HAMNET Report 20 August 2017

A group of six HAMNET operators assisted with the event communications at the Kogelberg Wildrunner Trail Run which took place in rainy conditions at Kleinmond on Saturday morning, 12th of August.  The six operators consisted of: Matt ZS1MTF and Steven ZS1DAD who operated from a location where having vehicles with high ground clearance was essential.  John ZS1JNT and Douw ZS1DGK operated from the golf course parking area, while Peter ZS1PDE and Alister ZS1OK operated the base station located in the parking area of the Kleinmond beach and lagoon.  It was the first time that Steven and John had been involved in a trail running event.

Conditions were rather wet, with regular rain squalls during the event and this impacted the runners having to negotiate areas of large standing water in some of the trail areas. Because of the wet conditions they mostly operated from within their vehicles. Fortunately there were no serious incidents during the event and support of the communications went off well without issues.  Thank you Alister ZS1OK for the report.

Greg G0DUB has reported from the IARU Region 1 Emergency Comms section that the IARU Region 1 conference will be taking place in Landshut, Bavaria, in 31 days time. The different IARU working groups have been asked to have meetings on Sunday 17th September and the Emergency Communications meeting will be at 14:00 in room S.0.211 for two hours.

From earlier responses and the participants list, Greg knows the following people who are listed as Emergency Communications Co-Ordinators will be present at the meeting:

7X2RO, YO3CZW, TF3JA, 9K2QA, 9H1PI, ON7TK and C31US.

The original aim of the WG meetings was to provide good input into the main meetings of the IARU conference. Since Greg does not have many Emergency    Co-Ordinators who are also in their National Society Delegations he thought a meeting could be better spent as an introduction to Emergency Communications to those countries who are not involved yet.

And in another report, Greg, G0DUB, says that Cesar Pio Santor HR2P has reported that as Tropical Storm Harvey passed through the Windward Islands in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN) was activated as flooding was reported in Barbados along with some houses losing their roofs. Jeff, 9Y4J, hopes to provide more detail, once more information is collected on the situation in the area, and also on the activities that amateurs are involved in by the passage of Tropical Storm Harvey on the islands of the Caribbean.

The CEWN Network uses the frequencies 7,162 kHz and 3,815 kHz according to propagation conditions. The storm is expected to continue through Central America until Thursday. When a more detailed report is available from Region 2 he will post it to the website.

Times Live reports that KwaZulu-Natal’s disaster management teams were on high alert as extreme weather conditions hit the province.

The MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)‚ Nomusa Dube-Ncube‚ appealed to residents‚ particularly in areas prone to heavy snowfalls and flooding‚ to heed the advice and updates from the South African Weather Services when planning trips that require driving or any other outdoor activities.

“We are specifically appealing to parents to ensure that all school-going children avoid precarious routes that are prone to flash flooding. We urge all schools to plan all outdoor activities carefully and in line with the latest weather updates‚” said Dube-Ncube.

She warned snow watchers to stay clear of affected areas as they risk being trapped if the areas become impassable.

Motorists have also been urged by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport‚ Community Safety and Liaison‚ Mxolisi Kaunda‚ to exercise caution.

Heavy snow has fallen in parts of the Eastern Cape and southern Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal‚ with heavy rain and warnings of flooding expected in the province from Friday.

“There have been reports of snow and mist in some parts of the province and certain parts of the Eastern Cape and Lesotho. I urge all motorists to stay clear of areas where there is snow until the situation is back to normal‚” said Kaunda.

Here’s a good news story, where two-way radio saved the life of a runner. The Otago Daily Times reports that a woman who got lost while running in bush near Bluff in Southland was able to contact friends of her plight by cellphone before her battery died.

But police search and rescue volunteers still had a bit of work to do to find the 33-year-old. The woman’s friends called Invercargill police at 7.25 pm on Tuesday. “Contact with the missing person was lost when her cellphone battery died,” police said.

Twelve search volunteers from Invercargill Landsar and amateur radio emergency communications groups, along with police, were involved in the search.

