HAMNET Report 10th November 2019

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, he of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal fame, has written me a disturbing report of the Amashovashova Cycle race held last month. He writes:

“Justin ZS5JW and I attended the de-briefing of the event on Wednesday 6th November.  Justin worked in the main Durban JOC on race day.

“Weather predictions for Sunday 20th October had been reported to be favourable with the possibility of light rain in the afternoon. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.  From early in the morning you could feel the humidity building and by 08h00 it was already at very uncomfortable levels.  This resulted in numerous medical cases being treated for heat exhaustion.  Water shortages were also being reported from refreshment tables, although they had plenty of other soft drinks available.

“Unfortunately the event resulted in one casualty suffering a suspected heart attack and being attended by our Roving Patrol crewed by Deon ZS5DD and Dawie ZS5DDB  (Incidentally Dawie had only written the RAE on the Saturday preceding the race).  Deon reports as follows:

‘At approximately 12:35 pm whilst travelling Eastbound on the M13 approximately 100 meters before exit 28, we came across a cyclist that was lying on the ground.

‘He was being assisted by a bystander who had arrived in a vehicle that was parked next to the road.

‘We stopped to investigate and it soon became apparent that the cyclist was in serious need of medical assistance. We then requested medical assistance from Justin ZS5JW at Durban JOC.

‘We started assisting the bystander who had control of the scene, and who confirmed that the cyclist was breathing although his pulse was weak.

‘We assisted the bystander and after 5 minutes he pointed out that the cyclists pulse had stopped and that we should initiate CPR. We confirmed that there was no pulse and assisted with CPR, ZS5DDB, ZS5DD and the bystander taking turns.

‘Shortly after starting CPR a cyclist arrived (race number 2302) who clearly had medical training. He took over the scene and we continued with CPR under his direction.

‘We followed up with the JOC on the ambulance that arrived approximately 15 minutes later, and whose staff took control of the scene. The paramedics from ER24 defibrillated the patient and loaded him into the ambulance as it was extremely hot outside.’

“Unfortunately we learned later that the patient was declared deceased at hospital.  We extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

“The race Safety Officer, in conjunction with Ethekwini Disaster Management, made the decision to cut the race off at 12H00 outside Kearsney College in Botha’s Hill, and arrangements were made to supply buses to transport those competitors through to the finish at Suncoast Casino.

“Some of the resolutions taken at the debriefing:

  1. As a result of problems encountered on the 160Km route, this will be discontinued for next year, as the logistics required to manage this part are not sustainable for the number of participants that entered.
  2. Water table managers will be appointed by the organiser and not the water table sponsors, to ensure that sufficient supplies are on hand, as it is extremely difficult to move supplies between points once the race is underway”.

Keith thanks the operators that worked under extremely hot and uncomfortable conditions and in particular Willem ZS5WA, and Justin ZS5JW assisted by Kimmy ZS5KIM, who were put under extreme pressure, handling all of the requests, and who updated on incidents being reported through to the respective Pietermaritzburg and Durban controls.

The date for next year’s event has been confirmed as 18th October 2020.

Thank you for the full update, Keith.

Jim Wilson, K5ND, writing in the soon-to-be issued December QST Journal, reports on the 24th World Scout Jamboree, attended by 42000 scouts, both female and male, from 152 countries.

The theme was “Unlock a New World”, which was easy to do at the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve in West Virginia. Among many other activities offered by the reserve, the Jamboree program activities covered a wide range of options, from exploring cultural differences, to working with robotics and technology, to examining sustainability programmes.

Amateur Radio has been a part of the World Scout Jamboree experience since 1947 in France with F9CQ/JAM. For 2019, the call sign NA1WJ was selected to demonstrate that this was a World Jamboree hosted by a North American team. The operation was hugely successful. Thirty-three staff members from Australia, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Japan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zimbabwe came together to mesh different cultures and approaches to Scouting and Amateur Radio.

As a result, we introduced Amateur Radio to over 3,000 of the Scouts from around the world and completed over 4,000 two way contacts that covered 86 DXCC countries.

Scouts were given a brief overview of Amateur Radio and guided to an operating position, where a control operator took over to describe the equipment and the contact procedures. At that time, many stations in the ham community were standing by to provide the other side of the contact. Each Scout was able to get on the microphone, fill out a logbook card with the details, and receive a commemorative NA1WJ coin provided by Icom America on the way out of the tent.

We used the Icom IC-7300 for our HF stations, with their small footprint and easily viewed spectrum scope. We had separate stations for 40, 30, 20, and 17 meters. We also used Icom ID-5100A’s for 2 metres and 70 centimetres, working repeaters with Echolink and D-STAR. The IC-9700 was put into play for frequent satellite contacts.

Antennas included a rotatable 40-meter dipole, C3S triband Yagi, and a special 20/17- meter dual-band Yagi. In addition, we used dipoles for 30 and 80 meters as well as a 6-meter Yagi.

During the Jamboree, amateur radio direction finding, or foxhunting, activities were run, four pico-balloons with amateur radio payloads were flown, and a contact with astronaut Drew Morgan, KI5AAA, on board the ISS, was made.

The Scouts came away with a superb hands-on introduction to Amateur Radio. We hope that we planted seeds that will encourage them to investigate further the science, technology, fun, and magic of Amateur Radio when they get home.

Thanks to Jim, QST and the ARRL for this report.

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

HAMNET Report 3rd November 2019

Brian Jacobs, ZS6YZ reports that the Carnival City Macsteel Cycle Race took place over the weekend of 26th and 27th October 2019.

HAMNET Gauteng South was tasked with handling the communications for the event.

On Saturday 26th October, the Mountain Bike Race was run, starting and finishing at Carnival City. The Mountain Bike Race normally does not require too many resources and the team that handled the race consisted of Pieter ZS6PHS, Diederich ZS6DVL, Ettienne ZS6ET, Channette ZS6CAC, Neil ZS6NBX, Neil ZS6CKC, Henry ZS6IIX who ran the JOC, and Leon ZS6LMG. Even though it rained during the event, the day was successfully completed with no major mishaps.

Sunday 27th October saw a much larger team converging on Carnival City around 04:00 in the morning to set up the JOC and attend the briefing session at 05:15. The team was now Leon ZS6LMG, Linda ZS6LML, Johan ZS6DMX, Pieter ZS6PHS, Diederich ZS6DVL, Hannes ZS6EMS, Ettienne ZS6ET, Channette ZS6CAC, Neil ZS6CKC, Eugene ZS6ECJ, Brian ZS6YZ Don ZS6SSR, and Henry ZS6IIX.

