HAMNET Report 18 March 2018

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, or GDACS, is reporting on Tropical Cyclone Eliakim, which since Thursday has been approaching the North-Eastern aspect of Madagascar. By 18h00 on Friday it had crossed the coast South of Maroantsetra heading South-West with winds in excess of 83kph, before turning due South on Saturday and losing some strength on its way to cross the coast again today (Sunday) at about midday. Intense rainfall could trigger flooding and mudslides, and evacuations are taking place in some areas. We’ll tell you of any loss of life and property we hear of.

From R&D Magazine comes an interesting development in the field of power generation in your rucksack.

Most soldiers carry a heavy burden in the field, including an 35 Kg backpack filled with essential supplies and tools. If that’s not heavy enough, soldiers often carry an additional 10 to 15 Kg in backup batteries to power their radios and other necessary electronics.

However, a new innovation offers a solution.

Lighting Pack—a 2017 R&D 100 Award Winner—is able to generate electricity as soldiers walk and run through the field, eliminating the need for them to carry batteries.

The backpack works by harvesting kinetic energy, while also reducing the heavy load soldiers have to carry around the field, said Lawrence Rome, PhD, the founder and chief scientific officer of Lightning Packs LLC, in an interview with R&D Magazine.

“Essentially in our backpacks there are two frames, there’s a frame connected to the person with a hip belt and shoulder straps and there is a second frame called a moving frame in which the bag is attached and the whole load sits there,” he said. “In normal backpacks, the two frames are locked together and move in unison.

“What we did is we suspended the moving frame from the fixed frame attached to the body by a spring mechanism,” he added. “So essentially as you walk up and down the moving frame moves in respect to the fixed frame and that generates electricity.”

By reducing the need for extra disposable batteries, soldiers using the backpack can opt to either reduce the overall weight of their backpacks or use the extra space to carry other necessary supplies. The pack also permits longer mission durations and reduces the demand for resupply operations.

In addition to providing a benefit for soldiers, the electricity-generating backpack could provide wearable, renewable electricity for disaster-relief workers operating in remote locations, as well as forestry service workers, medical aid relief workers, hikers, campers, and hunters.

Thank you to Keith ZS5WFD of HAMNET KZN for bringing us a brief report-back on Hamnet KZN’s involvement in last week’s rally:

He says “Ten operators assisted with the event which covered a total of 11 stages over the two day event which started on Friday 9th March.   Ballito Lifestyle Centre was chosen as Rally HQ with the top parking level area  being cordoned off for the use of rally support teams.  This gave a good opportunity for the general public to get up close and see the rally cars and their service crews at work. A shuttle bus service was also on offer to take the public to designated spectator points in the various stages throughout the two days.

“Weather conditions were very hot and dry on both days making for some difficult conditions for the radio operators at start and end of the dusty stages out in the sugar cane fields.

“A total of 20 teams entered on day 1,  9 teams in R2N Class with the remaining 11 teams in the Open Class.  I am pleased to report that no serious accidents or medical emergencies occurred, but only 11 teams completed the event, the majority having to retire with mechanical breakdowns.  It was also pleasing to note that no incidents were received of private vehicle incursions onto the live rally stages which was a problem encountered on the previous rally on the South Coast.

“The special stage on Friday night around the Ballito beach front drew a large crowd who came to see the blazing headlights, hear the screeching of tyres and the exhaust explosions around the very tight circuit.

“Communications between stages worked extremely well with probably 90% conducted on 145.550 MHz simplex.  From Rally Control I had direct communication with all but two operators, but Dave ZS5HN, strategically situated on a high point on both days, was able to relay their communications to me.  The previous monotonous task of passing stage book-in, start and elapsed  times was replaced by taking a picture of the time sequence sheet and sending it in via a WhatsApp group.  This eliminated any error from our side and the organisers were very happy with the result.

“A big thank you to all that assisted in making the event the success that it was.”

And thank you to you Keith and your team for ensuring the rally went off safely!

In case you thought the Western Cape had cornered the market on droughts, let me tell you that South Africa has declared that the drought afflicting Cape Town and other parts of the country is a national disaster.

The government announcement on Tuesday allows officials more easily to direct resources to drought relief and long-term recovery plans.

The government says the drought is especially severe in the three Cape provinces in the south of the country.

City of Cape Town warned for months of the threat of “Day Zero,” the date when the city would have to close most water taps because of the drought. However, the opposition party running the city said last week that “Day Zero” might not happen at all this year because of water conservation efforts.

The opposition Democratic Alliance says the government’s declaration of a national disaster should make relief funds available for affected areas.

Aid must therefore be equitably distributed among all the affected areas, to bring relief to all communities waiting anxiously for rain.

