REPORT 27 November 2016

The Earthquake off the shores of Japan on Monday the 21st November at 22h59 our time did not attract much attention. Originally described as a magnitude 7.3 quake, it was downgraded the next day to 6.9, and, being offshore at a depth of 10 kilometres, only 329000 people were within 100km of it. The original tsunami warning of a 3 metre wave, was also downgraded to a 1 metre swell, and so damage was mild and there was no loss of life, thankfully. Seven aftershocks of intensity more than 4.6 were reported in the next 24 hours. And interestingly, the Japanese Meteorology Agency says that the earth displacement from the earthquake has increased to 1.6 metres. This means the entire island of Japan has moved 1.6 metres from where it was previously located!

At the same time, Nicaragua and Costa Rica in the central Caribbean, have been suffering damage at the hands of Tropical Cyclone Otto. IARU Region One has received the following information from Cesar Pio Santos HR2P about preparations for Tropical Storm Otto. The storm will be threatening Nicaragua and Costa Rica through the remainder of this week. The Nicaraguan Government has raised the alert level for parts of the country to prepare for the storm and the Radio Experimenters Club of Nicaragua (CREN) is also activating their National Emergency Network on the following frequencies; 7098 Main Frequency 7105 Alternate Frequency 3798 Primary Frequency 3805 Alternate Frequency 146,520 Simplex The Radio Club of Costa Rica is also activating their Network on 7080kHz as an emergency frequency starting at 00:00 UTC 23 November.

At 22h43 local time on Thursday evening, we received news that Costa Rica had moved its primary frequency to 7082.5kHz because of interference from digital mode signals. Radio Amateurs are requested to listen carefully before transmitting and avoid causing QRM to emergency traffic on those frequencies. Thank you to Greg Mossop G0DUB for passing on that news.

In Frankfort, Free State, a search played itself out for the wife of one of our fellow hams on Tuesday evening and Wednesday of this week. Francois Botha ZS6BUU placed a notice on the Hamnet FaceBook page, and followed it up with further detail and a picture of the lady. She had apparently gone missing at 20h40 on Tuesday evening, and Rickus de Lange ZS4A, Provincial Director of HAMNET Free State asked Francois to help. Very fortunately, she was found on Wednesday morning by 11h00. Her very relieved husband informed Rickus that all was well, and, whether HAMNET’s involvement in any way contributed to her safety or not, we are very grateful to Rickus and Francois for being able to circulate the details and aid in the search.

The drought in South Africa continues, and South Africans are respectfully requested to think twice before opening a tap and wasting water. The dam summary for the week looks dismal, with percentages full as follows: Eastern Cape dams 61% full, with 77% this time last year, Free State 51% compared to 64% last year, Gauteng 83% compared to 81%, Kwazulu-Natal 42% compared to 56%, Lesotho at 38% compared to 68% last year, Limpopo 45% compared to 68%, Mpumulanga 50% compared to 66%, North West 57% compared to 51%, Northern Cape 53% compared to 70%, and the Western Cape 56% compared to 65% full last year at this time!

In contrast, the far North Western corner of the Northern Cape was battered by a very strange storm system on Tuesday evening. Cobus van Baalen ZR3CVB, of HAMNET’s Northen Cape Division, sent me some dramatic photos and a write-up of the storms that struck Port Nolloth. They were hit by two severe windstorms within an hour of each other, one at 18h30 lasting 30 minutes, and another at 20h00, also lasting about 30 minutes. The weather station at the lighthouse registered a wind shear of 156 kph, and roofs were torn off buildings in town and huge trees uprooted. The photos show pieces of corrugated iron torn off roofs and twisted up like bits of wet spaghetti in the streets.

Then, at about 21h00, a third storm struck with winds of about 60kph, and pelting rain which lasted half an hour before clearing completely, leaving a still evening and a clear sky! A large amount of damage was caused to the town, and the inhabitants continue to lick their wounds. It seems Division Three does nothing in halves!

