 2018 will call for the use of 3710 and 7130kHz along with VHF/DMR.

All exercises and actual emergencies should be expected to identify as ’emergency exercise’ or ‘exercise’ on the air. When these events are watched by representatives from our Administrations, it is important that Amateur Radio is seen positively, so please allow the operators room to operate.

And Jose Mendez EA9CD informed us yesterday about the start of that FIELD DAY 2018 in Spain, where there were several special stations on the bands on 20m, 40m  and on UHF, VHF and 6m, in addition to the DMR, C4FM and D-star modes. Links were also to be made via Winlink, and a Hamnet Network was deployed by EG5FD to provide data support. This exercise ended at 16h00 UTC last night.

And in the city of Palu on the island of Saluwesi in Indonesia, 2 weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, the “Save the Children” organization is still receiving 20 missing-children reports a day. These are children separated from their parents, or amongst the estimated 5000 people buried in the landslides mentioned in last week’s report, or children being looked for by concerned relatives other than parents, who are desperately hoping the children have survived, even though their parents are missing presumed dead.

The overall number of children still missing is believed to be in the thousands. It’s unclear how many are still alive. An unknown number of bodies remain buried beneath neighbourhoods where the soil liquefied after the quake.

Unidentified children live in tent cities in several aid stations for separated children that humanitarian groups have set up across Palu, the city closest to the earthquake’s epicentre, looked after by social workers and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund officials. The monumental task of reuniting families or managing orphaned children is going to take a long time. We can only applaud the wonderful dedication of these conscientious workers.

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

HAMNET Report 7 October 2018

NHK World reports that, a week after the twin disaster decimated the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia; the death toll continues to rise. Officials now blame the earthquake and tsunami for the deaths of more than 1,500 people.

Muslims gathered on the island of Sulawesi for Friday prayers where they mourned the dead and prayed that more people would be found alive. But emergency crews continue to pull more bodies from underneath the rubble. Officials say one of the dead was a South Korean man who was taking part in a paragliding event.

There is a huge need for first aid supplies. A hospital in one of the hardest-hit cities of Palu is flooded with patients. Doctors say they don’t have enough staff to deal with them. They also warn that many are at risk of infection. Complicating matters, some patients are afraid to be treated indoors after seeing so many buildings collapse.

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake triggered a tsunami that wiped out thousands of homes and buildings. Indonesia’s authorities are working with Japanese experts to investigate the mechanisms of how the quake caused the deadly wave.

And NDTV reports that the city of Palu on Sulawesi island has been left in ruins after being hit by the 7.5 magnitude quake and the  wall of water, which flattened homes, ripped up trees and overturned cars.

After days of delays, international aid has finally started to arrive in the disaster zone, where the UN says almost 200,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Survivors have ransacked shops and supply trucks in the hunt for basic necessities, prompting security forces to round up dozens of suspected looters and warn that they will fire on thieves.

Authorities previously set a tentative deadline of Friday for finding anyone trapped under ruined buildings, although chances of pulling survivors alive from the rubble at such a late stage are almost zero. Local military spokesman Muhammad Thohir said that the death toll had risen to 1,558, up about 100 from the previous official figure.

Over 100 people are still unaccounted for, while hundreds of bodies have been buried in mass graves in a bid to avert a disease outbreak from corpses rotting in the tropical sun. Search efforts focused on eight key locations on Friday, including a beach and the Balaroa area where the sheer force of the quake turned the earth temporarily to mush.

About 20 planes carrying vital supplies such as tarpaulins, medical equipment and generators are now heading from all over the world to the disaster zone after a long delay. Indonesia was initially reluctant to accept outside help, insisting its own military could handle the response, but as the scale of the devastation became clear President Joko Widodo agreed to allow in foreign aid.

Governments from Australia to Britain are flying in supplies, the United Nations has pledged $15 million to the relief effort, and aid groups including Save the Children and the Red Cross are also on the ground.

Members of International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society ORARI and other volunteers have been providing emergency communication for community and government interests. The quake and tsunami destroyed the city of Palu, completely cutting power and telecommunications.

