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.