HAMNET Report 29 April 2018

In some notes given to me at the SARL annual general meeting, I found references to the first time that an emergency communications organisation within the SARL was mentioned.

Firstly, I must say that those early days saw an organisation with almost paramilitary tendencies being created. It is important to say at the outset now that HAMNET has no military leanings anymore, so please do not read right- or left-wing leanings into my reporting now. I merely report on what I read!

It appears that individuals in the SARL were asked in early 1971 to take part in “certain services” whatever they may have been. RadioZS notes the creation of a subcommittee in May 1972, consisting of DE Brook ZS1AE (chairman), HM Wilson ZS1BF (member) and P Schmitt ZS1GE (member), which committee had a meeting in July 1972, with prominent members of the Dept of Civil Defence under the chairmanship of a Brigadier. The President and Council of the SARL attended the meeting at the Castle.

A questionnaire was drawn up by the subcommittee, which was approved by Defence HQ, and then circulated to all licensed radio amateurs, as a sort of membership application form. Responses by the end of November 1972 were 1000, which shows that, from the beginning, radio amateurs felt that their capabilities were worthy of being used in all sorts of emergencies.

By May 1973, members were being canvassed for a good name for the organisation, and the name “HAMNET” was offered by many, receiving good support, and subsequently being accepted. In September 1974’s RadioZS, a membership of 2000 was quoted, and 11 areas had headquarters stations, as well as 2 signal regiments involved.

The November 1974 RadioZS mentions that several stations had become involved as regional and national coordinators. In no order, they were David Viljoen ZS4Z, Tinus Lange ZS6TL, Roelf Kloppers ZS6ATK, Gert Terblanche ZS6BIK, Bert Johnson ZS6WY, Paul Moulang ZS6YS, Bill Ingleson ZS6KO and Brian Corlett ZS6BLZ.

I think we can therefore safely assume that the principles of HAMNET emergency communications were established in the SARL by the end of 1974. Thank you to the ZS6 stations who supplied me with these notes.

Exceedingly good news from the Western Cape surrounds heavy rainfall, which fell over the night of Wednesday/Thursday morning this week, as the result of the arrival of a cut-off low over the Western Cape. Extremely heavy rain, of the order of 240mm/hour if it had continued, resulted in a total of at least 60mm of rain being experienced in all parts of the Peninsula, and we understand even more in the mountains surrounding our dams. This station measured 58mm between 04h00 and 10h00 on Thursday morning, and I am sure I was not alone in the Cape! The skies cleared up by midday Thursday, and very little more is forecast for the holiday weekend. The dam report is issued every Monday, so we look forward to seeing what has happened to our dams this week.

Here is another call to encourage you budding HAMNET communicators to get your team in two halves together for the HAMNET BLACKOUT EXERCISE to be held this coming weekend around the country. Each team must be led by a HAMNET member, but the rest of the team do not need to be members. Your team will be split in to a VHF/UHF base station, given instructions by the organisers to pass some sort of communication to your mobile HF station out in the field, and running on emergency power only, for transmission to another HF team somewhere else in the country, and thence to their VHF/UHF base station. Each task will be different, and may include mapping, GPS capabilities, or use of other communications methods, all in an attempt to get your team macGyvering a plan to get a signal through. This is not a contest, merely a test of your emergency capabilities, mobile power sources, and solar or generator capabilities, all with the aim of improving your abilities.

Rikus ZS4A tells me his division has three teams up and ready to go already, so please be challenged, the rest of you, to put teams together, and see what you can achieve. Contact your regional director if you’d like to see what you can do, but don’t have a team to belong to. The exercise starts on 5 May and ends on 6 May 2018.

Gela Tolken, ZS1GT, of HAMNET and the Mountain Club of South Africa, tells me that she is organising the communications aspects of the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge this year, a cross-country off-road running race around Jonkershoek, on 19 May 2018. She says she needs 2 base operatives in one vehicle, stationed close to the finish, and in cooperation with Finish Time, which is a race timing agency. The base station will be there to monitor the top ten runners, and a head count of the runners passing check-points. Then she also needs two HAMNET rovers, in 4×4 vehicles preferably, situated at important checkpoints, monitoring the runners and guaranteeing safety. If you have access to a 4×4, or can run a base station on VHF, UHF and HF mobile, please contact Gela on gela@angela.co.za to offer your assistance.

And in a stretch 28 years back in time, this week marked the anniversary of the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble was going to gather data and images from the far reaches of the universe. NASA had invested $1.5 billion in the telescope, but when the mirror segments were unfurled, the images were blurred. The data was unusable. It took a 1.3mm spacing error in the instrument responsible for guiding the final, fine grinding of the 2.4m primary mirror, to make the mirror’s curvature a few micrometers flatter than it should have been, by a distance less than the width of human hair, to blur the light of distant galaxies.

NASA took three years to build a contraption consisting of five pairs of adjustable mirrors to help refocus the light from the primary mirror before it reached the scope’s science instruments. The crew of STS-61 spent 35 hours doing spacewalks to install the corrective optics, but the results have proved their worth. Twenty five years later, Hubble is still giving us immensely useful data, and will no doubt continue to do so.

Thank you to Kiona N Smith at www.forbes.com for this last insert.

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