REPORT 18 December 2016

A fire has been raging just outside Plettenberg Bay in the last 2 weeks, with some 30 000 hectares of park land in the Garden Route National Park razed, evidence of the danger created by drought conditions.

The fire, mostly affecting the areas close to The Craggs (about 20kms outside the coastal town of Plettenberg Bay) was declared a fire disaster area. The fire which started on private land on Monday 5 December, jumped to the National Park and had an 11km long active fire line.

Dirk Smith, spokesperson for the Southern Cape FPA, said the western and eastern flank as well as the head of the fire were major concerns. “We had 180 firefighters on the fire line, including three tankers, as well as close to 20 management staff in control of this fire. The fire burnt mainly fynbos areas where there are no structures,” said Smith.

So far 30 000 Hectares of land have been burnt out, and parts of the burn remain very inaccessible in the mountains. Flares-up continue, in spite of some success with back-burns being used to prevent spread in certain directions.

Chris Warren, in his “Off-Grid Ham” blog says that, after careful consideration, he has realised that the random end-fed long wire is the best portable HF antenna for emergency conditions, that is easily erectable, and gives good result. After deciding that, he then looked at various versions of the end-fed long wire, and realised there are three possibilities, all based on simple premises. They should be of stranded wire for strength, at least 17 metres long, or greater than a halfwave length of the lowest frequency you plan to use, and all need an antenna tuner.

Your choices are:

1) Connect your long wire to the centre hole in the SO-239 of the tuner, and earth your tuner to a ground rod. Beware of hot spots along the wire or cable to ground rod where RF burns are possible. This antenna is easy but not very efficient.

2)This one is the same as the first, but you connect the earth connector of your tuner to another long wire, and lay it out on the ground below the antenna, to act as a counterpoise. This type will satisfy your tuner far better than the first.

3) In this construction, you connect coax to your tuner, and at the far end of the coax, install an “UNUN” balun, and connect both the long wire and the counterpoise to that. An UNUN is a simple transformer that matches an UNbalanced antenna to an UNbalanced feed line. This is not the same as a BALUN, which matches a BALanced antenna to an UNbalanced feed line. The UNUN is necessary if your operating position is some way away from where the antenna is sited.

Chris says this last setup is his favourite. The second choice might be ideal for a RaDAR field event, if you need to operate on several frequencies. If you are going to be active on one frequency only, a horizontal dipole cut for the frequency of choice is still the best.

Thanks to Chris Warren and his Blog for the contents of that insert.

And as I write this, news of a magnitude 7.9 earthquake has come through, at 9.51pm local time, Saturday evening, about 45 km east of Papua New Guinea’s New Ireland island, and not very far from last week’s quake near the Solomon Islands, slightly South-east of Papua New Guinea. A tsunami watch has been instituted, but luckily nothing has been reported yet, possibly because the earthquake struck at a depth of 73.4km.

In a message from Francois Botha, ZS6BUU, he says “The thought crossed my mind – the 40m band is dead currently. I would suggest that members – where possible – monitor their respective HAMNET Emergency Frequencies on both 2M and 70 cm links for possible traffic.

I am going to monitor 7.110 MHz, anyway but currently, it is of no use to man or amateur.”

He is about to move to Bloemfontein, and notes that, once there, he will become more active on the 2m and 70 cm links from there. For the rest he is going to try and erect some hidden antennas in his ceiling for 40/20 & 15 M either phone or digital communication.

We wish you well in your move, Francois, and hope you will settle in quickly!

If you are planning to travel over the next two weeks, and can operate VHF or HF from your vehicle, please monitor 7110kHz on HF, or a suitable VHF frequency for the Province or area you are in, and put out calls frequently to announce your presence, and to make it clear to others that you are listening. Please drive very defensively, and always presume the other driver is going to do something unexpected.

May I take this opportunity to wish all the listeners and readers a happy holiday, and a Merry Christmas where appropriate.

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