HAMNET Report 23rd February 2020

Hamnet Eastern Cape, members of the Port Elizabeth Amateur Radio Society, and Hammies from Bisho, were in action on Sunday morning the 16th of February during the Herald Mountain Bike race held in the Zuurberg Mountains around Addo just outside Port Elizabeth.

Lunga ZS2LN and 9 members of the Hammies Club in Bisho drove through on the Saturday to meet up with the rest of the team camping at the Hayterdale farm on the Zuurberg pass.  A pleasant evening with a braai fire, a few cold ones and some great chatter!  A few more joined us early on Sunday morning, in time for a coms check at 05:30.

Use was made of a cross band repeater setup at Camp Figtree – a local highpoint, which provided VHF coverage to the various checkpoints and a UHF link to the VOC in Addo some distance away.

Gert, ZS2GS manned the repeater with Lunga ZS2LN, while Colin ZR2CRS, Jimmy ZS2JIM, Aldrin ZS2AGB and Kevern ZR2BK manned the various checkpoints.  As usual, Toni ZR2TX handled the VOC at the polo fields in Addo.

Dave, ZS2DH and 6 of the Hammies were deployed down a part of the route that had several steep descents and was limited to bike access only.  The Hammies were paired off along the route and reported information such as lead riders, last riders and sweep.  Fortunately no injuries needed to be reported along this stretch of bush.  As access was limited, they had to walk in and all the way out, so they all got a good walk in the process!

According to the SA Weather service, Sunday was the hottest day in Port Elizabeth in the last 55 years – the mercury rising to 40.2 C – just short of the record set in March 1965 of 40.7C.

Today, Sunday the 23rd,   many of the same operators are out doing it again for the road race version of the same event.

Thank you to Dave Higgs ZS2DH, for this comprehensive report.

From The Hindu, comes a report of a recent exercise. At an uninhabited island near the mouth of Chilika lagoon, 10 members of the Amateur Radio Society of Odisha (ARSO), with no access to electricity and communication lines, tested their skills and technology to use radio for enhancing preparedness for natural calamities.

The three-day-long second annual field camp at the remote island ended on Sunday, using amateur radio, with minimal power supply being the theme of the camp.

During the devastating Fani cyclone in 2019, Puri district remained without power and telecommunication for several days.

At that time HAM radio became the only means of communication between the Puri collectorate and State secretariat in Bhubaneswar, said ARSO members.

The HAM operators employed high frequency signals to connect with other operators living far away. Participants were able to connect to around 60 such operators in different parts of India and abroad, including three operators in Indonesia, Malaysia and the UAE. The operators contacted in India were located at places like Erode in Kerala, Chandigarh, New Delhi, and Guwahati in Assam.

“Minimal amount of power was used for HAM connectivity and personal use. Only 30-40 watts of electricity from portable small batteries were used for the purpose”, said Gurudatta Panda, a participant at the camp.

ARSO members reached the island on the evening of February 14 and remained cut off from the rest of the world till February 16. To simulate situations during a natural calamity, the group operated without power and conventional modes of communication, and used bamboo poles and domestic electrical wires to construct an antenna tower.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that a 30-year-old Soviet spy radio has been found by archaeologists in a site cleared for a new lignite mine about 30 km west of Köln in Germany.

Live Science reports that the spy radio was buried inside a large metal box that was hermetically sealed with a rubber ring and metal screws. Although the radio’s batteries had run down after almost 30 years in the ground, the box hissed with inrushing air when it was opened.

The radio has been identified as a model R-394KM transmitter and receiver — code-named “Strizh,” meaning “Swift” — that was manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1987. It was carried by agents into Western Europe shortly after that, and only a few years before the fall between 1989 and 1991 of the “Iron Curtain” of communism that divided Eastern and Western Europe.

The high-frequency or shortwave radio was capable of transmitting and receiving messages as far as 1,200 km — far enough to reach Warsaw in Poland, which was then part of the Soviet bloc.

Now to finish, some more coronavirus research news. It appears that bats in China and Borneo have been the subjects of research ever since the SARS epidemic in 2002 in China. About 5 years ago, research showed that some of these bats were harbouring up to 400 species of coronavirus. Further studies showed that some local humans had been in the caves these bats inhabited, so these people were tested for coronavirus antibodies, and some were found positive for the bat viruses, even though they had not had serious illness.