Linda, Channette and Henry were responsible for handling all communications at the JOC, while the rest of the team manned the four water points, the 4 way stop on the Heidelberg road where the long and short routes split and later joined again, and the various roaming duties, such as following the lead cyclists, and responding to incidents along the route. Radio communications proved challenging at times including interference on the UHF repeater and keyed microphones being sat on. Despite these challenges the day was successfully completed with the HAMNET team sweeping the route and ensuring that even the last cyclist safely made it back to the finish.

Brian thanks all who participated and helped to make the event a success.

Now, here’s an unusual service that Amateur Radio can provide. News10 reports that local amateur radio operators will be staked out at bridges and overpasses over the Thruway across the Capital Region of New York State this Halloween.

The volunteers are trying to deter kids and young adults from throwing pumpkins on to traffic. Several cars and trucks have been hit in the past, causing injuries and car wrecks.

Hundreds of ham radio operators throughout the region are working with Troop T of the New York State Police to patrol those areas.

Episode 24 of TX Factor is a Hamfest 2019 special, reporting on some of the eye-catching products and services on display at this year’s event in Newark, says Southgate Amateur Radio News.

The videoblog investigates the current state of HF propagation, and celebrates 50 years of Nevada Radio, while Mike G1IAR tries out a few solder stations, and Bob G0FGX goes all soft over the Vintage Military Amateur Radio Society’s vintage AM radios.

And to cap it all, there’s a demonstration of the latest rig from Yaesu.

Google TX Factor, or search for it on YouTube, to view the programme.

MyBroadBand reports that South African car thieves are using sophisticated hardware and techniques to bypass vehicle security systems and steal cars in minutes.

A recent report from IOL detailed how a criminal syndicate in Durban used diagnostic key readers to steal cars that use transponder or chip keys.

After a spate of car thefts in the last few weeks, the police and the Amanzimtoti Community Crime Prevention Organisation (CPPO) arrested four men they suspected were behind the incidents.

The police also seized a load of car theft tools, which included 15 computer boxes, 35 ignition switches, and a walkie-talkie capable of scanning police radio frequencies.

Since the 1990s, many cars have used transponder or chip keys linked to their on-board diagnostics computers.

These keys contain a computer chip which is used for authentication. Once plugged into the ignition, the Engine Control Unit (ECU) transmits a code to the key.

A key with the correct code will respond with a message to the ECU that allows the car to start.

To program these keys, a number of diagnostic devices have been developed, which can be used to extract data from the vehicle’s computer box.

Variations of the devices are used by locksmiths to copy keys for customers who need to replace a lost key or remote.

It is worrying to note, however, that these devices can easily be purchased online.

A security company based in Gauteng told MyBroadband that car thieves in the province have been caught using similar techniques.

One of these techniques involves using old on-board diagnostic computer boxes.

The thieves pull these boxes from old vehicles in scrap yards or grab them from cars stolen in an earlier incident.

They then use the diagnostic key reader to extract data from the computer box and use this information to recode a stolen or purchased programmable key to link with the particular box.

When the criminals head out to find potential targets, they take the reprogrammed key and linked computer box with them.

Once they break into a car, they quickly switch out the installed computer box with their reprogrammed hardware.

After this is done, the reprogrammed key can be used to start the ignition, lock or unlock doors, and control the alarms.

If the criminals struggle to replace the computer box, they also often have a set of different ignition switches on hand.

Replacing the car’s ignition switch with their own simply allows them to use a key that already fits into the switch.

The security company added that police often find illegally-acquired hand-held radios in the possession of car thieves..

Certain versions of these devices are capable of receiving transmissions on radio frequency bands dedicated to emergency services like the police.

Purchasing one of these radios usually requires an amateur radio licence, but the security company noted that these could easily be bought illegally from several shops.

The report also has pictures of a collection of keys, computer boxes, ignition switches and hand-helds that were seized in Amanzimtoti.

Finally, HAMNET South Africa would like to congratulate the South African rugby team on winning the Rugby World Cup yesterday. It was a hard-fought final, and a fine end to a very entertaining rugby competition.

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

HAMNET Report 27th October 2019

Anette Jacobs, ZR6D, has reported on the BACAR 7 Launch on 12th October 2019. She writes:

“A number of people spent really late nights doing final preparations in the week preceding the launch of the BACAR 7 that took place on the morning of 12th October 2019.

“Members of HAMNET GS were already up and on the road by 03:00 in the morning.  The HAMNET GS chase team consisted of Leon ZS6LMG, Johan ZS6DMX, Diederich ZS6DVL and Wilhelm ZS6WBT.

“There was quite a brisk breeze blowing and the temperature on the ground was quite chilly when the payloads were put in the order in which they will hang from the balloon, and connected together. Not long thereafter the balloon was filled with hydrogen and the payloads were attached.

“At just around 07:00 the balloon was released and the payloads gracefully lifted skywards. The balloon flew well and headed in the direction of the Kriel power station.

“The chase teams comprising of Secunda Radio Club and HAMNET Gauteng South members also departed, and then activity on the airfield seemed to slow down as everyone monitored their payloads, telemetry data, SSTV transmissions, transponders and APRS.

“The various groups were watching the activity and performance of the payloads. The Jeugland High School’s payload was a SSTV transmitter, and there was a scurry of activity as all the youngsters pointed their AMSAT SA dualband Yagi antennas towards the balloon to receive the signal and decode it on an App on their phones held close to the speaker of their handhelds.

“Time literally flew by and before long the flight was terminated and the payloads started to descend by parachute.

“At around 08:49 the HAMNET chase team, Johan ZS6DMX and Diederich ZS6DVL reported that they had found the payloads that had safely returned to the ground. All the payloads were safely recovered and returned to the airfield.

“The Balloon achieved a height of 26,586m according to the flight controller log that was analysed afterwards.

“The Troposphere is around 17,000 metres high in the middle latitudes, and the balloon reached a height of 26,500m which is well into the Stratosphere, so that is quite an achievement.

“While not all payloads performed as expected, this is exactly the reason why these balloon flights are so important. Any payloads may perform well on the ground under controlled conditions and temperatures, but how do they perform in a near space environment?

“A lot of discussions followed as the payloads were examined, looking for possible causes of failure, particularly those payloads that did not perform as expected. There were also lots of discussions about what can be improved upon on the next flight.

“Planning has already started for next year’s BACAR 8 flight that will again be in October, but this time the launch will be determined by the Moon so that the Moon can be photographed in black space.”