The woman was found at 11pm south of Omaui “slightly cold, but in very good health,” police said. The two-way radio I referred to? Cellphone comms, of course!

Finally, let me leave you with a glimmer of light at the end of the Western Cape’s drought tunnel. The Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town has finally released details of the plans to provide desalinated water at about 4 different sites, to claim water from the ground and the Table Mountain Aquifer by means of several specialised boreholes, and to reclaim water from water treatment plants in and around Cape Town. The campaign to encourage the community to use less that 87 litres of water per person per day continues, and may even be further restricted in future water restriction announcements. The small amount of rain we’ve experienced in the last week or two have actually increased the average dam levels in the Western Cape by two percentage points to 30%, though still badly down on the 57% at this time last year.

And lest you all take me too seriously, may I remind you that research has shown that 47% of all statistics are inaccurate!

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

Kogelberg

A group of six Hamnet operators from the Western Cape, assisted with the event communications at the Kogelberg WIldrunner which took place in rainy conditions at Kleinmond on Saturday morning, 12th of August. The six operators consisted of: Matt (ZS1MTF) and Steven (ZS1DAD) who operated from a location where having vehicles with high ground clearance was essential. John (ZS1JNT) and Douw (ZS1DGK) operated from the golf course parking area while Peter (ZS1PDE) and Alister (ZS1OK) operated the base station located in the parking area of the Kleinmond beach and lagoon. It was the first time for Steven and John were involved in a trail running event.

Conditions were rather wet, with regular rain squalls during the event and this impacted the runners having to negotiate areas of large standing water in some of the trail areas. Because of the wet conditions we mostly operated from within our vehicles.

Fortunately there were no serious incidents during the event and support of the comms went off well without issues.

HAMNET Report 13 August 2017

Keith Lowes ZS5WFD says that the route of the 18,6Km run, and 6,5Km fun walk, of the Kloof Conservancy Three Falls Trail Run offers magnificent views of the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, including its rich fauna and flora, as well as the Kloof Falls, Uve Falls, and mPhiti Falls.  Hamnet provided 14 operators this year to assist with the event which started at 06H30 on Sunday 6th August 2017 from Forest View Primary School in Waterfall.  306 runners entered the event and were joined by 41 walkers. A total of 294 runners finished the race, making for 12 that did not complete the course for various reasons.

Communications were via 145.500 or 550 simplex as well as the 145.625 Highway Amateur Radio Club repeater.  Keith had a link to the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife repeater which a number of other marshals were using.

At approximately 09H50 a report was received from Jon Sargood who was a volunteer with Rescuetech and also running the race, of a female runner with a suspected broken ankle that required assistance.  Brad ZS5Z was requested to proceed to the location to establish a direct communications link from the scene.  Information to hand was that the patient would be unable to make her own way out and Rescuetech would be required to assist in carrying her out in a Stokes Basket Stretcher.  Meditech had already been notified and despatched to the scene.

Rescuetech’s Chris Williams (ZS5CJW) was notified and requested to mobilise his team to a point approximately 600m down from the Kloof Falls picnic site.  It took approximately 1 hour to stabilise and safely bring the patient to the picnic site where Meditech’s ambulance was waiting to transport the patient to hospital.

Keith extends his sincere thanks to all that assisted with the event to ensure a successful outcome for all involved.  It was a great opportunity to forge good working relationships with all of the emergency services involved.

There are lots more trail run events taking place in the Western Cape these next four weeks. Yesterday saw the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve hosting the Wildrunner Cape Winter Trail race at Kleinmond. Alister ZS1OK managed the six operators who helped shepherd the runners, and all seems to have gone well.

Next weekend, the17-20th August, the third iSimangaliso Mountain Bike Ride takes place, this year starting in Mkuze Game Reserve and going through Phinda Game Reserve (both home to the Big Five), passing Lake Sibaya and ending at Lake St Lucia.

Hamnet KZN will be providing the Communications, linking the Event Control, the JOC, 2 High Site Relays, 3 Sweeper Vehicles, the Mkuze & Phinda Rangers, a Spotter Chopper to look out for any dangerous game along the Route, 2 Paramedics and the Ambulance!

