HAMNET Report 12 November 2017

This Sunday past, the 5th November, HAMNET Gauteng South, through their relationship with the organisers of the Emperors Palace Classic through Ekhuruleni in Johannesburg, were asked to assist with the first ever Tshwane Classic cycle race in Pretoria.

Glynn, ZS6GLN, tells me that, for a first ever event, over 4700 riders participated, with one of the VIP riders on the day being the mayor of Tshwane, who, we believe, rode the 20km event.

A call was put through to Johan de Bruyn (ZS6JHB), regional director of Gauteng North asking if his team would like to assist. Johan replied with 5 eager volunteers and assigned Brian Jacobs (ZS6YZ) as his fill in for the event. Brian and the Gauteng North team turned out to be an exceptional asset. Brian attended the briefing session with Glynn Chamberlain (ZS6GLN) on the Saturday morning and was perfectly placed to provide critical info on the route not only for HAMNET, but also the organisers who were not all fully familiar with Pretoria.

Furthermore, Chad Mileham (ZS6OPS) who is regional co-ordinator for the HAMNET Gauteng South West Rand group, forwarded the request to his team and another 5 members eagerly volunteered.

Everyone arrived on the Sunday morning for a team briefing at 04h30, and after formalities and the briefing had been given, everyone dispersed to their respective positions on the course.

Everyone was apprehensive as to how members from 3 different HAMNET groups who had never met before were going to work together. Well, the team matched the professionalism of many of our previous races in the past, and the interaction between the members was incredible. It is gratifying that, if groups are required to come together for a real emergency one day, they will operate like they did on the day.

In the end, there were some serious altercations and eventual hot spots. Brian (ZS6YZ) landed up in the thick of it when traffic at his intersection got out of hand. Barricades were being set up, rocks placed on the roads and stones thrown at the TMPD (Tshwane Metro Police Department). Through Brian’s immediate reports back, Police and Metro Police manning the JOCC and listening to Brian’s reports were incredibly swift to deploy additional support to the intersection and bring it back under control. To say the JOCC got quite active is an understatement.

While this was happening, HAMNET resources that were stationed at other intersections with fewer issues were deployed north to possibly assist with a route change because of the issues at Brian’s intersection. The rendezvous for these teams was the intersection of Paul Kruger and Mansfield Avenue, two major arterials. Unbelievably, the situation there started deteriorating with the police battling to control motorists. By the time HAMNET members started arriving there for the possible re-route, Brian’s intersection was under control, so they jumped in to assist the police right there. In the end, there were Anette (ZR6D), Awie  (ZS6AVI), Francois (ZS6COI), and Judy (ZS6JDY), with later support from Leon (ZS6LMG) and Johan (ZS6DMX), all ably controlled by Rory Crouch (ZS6RBJ) who constantly gave and received instructions from the JOCC and communicated with the impromptu team who were now assisting in the intersection. In order not to overload the JOCC frequency, Rory managed a sub net amongst the team members on scene and became the one communications point between the JOCC and everyone on the intersection. Well done Rory!

To summarise, the comments received from the team members were fantastic. They all thoroughly enjoyed the day and experienced something completely new and enjoyable. Both Leon and Glynn felt the cream on the cake was seeing how well three separate HAMNET groups could interact in such a friendly and professional manner. And, new friendships were forged in a wonderful hobby helping with community service and self-sacrifice.

Thank you Glynn for the comprehensive report. It sounds like you all had a day of many and varied experiences!

News of future exercises comes from Alister ZS1OK, who tells us that the City of Cape Town will be running a disaster exercise on Thursday the 23rd November. Alister says at least 4 HAMNET volunteers are required to assist, each at a different permanent or mobile control centre, from 09h00 until 14h00 that day. John Bayly Brown, the CoCT Volunteer coordinator, has promised to provide a letter to employers motivating and stating the role HAMNET volunteers will have during the exercise.

If you can take time off on a Thursday, please contact Alister at zs1ok.alister@gmail.com. Thank you.

In a more humorous vein, some of you will know that Helen of Troy had beauty which was enough to launch a thousand Greek ships to rescue her from Troy. You’ll therefore understand that one milliHelen is the amount of beauty required to launch one ship. David Goines “Helen Beauty Scale” defines a microHelen as enough beauty to Christen a motorboat and start a grass fire, and a gigaHelen as enough to launch one trillion Greek warships and destroy the solar system. In similar vein, a picture paints a thousand words, and a millipicture therefore paints one word, and Carl Sagan, who narrated the original “Cosmos” and was always describing things in terms of “billions and billions”, has had his name immortalised as being equivalent to an impossibly large quantity of anything and everything! Thank you to Wikipaedia for these units of measurement.

I wonder whether a milliHAMNET member could be defined as someone who can get the message through using just one word…….