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

HAMNET Report 11 March 2018

Our neighbour Mozambique was struck by a magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Thursday the 8th, at 10h49 our time. The quake struck at a depth of 6.4km in an area not far from the Malawian border in Zambezia province, exposing a population of about 16000 people in the area to danger. So far, we have not heard of any serious loss of life or injury, but the area is remote and communications sparse.

Meanwhile, in Papua New Guinea, one of the 80 or so aftershocks I mentioned in last week’s bulletin was a 6.7 magnitude shock that left another 18 people dead or injured. This adds to the death toll of over a hundred lives lost last week.

The original quake and subsequent aftershocks were centred in the country’s remote Highlands Region, and a complete picture of the scope of the destruction has been slow to emerge, says a report in the New York Times of 7 March.

“Loss of family houses is spread across the province,” said a report by the Hela Council of Churches. “Many families are sleeping together in temporary camps under canvases.”

The report added that health clinics, water supplies and gardens that residents depend on for food were all damaged in last week’s earthquake.

“Citizens have become traumatized,” the report said. “People are confused and frightened and many more are refusing to return to their own houses.”

The Papua New Guinea Red Cross said as many as 143,000 people could have been affected by the earthquake, with 17,000 displaced from their homes.

William Powi, governor of Southern Highlands Province, told the Associated Press that collapsed homes and landslides had killed at least 39 people in his province, and the blockage of feeder roads was impeding recovery efforts.

“It is beyond the capacity of the provincial government to cope with the magnitude of destruction and devastation,” he said. “Our people are traumatized and finding it difficult to cope.”

Papua New Guinea, which comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and several smaller islands, has eight million people who mostly live in rural areas. It is one of the least developed countries in the region, and the lack of road and communication networks across its mountainous central region has slowed the disaster response, officials said.

“The rugged terrain and loss of communications in the area impacted means it is taking time to build a complete picture of the damage but we know that tens of thousands of people are reported as requiring humanitarian assistance,” Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister, said in a statement on Monday.

A well-known amateur radio personality in America, Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, is this year’s recipient of the Hamvention Awards Committee “Amateur of the Year” award.

Valerie was first licensed in 2006 and has been very active in local Amateur Radio clubs and in ARES. Once she “discovered” HF, she became obsessed with DXing and contesting. In the past few years, she has enjoyed inviting new hams to her station to DX or contest. She has been the pilot or lead pilot for four major DXpeditions.

Hotzfeld is a co-host of the netcast “Ham Nation” and has created several how-to videos on YouTube for the ham radio community. She also enjoys giving presentations on various topics via Skype to Amateur Radio clubs across the US.

She is currently the treasurer for her contest club and the prize chairman for W9DXCC and SMC-fest. In 2017, she became very active in public service, travelling to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to help rescue small animals. She was subsequently deployed to Puerto Rico with the American Red Cross for 3 weeks as part of a group of volunteer Amateur Radio operators, facilitating critical communications after Hurricane Maria. Hotzfeld has said that Amateur Radio has enriched her life because of the challenges and great friends the hobby brings. Thanks to the ARRL News for these notes.

Our congratulations to Valerie – she is a deserving winner! You can watch her insert on Ham Nation every week on You Tube.

Incidentally, her partner, Jerry Rosalius, WB9Z, was one of the Bouvet Island DX’ers pictured in Cape Town after the ship brought them all back after the unsuccessful expedition. Visit his QRZ page if you want to see their antenna farm!

Friday and Saturday saw HAMNET KZN assisting at the Tour Natal Rally on the North Coast, as mentioned last week. We’re hoping the weather was acceptable, that the rally went off without mishap, Keith, and that you will send us a short report of the event for inclusion in next week’s bulletin?

And today sees about 35000 cyclists exploring the Cape Peninsula in the Cape Town Cycle Tour. After last year’s disastrous start, which saw the race called off because of the windstorm at the start, which prevented riders from even getting on to their bicycles, the start has been moved this year to the roads near the Grand Parade, which will prevent the wind tunnel effect experienced last year! Hamnet is partially involved in the communications for this race, and we are aware of some Hamnet members actually riding it. We hope to have some news of this one for you next week too.

From then on, HAMNET Western Cape will concentrate on the Two Oceans Marathon, over the Easter weekend. The Organisers of that race are extremely up-to-date, and everything has been thought of already. Our team has helped to supervise this race for 19 years now, so we are fairly used to it too. Let’s see if the Western Cape will live up to its reputation for raining over the Easter weekend, for which it is notorious. We down here don’t know whether we will be glad or sad if it rains that weekend. Either way, the race will probably go on!

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

HAMNET Report 4 March 2018

Papua New Guinea has been in the news all week. On Sunday the 25th, at 17h44 UTC, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck in the Southern highlands province, endangering a population of 314000 people. By the end of the week, another 82 aftershocks between magnitude 4.5 and 6 had been recorded, an astonishing number.

