HAMNET Report 27th May 2018

HAMNET is very encouraged by the news in this morning’s SARL bulletin that a 100kHz portion of the 5Mhz band will be opened on a shared basis to radio amateurs. For a long time, emergency communicators have needed a gap-filler between 80 metres and 40 metres, to transmit messages when conditions are poor, and now we have one. Once the band-plan has been published, HAMNET Directors must get together and specify an emergency frequency for future use. However, we must note the restriction of 15 watts e.i.r.p. on our signals, because the band is shared.

From the NASA Disaster Response blog, comes news of the work done by them to catalogue what is happening in Hawai, as the volcano continues to erupt.

NASA is tracking lava flows from Hawaii Island’s Kilauea volcano as fissures erupt and lava makes its way to the ocean.

Using data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer, or VIIRS instrument, aboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite, NASA’s Disaster Program has been tracking thermal anomalies, or hot spots, indicative of lava flow. VIIRS is the only instrument from space that can track lava flows through hot spots, making it an important additional source of information for the U.S. Geological Survey as it monitors and informs the public of the ongoing volcanic activity, which has produced everything from earthquakes and giant rock projectiles from eruptions, to blankets of ash clouds and volcanic smog, or vog.

In addition to VIIRS, NASA provides other information on volcanic activity, including aerosol and sulphur dioxide measurements derived from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) aboard NASA’s Aura satellite as well as the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite aboard NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite, and ground deformation and movement with synthetic aperture radar data.

NASA also organized a field mission with airborne radar to provide accurate digital elevation maps that USGS can use to predict lava path flows. Flown on the G-III research aircraft, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN) instrument is detecting changes in Kilauea’s topography associated with the new lava flows, with the goal of measuring the erupted volume as a function of time and ultimately the total volume of the event.

I doubt whether any other volcano has had the benefit of observations from space like this one. And the volcano hasn’t settled down yet.

It would seem that the Dayton Hamvention was a resounding success. Writing in the Xenia Daily Gazette, Anna Bolton noted that Michael Kalter, official spokesperson for Dayton Hamvention, said he thinks the numbers were higher than last year’s 29,296. Kalter said the weekend went smoothly, thanks in part due to the effectiveness of the county, city, township, fair board and all parties working together.

Kathleen Wright, executive director of Greene County Convention & Visitors Bureau, agreed that the travellers seemed to enjoy their time in Greene County.

“So many are already beginning the countdown for next year’s event. I simply cannot say enough nice things about the people from all over the world who participate in this world class event. With over 600 volunteers led by Dayton Amateur Radio Association members, this event proves to be highly organized. We look forward to hosting this event for many years to come,” she said.

It is a pity that events like this are so inaccessible to us, isn’t it? New equipment, masses of accessories, and lots of lectures inside the venue, as well as an enormous fleamarket outside to curb everybody’s appetite. Sounds too good to be true!

On the 17th of May, the ARRL News reported on findings during the Solar Eclipse QSO Party last year in August.

The first science results from the Solar Eclipse QSO Party last August 21 have been published in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters. In the paper, “Modelling Amateur Radio Soundings of the Ionospheric Response to the 2017 Great American Eclipse,” Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, and team, present Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) observations of the SEQP and compare them with ray tracings through an eclipsed version of the physics-based ionospheric model SAMI3. Frissell, a New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) research professor, explains that ray tracing is a method of calculating where a radio wave will go based on electron density — essentially the same as calculating how a light ray passes through a lens. HamSCI, the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation organization, sponsored the event.

“From a ham radio perspective, this paper very clearly shows the effect of the eclipse on not just a few, but a very large number of contacts,” Frissell told ARRL. “You can see from the charts that activity drops off steeply on 20 meters during eclipse totality, while 80 and 160 meters open up. On 40 meters, you can see how the contact distance increases in step with the eclipse.”

Frissell said another key aspect of the paper is that the researchers were able to use ray tracing to compare the observations to a physics-based numerical model of the eclipsed ionosphere. “We did this by ray tracing hundreds of thousands of ray paths on the NJIT supercomputer,” Frissell explained. “The development of this method of comparison also gives us a new tool for comparing datasets like the RBN, to actual models.”