Thank you for the report Anette, and well done to the crews!

News from New Era Live is that Namibia has achieved global maritime safety standards by upgrading its Navigational Telex (Navtex) System. The Navtex project is considered a major milestone for Namibia as a coastal state and budding maritime logistics hub.

“I have no doubt that the investment into this state-of-the-art system will not only up our game in safety on our shores, but keeps us compliant with international standards,” stated Walvis Bay Deputy Mayor Penelope Martin-Louw.

Navtex is a navigational system used on board the vessels to provide short range maritime safety information on coastal waters. Navtex forms part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) which was developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in line with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) 1974, to which Namibia is a party.

GMDSS was developed to save lives at sea by modernizing and enhancing the maritime radio communications system through satellite and digital selective calling technology.  Unlike the old maritime radio communication services, GMDSS provides a more effective distress alerting system by increasing the probability that an alert will be sent when a ship is in distress; by increasing the likelihood that the alert will be received; increasing the ability to locate survivors; improving rescue communications and coordination; and providing mariners with vital maritime safety information (MSI).

Namibia is located near major international shipping routes and, over the last 10 years, the country has witnessed an increase in both visiting and passing maritime traffic. Global seaborne trade is expected to triple in the next 30 years, which means Namibia will experience greater opportunities as a port and coastal State, but also greater risks of accidents and incidents at sea. Namibia is well poised to take advantage of future maritime growth.

A new way of removing carbon dioxide from a stream of air could provide a significant tool in the battle against climate change. The new system can work on the gas at virtually any concentration level, even down to the roughly 400 parts per million currently found in the atmosphere.

The device is essentially a large, specialized battery that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air (or other gas stream) passing over its electrodes as it is being charged up, and then releases the gas as it is being discharged. In operation, the device would simply alternate between charging and discharging, with fresh air or feed gas being blown through the system during the charging cycle, and then the pure, concentrated carbon dioxide being blown out during the discharging.

As the battery charges, an electrochemical reaction takes place at the surface of each of a stack of electrodes. These are coated with a compound called polyanthraquinone, which is composited with carbon nanotubes. The electrodes have a natural affinity for carbon dioxide and readily react with its molecules in the airstream or feed gas, even when it is present at very low concentrations. The reverse reaction takes place when the battery is discharged—during which the device can provide part of the power needed for the whole system—and in the process ejects a stream of pure carbon dioxide. The whole system operates at room temperature and normal air pressure.

In some soft-drink bottling plants, fossil fuel is burned to generate the carbon dioxide needed to give the drinks their fizz. Similarly, some farmers burn natural gas to produce carbon dioxide to feed their plants in greenhouses. The new system could eliminate that need for fossil fuels in these applications and in the process actually take the greenhouse gas right out of the air. Alternatively, the pure carbon dioxide stream could be compressed and injected underground for long-term disposal, or even made into fuel through a series of chemical and electrochemical processes.

Compared to other existing carbon capture technologies, this system is quite energy efficient, using about one gigajoule of energy per ton of carbon dioxide captured, consistently. Other existing methods have energy consumption which vary between one to 10 gigajoules per ton, depending on the inlet carbon dioxide concentration.

Thank you to the website Phys.org for this insert.

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

HAMNET Report 20th October 2019

Adrian, YO3HJV, reporting to the IARU Region 1, says that last week, The Department for Emergency Situations (DSU) held a big exercise in two counties in Romania. The subject of this exercise was the cooperation between institutions and NGO’s to a forest fire situation.

The exercise took place in two remote areas in the West part of Romania in Hunedoara County and Caras Severin County.

More than 500 firemen, rescuers, Mountain Gendarmerie, Military forces, Aviation and Search and Rescue Dog organisations were involved.

We played an important role because the area was subject to intermittent mobile phone service and no TETRA network. Again, we used DMR in both sites and this helped us to provide both voice and GPS locations for the intervention forces.

In Hunedoara we used a single repeater for the whole area, and in Caras Severin we used two DMR repeaters linked via 3G, as the sites had some mobile signal.

The exercise was very useful both for us, to test our knowledge and technology, and for the IGSU to show them, directly at intervention forces level, how our systems work.

The short story is that we were extremely appreciated and we established a lot of useful contacts for future cooperation.

The network we used was based on SLR5500 repeaters, portable tripods with 5m telescopic masts and vertical antennas, DM4600 fixed radios and DP4801E portable radios. The software of choice was SmartPTT Enterprise.

Thank you to Adrian and Greg G0DUB for sharing that report.

Another report from Greg G0DUB, Emergency Communications Coordinator for IARU Region 1, says that the 44th HamRadio Exhibition at Friedrichshafen attracted 14300 visitors, among them around 27 Emergency Communicators from 14 countries who attended the IARU meeting for Emergency Communicators on Friday 21st June.

After the introduction and Region 1 report, there were interesting presentations followed by a good exchange of information in an Open Forum session which carried on beyond the official closing time of the meeting.

Mike SP9XWM and Cris SP7WME spoke about the use of new technology in exercises in Poland. There was then an Open Discussion on what use we could make of Satellites and other new modes for Emergency Communications, discussing Low Earth Orbit as well as Geostationary satellites, HF conditions and weak signal message modes (e.g. JS8call).

Alberto IK1YLO spoke about the NEIFLEX (North East Italian Flood Exercise) European Exercise of 5/9 June 2018 followed by an update on their national DMR project. Ron 4X1IG made a presentation on how emergency communications are being grown in Israel by using a ‘Contest as a drill’.

Oliver DL7TNY provided an introduction to AREDN data networks which got many attendees to look at the networks in practice on the DARC stand in the main hall.

An Open Forum was then followed by a short exercise on how we may respond to a power grid failure.

The next Ham Radio on the Bodensee is on June 26 – 28 2020 and will include another emergency communications meeting.

The third IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications Workshop (ECW) was held in Lima, Peru, earlier this month on the 3rd October, immediately following the 20th General Assembly of IARU Region 2. The Emergency Communications Workshop was sponsored by the Executive Committee of IARU Region 2, and hosted by Radio Club Peruano. Region 2 Emergency Coordinators and subject matter experts discussed recent incident responses with the goal of increasing the capacity of amateurs in IARU Region 2 to respond to large scale, multinational communication emergencies and disasters. The ECW provided an opportunity for leaders to network with the goal of increasing cooperation and collaboration for future responses. Twenty-three countries from around the globe were represented.