New IARU Region 3 Disaster Communication Coordinator Dani Halim, YB2TJV, said Amateur Radio operators in Indonesia immediately responded to the unfolding disaster, establishing an emergency net on 7.110 MHz. Amateur Radio volunteers from other regions also pitched in to support radio communication for emergency news on 7.110 MHz and 7.065 MHz. Some radio amateurs with mobile stations have travelled to the affected region to help.

According to Budi Santoso, YF1AR, on Java Island, the local Palu ORARI representative Ronny Korompot, YB8PR, was among the first contacted. Through his mobile station, he reported on conditions, and the response, including evacuations. Sutrisno Sofingi, YB8NT, was also heard on 7.110 MHz using an emergency station he assembled at the disaster site. He said Amateur Radio was the only available communication with the outside world.

Amateur Radio also has assisted government agencies following severe damage to the telecommunication infrastructure. Hams operating on 2 meters were communicating information on which roads were open to allow traffic from the outside.

Halim reported that communication was established from the Luwuk Disaster Management Agency some 430 miles from the earthquake’s epicentre to obtain information on landslides and blocked roads and highways.

Salmin Sahidin, YB8IBD, in Southeast Sulawesi has been live streaming audio of the activity on 7.110 MHz via his Facebook page.

Thanks to the ARRL Letter for 4th October for these last remarks.

Here’s a story of an interesting experience. Dialogo, the Digital Military Magazine forum of the Americas, reports that Argentine and Chilean armed forces spent 10 days on the northern Antarctic Peninsula in a combined rescue exercise. The Argentine-Chilean Combined Antarctic Emergency and Rescue Patrol 2018 (PARACACH 2018, in Spanish) integrated army elements of both countries to improve response capabilities in rescue emergencies in Antarctica, August 20th-30th.

Under the coordination of the Antarctic Joint Command of the Argentine Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chilean Joint Chiefs of Staff, participants carried out Antarctic emergency operations, such as planning for search and rescue missions, navigation, injured recovery, and first-aid response. The patrol also walked over glaciers and frozen seas and coordinated radio communications.

The objective was to assess and increase military capabilities in Antarctic rescue operations. PARACACH 2018 also aimed at strengthening cooperation and bonds of friendship between both nations to face emergency situations in the inhospitable white continent. The patrol consisted of 14 members of both nations and 13 snowmobiles, each with sleds, and operated under temperatures of -20 deg C, and strong freezing winds. Wow – sooner them than me, I can hear you say!

HAMNET takes this opportunity to wish all RAE candidates everything of the best for the exam this coming Saturday. We look forward to seeing news of success soon on the SARL website, and invite all new radio amateurs to consider linking up with the HAMNET Directors in their Divisions, and joining the emergency communications arm of the SARL, to offer their services in case of need in the community around them. Details are available on the HAMNET page of the SARL website. We look forward to hearing from you.

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

SANLAM Cape Town Peace Trail 22 September 2018

Alister van Tonder, ZS1OK reports:

The 2018 Sanlam Peace Trail run took place on Saturday 22nd of September in support of the trail running taking place on the slopes of Lions Head and Signal Hill.  This event forms part of the larger Cape Town Marathon, which took place on the following day, Sunday 23rd.

The Hamnet operators consisted of ZS1JMT Michael and Virginia holding the fort at The Glen in the vicinity of the Round House Restaurant in Camps Bay, and the team at Signal Hill consisting of John ZS1JNT and Ian ZS1OSK, and with Alister ZS1OK at the base.  Matt ZS1MTF assisted by setting up a VHF/UHF cross-band repeater in a vehicle parked on the slopes of Table Mountain which provided a relay between The Glen and to the base located, located at the new Green Point Athletics Track, as well as to the Signal Hill team.  While there was no directly line of sight between the cross-band repeater to the base – it was well within the lee of Signal Hill, the cross-band repeater worked very well.  Matt set the VHF transmitter power to 20 watts which ensured that with the extra power a good signal was provided whereas the line of sight UHF link to The Glen was using 5 watts.

The base was operational by 05h30 with the comms being verified between the different locations by 06h00.  The start of the race was delayed by more than 30 minutes due to race safety issues, but once it started the well planned operating procedures by the race organisers ensured things went smoothly.