On 14 MHz (20 metres), eclipse effects were observed as a drop off in communications for an hour before and an hour after eclipse maximum. On 7 MHz (40 metres), typical path lengths extended from about 500 km to 1,000 km for 45 minutes before and after eclipse maximum. On 1.8 MHz (160 metres) and 3.5 MHz (80 metres), eclipse effects were observed as band openings 20 to 45 minutes around eclipse maximum.

By using ray tracing to compare these observations with the SAMI3 model, it was found that the majority of 14 MHz signals refracted off the ionosphere at heights less than 125 km in the E region. On the lower bands, 1.8, 3.5, and 7 MHz, it was found that signals likely refracted off heights greater than 125 km in the F region.

These observations suggest an eclipse-induced weakening of the ionosphere, and are consistent with numerous prior HF radio eclipse ionospheric studies. Congratulations to Nathaniel and his team on this ground-breaking research.

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

HAMNET Report 20th May 2018

I’d like to add HAMNET’s collective voice to the messages of sympathy to the family of Mike Bosch, ZS2FM, and to the radio amateurs of division two, on the devastating loss of such a giant amongst us. Mike’s advice and writings have been gold-standards in this country’s experience on the VHF, UHF and SHF bands, and we are going to be lost without him. He has inspired so many of us not to forget to use these bands, and, indirectly, contributed so much to emergency Communications in this country, because Emcomms predominantly run on VHF frequencies and higher. Rest in Peace, Mike, you will be sorely missed.


Greg Mossop G0DUB of the IARU Region One Emergency Communications division has announced the itinerary for the Friday afternoon meetings, to be held on 1st June, at Friedrichshafen.

He will start at 12h00 with his Co-ordinator’s report, and will be followed by a report of Polish-Emcomm activities by Michal SP9XYM, and Chris SP7WME. Next will come a report on the Austrian Exercise “Solar Flare”, followed by Alberto IK0YLO, talking on portable linked DMR repeaters. An open forum of about 45 minutes will end with a discussion of plans for next year’s meetings at Friedrichshafen. The meeting will wrap up at about 15h30, and, so far, has the blessing of the European Emcom agencies.

Meanwhile, The ARES e-Letter reported that, at the ARRL Member Forum at the 2018 Hamvention, outside Dayton, Ohio, Great Lakes Division Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK, chairman of the ARRL Public Service Enhancement Working Group, talked about the dramatic changes that are occurring among agencies serving in the emergency and disaster response sector yesterday afternoon. He shared an update on planning for proposed new guidelines for participants in the ARES program, including plans for a new volunteer management software system, called ARES Connect. Upgrades to ARES training and resources will ensure the service continues to be a valuable partner for its served agencies into the future. The ARRL Member Forum was scheduled for noon on Saturday, May 19. A complete guide to ARRL activities, exhibits, and presentations at 2018 Hamvention is available at www.arrl.org/expo.

And don’t say you didn’t hear it here first! Watch for the Yaesu FTDX101D, still in prototype form, and the Kenwood TS-890S, after the Hamvention weekend, both of them hot off the press! So far, I’m not aware of a new ICOM rig announced at the convention.

The ARRL Letter for 17th May, reporting further on the volcanic activity on Hawai’s Big Island, says that the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports active venting of lava and hazardous fumes continues, with no end in sight. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed after roads and trails were damaged. The Observatory this week increased the Aviation Colour Code to RED, due to increased ash emission.

FEMA reports that some 360 evacuees are staying in emergency shelters. Some 2,000 residents have been evacuated in all. “Twenty fissure vents have formed in and around the Leilani estates subdivision,” the agency said in its May 17 report. “Air quality in the southeast area of Lanipuna Gardens has been rated ‘condition red’ (that is: ‘immediate danger to health’) for high levels of sulphur dioxide. Volcanic-tectonic seismicity continues.”