Moving forward now to the present, comparing the SARS-CoV-2 virus genetic material to that of some of the 400 bat coronaviruses previously identified proved a very strong correlation between the two, suggesting that the original animal-to-human transmission may have been from bats. However, it is possible that there was an intermediate animal host, perhaps kept at the live animal market in Wuhan.

Good news is that reviewing the statistics reveals very few children and infants infected, and no deaths at all among children. Another worry seems to have been reduced by news of 9 pregnant women, who were sick with COVID-19 in the last weeks of their pregnancies, and all of whom needed Caesars for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. In spite of the Moms still being sick at the time of their Caesars, researchers were unable to find any trace of the virus in the 9 children, their amniotic fluid, placentas or cord blood. None of those children got sick! Isn’t that wonderful news?!

Numbers continue to climb. There are about 77000 cases reported now, almost 2500 deaths, but nearly 19000 completely cured and no longer infectious. Let’s hold thumbs for Africa and South Africa. The African continent will not be able to afford to look after patients in their masses if the pandemic arrives here.

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

HAMNET Report 16th February 2020

As promised, here is a report of HAMNET Western Cape’s involvement in the 99er Cycle Tour, held around Durbanville on Saturday the 8th February.

The race had been made far more complicated for us by a complete change of route decided 5 days before the event due to roadworks on our usual route along the N7. Consequently, the operations plan had to be revised, and rover duties rearranged. The briefing for operators took place at our monthly meeting on Wednesday the 5th.

The JOC opened at the start/finish at 04h30 on the day, and Danie ZS1OSS and yours truly were kept busy dishing out APRS trackers to ambulances, lead vehicles, back marshals, race marshals and our rover operators who didn’t have their own trackers.

The long race set off at 06h00, completing two big circles in a figure of eight, for a distance of 103km. The shorter route riders set off at 07h40, and covered 51km in a slightly smaller version of the second circle traversed in the long race.

Six of our 8 rovers patrolled the long route, while two were diverted to patrol the parts of the short race not included in the long. One operator set up 2 temporary APRS digipeaters at high sites, to ensure the entire route was visible on the screens in the JOC. A problem with the APRS map installed on the computers caused some duplication of beacons on the screen, and involved our re-installing the map and co-ordinates, to start again. After that, the tracking went very smoothly, and all the trackers performed flawlessly.

It was a very hot day, and several calls for medical help were made for riders with dehydration, and collapse, but rescue by the roving ambulances proved effective. There were apparently the usual falls, shoulder injuries, and broken collar-bones, but by far the most calls were for flat tyres, and many riders almost didn’t make the cut-off, about 30 minutes away from the finish, having to replace damaged inner tubes.

In the end, the riders were glad to finish, as midday temperatures reached 34 degrees.

Rovers were Douw ZS1DGK, Mike ZS1TAF, Ian ZS1OSK, Johann ZS1JM, Peter ZS1PDE accompanied by Corrie ZS1CQ, Douglas ZS1DUG, and Grant ZS1GS, while Alister ZS1OK manned the digipeaters.  Shaan ZS1SCW and Stan ZS1HCC acted as co-pilots with the race marshals, and Danie ZS1OSS and Dave ZS1DFR ran the JOC.

I’d like to thank the HAMNET members who assisted, making the race safer for the 3000 riders who braved the course. We will be back next year. Our next two events are partial involvement in the Cape Town Cycle Tour on 8th March, and full involvement in the Two Oceans Marathon on Easter Saturday.

The amateur astronomers amongst you should be keeping an eye on Betelgeuse’s activities in the next week. The red giant in Orion’s right shoulder has dimmed by about 25% over the last 6 months, and the experts are wondering whether it isn’t going to explode as a supernova in the next week – specifically the 21st of February. If it does, it will be very bright indeed, possibly bright enough even to be seen in daylight! So watch that space.

Greg Mossop G0DUB has reported that Jose EA9E has informed us that today, the 16th, sees the first exercise of 2020 by EMCOM SPAIN, called # Emcomnet 2020/1. He informs us on the IARU mailing list that, since it is open to any radio amateur, they will work in “NET-Control” mode by exchanging QTC and establishing links via Winlink as backup. There will also be several EH*NET stations spread throughout Spain, run by EH9NET. The propagation conditions that they have, oblige them to use 40m and 20m to establish communications mainly with the EA8 zone (Canary Islands) and the rest of Spain, and in Winlink they will use the bands of nodes that they have nearby, mainly HB9AK that is received quite well in EA.