We greatly look forward to hearing and perhaps reading about this event on the HAMNET webpage. Thanks to Dave Holliday ZS5HN for that news.

Then, next Sunday the 20th August, Peter ZS1PDE is organising the communications during the Helderberg Mountain Challenge, in Somerset West. Four operators are needed for this race, and we wish him luck with the undertaking.

Alister ZS1OK is looking for six HAMNET operators to assist him at the Sanlam Cape Town Peace Trail Run on Saturday the 17th September. This forms part of the multi-day Sanlam Cape Town Marathon event. The two races he is working for, are the 22 and 12km trail runs to be run on the 17th, along Signal Hill and Lions Head before descending to finish at the Green Point Athletics track. If you haven’t volunteered your help yet, please consider doing so.

Finally, in the Western Cape early Spring, we have the Marloth Mountain Challenge run outside Swellendam on Sunday the 24th September. This is a big race, needing fourteen operators, but the weekend is a long one, making it easy for the radio operators to get into position on Sunday morning early, and overnighting on Sunday evening before coming back to Cape Town on Monday. Please volunteer your services to Grant ZS1GS if you haven’t already done so.

From the ARRL News Letter this week, we have news that the Hurricane Watch Net activated for Tropical Cyclone Franklin.

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) activated on August 9 to keep an eye on then-Tropical Cyclone Franklin — which was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall between Tampico and Veracruz, Mexico, early on August 10.

“Reports from Mexico were few and far between,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, reported afterward. “We did hear from hams in Campeche and Puebla. Our Spanish operators did a great job in working to find reporting stations on the Mexican 40-meter emergency nets, but we were never able to find stations on the air or else we received interference from elsewhere. During the day, 20-meter propagation was not that good, but we had members in various locations throughout the US, Caribbean, and Central America that were able to reach the affected area.” After an 11-hour activation, HWN suspended operations. “We will continue working to encourage radio amateurs throughout the Caribbean to get on the air and participate whenever a hurricane threatens their area,” Graves said.

The net was monitoring 14.325 MHz on August 10 to gather post-storm reports.

The VoIP Hurricane Net reported that it was informally active from about 1200 UTC on August 9 until 0600 UTC on August 10.

Franklin is now weakening rapidly over the mountains of Mexico and is expected to produce total rainfall of 4 to 8 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches possible. — Thanks to Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, and Rob Macedo, KD1CY and the ARRL News Letter.

This Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 6 August 2017

Michael Muller, ZS6MLV/1  has invited all WSAR operatives in the Western Cape to attend a training lecture to be held on Wednesday 16 August 2017. This will be the first of regular training sessions to be held for WSAR operatives. Although these sessions will be hosted by the Logistics Component, all operatives will benefit from attending.  During this session, we will introduce revisions to the call out process as well as provide updates on current Logistics and Communications issues.

Peter Dekker ZS1PDE has reminded us that the Helderberg Mountain Challenge will be held this year on Sunday August 20th. That is only two weeks away. He says he will need four Ham operators, two at base and two who will have to hike up the mountain with a field medic. The mountain team will have to start hiking not later than 6 AM , because all teams have to be in place at 6:50. Base comms have to be operational by 6 AM.

News of an IARU Region 2 communications exercise in August has been released.

This Emergency Communications Exercise is aimed mainly at amateur radio stations in the countries of IARU R2 Area G: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The objectives are firstly, to help radio amateurs in Area G acquire experience in Emergency Communications, measure response capacity and promote work and cooperation among operators; secondly to count on a database of radio amateurs interested in participating in Emergency Communications; and thirdly, to encourage the operation of stations operating with their own energy, low power, portable and mobile.

The participants will specifically be individual radio amateurs, radio clubs and institutions with a valid amateur radio license in Area G countries: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, but also operators from other countries willing to join the Exercise.

It will take place on Saturday, August 26, 2017, from 21:00 to 23:00 UTC, and  bands, frequencies and modes will be in the 40-meter band, on 7.050 kHz SSB, and
in the 20-meter band, on 14.255 kHz, SSB.