The US Geodetic Survey has warned that new lava outbreaks could happen “at any time,” as well as “more energetic ash emissions.”

As we develop more and more powerful tools to peer beyond our solar system, we learn more about the seemingly endless sea of faraway stars and their curious casts of orbiting planets. But there’s only one star we can travel to directly and observe up close—and that’s our own: the Sun.

Phys.Org reports that two upcoming missions will soon take us closer to the Sun than we’ve ever been before, providing our best chance yet at uncovering the complexities of solar activity in our own solar system and shedding light on the very nature of space and stars throughout the universe.

Together, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and ESA’s (the European Space Agency) Solar Orbiter may resolve decades-old questions about the inner workings of our nearest star. Their comprehensive, up-close study of the Sun has important implications for how we live and explore: Energy from the Sun powers life on Earth, but it also triggers space weather events that can pose hazard to technology we increasingly depend upon. Such space weather can disrupt radio communications, affect satellites and human spaceflight, and—at its worst—interfere with power grids. A better understanding of the fundamental processes at the Sun driving these events could improve predictions of when they’ll occur and how their effects may be felt on Earth.

“Our goal is to understand how the Sun works and how it affects the space environment to the point of predictability,” said Chris St. Cyr, Solar Orbiter project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is really a curiosity-driven science.”

Parker Solar Probe is slated to launch in the summer of 2018, and Solar Orbiter is scheduled to follow in 2020. These missions were developed independently, but their coordinated science objectives are no coincidence: Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter are natural teammates.

A new water-based battery could provide a cheap way to store wind or solar energy for later, researchers say.

The battery stores energy generated when the sun is shining and wind is blowing, so it can be fed back into the electric grid and redistributed when demand is high.

The prototype manganese-hydrogen battery, reported in Nature Energy, stands just three inches tall and generates a mere 20 milliwatt-hours of electricity, which is on par with the energy levels of LED flashlights that hang on a key ring.

Despite the prototype’s diminutive output, the researchers are confident they can scale up this table-top technology to an industrial-grade system that could charge and recharge up to 10,000 times, creating a grid-scale battery with a useful lifespan well in excess of a decade.

This technology is still in its infancy, but looks very promising, and may provide a very cheap and reusable technology we’ll all be using in the next ten years, so watch that space!

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

HAMNET Report 13 May 2018

Bad news out of the Democratic Republic of Congo this week is the announcement of a new outbreak of Ebola. Of 32 potential cases reported, 2 are confirmed, 18 are probable and 12 are suspected cases. Eighteen of these people have died, though not all of them are confirmed to have had Ebola. All cases were reported from a single health facility, and 17 of them were shown to have had good contact with each other – in other words cases were not spontaneous and unrelated.

This is the eighth outbreak of Ebola in the last 40 years in DRC. The Ministry of Health has deployed rapid response teams to investigate cases, one million dollars has been mobilized by the World Health Organisation’s contingency fund for emergencies, and risk communications materials have been distributed in all the local languages.

To date, the outbreak seems to be geographically limited, but the population density makes the risks in the area high, and the lack of epidemiological and demographic information hampers an estimation of the magnitude of the epidemic.

I asked Dave Higgs ZS2DH, the organiser of last week’s blackout exercise, to send me an informal report about the 24 hour exercise held over the weekend. He writes:

“It is very easy to put together a bunch of messages and then expect a bunch of other people to give up their time, drag their equipment out of the shack and spend a long (and at times cold) 24 hours sending these messages around the country. Well I did the easy part. A bunch of very willing people gave up valuable family time to undertake training and for that a big thank you is due to them and their families. Clearly not everyone needed training, but the old hands were there showing the ropes and that was also appreciated.

Comments made after the event point to everyone having fun and noting the professionalism of the other teams. In spite of some pressure periods, everyone maintained a polite, courteous, and professional air about them. Another common comment in the various emails is that a lot was learned – and that was ultimately the goal.

What stood out for me was the participation and enthusiasm with which the event took place. 11 teams from around the country took part – each with both a VHF and an HF team!