Among the many highlights of the workshop was a presentation on Winlink, the ever-growing hybrid Internet/Amateur Radio email network.

Thanks to the ARES e-Letter for this short report.

And the ever-willing Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal, reports that HAMNET KZN had a last minute request from Daan ZS6CD from Nelspruit to assist the judges from the Endurance Walking Association of SA at a two day event being held on the Bluff in Durban on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th October that coincided with their AGM.  The participants were members of the SANDF, SAPS and Correctional Services.  44 teams, comprising 6 walkers each, and 65 individuals entered, making a total of 329 participants.

Week day events are always a challenge, with the majority of our members unavailable due to work commitments.  Ben ZS5BN, Terry ZS5TX and Rob ZS5ROB offered to assist, and Keith was able to take leave to assist on the Friday.

As things turned out, the Metro Police did not grant approval for the event to take place on Thursday, although the organisers had submitted their application at the beginning of May.  The situation was eventually resolved and an additional 10Km was added to the route that was approved for Friday.  The event started at 07H00 at the old whaling station, along to Brighton Beach, then out towards Mondi in Isipingo and finishing at the Bluff Military Base at around 16H00, a total distance of some 45Km.

HAMNET’s main function was to complete sequence sheets recording team/walker number/time in case of any team lodging a dispute, and reporting any medical emergencies.  Communications were via 145.500 MHz simplex.

Keith was pleased to report that only one medical case was reported, involving a walker who collapsed after climbing the stairs from Brighton Beach leading up to Airlie Road, and was transported to hospital suffering from dehydration.

A sincere vote of thanks was received from the organisers for HAMNET’s assistance at such short notice.

Well done to you and your helpers, Keith!

Keith tells us that HAMNET KZN will also be assisting with next Sunday’s “Amashovashova Classic” Cycle Event from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, following the route of the Comrades Marathon, and ending in Durban. There will be four different races, two starting in Pietermaritzburg, one at Cato Ridge, and one at Hillcrest.

The 145.750 Midlands repeater and the 145.625 Highway repeater will give good coverage of the race. 15 operators will be deployed, and about 10,000 entries for the race have been received.

Good luck for this event, Keith – we look forward to a report-back in coming weeks.

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

HAMNET Report 6th October 2019

An Amateur Radio Emergency Network activated as Hurricane Lorenzo approached the Azores — an autonomous region of Portugal in the Atlantic. Amateur Radio volunteers worked with the government and emergency response teams, using VHF and UHF repeaters, HF, and Amateur Radio satellite. A request was issued for stations to yield to any emergency traffic coming in and out of the Azores (CU, CQ8, CR8, CS8 and CT8 prefixes).

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in the US reported that a hurricane warning was in effect for Flores, Corvo, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira islands. Lorenzo, a Category 2 storm, was maintaining its strength as it headed toward the Azores, where it was expected to bring hurricane conditions to some areas early on Wednesday.

Lorenzo at one point was a Category 5 storm, the first ever recorded as far north and east in the Atlantic.

As of 18h00 UTC on Tuesday, Hurricane Lorenzo was some 385 miles southwest of Flores with maximum sustained winds of 160 kph, moving to the northeast at 40 kph.

Radio amateurs established HF inter-island links on 80, 40, and 20 meters — 3760, 3770, and 3750 kHz; 7110, 7100, and 7060 kHz; and 14 300, 14 310, and 14 320 kHz. The 20-meter frequencies were designated for communications with stations outside of the Azores.

Over the weekend, AMSAT-NA received a request from radio amateurs involved with emergency communications in the Azores to forgo operation of the AO-92 satellite this week. They asked that AO-92 remain in U/v to handle potential emergency traffic, with passes covering the Azores and Portugal the most critical.

Thanks to the ARRL News for this precis of their statement.

From Matt Hamblen, writing in FierceElectronics, comes the story of Pedro Cruz, who spent weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in September 2017 helping bring food and water to people trapped in remote areas.

He quickly realized he could use an airborne drone to help, using its video connection to read dozens of messages painted on the ground asking rescue crews to bring water, food or medicine.

It wasn’t until nearly a year after the hurricane devastated the island territory in September 2017 that Cruz figured out a way to connect his drone to disaster aid through a computerized visual recognition tool.

Almost by luck, he said in an interview with FierceElectronics, he learned about an IBM Call for Code hackathon being held in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, in August 2018. Developers were asked to find tech solutions for natural disaster preparedness, and as a self-taught developer, Cruz decided to join up.

Cruz ended up winning first place at the hackathon for a tool he introduced and later developed into DroneAid.

It uses visual recognition to detect and count emergency icons like SOS on the ground from video streams overhead. Then, it automatically plots the emergency needs on a map for first responders.

Following the hackathon, Cruz further developed DroneAid and later became a full-time developer advocate for IBM. On Wednesday, IBM also made DroneAid an open source project as part of its Code and Response initiative, a $25 million program to encourage development of open source technology designed to address global problems like disaster relief.

“Our team decided to open source DroneAid because I feel it’s important to make this technology available to as many people as possible,” Cruz said in a blog posted on Wednesday.

As a freelance web developer, he couldn’t reach clients for weeks after Maria hit. Just afterwards, he used his drone to locate his grandmother who waved from outside her isolated home that she was doing OK. Two weeks after the storm passed, “we would go out to the mountains in the centre of island and it still looked like the hurricane had passed just two days earlier…That’s where the inspiration for DroneAid came from. With a tool like this we can make our response a lot faster and many organizations can go out and help.”

Weeks after the hurricane passed, Cruz’s grandmother was hospitalized with a respiratory condition and later died. He later dedicated DroneAid to her memory.

Cruz plans to work from the bottom-up to get more people trained on using drones for emergency response. He has also worked top-down and has reached out to San Juan officials and the Red Cross. He hopes to talk to leaders in other cities about drone responses for all kinds of natural disasters.

One discovery Cruz made early on was that artificial intelligence computer vision systems needed to read a standard set of icons asking for assistance instead of reading handwritten messages on the ground in various languages through optical character recognition. He settled on eight different icons – such as SOS, OK, food, water, medicine – drawn from a recognized set of icons used by the United Nations. They can be printed on mats that are distributed prior to a storm or spray-painted or drawn by hand.

Cruz explained that a drone can survey an area for the icons placed on the ground by people in need or community groups. As DroneAid detects and counts the images, they are plotted on a map in a Web dashboard to help first responders prioritize needs. The AI model has to be trained on the standard icons to be able to detect them in low light and faded conditions.