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

HAMNET Report 5 November 2017

Glynn Chamberlain, ZS6GLN, Deputy Regional Director, HAMNET Gauteng South, tells us that Hamnet exhibited at the Southern African Emergency Services Institute (SAESI) expo at Nasrec Expo Centre in the south of Johannesburg from Wednesday the 1st of November till Friday the 3rd November inclusive.

Hamnet Gauteng South had their forward control centre on show together with other equipment used in community events and disaster situations.

This is the first of hopefully many expos that Hamnet will be participating in to spread the word of emergency communications in disaster and community events.

For more info on SAESI, visit https://www.saesi.com/. Thanks, Glynn.

Continuing my references to space and radio signals, consider the case of the two Voyager spacecraft, which have left the solar system and are currently in interstellar space. Voyager one and two are about 20 Billion Kilometres and 16 Billion Kilometres away from us respectively, and a round trip to send and receive the results of a command to and from either of them takes about 39 hours. They were launched in 1977, completed their solar system tasks in the 1980’s, and have been travelling outwards ever since.

The fact that their signals can still be received is a tribute to the antennas they carry and transmit to, and those are the figures I’d like to bring to your attention today.

The signal path loss for Voyager one, using one of its comms frequencies of 2.3 GHz, has been calculated at 306.6dB. Voyager’s 3.7m parabolic dish antenna has a gain of 57 dB, but the strength of its transmitted signal is only 23 watts. However, at the receiving end, NASA’s Deep Space Network has three sites, at Goldstone, Canberra and Madrid, each of which has  three or more large dish antennas, the biggest of which is 70 metres in diameter, giving it 82 dB of gain.

No matter how strong the signal, it is the quality of the antenna which guarantees the reception of the signal. And the greater the gain, the narrower the beamwidth, so the antennas need to be pointed exactly at each other to hear each other. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the success of any radio system lies with the antennas. In the case of the Voyagers, there’s nothing to be done about the speed of travel of the message, at the speed of light, so those astronomers need to be patient and wait the 39 hours!

Thank you to Microwaves & RF for the details in this insert.

Now, here’s something for the scientists amongst you. In the ARRL letter for November the 2nd, HamSCI – the Amateur Radio citizen science initiative – has announced a 2-day workshop February 23-24, 2018, at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark. HamSCI’s Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, has posted a survey to gauge interest and potential attendance.

“We are inviting all hams and scientists interested in ham radio science,” Frissell said. “The aim of this workshop is to foster collaborations between the ham radio and the space science and space weather research communities through presentations, discussions, and demonstrations. This year’s meeting will focus on solar eclipse analysis, ham radio data sources and databases, and the development of a ‘personal space weather station.'”

Frissell, an NJIT assistant research professor, invited presentations from within the Amateur Radio community. “We will also accept submissions of abstracts and demonstrations of other topics that are of interest to ham radio and ionospheric science,” he said. “The solar eclipse topic is a follow-up to this summer’s total solar eclipse and the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP). We hope to have presentations from both ham radio operators and professional scientists showing the data that they have collected and what they think it means.”

The tentative schedule calls for oral presentations on “Ham Radio Data Sources, Databases Analysis” and “Solar Eclipse Effects on the Ionosphere, including results from the Solar Eclipse QSO Party.” Phil Erickson, W1PJE, of MIT’s Haystack Observatory is scheduled to be the Friday evening banquet speaker. Tutorials on Saturday will include “Ham Radio for Space Scientists,” with Frank Donovan, W3LPL, and “Space Science for Ham Radio Operators” (speaker pending).

Frissell said HamSCI would like to encourage development of the “Personal Space Weather Station” concept. “This is analogous to a personal weather station that people install at their homes to measure temperature, wind speed, rainfall, and humidity, and report this data to groups like the NWS, NOAA, and Weather Underground,” Frissell said. “We want to create a similar package for space weather and have that data go to a single repository.”

“An ideal personal space weather station would likely include instruments able to detect things such as traveling ionospheric disturbances, radio blackouts, propagation changes, lightning, and magnetospheric activity, Frissell said. It would probably include, at a minimum, a wideband software-defined radio, a magnetometer, a timing source, and a computer — all currently available, but not as an integrated package, he pointed out.

At the February workshop, HamSCI wants to better define the capabilities of a personal space weather station as well as how to implement the concept. “HamSCI will be teaming up with TAPR to do this,” Frissell said. “Scientists will talk about what science topics the device should be able to measure, and TAPR will discuss how to actually design and implement the device.”

Frissell said he hopes hams attending will come away more knowledgeable about ionospheric and space science, and scientists will gain a better understanding of Amateur Radio.

So there’s a nice challenge for you!

A quick dam report for the Western Cape. The dam levels have subsided with 0.1percentage point, which is a relief, and other good news is that the water quality compliance is 99.59%, above the 98% target, so whatever comes out of the taps is drinkable! We squirm uneasily in our chairs as we watch the sky for clouds!

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