Digital modes were given a try and perhaps warrant more attention as part of our “out of the box” emergency field stations.”

Thank you, Dave, and to you also for the huge amount of work you put into organising the event.

From our perspective, we in the Cape received messages by electronic means at our VHF station, which required us either to send, or request, information from stations elsewhere in the country. Our VHF station then contacted our HF station by VHF, UHF, or even digital means, with a message to send, or information to request, from other stations via HF means. Being so far from the rest of the country, we were at a disadvantage, and suffered from poor propagation at various times during the event. There was a lot of fading on the bands, and 40 and later 80 metres was all we could use. I’m sure the other divisions had similar problems, but were often able to relay on our behalf because of their relative proximity to each other. During the lulls, our HF and VHF stations tested out various digital modes between each other, which proved to be useful experience. So all was not lost in Cape Town. ZS2 and ZS4 stations seemed to be heard the best here, though fade often prevented us from completing the message transfer.

I look forward to another exercise like this, but hope Dave Higgs can get the ionosphere working properly before then!

In a mail from Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Regional Director of HAMNET KZN, we have been informed that “In an effort to improve local co-ordination of members living on the lower South Coast who are not in range of our local 2M repeaters, Sid Tyler ZS5AYC, has kindly agreed to take on the role of, and I have accordingly appointed him as, an Assistant Provincial Director in KZN.  My thanks to Sid in also putting a team together that participated in the recent Blackout exercise.”

Congratulations, Sid, I can’t think of a better candidate! What Sid doesn’t know about radio operations off the grid and in the wild could be written on the back of a postage stamp!

Keith also mentions that he has discovered that only a third of his members were reachable by the email addresses he had on the portal. The rest of the messages all bounced back with error strings. He asks all KZN members to update their details on the portal, and volunteers his services in getting everyone connected again.

Good luck in getting that fixed quickly, Keith!

And in a deliciously sad story from Poland, The New York Times reports that a horse and trailer overturned on a highway, spilling tons of hot liquid chocolate over six lanes on the N2 motorway, blocking traffic in both directions!

Rescue officials said the chocolate was solidifying as it cooled, and would require large amounts of hot water to clear away! I reckon they should have declared a school holiday in the country and sent all the kids there with spoons. The mess would have been cleared up in no time at all! Why don’t we get disasters like that in our country?!

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

HWC Awards Evening

During the gala dinner held in Pretoria in mid April, a number of Hamnet Western Cape members were awarded the Jack Twine Award. Unfortunately not all of them were able to attend the dinner.In place of a regular members meeting, HWC held an awards evening to present these to the members.

Jack Twine

Recipients of the Jack Twine Award:(L-R) Douglas Defty ZS1DUG, Ian Stanbridge ZS1OSK, Peter Dekker ZS1PDE, Grant Southey (ZS1GS), Jason Codd ZS1ZW, Michael Taylor ZS1MJT, Alister Van Tonder ZS1OK, Dave Le Roux ZS1DAV

The same opportunity was used to present certificates to attending members for their efforts in assisting HWC with events etc held during 2017. The certificates are a HWC initiative to recognise members for their efforts and showing them that their contributions do not go un-noticed or unappreciated.


Certificates: (L-R) Dave Le Roux ZS1DAV, Elizabeth Southey ZS1XS, Ian Stanbridge ZS1OSK, Douglas Defty ZS1DUG, Peter Dekker ZS1PDE, Michelle Taylor ZS1MCT, Jason Codd ZS1ZW, Michael Taylor ZS1MJT, Alister Van Tonder ZS1OK, Grant Southey ZS1GS, Paul Kennedy ZS1PXK, Matt Feinstein ZS1MTF, Dave Reece ZS1DFR, Hendrik Visagie ZS1EEE, Brian Dutlow ZS1BTD, Sean White ZS1BSD

Congratulations to all recipients and thank you for your assistance through out the recent years.