There were a handful of minor runner injuries, but overall no major incidents.  As with most competitive sports it was vital to verify runners were not taking short cuts or taking advantage, and matters of this nature took up some bandwidth.

The team of Michael ZS1MJT and Virginia were the first to stand down after the race sweep had progressed well beyond their location.  The team Signal Hill is very busy as both the long and the short course runners pass through their check point.   By the time the sweep passed the Noon Gun, they also stood down, since any injured runners would thereafter had to continue down the slopes rather than being taken back up to Signal Hill.   Support was concluded when the based stood down at 13h30.

This was the second year we have used cellular APRS for the race sweeps.  Last year we had some teething problems with the cellular APRS, but this year it worked really well and we had regular fixed interval position updates via aprs.fi for both race sweeps.  There were only small areas that did not have cellular coverage.

Yes, radio based APRS has its place – the race sweeps find the mangoes APRS radios bulky and heavy – but having cellular based APRS provided good operational feedback.  To provide effective VHF digipeater coverage for this event would be quite a daunting task, requiring many suitably located digipeaters.

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HAMNET Report 30 September 2018

Glynn Chamberlain, ZS6GLN, Regional Director HAMNET Gauteng South reports that, on Sunday the 23rd September, Hamnet Gauteng South kicked off their next season of events by assisting with the Route42 Mountain Bike Cycling Event organised by the Nigel Cycling Club.

Hamnet Gauteng South has proudly been assisting with this race for a number of years, and in total, 21 members helped on the day.

The morning started at 06h00 with the team arrival, setting up of the Hamnet Gauteng South Communications trailer, and a team briefing, before members started heading out to their pre-defined locations. Communications was facilitated with the erection of the units portable 70cm repeater near the “Webb Industries” high site where, coincidentally, the cyclists had to pass. Communications with all the members was perfect.

The race consisted of a completely new route from a venue, south east of Nigel. The route was through farmlands, forests, river beds and mountainous areas to name but a few. Feedback from the riders was that it was one of the best routes they have participated in, and they thoroughly enjoyed the race.

For the first time, the organisers asked if Hamnet Gauteng South could supply 2 riders on motorbikes to lead the 30km and 60km batches. Fortunately, we could accommodate the request, and were also able to supply the organisers with live position updates as both riders were carrying trackers. A further request was could the unit also provide a tail end vehicle for sweeping behind the last cyclists. This we were able to do, but with some apprehension, as the race was essentially a mountain bike race, and we were out of motorbike members. The plan was for one of the members to perform this duty initially in his vehicle as the first part of the race was through farmlands. Once one of the lead motorbikes had completed bringing in either of the 2 routes, that bike would then head off and meet the tail end vehicle and take over in the more difficult areas of the route. The plan worked out perfectly, with the bike meeting up with the last car about 20km into the race.

Overall, the race was a huge success not only for Hamnet Gauteng South, but also for the race organisers. Once again, the unit and members were able to practice and test their preparedness for real disaster events, which we hope will never come!

Thank you for the report Glynn, and well done, the team.

And  now to Indonesia, where a sequence of earthquakes and a tsunami in the Indonesian areas of Donggala and Palu on 28th September have left hundreds of people dead and many more injured. Dani Halim, YB2TJV, as the new IARU R3 Disaster Communication Coordinator reports, Amateur Radio Operators in Indonesia immediately activated to respond to the disaster unfolding in Central Sulawesi Province.

Following the magnitude 7.7 earthquake at 17:02 Local Time (11:02 am UTC), electricity, cellular and all communication facilities in the area were cut off. Communications have been established from the Luwuk Disaster Management Agency located 700 km from the epicentre of the Earthquake with YD8MII (Net Control) and YC8OBM to get information, on landslides occurring in the area, and also that communications routes were blocked. Many photos and videos now circulating on social media, show the enormity of the earthquake.

The Indonesian National Society ORARI immediately established an Emergency Net on 7.110 MHz and also activated the Lapan-Orari IO-86 satellite as a back-up.