Radio amateurs who, because of their category or equipment, don’t have access to these bands, can participate as listeners. We suggest that they contact a participating radio club or group to follow the exercise jointly with more experienced radio amateurs so that they begin to understand how traffic is managed within a Net.

During the exercise hours, a Control Station will be on the air for each Area G country, and they will operate as Net Control in an consecutive manner, in order to have coverage in the entire Area. The Member Stations from each country in the Area will be available to act as Control Stations, or should delegate this activity to another station, which will be reported before the Exercise.

Given that it is an Emergency Communications Exercise, the retransmission or “bridge” mode must be used whenever necessary, because if someone wants to be heard by the Control but cannot achieve this, it is important that its presence is acknowledged and its message arrives and is recorded, according to the objectives of the Exercise mentioned above.

Stations reporting in the Net will send to the Control Station their Callsign, Name and Location (location and province, department or region).

Thank you to Greg G0DUB, for distributing this information.

The weekly ARRL letter has a very interesting description of the research to be done during the eclipse next week.

Virginia Tech electrical engineering professor Greg Earle, W4GDE, is heading up a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded solar eclipse experiment dubbed CEDAR — Coupling, Energetics, and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions. The experiment proposes to study the effects on the ionosphere of the August 21 total eclipse of the Sun, using a combination of GPS receivers, the university’s SUPERDARN (Super Dual Auroral Radar Network) radar system, HF Amateur Radio, and plasma modelling. Several graduate students and researchers, as well as the Virginia Tech Amateur Radio Association (K4KDJ) and the Amateur Radio community at large have been recruited to help.

“We want to understand how the ionosphere is affected by blockage of sunlight over a relatively short interval (~2 hours), understand how man-made systems are affected by the changes in the ionosphere, and use the data to improve our numerical models,” Earle told the ARRL.  Virginia Tech students Magdalina Moses, KM4EGE, and Xiaoyu “Harry” Han, KM4ICI, along with Virginia Tech electrical engineering professor Bob McGwier, N4HY, are among those pitching in.

Earle and his team  will use the data they collect to characterize ionospheric plasma density variations caused by the eclipse, measure HF scintillation, which are rapid fluctuations of signal phase and/or amplitude, during the eclipse, study the motions of plasma irregularities produced in both the E and F layers, and use numerical models to test cause-and-effect scenarios to compare with empirical data.

“The proposed study will utilize diagnostic capabilities that have never before been used to study a mid-latitude eclipse,” the CEDAR abstract explains. “Through this work we will answer several fundamental questions that remain unresolved, despite previous eclipse studies, and we will engage a huge cohort of non-scientists in gathering data that will constrain our models and enrich our understanding of ionospheric behaviour.”

That “huge cohort” includes participants in the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP), sponsored by ARRL and HamSCI. “During this event, radio operators will actively communicate throughout the eclipse interval over paths that transect the eclipsed region of the ionosphere,” the CEDAR proposal outlines. “These data will include information on the signal strength and maximum usable frequency in various HF bands, which are directly related to the density and altitude of the ionosphere.” The experiment will also draw on data generated by WSPR Net and the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN).

This research may aid understanding of Near Vertical Incidence Skywave propagation during short distance emergency contacts. Thank you to the ARRL for disseminating the advance information .

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

HAMNET Report 30 July 2017

HAMNET in the Western Cape has been busy searching and rescuing again. While the weather has been very un-Wintery, it has suited the walkers and hikers, who have as usual misjudged both the mountains and the weather. A walker in Bainskloof on Sunday last injured his ankle, and phoned his family to ask to be picked up at a rendezvous spot, but never pitched up. By Monday evening, Wilderness Search and Rescue, and HAMNET were involved, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday searching fruitlessly for him. His cell-phone had died, so there were no further contact with him, and as far as I am aware, he has still not been found. The nights are bitterly cold at this time of year, and he wouldn’t have had provisions to last him a week, so the outlook is bleak.