When the AI model is applied to the live stream of images coming from the drone, each video frame is analysed and, if any emergency icons are found, their location is captured and plotted on a map. Any drone that can capture a video stream can be used.

The Disasters Emergency Committee tells us they launched the Cyclone Idai Appeal on 21st March 2019, after the cyclone swept through Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Across the three countries, at least 900 people were killed and around three million were left in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Just a few weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth followed, further weakening Mozambique’s ability to respond to the destruction. This was the first time in recorded history that two strong tropical cyclones hit Mozambique in the same season, further weakening the country’s ability to respond to the destruction caused by Idai.

Idai brought strong winds and widespread flooding, ripping apart roads, bridges, houses, schools, and health facilities and submerging vast swathes of agricultural land.

With the aid effort fully underway, DEC charities, working closely with national partners to support government-led relief efforts, are prioritising the delivery of clean water, and building toilets and handwashing facilities to tackle the outbreak of cholera. They are also delivering emergency shelter materials and blankets, foods such as pulses and maize flour, and urgent health assistance. Focusing on longer-term food security and rehabilitation of livelihoods is paramount and some members are already providing seeds and tools to communities.

The DEC fundraising appeal raised £43 million in all, a tidy sum indeed!

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

HAMNET Report 29th September 2019

Reporting in Psychcentral, Traci Pedersen notes that, when a natural disaster strikes, women are quicker to take cover or evacuate but often have trouble convincing the men in their lives to do so, according to new research led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The study, which focused on how gender influences natural disaster response, also found that traditional gender roles tend to resurface in the aftermath of disasters, with women relegated to the important but isolating role of homemaker while men focus on finances and lead community efforts.

“We found that there are many barriers that disadvantage women in the event of a disaster, leaving them behind when it comes to decision-making and potentially slowing down their recovery,” said lead author Melissa Villarreal, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology and research assistant at the Natural Hazards Centre.

The findings, published in the journal Disasters, are the latest in a series of studies that have found that women tend to have a higher perception of risk, but because they are framed as “worriers,” they are sometimes not taken seriously.

“Women seemed to have a different risk perception and desire for protective action than the men in their lives, but men often determined when and what type of action families took,” Villareal wrote. “In some cases, this put women and their families in greater danger.”

For the study, the researchers analysed in-depth interviews with 33 women and 10 men across two Texas towns.

The participants were asked about their experiences in the midst of, and the year after, the disaster. While the circumstances surrounding the events were very different, common gender-influenced patterns emerged.

“We often assume that men and women are going to respond the same way to these kinds of external stimuli but we are finding that’s not really the case,” said co-author Dr Michelle Meyer, associate professor and director of the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Centre at Texas A&M University.

Female participants also reported that recovery organizations tended to call the men of the household to find out where to direct aid, even when women had filled out the forms requesting it.

“Eliminating the male head-of-household model is crucial for speeding overall household recovery,” the authors conclude.

During recovery, women were often charged with “private sphere” tasks like putting the house back together and caring for children while schools were closed, but they often felt excluded from leadership roles in community recovery projects.

“If your perspective is not taken into consideration and you feel isolated, that can impede your mental health recovery,” said Villareal.

Villareal recently embarked on a separate study, set in Houston, looking at the unique challenges Mexican immigrant populations are facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which hit the region in 2017.

Ultimately, she would like to see government agencies consider gender differences when crafting disaster warnings, and prioritize providing childcare post-disaster so that women can play a greater role in community efforts.

“If we can put racial and gender forms of bias aside and listen to all the people tell their stories about what is affecting them, that could go a long way in helping communities recover,” said Villarreal.

This week’s follow-up on the vaping illness from the CDC says that they received complete sex and age data on 373 cases. It says two-thirds (67%) of cases have been identified in people aged 18 to 34 years, 16 per cent are younger than 18 years and only 17 per cent are 35 years or older. 72 per cent are males.

Authorities say they have still not identified a specific cause of the lung illnesses, but most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), many patients have reported using THC and nicotine and some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.

In a statement, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield encouraged people to consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products, and said efforts are needed in particular to reduce the use of e-cigarettes in young people.

Please continue to think twice before you use these devices.

Dave Swartz, writing in North Forty News, talks of Radio Station WWV, one of the oldest radio stations in the world, celebrating its 100th anniversary on 1st October 2019.  The radio station is best known for the broadcast of the national time standard, the “Atomic Clock”, which is closely synchronized with Universal Coordinated Time, or UTC.  WWV also provides frequency standards for radio communications as well as other services.

Amateur Radio operators have used WWV as a standard for radio and frequency calibration since its inception in 1919.  To recognize the historical, cultural, and scientific importance of radio communications and the critical role WWV plays, the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club and the WWV Amateur Radio Club are sponsoring a special event amateur radio station, call sign WW0WWV (that’s W -W – zero – W – W – V).

The station will make as many amateur radio contacts as possible over a 5-day, 120-hour operating period, starting at 6pm Friday, September 27, and going through 6pm on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.  The special event station will operate from the WWV site.

WWV was licensed and broadcasting a full year before the first commercial radio station in the country, KDKA in Pittsburgh. Early broadcasts were experimental in nature, but also included the first announced broadcast of music to the citizens of Washington, DC.  As commercial radio emerged, there was a need for frequency standards across the radio spectrum, and WWV filled that roll.  In 1944, WWV added the national time standard and has provided that service for the past 75 years.

We take for granted the incredible world we live in, made of matter and energy.  It’s the energy that is continually spreading out throughout the Universe, moving away from its source via electromagnetic waves at the speed of light.  It was 1865 when these waves were first theorized, and radio one of the first waves to be studied and understood.  WWV ushered in electromagnetic waves for the people and the start of the Mass Communication and Technology as we know them today.  There are only two things in the Universe:  matter and energy.  WWV is all about harnessing energy to communicate to the masses.

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

HAMNET Report 22nd September 2019

Reporting in NPR on Thursday, Allison Aubrey says that, nationwide, people who vape continue to sicken with severe and unexplained lung illness, leaving doctors and patients concerned about both the acute and long-term effects of the injuries.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that there are now 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung injury associated with vaping, a jump from 380 cases reported last week. Seven people have died.

“We at CDC are very concerned about the occurrence of life-threatening illness in otherwise healthy, young people,” said Dr Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, during a call with reporters.

She said this is an ongoing outbreak: “States continue to get new cases reported.”

The CDC has ramped up its investigation, activating its Emergency Operations Centre this week in an effort to nail down the cause of the illnesses, which remains unclear. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has enlisted the help of its office of criminal investigations, the law enforcement arm of FDA.