Division Six should be on the receiving end of large amounts of rain at this time, but the weather-watchers there anxiously scan the skies for signs of developing storm clouds. There’s not much yet, although you’ll notice that Gauteng dams have increased their water level by 2% compared to this time last year, one of only two provinces to show a bit of promise. We’re having our share of strong South-Easters here in the Western Cape, so we’re doing our best to send you the rain, folks. Meanwhile, if you individually have any clever rain-dances which you know to work, please invoke them now!

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

REPORT 20 November 2016

We received the following about New Zealand’s earthquakes last weekend from Greg, G0DUB IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Co-Ordinator:

“A strong 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand at 1103UTC 13 November ( just after Midnight local time ) causing damage and local tsunami alerts, mainly for the East coast of the country. The local emergency communications group AREC, part of NZART, are believed to have been operating on their normal frequency of 3.900MHz USB. Initial media reports are of property damage over a wide area but the situation will not become clear until daybreak and the end of the possible Tsunami threat. Radio Amateurs in the area with allocations around 3.900 MHz are encouraged to listen carefully and avoid QRM to any ongoing work by AREC”.

And in another report, this one from Amateur Radio Newsline’s Jim Meachen, I quote:

“Thousands of people have been left stranded on a devastated landscape in New Zealand which was shattered by (another) 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Monday the 14th of November. With a state of emergency declared in the Canterbury region, hardest hit by the quake, emergency response has included an international array of naval vessels. Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee told the New Zealand Herald that offers of help were accepted from the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore. The fleet of rescue ships includes the first United States warship to visit New Zealand in 33 years.

“While there was no formal activation of Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (AREC), hams in the public service arm of the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters remained vigilant in monitoring traffic on the bands as officials continued to assess the massive damage to roads and buildings.

“The quake, which caused extensive damage in Kaikoura and Culverden, killed at least two persons.

“One local ham, Ken Duffy ZL4KD, told Amateur Radio Newsline in an email that he activated the local Christchurch repeater to listen for emergency and damage reports shortly after the first quake struck. He remained on the air through the series of aftershocks that occurred. Ken wrote that the affected area included a large rural region with few active hams, but the damage was significant.

“Ken said AREC could not gain access to many of the affected areas because of the severity of the road damage. As Amateur Radio Newsline went to production, hams continued to monitor frequencies while they awaited word from government agencies on their offer to step in during the rescue effort”. End quote.

In my own observation of the Global Disaster website, I note that at least 50 aftershocks with magnitude greater than 4.5 were measured between Sunday lunchtime and Thursday of this week, so the tectonic plates have not settled down there yet.

And here, in our corner of the world, Mozambique was hit by a magnitude 4.6 earthquake yesterday (Saturday) morning at 05h31 our time. The shock occurred at a depth of 10km in an area populated by 495000 people within 100km of the epicentre, about half way between the port of Beira and the lowest tip of Malawi. The potential for major damage and loss of life is not very great, and by yesterday afternoon, few reports of damage had been received. Let’s hope the situation doesn’t get worse.

In the Western Cape, Regional Director Grant Southey ZS1GS is continuing his campaign to reinvigorate the HAMNET members who commonly assist during rescue operations managed by Wilderness Search and Rescue in the greater Peninsula, as well as those who have developed inertia, and not responded to invitations to attend meetings or help when asked to do so. Grant is planning a “think-tank meeting” at the beginning of next year to plan strategies for the coming year.

HAMNET’s sole reason for existing is to be of assistance to our fellow South Africans, when communications help is asked for. The reason we have radios is to try and make contact with others, and yet most of our radios stand unused and cold. One of the truths of modern society is that the easiest activity to pursue is the entertainment or information gleaned from one’s cell phone or computer internet connection. Trolling the web looking for things to amuse one is easy and doesn’t require much thinking, and so we tend to lapse into a state where the only exercise we get, mental or physical, is in the use of the remote, or the mouse!