On Wednesday, another call for rescue volunteers came through for a person stuck on Table Mountain. This person was found, made comfortable on Wednesday evening, and extracted off the mountain by Skymed helicopter on Thursday morning.

And on Thursday, a 57 year old male went up the mountain on his own, without his cell-phone, and without telling his family his route, but asking to be fetched at Constantia Neck at 16h30 local time. By 18h28, he still hadn’t been seen, and his family were naturally panicking. Luckily, he was found by 18h48, so all ended well.

A friendly word of advice to everybody who ever goes walking anywhere, not just on mountains: Please tell your family where you’re going, and when you’ll be back; take precautionary food and protective gear, not to mention battery back-up for your phone, and NEVER hike alone! You’ll cause unnecessary anguish to your family, not to mention inconvenience to authorities and volunteers who have to try to find you.

HAMNET could probably have used the services of the Mars Rover, Opportunity, to help search for these hikers, but, believe it or not, Opportunity has “sprained its ankle”, so to speak! During a two-week driving moratorium in June 2017, the rover team diagnosed a stall in the left-front wheel’s steering actuator. The wheel was stuck pointed outward more than 30 degrees.

The rover team was able to turn the wheel to point straight ahead, and now the rover only uses its rear wheels to steer. The steering actuator of the right-front wheel has been disabled since 2006. Since landing on Mars in 2006, Opportunity has driven 45 kilometres.

On July 7, 2017, Opportunity drove to a site in upper Perseverance Valley where it will spend about three weeks not driving while Mars’ passes nearly behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective, affecting radio communications. Opportunity is using its Panoramic Camera to record another scenic vista from its current location. Once full communications resume in early August, the team plans to drive Opportunity farther down Perseverance Valley in order to learn more about the process that carved it.
Thanks to Spaceflight Insider for those notes. HAMNET will in the meanwhile have to resort to humans with tracking beacons and two-way radios to find people!

In an amusing report in the Albany Democratic Herald, Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley, his deputies, and a collection of other agencies are preparing for the total solar eclipse weekend, Aug. 18-21, just like they would any emergency situation or natural disaster.

The only difference is, they know when and where it will happen. But to make matters worse, the eclipse, which threatens to bring a huge influx of visitors to the valley, will take place right on the heels of the Willamette Country Music Festival, an event that adds an entire city-worth of people to the county.

“It couldn’t be worse timing,” Riley said.

Riley added with a wry smile that he has tried unsuccessfully to have organizers reschedule the eclipse, his logic being that such a feat would be easier than calling off the country music fans!

Let’s hope his fears are unfounded – a total eclipse of the sun doesn’t happen every day, so hopefully the people there will be too pre-occupied looking up than with planning any criminal activities!

Greg Mossop G0DUB’s report on the EmComm aspects of the 42nd HamRadio Exhibition at Friedrichshafen says:

The Exhibition attracted 17110 visitors, among them many Emergency Communicators who attended the two meetings for Emergency Communicators at the event or looked at the exhibits in the main hall.

On Friday 14th July, the first IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications meeting was held in the English language with an average 15 attendees from 10 countries. The Open Forum as usual could have lasted longer with many good discussions and points raised. There was a very well received presentation from Alberto IK1YLO and Marco IU1GJE about the RNRE response to the Earthquakes and disasters in Italy in 2016. The results from the RAYNET-UK survey of their groups about the technology they used and how it matched the needs of their users were provided. The session closed with two discussion sessions about how we could organise international networks and when we should think of an event as an emergency. The discussion session presentations have been modified to provide a very short summary of what the session wanted to achieve. Thanks to Greg for the summary.

With the usual gloom, I can report that the Western Cape’s dam levels have risen by only one percentage point since this time last week, at 27% in total. Our biggest supplier, the Theewaterskloof Dam is 20.93% full, half a point up from last week, and 18 percentage points lower than this time last year. We had one rainy day this week, and for the rest, it looks like Spring down here.

Oh well, as Marcelline Cox once said: “One way to make the weather make up its mind and rain, is to hang out washing!”

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