Communications have now been established with YB8NT and YB8PR in Palu, who are using mobile stations. Due to QRM on 7.110 MHz though, a second net has been set up on 7.065 MHz.

ORARI asks that they be given room to use 7.110 MHz and 7.065 MHz since this earthquake could be worse than the one in Lombok at the end of August. Please allow them a QRM-free space to complete their work.

Thanks to Greg G0DUB for this report from RAYNET-HF.net

Meanwhile, a little bit North-East, Tropical Cyclone Trami-18 has been approaching Japan from the South-West, with sustained wind-speeds of 200km/h, and today, the 30th, will have crossed over Okinawa, and be pummelling the Southern half of Japan with winds in the region of 185km/h. It is expected to run along the entire length of Japan, in a North-Easterly direction, clearing the top right corner  of Japan by Monday night.

I’d like to draw the attention of the rapidly growing group of South African amateur satellite enthusiasts, to the interview aired in this week’s edition of Ham Nation, available on You Tube, of AMSAT President Joe Spier, K6WAO, which was featured in September 26th’s episode #369.

Well known Amateur Radio journalist Gordon West, WB6NOA interviewed Joe and discussed the latest news from AMSAT and ARISS.

Joe remarked, “The opportunity for this interview couldn’t have come at a better time. With the launch of ARISS’s Fundrazr drive to sustain Amateur Radio operations on the ISS and AMSAT’s own development needs, this interview will help get the word out to segments of the Amateur Radio community that don’t normally track the Amateur Radio satellite community.

“Ham Nation is promoted well throughout Amateur Radio social media so the potential audience is substantial. I hope everyone has a chance to watch the show and perhaps share it with your friends who might become interested in AMSAT and Amateur Radio in Space.”

Thanks to The Southgate Amateur Radio News page for this insert.

Finally, on a more sobering note, if you’ll pardon the pun, the World health Organisation issued a report on Friday, that noted that harmful use of alcohol leads to violence, road traffic crashes, injuries, mental health problems and diseases like cancer and stroke. A new report launched by WHO estimates that 3 million people die every year from harmful use of alcohol, and most of these are men. That is 6 people every minute of every day! Today contains 1440 minutes, so that means 8640 people today!

Worldwide, an estimated 2.3 billion people drink alcohol. Of these, around 237 million men and 46 million women suffer from alcohol-use disorders. By far the majority therefore drink alcohol harmlessly, but this is certainly a statistic to make one sit up and think. The writer earnestly asks you not to become one of these statistics.

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

HAMNET Report 23 September 2018

Conventional telecommunications are starting to return to normal in some communities affected by Hurricane Florence, but the now long-gone storm set up others for persistent and record-breaking flooding, primarily in eastern North Carolina and along several of the state’s rivers. The storm, which made landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina, primarily affected the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia.

“Things are back to normal communication status, and demobilization is occurring for folks deployed,” South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Billy Irwin, K9OH, said on September 19. At mid-week, the FCC reported that nearly all cellular service had been restored in South Carolina.

Over the weekend, ARES volunteers from several South Carolina counties had pitched in to support emergency communication in the face of power and telecommunication outages and heavy rainfall. ARES Richland County Emergency Coordinator Ronnie Livingston, W4RWL, said volunteers in his county staffed the county Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Red Cross operators at the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) kept in contact with field volunteers in Marion and Dillon counties, after conventional telecommunications failed there.

ARES District Emergency Coordinator EMEA Area 3 Earl Dean, W4ESD, said ARES deployed assets as well as personnel who coordinated with the appropriate agencies. Horry County ARES and ARRL South Carolina Section Public Information Officer (PIO) Gordon Mooneyhan, W4EGM, said radio amateurs set up and organized communication networks to assist local government and emergency agencies, as well as to handle health-and-welfare traffic for affected residents, to let their family members outside the affected area know they were all right.

In North Carolina, storm surges had caused flooding in many communities. Ham radio volunteers responded in counties along the coast, including Wilmington, Topsail Beach, Jacksonville, and Morehead City, staffing both EOCs and shelters. Farther inland, numerous ARES teams activated in the face of river flooding to address a combination of sheltering needs for local residents and evacuees. Communication throughout the state was supplemented by neighbourhood-based operators, who reported emergencies to county EOCs. The FCC reported on September 19 that nearly one-third of cell service was out in Columbus, Pender, and Onslow counties. The storm also took out several broadcast outlets in the state.