If you wish to read more about this alarming illness, google “Vaping Illness”, and watch the many videos posted there.

Kevin, VK2CE, notes that, since its inception in 1998 the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend has been held on the 3rd full weekend in August. The founders selected this weekend as it was the most suitable for the European and UK stations that made up the bulk of entries for the event.

Next year the 3rd full weekend is host to the 75th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific region with the 15th August, VP (Victory in the Pacific) day, falling on the Saturday of that weekend.

The organisers of the event have decided it would be inappropriate to hold the ILLW event on the 3rd full weekend of August next year, as many stations will be involved in commemorating the important anniversary of VP day, especially those bordering and within the Pacific Rim.

We trust this temporary move to the following weekend, 22-23rd August, will not inconvenience anyone.

It has also come to our notice that some stations are treating the event as a contest, by attempting to work as many stations as possible with the usual 5/9 report and moving on to the next contact. This is totally at odds with the concept of the ILLW, which is intended to be a fun weekend promoting international goodwill, lighthouses and amateur radio. Please let us know if you have contact with this type of activity and we will take appropriate action.

The 22nd annual event held last month was again very successful and enjoyed by 426 stations in 50 countries plus all of those who participated but did not register their intentions. Several new countries and lighthouses were listed this year. Feedback and photos from entrants are on the ILLW web site.

Writing in Scientific American this week, Lucas Joppa says that, if environmental reports published this year were connected to an alarm system, the sound inside the United Nation’s Manhattan headquarters would be deafening—we are facing a five-alarm fire. Myriad reports warned us we must take immediate action to ensure a sustainable supply of clean food, water and air to a human population projected to rapidly grow to 10 billion, all while stemming a globally catastrophic loss of biodiversity and averting the worst economic impacts of a changing climate.

The news was devastating, but not unexpected. The specificity around the short window of time to act was, however. The world’s leading environmental scientists have spoken, and the message is clear: The best time to act was yesterday, so we better start today. The task is much bigger and time is way shorter than previously thought.

While the science says we very likely have no more than 420 gigatons of carbon left to spend, emissions steadily continue to rise every year. Just last year, over 42 gigatons was emitted. That gives us no more than 10 years before we must begin to operate as a carbon neutral planet. Unfortunately, discussions and commitments have yet to translate into measurable change.

And change we must. At stake is not only the health of our planet, but the incredible social and economic progress seen across the world for at least the past 150 years. It’s not surprising that many found themselves glumly nodding in agreement to Jonathan Franzen’s recent article in the New Yorker, titled “What If We Stopped Pretending?”

But fatalism never solved a problem. What does is a formula that has been repeated over centuries of human society—when faced with existential challenges, we have successfully and consistently tackled major societal problems through the simple summation of hard work, progressive governance and technological innovation.

This ideal is what we must embrace in the era of climate change. While people are mobilizing and governments are meeting, what is missing is the third leg of the stool. Investment in technology solutions aimed at environmental outcomes is sorely needed to accelerate the pace, scale and effectiveness of our response to climate change.

The epitome of the innovation we need is best understood as a “planetary computer.” A planetary computer will borrow from the approach of today’s internet search engines, and extend beyond them in the form of a geospatial decision engine that supports queries about the environmental status of the planet, programmed with algorithms to optimize its health. Think of this less as a giant computer in a stark white room and more of an approach to computing that is planetary in scale and allows us to query every aspect of environmental and nature-based solutions available in real time.

We currently lack that data, compute power and scalability to do so. Only when we have a massive amount of planetary data and compute at a similar scale, can we begin to answer one of the most complex questions ever posed—how do we manage the earth’s natural resources equitably and sustainably to ensure a prosperous and climate-stable future?

An imponderable question, which will indeed have to be answered.

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

HAMNET Report 15th September

Jon Excell, writing in The Engineer, says that LiFi, an emerging wireless technology that enables users to send and receive data in beams of LED light, will help overcome the limitations of radio frequency communications

In today’s connected world, wireless data has become a critical utility: an invisible element of our modern infrastructure that increasingly underpins many of the services upon which we rely.

And as we deploy connected devices in ever-greater numbers, and embrace emerging technologies such as autonomous systems, the internet of things and virtual reality (VR), the demand for wireless connectivity is expected to increase exponentially.

But there’s a problem. The radio spectrum upon which much of our connectivity depends is getting crowded and some fear that our insatiable appetite for data will ultimately lead to a ‘spectrum crunch’ that will soon crash our communications networks, rendering many of our fancy new technologies useless.

Against this backdrop, unlocking new levels of data and bandwidth is a priority, and one area of technology that looks set to play a major role in addressing this challenge is Li-Fi, an emerging wireless optical networking technology that enables data to be transmitted over short distances via the rapid and, to the human eye, imperceptible modulation of LED light bulbs.

Pioneered almost a decade ago by Edinburgh University’s Prof Harald Haas, the technology has some compelling advantages. For a start, the data spectrum for visible light is 1,000 times greater than the RF spectrum so there’s more capacity to drive bigger bandwidths and higher data rates. Li-Fi developers have already demonstrated speeds of 224Gbps in laboratory conditions and expect 1Gbps or above – around 100 times faster than conventional Wi-Fi – to become the norm.

What’s more, because data can be contained within a tight area of illumination, there’s little risk of interference and it’s also highly secure: while radio waves penetrate through walls and can be intercepted, a beam of light is confined.

Haas first caught the headlines with the technology following a 2011 TED talk in which he demonstrated how a standard LED lamp could be used to transmit high-resolution video directly to a receiver placed just beneath the bulb.

In the years following this jaw-dropping illustration of the technology in action, Li-Fi has begun making waves beyond the academic research space, with a number of organisations already commercialising the technology, and a growing number of companies supporting research into what is increasingly being viewed as a key emerging sector.

So, watch this space, if you’ll pardon the pun, for more detail and data!

In a follow up to the mention I made in the HAMNET Bulletin of 1st of September, about the dangerous lung disease occurring in persons using Vape Devices, the website univadis.co.za has noted that the FDA has issued a warning against purchase of all illegal (street) vaping products and urges consumers to refrain from using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil or modifying/adding substances to purchased products.

New York State (NYS) public health officials have announced that laboratory testing links recent vaping-associated pulmonary illnesses to high levels of vitamin E acetate in cannabis-containing products.

The FDA also states that although there are not enough data to unequivocally implicate vitamin E acetate, it believes that prudence and avoidance of inhaling THC are warranted.