Amateur radio suffers as a result, because we couldn’t be bothered to plan that new antenna system, or try calling CQ on the bands, or use that fancy dual band cross-band-repeat high power VHF/UHF mobile radio in the double cab or 4×4 vehicle we have that could be put to immense use helping someone in trouble, or assisting at a sporting venue or community activity. The good feeling one gets out of doing something for someone else, and not asking for reward or favour, is the greatest.

And even though the solar flux figures are poor, VHF and higher frequencies still work perfectly, so there’s no reason to ignore all those expensive rigs you’ve installed at home and in your vehicle. I’m sure all HAMNET directors would join Grant in appealing to new as well as long-standing radio amateurs, to consider coming forward to help, and recover the enthusiasm they had when they first received their call-signs. The holiday season will bring its share of victims needing rescuing, and the new year has lots of sporting events occurring early in the year, so we look forward to having you join in. Thank you very much.

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

Rescue – Landroskloof – 12 November 2016

Saturday 12 November was the turn of this years 6th group of grade 9 scholars from Somerset College to hike the Landroskloof section of the annual Somerset Trek.  Each year, members of the HH section of the Mountain Club of South Africa accompany the learners on this section of their adventure.  On Saturday, Johann Wiid ZS1JHW, was one of the two rescue team members accompanying the group.

The group departed the MCSA Johnson Hut at around 7am in cool conditions.  About two and a half hours into the hike, one of the learners sustained a knee injury that prevented her from continuing or turning back.  The standard rescue plan was immediately activated by the two rescuers with the group.  Luckily the group was still about 300m below the cloud level and so, after consultation with the EMS rescue manager on duty, the AMS Skymed rescue helicopter was recalled from and air-sea rescue exercise in Melkbosstrand and dispatched to the scene.  Paul ZS1V responded to the WSAR callout sent by Johann ZS1JM, and secured a landing zone for the helicopter near the gates of the Vergelegen farm.

A technical rescuer and a paramedic were hoisted down to the patient.  After consultation between Paul and Skymed, the LZ was moved to the Helderberg Nature Reserve.  This is further away from the scene, but more familiar to the helicopter crew.   

Since the weather was worsening, the remainder of the group of 20 hikers turned around and proceeded back down to the Johnson Hut.  Unfortunately, a second hiker suffered an ankle injury on the way back down.  After the first patient was extracted, the technical rescuer and paramedic were relocated lower down the kloof to prepare the second casualty for extraction.

The second patient, paramedic and technical rescuer were all subsequently extracted to the Helderberg Nature Reserve and a waiting ambulance transported the casualties to hospital.  Standdown at 13.00.

Rescue – Newlands Ravine 13 November 2016

At 18h02 a callout to Newlands Ravine to assist a party of 3 stuck on a ledge was issued. I (Phil – ZS1VCC) was activated at 18h14 for logistics/comms support.

Upon my arrival in Newlands forest at ±19h00, I located Metro1 but all 3 Metro rescue technicians had deployed into the mountain as a hasty team. With permission from the Metro rescuers (obtained via the radio), I proceeded to open and setup Metro 1 and established comms with the team. I was joined by the MCSA field manager a little while later, and soon thereafter by additional MCSA and HN members. The hasty team located the party at 19:43, and by 19h50 had completed their assessment, indicating no injuries and that no additional assistance was required. They proceeded to walk the patients down (which was actually a party of 4, 3 males + 1 female aged 18-19 yrs). The party was met by myself at the entrance to the contour path hiking trail, and transported down to Metro1 with the additional assistance of the Metro bakkie. All teams were logged back in at 21h42 and debriefed. Patients were collected by parent(s).

The rescue was attended by HAMNET, MCSA, HN and SANParks personnel, and additional support was provided by NCC duty members at the forestry station.

Report compiled by Phil Van Den Bossche

REPORT 13 November 2016

News from Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN is that on Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th November, Hamnet Gauteng South assisted with radio communications at the Carnival City MacSteel Cycle races held South of the Carnival City Casino. This is organised annually by the Germiston Rotary Club and the Germiston Wheelers.