We are grateful to the ARRL letter published on Thursday for these reports.

SocialistWorker.org says that the storm that hammered the Carolinas has moved on, but the catastrophic effects, made much worse by man-made factors, are still being felt. And like the storms before Hurricane Florence, poor and working people will suffer the most.

As dramatic as the images of the hurricane making landfall on September 14 were, it is the misery and suffering for days, weeks and months to come that will be burned into the lives and memories of ordinary people here. As an activist friend beautifully wrote:

“Poverty has always been a flood and not a hurricane. It’s always been a long, rolling disaster, with muddy gray water under an incongruent blue sky. It’s always been a slow build of mould between generations of people making do with babies in faded milk crates floated on mattresses down city streets.” Close quotations.

Florence struck the North Carolina coast with winds reaching 92 miles per hour (160km/h), then moved inland and south to South Carolina, then drifted north again toward Virginia and eventually West Virginia.

The storm brought destruction to every community in its path. As of the writing of this article, it had claimed 32 lives, including that of a 1-year-old who was swept away by floodwaters in Union County in North Carolina.

One preliminary estimate puts the damage caused by Florence at $18 billion. Nearly a million people lost power, and many are expected to remain without it for weeks.

The storm dropped torrential amounts of rain on the Carolinas as it moved inland, with some areas getting over two feet of rainfall (The record rainfall I picked up in  another report was 39 inches in the two days – that’s 990mm, nearly three times our annual rainfall in parts of Cape Town!) The resulting flooding will be an ongoing hazard for weeks to come.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the flooding triggered a series of ecological disasters with coal ash ponds, chemical factories, landfills and hog farm lagoons located on or near the two main rivers in Eastern North Carolina, the Cape Fear and Neuse Rivers.

We in South Africa can only give thanks that we are not commonly exposed to this kind of meteorological disaster!

K1CE Rick Palm reports in the ARES E-Letter this week:

“DC power management has become a sub-hobby for me: I have two 100 W solar panels on the roof of my shack, two 31 A/hr gel cell batteries, a heavy duty 60 A power supply, a VHF FM radio and an HF transceiver, all fed by wires terminated with Powerpole® connectors, and managed/connected by a high power (40 A) routing/battery charging device. I changed all of my connectors to the now-ubiquitous Powerpoles years ago and never looked back.

Two aspects of 12 V power management systems are often overlooked by amateurs, admittedly including myself: length and gauge of wires. Power is saved when runs are kept as short as possible, and of a high (lower number) gauge (AWG). The power supply wire should be heavy gauge (#10) and kept as short as possible. The same applies to the batteries, which should also have a fuse in the positive lead directly at the battery’s positive terminal.

I spent a morning recently replacing all of my 12 V cables with shorter, larger gauge ones. I fused the positive battery terminal and had fun reorienting myself to installing the Powerpole connectors. There is a wealth of information available online.

One final note, and it’s an important one: Be Careful!  Any short in the battery wire, connector, or load can cause a fire and battery explosion. People almost never think of 12 V batteries as dangerous, but they are. Use the utmost of care when wiring your 12 V management system!

Thank you Rick for those words of advice.

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

HAMNET Report 16 September 2018

On diametrically opposite sides of the globe, two huge tropical storms are exerting their might on the weather.

Tropical Cyclone MANGKHUT-18, by far the bigger storm, is moving more or less due West across the Philippines, and threatening, China, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Vietnam, with maximum wind-speeds expected to be in the 280km/h range. The estimated population affected by winds in excess of 120km/h is nearly 7 million.

The northern tip of the Philippines have already been battered, and, as I write this on Saturday afternoon, the eye of the storm is East-Northeast of the tip of the Philippines, and bearing down on the coast of China, just South of Hong Kong. Its projected path will take it Westwards along the border of China and Vietnam, just North of Hanoi.