A second, and possibly third, death has been reported and linked to the use of unregulated substances in the vape devices.

So please heed these warnings, if you use such devices. I hope you don’t!

Spaceweather.com reports that another interstellar visitor appears to be passing through the solar system–and this time it’s definitely a comet. Ukrainian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered the object, now named C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), approaching from beyond the orbit of Mars on Aug. 30th.

Based on observations gathered since Borisov discovered the distant fuzzball, the comet seems to be following a hyperbolic orbit with an eccentricity greater than 3.5. This means the comet is unbound to the sun. Indeed, it is moving some 30.7 km/s (68,700 mph) too fast for the sun’s gravity to hang onto it. Comet Borisov is a first time visitor to the inner solar system, and after this flyby it will return to deep space.

Comet Borisov will make its closest approach to the sun (2 AU) around Dec. 7th. Three weeks later, near the end of December, it will make its closest approach to Earth (also 2 AU). At the moment the comet is very dim, around magnitude +18. How bright it may become by December is anyone’s guess.

The first known interstellar object to visit our solar system, ‘Oumuamua, caused a sensation when it was discovered racing away from the sun in late 2017. Speculation about its nature ranged from an alien spacecraft to a fossil exocomet. Astronomers still aren’t sure what it was. Comet Borisov, on the other hand, appears to have a fuzzy atmosphere (a “coma”) and perhaps a stubby tail — signs that it really is a comet.

Because Comet Borisov is still just entering the solar system, astronomers will have plenty of time to study it in the months ahead.

UK investigators have revealed that reluctance to use a cockpit cup-holder resulted in coffee being spilled over control panels on an Airbus A330, causing substantial radio communications problems and forcing a diversion.

The A330-200 had been operating from Frankfurt to Cancun on 6 February this year.

It had commenced the transatlantic crossing when the cockpit crew was served coffee in cups without lids. While Airbus recommends using the cup-holder, the size of cups used by the carrier on the route made lifting them from the holder difficult.

The crew naturally tended to place cups on the fold-out table in front of them – making them “vulnerable” to being knocked over.

The coffee on the A330 captain’s table was spilled, with a small amount falling on the left-hand audio control panel, which immediately malfunctioned and subsequently failed. Some 20min later the first officer’s corresponding control panel also became hot and failed – although the precise reason for this was not clear.

VHF radio transmissions and public-address announcements were affected by the malfunctions and the captain chose to divert to Shannon, with the precautionary use of cockpit oxygen masks owing to electrical smoke emanating from the panel.

None of the 326 passengers and 11 crew members on board the jet was injured.

But the carrier subsequently changed its procedures to ensure cup lids were provided on all routes, says the inquiry, and has sought to obtain “appropriately-sized” cups for cockpit cup-holders.

Thanks to FlightGlobal for this shortened report.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  cautiously moving his cup of coffee away from the face of his VHF/UHF dualbander, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 8th September 2019

Writing in USA TODAY on Friday, Doyle Rice noted that, as Hurricane Dorian moved away from the United States, it’s now certain that the storm’s lasting legacy will be its slow, torturous rampage as a Category 5 monster across the Bahamas over the Labour Day weekend, which left dozens dead and unimaginable destruction.

With sustained winds of 185 mph [296 kph], Dorian was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Bahamas since records began in 1851.

It was also the first Category 5 to make landfall on Grand Bahama Island, and, at 185 mph [296 kph], was the strongest hurricane on record to hit Abaco Island.

What was even more stunning was its slow path across the Bahamas: According to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, Dorian tracked only about 25 miles [40 km] in 24 hours – the shortest distance tracked by an Atlantic major hurricane in a 24-hour period since Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters said that “portions of (Dorian’s) eyewall lashed Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands with Category 5 winds for a total of 22 hours before the great hurricane finally weakened to Category 4 strength.

“In records going back over a century, there are no cases where an Atlantic Category 5 hurricane has impacted a land area for as long as Dorian battered the Bahamas,” Masters said.

At least 30 people are reported dead in the Bahamas and the death toll is expected to rise significantly. Property losses in the Bahamas could hit $7 billion.

The storm also left its mark in the record books in other ways:

As of Friday, with its landfall in North Carolina, Dorian has been a hurricane for a total of nine days. This is longer than most Atlantic storms: Klotzbach said that only about 10% of all Atlantic hurricanes last longer than eight days.

While this may seem like a lot, it’s still a long way from the record of 19.5 days, which was set by Hurricane Ginger in 1971, according to Klotzbach. Ginger took a long and loopy path around the Atlantic before finally making landfall in North Carolina in late September 1971.

In addition, Dorian has been a named storm for 13 days, which includes its first few days as a tropical storm. That places it in a tie for 5th place for most storm days by an Atlantic hurricane that formed in August, Klotzbach said.

Because of the death and destruction caused by Dorian, the storm’s name will almost certainly be retired by the World Meteorological Organization; the United Nations’ group that determines which hurricane names will be used in upcoming years.

A nation hardest hit by a storm can request its name be removed because the storm was so deadly or costly that future use of the name would be insensitive. The names of two of last year’s most destructive storms – Florence and Michael – were retired by the WMO earlier this year.

Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon’s news was that the Hurricane Watch net suspended activities at 16h00 UTC on Friday, because Dorian had inched away from the North Carolina coast, and been downgraded to a Category One storm, with sustained windspeeds near 145 kph.

Here’s an encouraging report from univadis.co.za about the ongoing battle of misinformation, with regard to vaccinations of all kinds.

A major social media platform has announced that it will only display authoritative vaccine information to its users, as part of efforts to tackle health misinformation.

Last year, Pinterest stopped showing results for searches related to vaccines as a way to prevent people from encountering harmful health misinformation. Now, the social media platform has announced it is introducing a new experience so that when users search for terms such as vaccine safety or other related health terms, they will only receive reliable results about vaccination from leading public health organisations.

The move has been welcomed by the WHO, whose Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he hopes to see other social media platforms around the world following Pinterest’s lead.

“Misinformation about vaccination has spread far and fast on social media platforms in many different countries, including during critical vaccination campaigns like those for polio in Pakistan or yellow fever in South America.

“Social media platforms are the way many people get their information and they will likely be major sources of information for the next generations of parents. We see this as a critical issue and one that needs our collective effort to protect people’s health and lives,” Dr Tedros said.

Finally, Krugersdorp News reports that, if disaster strikes and the world finds itself on the brink of destruction, radio communication may be the only way of getting the message out when all other systems fail.