HAMNET Report 6 May 2018

For those of you wondering whether last week’s heavy rain made any difference to our dam levels, I can tell you that the state of the Western Cape dams, and the Cape Town System dams, both rose by about one percentage point, compared to the previous week. Pictures of the dams show very little difference, but every drop helps. It remains to be seen how wet May is.

At the members meeting of HAMNET Western Cape, held at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg Hospital on Wednesday evening, Grant ZS1GS, Regional Director, awarded the Jack Twine Awards and HAMNET pens to those amateurs who were unable to attend the SARL Awards Dinner held two weeks ago. The awards were received with acclaim, and photographs were taken to ensure a memory of these awards for posterity. Well done, Fellows!

I found an interesting article in RadioZS of May 1973, by Doug Brook, ZS1AE, reporting on the enthusiasm of earlier amateurs for the principles of HAMNET.

Doug writes:

“The wonderful response from Amateurs throughout South Africa has more than justified the combined efforts of the Civil Defence Authorities and the SARL Sub-Committee to launch a network to provide radio communications in times of Emergency.

“Many good names were submitted for the network and had it not been deemed necessary for the name to be as near usable in English and Afrikaans as possible, expressive of the participation of Radio Amateurs, and as brief as possible, the final choice would have been an extremely difficult one.

“However, one of the names which appeared consistently among the questionnaires was the simple and eye-catching title of ‘HAMNET’ which your subcommittee has since discussed with your Council and also with the Civil Defence Liaison team and all have agreed that this will become the official name of the Network of Radio Amateurs who have volunteered to assist with the provision of radio communications should the necessity ever arise.

“No attempt is being made to define the meaning of the word ‘Emergency’, as it is felt that such an attempt will not only be inadequate but may also tend to be misleading.

“Torrential rains causing serious flooding and in some instances threats of dams bursting have been occurring far more regularly than one likes to believe possible in these modern and enlightened days.

“The disasters mentioned above are typical of natural occurrences which result in a partial or even complete breakdown in normal communications. With the approvals which have been secured from the authorities, it is now possible for the Radio Amateur  to step into the picture and provide vital communication links which may otherwise take hours or even days to set up on an official basis.

“Once the Authorities have regained control of a situation, the Radio Amateur will have fulfilled his obligations.

“A number of Amateurs, who feel that they may possibly be officially engaged during an emergency, have offered their equipment to HAMNET. These offers are greatly appreciated and have been carefully noted.

“Still other amateurs have offered to buy special equipment for the Emergency Network, but your Sub-Committee has decided that this will be an unnecessary imposition on the pocket and the good will of the Amateurs concerned and accordingly make it known that Amateurs are not expected to purchase any special equipment for ‘HAMNET’.

“The Civil Defence Authorities have made it quite clear that amateurs are being requested to provide emergency communications on an exclusively voluntary basis, and to this end, do not wish to impose any discipline of a military nature upon those willing amateurs.

“Likewise, the authorities will not at this stage give any consideration to the provision of any radio equipment whatsoever.

“The authorities are however keen to encourage the amateur in all other respects, and your Sub-Committee has welcomed the offer by the Authorities to permit and to participate in large scale exercises of simulated emergencies.”

The report then goes on to mention the keeping of good logs, and encourages the appointment of regional representatives of HAMNET, to allow good co-operation between the HAMNET Sub-Committee on the SARL Council, and the Branches of the SARL, as they were then constituted.

Doug concludes by saying: “In the meantime, you are thanked for your generous support and for your patience while the various developments have taken place”.

Thank you to the RadioZS archives for the article by Doug Brook ZS1AE.

HAMNET has been occupying itself this weekend in a communications exercise of the type mentioned in Doug Brook’s article. The style of the exercise has been kept most secretive, and, as I write this, I know neither what the exercise will consist of, nor the times during which it will run. This is exactly as one might expect an emergency to take place, as there should be no chance to practise the skills needed during the exercise, nor any advance notice of what to expect. It is known that teams have been activated in all the divisions to act on the instructions of the organisers from Division Two, and we wait with interest to see what happens.

I’m sure we’ll have more news of the event next week.

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