The Saturday consisted of a 30km and 60km Mountain Bike Race from Carnival City South into the rural areas bounded by the R23, R550, and “North Boundary Rd” in Springs. Due to terrain and arguably the largest mine dump in Gauteng shielding a large part of the course from the nearest repeater, it was necessary to deploy the 70cm portable repeater in a suitable position in the field which was eventually near water table 1. The Hamnet trailer was set up as the VOCC / JOCC next to the support services of Helivac and Road Rangers. Communications on the day were excellent and the team was able to get help to affected persons or areas very quickly. In total, 15 HAMNET members assisted on the day.

On Sunday, the road race, a pre qualifier for the 94.7 cycle race, was held. This comprised 65km, 103km and 125km races on the roads mentioned above as well as into Heidelberg, past Nigel and back to Carnival City. The event turned out to be quite eventful for the Hamnet members with a number of issues needing to be addressed during the course of the event. Very unfortunately, there was one fatality due to natural causes, which required Leon (ZS6LMG) to be in constant attendance to arrange the necessary paperwork and transfers.

At the end of the day, 23 operators worked at the event, again providing assistance and passing critical information. Thank you Glynn for that contribution.

The dawn of so-called “smart” — or cognitive — radio has presented Amateur Radio with an opportunity to regain the leading edge in radio technology in the near future. It will also alter our view of spectrum as a limited resource. Those points and others were part of a Sunday Seminar presentation, by Michelle Thompson, W5NYV, and Bob McGwier, N4HY, at the 2016 ARRL and TAPR Digital Communications Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. Thompson heads the AMSAT Ground Terminal Team, a component of the Phase 4B geosynchronous satellite project. McGwier is chief scientist at the Hume Centre for National Security and Technology at Virginia Tech.

Thompson said cognitive radio technology will alter the paradigm of treating spectrum as if it were land. “Spectrum is immediately reusable, and land is not. Regulation and spectrum allocation have been necessary to manage interference among services, but smart radios can avoid collisions amongst users,” she said.

“It has only been fairly recently that we’ve been able inexpensively and quickly to reconfigure a radio,” she said. Thompson’s Phase 4B project will take maximum advantage of cognitive radio technology, which can — amongst other things — determine an optimal clear frequency, mode, and path on the fly, transparently, and without human intervention.

McGwier called the computer “the tidal wave that has swept over Amateur Radio.” And, he predicted, “It is going to bring us back to becoming technical innovators.” He said radio amateurs “are uniquely situated to be the leading edge in radio again.”

McGwier said the innovation needed in Amateur Radio will come about through what he called “Amateur Radio freedom,” that encourages experimentation and thinking outside the box. “It’s the ultimate democratic assignment of frequencies in the world,” he said.

He painted a picture of intelligent radio technology that will operate like the human brain. “It’s going to design the radio on the fly, from scratch, without a subject-matter expert involved,” he said. “The communication activity will be done by artificial intelligence, from beginning to end. The object becomes not the radio, but the activity it allows.”

Responding to a question, McGwier conceded that today’s hams may balk at this sort of paradigm shift, since it’s far removed from how most Amateur Radio communication takes place today. But, he said, embracing smart radio technology is what will attract a younger generation of new hams.

“We must not limit what young people can do with Amateur Radio,” he maintained. “They are going to outdo us, if we only allow them. We can’t limit them, because this is a fundamental paradigm shift.”

Thank you to the ARRL Letter for this excerpt.

In a message from Grant Southey ZS1GS, Regional Director of HAMNET Western Cape, he says ”We are coming up to the busy period for rescues and, with it being holiday period, many people go away at this time of year. There are times when we will require operators to respond to rescues and so we are asking that anyone who has possibly become dormant try to get involved again.

“If you are considering joining WSAR or are in the process of doing what is required please contact me so that we can see how to speed the process up.”