The powerful earthquake this week killed 31 people, injured dozens and brought work to a halt at four oil and gas fields in a remote Papua New Guinea region, the local governor said Wednesday.

His comments were the first confirmation of deaths from a high-ranking official after the magnitude 7.5 quake severed communications and blocked roads in the central region, hindering assessment of the scale of the destruction.

Southern Highlands Governor William Powi told The Associated Press that communication remains difficult and the death toll may rise. “We are looking at massive, catastrophic havoc and destruction,” Powi said.

“There are people who are traumatized, people in terrible devastation who have never felt this kind of destruction before,” Powi said. “It has really brought a lot of fear into people’s lives.”

Powi said three oil fields and a liquefied natural gas plant run by ExxonMobil Papua New Guinea have halted operations for now as they assess the damage to their operations.

The quake also disrupted work at a large gold mine and at coffee plantations in the region.

Powi said many roads remain cut off by landslides and that supplies will need to be airlifted. Many people live subsistence lives in the area, Powi said.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced an immediate State of Emergency had been Declared for Highlands Earthquake Disaster areas in Hela, Southern Highlands, Western and Enga Provinces.

“This is an unprecedented disaster in the Highlands Region and the appropriate response is underway by the National Government,” the Prime Minister said.

“A State of Emergency has been declared to expedite the restoration of essential public services including healthcare services, schools, road access, airports, power and communications facilities.

“The Emergency Disaster Restoration Team will be supported by Department of Works and Implementation, and all other relevant Government agencies,” O’Neill said.

A spokesman from the country’s National Disaster Centre said a preliminary damage assessment from the quake, which struck the mountainous Southern Highlands some 560km northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, was still incomplete.

Thank you to SBS news for that report.

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, HAMNET Provincial Director for KZN, reports that Hamnet KZN will be providing 10 operators to assist at the Trade Brands Tour Natal Rally taking place next week Friday 9th and Saturday 10th March on the Natal North coast with around 150Km of  special stages (11 stages in total). The Tour Natal Rally has been around since 1959. Traditionally the rally stages for this event have all been on the South coast, so this will be a welcome change for the participants.  Keith Lowes ZS5WFD will be positioned at rally control based at the Ballito Lifestyle Centre.  Friday night will see a special stage along the beach front of Ballito which should draw a good spectator crowd. Saturday sees stages run in Kwa Dukuza (Stanger), Compensation, Doringkop, and Blythedale.

Dave ZS5HN will again operate as “Ops Control” to assist with relaying messages with the challenging hilly terrain in the sugarcane fields in the area.  The Highway Amateur Radio Club 145.7625 repeater gives good coverage into the Rally Control Centre at Ballito.  Communications within the stages will primarily be on 145.550 simplex.

Operators will be positioned at the start and end point of rally special stages to record vehicles entering and leaving stages as well as passing times back to rally control for scoring purposes as a back up to the electronic rally clock systems. Medical Response vehicles will be positioned at the start of stages in case of any reported incidents.

Glen ZS5GD will be in the Chief Marshal vehicle with Barry Neal, and Duncan ZS5DGR will be with the Route Director Jimmy Dewar.

Good luck to you, Keith, and your troops. We hope you have a successful rally.

With the kind of luck that radio amateurs and HAMNET members seldom have, amateur astronomer Victor Buso had a lucky break on September 20, 2016, while he was testing a new camera mounted to his 16-inch telescope in Argentina.
Once the sky was dark, Buso pointed his telescope at NGC 613 — a spiral galaxy located some 70 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor — to take a series of short-exposure photographs. To ensure his new camera was functioning properly, Buso examined the images right away. This was when he noticed that a previously invisible point of light had appeared on the outskirts of NGC 613, and the point was quickly growing brighter in each successive image.

In no time at all, astronomer Melina Bersten and her colleagues at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata learned of Buso’s fortunate photo shoot. They immediately realized that Buso had caught an extremely rare event — the initial burst of light from a massive supernova explosion. According to Bersten, the chances of making such a discovery are between one in ten million and one in a hundred million.

“Professional astronomers have long been searching for such an event,” said UC-Berkeley astronomer Alex Filippenko, whose follow-up observations were critical to analyzing the explosion, in a press release. “Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that cannot be directly obtained in any other way. It’s like winning the cosmic lottery,” he added.

Once Bersten realized that Buso had accidentally witnessed the first optical light from a normal supernova explosion, she contacted an international group of astronomers to plan and carry out additional follow-up observations over the next two months.

Based on all the available data, the researchers believe that Buso captured the first optical images of a supernova undergoing “shock breakout,” which occurs when a supersonic pressure wave from the star’s rebounding core slams into the gas at the star’s surface. This generates a tremendous amount of heat at the star’s surface, which causes a burst of light that rapidly brightens.

Thank you to Astronomy Newsletter for the story of this lucky break and valuable photographic evidence.

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