There are an awful lot of people living in those areas, in dwellings not very cyclone-proof, houses which have probably been destroyed and rebuilt many times by previous cyclones, and the population of 7 million threatened are therefore very vulnerable. We’ll keep watching the news dispatches for further detail.

On the other side of the globe, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) already had advanced plans and deployments in place for Hurricane FLORENCE, a Category 4 storm, approaching the Carolina States of the USA in a North-Easterly direction. By Monday just gone, FEMA had already positioned more than 80,000 litres of water, 402,000 meals, 1,200 cots and 34 generators at Fort Bragg near Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The projected path of Florence had it crossing the coast of North Carolina on Friday morning at about 7am our time. Wind-speeds of about 250km/h were expected as it crossed the coast.

The ARRL reported that it shipped seven Ham Aid kits to South Carolina by way of Georgia on September 11, to assist with emergency preparedness needs in advance of Hurricane Florence. These kits are the same ones that ARRL volunteers took to Puerto Rico a year ago to assist with disaster communications following Hurricane Maria.

“South Carolina ARES is fully activated,” ARRL South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Billy Irwin, K9OH, told ARRL, adding that he’s been coordinating regularly with the state Emergency Management Division. “We have operators serving 12-hour shifts at the SC Emergency Management Division and will move to 24-hour coverage on Thursday. Two operators have been deployed to Berkeley County to assist with shelter operations at the request of the Emergency Coordinator there.” Irwin said information about frequencies in use is in the Tactical Guide on the South Carolina ARES website.

“We are literally modifying plans on the fly to meet the needs of the mission,” Irwin added. “Several ARRL Sections have offered assistance.”

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), at Alert Level 3, was closely monitoring three systems, Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Invest 95L, currently in the Gulf of Mexico. The net  shifted its formal activation to Thursday, September 13, at 1300 UTC, as Florence closed in on the US east coast. The net activated on both its 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz frequencies and remained active around the clock, as needed. “Hurricane Florence is drawing a lot of concern for its size and strength, but more so for the potential flooding,” Assistant HWN Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said.

HWN stations will be on both frequencies throughout the day and evening on Wednesday, September 12, to talk with stations in the coastal states. “We want to log their locations, their weather instrumentation and other pertinent information, so that when they are actively producing storm reports we already have them in the database,” Broadway said. “This will speed the reporting process Thursday and Friday as the storm does make landfall.”

WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Centre remained active through Friday, September 14, operating cooperatively with the HWN as net stations funnelled ground-level reports to the Centre. WX4NHC will monitor the HWN and the VoIP Hurricane Net (VoIPWX).

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Network (SATERN) announced plans to activate for Hurricane Florence from 1700 through 2100 UTC on Thursday, September 13, and to reactivate on Friday and Saturday at about 1600 UTC until propagation no longer supported it, or the Net Manager closed the net for the day.

And as I compiled this yesterday afternoon, ARRL News reported that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) announced that it shut down its activation for Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a Tropical Storm but still “a formidable system that will affect the coastal states for days,” HWN Assistant Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said. “Because the storm is moving inland, Amateur Radio activity will shift to the various state and regional emergency nets,” Broadway added.

“While propagation was not good on 20 meters for the period, 40 meters afforded a fairly consistent contact with stations in the area,” Broadway recounted. “The net has been in operation for 38 hours.”

Over the course of its activation, listening for reports and relaying them to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) via WX4NHC, nearly 200 stations checked in, and the net took in approximately twice that number of reports.

“Many were not at severe levels, but all ‘ground truth’ [reports] assist in plotting the activity of the storm,” Broadway explained. WX4NHC will remain active through Friday.

As of 0000 UTC on September 15, the centre of Florence had moved into extreme eastern South Carolina, the National Hurricane Centre reported. “Life-threatening storm surges and strong winds will continue tonight,” the report said, “[with] catastrophic freshwater flooding expected over portions of North and South Carolina.”

The storm was some 15 miles north-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and about 55 miles east-southeast of Florence, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 70 MPH. Florence was moving to the west at a leisurely 3 MPH.

And, if you want a live feed from the Carolina Beach, Wilmington area, visit https://www.facebook.com/derekvandamfanpage/videos/   to see daily reports from Derek van Dam.

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