Grant says “I am updating the operators details with WSAR so if your details have changed of late please let me have the new cell numbers etc. Please also let me know if you are going to be available for call outs over December & January so that I can gauge our numbers. If you are away for part of the time it would also be good to know.” Thank you for the reminder, Grant.

HAMNET South Africa notes with regret the resignation from the SARL of Vonnie Oelofse, admin officer at SARL headquarters, thanks her most sincerely for all she has done to facilitate smooth functioning of HAMNET in the regions, and wishes her well in the future. We will surely miss her.

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


Hamnet Eastern Cape Mountain Club exercise – report back

20161105_104608Hamnet Eastern Cape was approached by the Search and Rescue (S&R) team of the Eastern Cape branch of the Mountain Club of South Africa to assist in a training exercise by providing a communications network over the Groendal nature reserve outside Port Elizabeth.

The event took place on 5 and 6 November, with the Eastern Cape Hamnet team only being needed for the Saturday.

The idea of the exercise was to get various role players together to get on a first name basis with each other and to establish needs and resources. Hamnet Eastern Cape, along with some members of PEARS, provided radio communications over the entire Groendal nature reserve – linking teams on the ground to the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) and the other teams – wherever they were deployed.

20161105_095431This was achieved by deploying two cross-band repeaters – VHF simplex to the teams on the ground and linked by UHF. This gave the mountain club the ability to talk directly to teams involved in the exercise – wherever they were deployed.

The day started with everyone meeting at the Rooikraans picnic area in Groendal at 07h30. As soon as the helicopters (2 BK helicopters) arrived, the Hamnet members going to deploy the repeater network were loaded and deployed. Within minutes of us being dropped off at the various sites we had comms up and signal checks done. Signal reports suggested we had the perfect spots for the repeaters.

20161105_164634While this was happening, a JOC was setup – giving the mountain club maps of the area and radio hams to keep everyone in touch.  four hams operated the radios in the JOC relaying messages to and from the event organisers/JOC control.

After some additional training (how to enter and disembark a helicopter) the teams were ready to be deployed to various sections of the reserve. The exercise involved the teams (or sticks as they are called in S&R lingo) being dropped off, establishing their coordinates and sending in reports – everything from location to weather and visibility. Some basic drills for spotting were done and then it was getting a helicopter to pick them up and return to base.  The teams had to identify a safe Landing Zone (LZ) set up a windsock of sorts and navigate the pilot to their location using any and all means at their disposal.20161105_104450

As mentioned, radio hams  assisted in the JOC – relaying messages on behalf of the organizers. This gave a good sense of radio procedure to the teams who soon followed suit. Tactical call signs were used where appropriate and members within the teams rotated the responsibility of reporting in on the radio.

The two pilots (Havoc and Sandman) fitted in as if they were part of the team for ages! JOC and the teams can only say a huge THANK YOU to the pilots (and their engineers) for a totally top class performance.

20161105_095453Late in the afternoon, the exercise was suspended and the repeater network removed. The hams then “stood down” – meaning that we packed up and went home.



The mountain club and air force were to continue on the Sunday with some drills – hoists and more advanced helicopter work.

Talking purely from a radio perspective the communications network established was adequate, deployed in minimal time and stood up to the task at hand. It should also be said that as a team we were stretched in terms of equipment and it would be great to have a few more “repeater-in-a-box” solutions. If the area had been bigger, we might not have been able to cover it adequately.

This event was also registered as a training exercise with SARL and we believe it was hugely beneficial.

REPORT 6 November 2016

A new disaster management command vehicle was unveiled in Durban on Tuesday, which the eThekwini Municipality hopes will assist authorities during emergencies.

Mayor Zandile Gumede said “As a municipality, we felt it necessary to acquire this state-of-the-art vehicle, as it will be instrumental in helping us better to manage and prevent emergency incidents from escalating into disasters.

“We will also use it as a joint operations centre when events are hosted in areas where there are no CCTV cameras. As we work towards our vision of being Africa’s most caring and liveable city by 2030, we continue to look for new and innovative ways of ensuring that we deliver high-quality services to our communities”.