Okay, so maybe that’s the worst-case scenario and it probably won’t happen. Learning radio communication skills and writing the international exam can still be very important, however. The disaster scenario was one of the many reasons Geoff Levey, ZS6C, from the West Rand Amateur Radio Club (WRARC) brought up for why it’s important for people to take up the hobby of, as they name it, amateur radio.

Young Clarissa Clarke, ZS6LIS, who knows all about the important uses of the international radio system, most of all enjoys connecting to people from all over the world.

Although the ever-increasing ease of accessibility to cell-phones and the internet has put a damper on the widespread use of radio as a means of communication, there has recently been a relative explosion of interest among members of the community, who are taking this up as a hobby. Clarissa is one of the many young people who found an interest in radio communication when she joined WRARC three years ago, following in her father’s footsteps.

At 21, Clarissa can build a complex radio system from scratch, and fully understands how to connect to any radio system around the world. She enjoys spending her time talking to people from across the globe. Sometimes these friends establish a radio time and frequency beforehand, and sometimes she meets new and interesting people by randomly accessing channels.

Last year, Clarissa participated in the Youngsters On The Air (YOTA) conference when it was hosted in South Africa. This year, she was chosen as one of only two youngsters to travel to Bulgaria from 10th to 17th August to participate in this year’s YOTA conference.

YOTA, in IARU Region 1, is a shining example of what value amateur radio can add to the lives of tomorrow’s leaders of society.

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

HAMNET Report 1st SEPTEMBER 2019

Alister van Tonder, ZS1OK, has provided us with a summary of the activities of HAMNET members during a recent event. He writes:

A team of six HAMNET operators provided communications support at the Wildrunner Kogelberg event on Saturday, 10th of August.  The team consisted of: Matt ZS1MTF and Grant ZS1GRC as team 1, Ian ZS1OSK and Ann ZS1AMS as team 2 and Douw ZS1DGK and Alister ZS1OK at the base.

When things run smoothly during the event, and it is a brilliant spring day with hardly a breath of wind, compared to last year when the jumping castle ended up in the breakers due to strong winds and tents had to be taken down for safety reasons, this year ran smoothly and effective updates and feedback were provided.  As usual team 1 always have a bit of a runabout from their initial position to a site with a superb view over Kleinmond and the sea.

As before, cellular APRS was utilized to track the XL-route and Long route sweeps, who had the responsibility to ensure that no runners were left behind on the track. As a result, they were the last to return to the finish line.  Having this information on hand, and being able to track the other HAMNET operators via APRS ensured race control was always informed of vital movements of support staff.  Having the positions available and accessible on APRS ensured all operators were informed of all the activity relevant to the event.  While using an RF iGate/Digi would be possible, 95% of the route has good GSM coverage and would not warrant the risk of the iGate/Digi being stolen, or requiring an additional operator just to keep an eye on it.

The briefing session commenced at 06:45 in the morning and the team stood down at 14:35.  This was Grant ZS1GRC’s first opportunity to assist at one of these trail events, although he previously also assisted at the Two Oceans Marathon.

Thank you to all of you, and especially Alister, for keeping HAMNET’s flag flying high.

Now we move to the Caribbean, where ARRL news reports that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has been closely watching the progress of Hurricane Dorian and activated on Saturday at 2100 UTC, and will remain in continuous operation on 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz.

Over the past 24 hours, the hurricane’s forecast track has shifted slightly, which will take the storm over the northern Bahamas before it strikes south-eastern Florida.

As of 1500 UTC on Friday, Dorian was some 760 km east of the north-western Bahamas and about 1000 km east of West Palm Beach, Florida. Maximum sustained winds were 176 kph (making it a Category 2 hurricane) and moving to the northwest at 16 kph.

“The new forecast track does not look good,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, observed. “The Bahamas are forecast for a direct hit late this (Sunday) afternoon when Dorian is a Category 4 hurricane. Next stop is currently forecast to be near West Palm Beach as a strong Category 3 hurricane.” Graves said that after it makes landfall, Dorian is expected to turn to the northwest and move up Florida’s east coast.

“No matter the location of landfall, suffice it to say that, unless something major changes, a huge area of Florida will be impacted by this storm,” Graves said.

According to the National Hurricane Centre:

  • Life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely in portions of the north-western Bahamas, where a hurricane watch is in effect. Residents should execute their hurricane plans and heed advice from local emergency officials.
  • Life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the Florida east coast by early this coming week, but it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge and winds will occur. Residents should have hurricane plans in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials.
  • A prolonged period of storm surge, high winds, and rain is likely in portions of Florida into this week, including the possibility of hurricane-force winds over inland portions of the Florida peninsula.
  • Heavy rains are expected over portions of the Bahamas, Florida, and elsewhere in the south-eastern United States this weekend and into the middle of the coming week.

ARRL Headquarters remains in monitoring mode and has been in regular contact with ARRL’s partner agencies.  Thank you to ARRL News for this report.

Now, here’s bad news for those who use vapour inhaling devices in place of cigarettes.

Authorities in the United States are investigating around 150 cases of severe lung disease which they believe could be linked to e-cigarette use or vaping.

Between 28th June and 20th August this year, at least 149 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use were reported by 15 states, primarily among adolescents and young people.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in many of the cases, patients reported a gradual start of symptoms including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases additionally reported mild-to-moderate gastrointestinal illness and fatigue.

In a statement, the CDC said available evidence does not suggest that an infectious disease is the principle cause of the illness. While a cause has not yet been identified, all reported cases had used e-cigarette products or had been vaping.

It also noted that in many cases, patients acknowledged the recent use of tetrahydrocannabinol-containing products (marijuana); however, it said no specific product has been identified in all cases, nor has any product been conclusively linked to illnesses.

“Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations,” the CDC said.

In a subsequent news release mentioned on the same website, Robert R Redford MD, Director of the CDC said:

“We are saddened to hear of the first death related to the outbreak of severe lung disease in those who use e-cigarette or “vaping” devices. CDC’s investigation is ongoing. We are working with state and local health departments and FDA to learn the cause or causes of this ongoing outbreak.

“This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products. Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms – including flavourings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents. CDC has been warning about the identified and potential dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping since these devices first appeared. E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

Thanks to Univadis.co.za for these notes of warning.

And, in late news just handed to me, Icom Japan has surprised the amateur fraternity with the announcement of a small HF/VHF/UHF SDR transceiver putting out 10 watts, and called the IC-705. Look out for it on YouTube channels and Icom announcements. And remember, you heard it here first.

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