The earth got shaky again this week, and produced a magnitude 6.3 earthquake 10km below the ground on the coast of Pakistan near the Iranian border on Tuesday at midnight our time. Although a quarter of a million people could have been affected by the earthquake, no major casualty figures have been released.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has also been struck by an earthquake, this one a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in central Philippines on Friday 10th February, 10km below the surface, and with an effect estimated to damage the property, or threaten the lives, of up to 1.9 million people within 100km of its epicentre. Again, no reports of casualties yet.
And Tropical Cyclone Carlos-17 continues to hover just off the South Eastern coast of Madagascar, having affected none yet, but perilously close to the Eastern coast. Maximum wind-speeds have been measured at 120KpH.
And also from the East comes news of a sound like a foghorn on 7, 10 and 14Mhz, which is apparently emanating from a Chinese over-the-horizon Radar, which jumps around and emits a sound in 66.66 SPS bursts. It is apparently a strong signal and is an easily heard station on 7,10 and 14 megahertz. It has been reported to the IARU monitoring service. Several countries use over-the-horizon radar, which often has frequency-hopping characteristics, making it difficult to pin them down. Amateur radio frequencies are often the first targets of this interference, and invoking the authorities to do something about the interference is difficult.
In Cape Town yesterday, HAMNET assisted at a very successful charity cycle race called the 99er, held in and around Durbanville. This is the 18th time the race has been organised as a fund-raising event for charities by the el Shaddai Christian School in Durbanville, and it ran as smoothly as a well-oiled machine, thanks to the dedicated organisers from the school.
HAMNET fielded sixteen operators, of whom two were in the JOC, one supervised a temporary APRS digipeater installed on the wine farm Meerendal, outside Durbanville, and three accompanied section chief marshals on their rounds and provided a link to the JOC. The remaining ten were spread along the route, and all vehicles carried APRS trackers, including the four ambulances and one rapid response vehicle. The day proved extremely hot, and the organisers pulled the last handful off the race just before the cut-off at 13h00, because of the dangers of heat exhaustion.
The Medical team managing the race operated from Metro Emergency Services Disaster bus, but had a wired feed from the HAMNET ops vehicle to provide them with an APRS map, providing up-to-the-minute position information of all rescue vehicles. No serious injuries were reported, and the stand-down took place at about 13h30. The organisers complimented HAMNET and thanked them for their contribution and APRS coverage, which made management of the race easy. Well done, HAMNET Western Cape.
A similar race takes place next Sunday the 19th, but has a smaller field, shorter distances, and so a similar operation will be mounted, but from a different start/finish site. After that, there is a short rest-period for HAMNET to catch its breath before the Cape Town Cycle Tour in March, and the Two Oceans over the Easter weekend. Later in April, a trail run sponsored by Wildrunners takes place, and HAMNET will be there too.
Our weekly inspection of dam level averages around the country reveals that Lesotho, Limpopo. Mpumalanga, and North West provinces have all shown a single digit improvement over last week, but poor Western Cape continues to deteriorate, and now has dams only 36% full on average. As mentioned last week, nearly a quarter of that 36% will be too muddy to drink, when the water levels in the dams reach the last 10% of their capacity. There has been almost no rain in February yet, and this station has recorded 0.2mm of rain so far, plus another 11.2mm in January.
Hurried research is being conducted into the best pesticides to use for the new “Fall Armyworm” infestation reported in about 5 of our provinces. Apparently, the worm comes from the Americas, and was first reported in Africa in Nigeria, but a strong wind can blow the moths hundreds of miles in one night, to where they lay their eggs, and hundreds to thousands of the caterpillars hatch, to wreak havoc on wheat and corn crops before marching on to their next crops areas. Luckily, the South African grain manufacturer’s pesticide officials are very progressive, and had already chosen the best substances to control the pandemic in the country.
With the one sunspot group on the Sun today, and the low sunspot number and Solar Flux associated, near vertical incidence preferred frequencies remain in the five to six MHz region, so your local sky-wave connections will have to be on the 80m band. But don’t be shy – you won’t get a chance to check your equipment and antennas for faults unless you put out a call, and see who comes back. You may be pleasantly surprised.
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.