Inside the vehicle is a driver console with cameras, a mini-boardroom with telephones and DSTV, a WiFi connection, a mini-kitchen, a lighting mask, CCTV equipment, a server room and an operational centre with 12 consoles. It can accommodate six people who will be able to give strategic direction on how any emergency incident should be handled, while monitoring it.

The mayor said the eThekwini Municipality was the first municipality in KwaZulu-Natal to own such a vehicle, which could also be used in the fight against crime.

“A lot has been done to improve the lives of our people. However, we will still do more. In the near future we plan to procure other, smaller mobile units that will help us to manage and monitor emergency incidents and other ­activities effectively and speedily”, she said. The command vehicle has been planned in a way that it will be able to have access to, and the capability of being stationed in, any area of eThekwini, including rural areas.

Keith Howes, ZS5WFD, of HAMNET KZN, says he will be arranging a visit for HAMNET KZN members, once the final technical installations have been completed and will then be able to provide better photographs. Thank you Keith.

The elderly have a greater risk of developing dementia after a natural disaster, researchers say.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the loss of property and loved ones in the aftermath of a natural disaster increases the symptoms of dementia in the elderly.

The study looked at the elderly victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami and found that people 65 and older who lost their homes were much more likely to experience increased symptoms of dementia than those who were able to remain in their homes.

“In the aftermath of disasters, most people focus on mental health issues like PTSD,” said Dr Hiroyuki Hikichi, a research fellow at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study, according to Reuters. “But our study tends to suggest that cognitive decline is just as important. It appears that relocation to a temporary shelter after a disaster may have the unintended effect of separating people not just from their homes but from their neighbours — and both may speed up cognitive decline among vulnerable people.”

The earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011 generated a devastating tsunami that was observed all over the Pacific and caused tremendous devastation locally, including an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The researchers, working alongside colleagues in Japan, used the data of 3,594 elderly residents in the coastal city of Iwanuma, which is approximately 70 km from the epicentre of the earthquake.

According to the study, the initial survey examined the subjects’ health status, health behaviours, and the prevalent symptoms of dementia. At the time, 4.1 percent of the participants assessed had symptoms of dementia.

A second survey was conducted by the Harvard team on the same participants two-and-a-half years after the tsunami. The survey revealed that, out of 3,566 survivors of the tsunami disaster, 38 percent reported that they lost relatives and/or friends and 58.9 percent reported property damage.

The second survey revealed that the number of participants suffering symptoms of dementia had jumped to 11.5 percent and the prevalence of hypertension had risen to 57.2 percent. The prevalence of stroke after the tsunami nearly doubled, from 1.5 percent to 2.9 percent. I therefore appeal to all rescuers in HAMNET to take into account the effect trauma to an older person might have, in terms of cognitive shock.

Although there has been a surfeit of political news in South Africa this week, there has been a absolute drought in news of rainfall and an improvement in the state of our dams. With Level 3 water restrictions imposed in the City of Cape Town as of November, I thought it appropriate to include a summary of the status of dams in the provinces each week, at least until the rainfall takes some sort of an upswing.

In only two of the provinces in our country are average dam levels even vaguely similar to last year’s figures at this time, and they are the North West Province, with levels now of 55% full, compared with 54% full last year, and Gauteng, at 79% full, compared to 83% last year.

For the rest, the Eastern Cape dams are at 62%, compared to 78% last year, the Free State 50%, compared to 67%, KZN 42%, compared to 58%, Limpopo 45%, compared to 71%, Mpumalanga 46%, compared to 70%, the Northern Cape 56% compared to 79%, and the Western Cape 61%, compared to 69% this time last year.

Even Lesotho’s dams are only 37% full, compared to 56% this time last year. Please note these are last week’s measurements, and may have changed slightly by now. I’ll bring you this week’s values next Sunday. All very worrying, and I must strongly urge all of us to think twice before we open a tap without trying to catch the outflow for another use afterwards.

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