Now to further developments in the Coronavirus saga.

Firstly, China has begun using a wider range of diagnostic criteria to diagnose the disease, which has suddenly resulted in a huge jump in the statistics. The number of reported cases has increased by almost 50% this week, the number of reported deaths has continued to climb at the steady rate, (because you can’t make a mistake statistically with a death), but happily the number of patients reported completely cured has increased significantly. These patients were watched closely and surveyed until they were completely free of virus RNA, therefore no longer infectious, and discharged.

Secondly the World Health Organisation has been allowed to send staff into China, to help manage the disease and the statistics, which may then make it appear that case numbers have climbed, but may only be from better reporting.

Thirdly, the ratio of male to female patients statistically has changed from a 50:50 proportion, to a 60% male:40% female proportion. By far the majority of patients are still confined to China where all deaths but 4 have taken place. There has been one death in each of Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines and, yesterday, France. One case has now been reported in Africa, in Egypt, and all of South America is still completely free of any cases.

In that there is no antiviral specifically for the Coronavirus, treatment so far has been supportive. Treatment for symptoms, ensuring the patients are well quarantined from unexposed citizens, standard medical treatment in the hospital ICU’s where ventilation by machine has saved many lives, once the stiffness of the patient’s lungs has cleared, and then further quarantining until doctors are sure the patients are free of virus, are all effective in the majority.

When you have no formal treatment options for a disease, you are inclined to try anything that might work for other viral illnesses, as long as they are unlikely to cause a patient harm, and on the off-chance that they will help. This is usually frowned upon by the medical profession, though it seems cruel, unless trials have been done to prove effectiveness. However, in a move called “compassionate use”, clinicians have tried a variety of antiviral medicines, including anti-retrovirals, without major success.

The coronavirus dashboard’s figures yesterday afternoon showed 67091 cases confirmed, 1527 deaths (steady at 2.27% of total cases), and 8557 patients confirmed completely cured, no longer infectious, and thus discharged. We hold our collective breaths for the day when new cases and the death toll start diminishing.

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

HAMNET Report 9th February 2020

Earth’s upper atmosphere has strange dense layers of ions that are constantly appearing and disappearing and which can hamper radio communication. The same thing has now been found on Mars, offering a new chance to understand this poorly studied phenomenon, says the New Scientist.

Writing on 3rd February, the report notes that the ionosphere is the layer of the atmosphere about 60 to 1000 kilometres up, that is full of charged particles. When those particles are temporarily blown into clumps by the wind, they form what researchers call sporadic E layers in the lower reaches of the ionosphere.

“They act like a mirror in the sky, and radio signals bounce off of them,” says Glyn Collinson at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland. “When you turn on your favourite radio station and it’s jammed by another station, you have probably been the victim of a sporadic E layer.”

They don’t just interfere with commercial radio stations, though – they can also block radar signals that are used to detect aircraft and ballistic missiles, he says.

E layers are difficult to study on Earth, because they appear and disappear unpredictably and they are at an altitude that is too high for aircraft to reach and too low for satellite orbits. But Collinson and his colleagues have spotted them in the Martian atmosphere for the first time, where they might be far easier to study.

The team found signs of 34 E layers in data from NASA’s “Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution” (MAVEN) spacecraft. The layers form higher in the Martian atmosphere, so MAVEN is flying right through them and they are probably too high to interfere with any future radio communications on the ground, Collinson says.

MAVEN also found “rifts” in the planet’s atmosphere – areas with abnormally few charged particles that are the opposite of E layers and have never been spotted on Earth. The layers and rifts seem always to form at the same spots because of how the charged particles in Mars’s ionosphere react to its tangled magnetic field. That could make them far easier to predict and study there, which could teach us more about them and help us deal with their effects on radio communications here.

“MAVEN has already explored more of these at Mars than we have ever explored on Earth,” says Collinson. “It’s giving us a place where we can finally study this thing that’s happening right above us all the time, that you wouldn’t know about, unless your radio starts speaking Portuguese!”

From Anette and Brian Jacobs has come a report of the Midvaal Fast One Cycle Challenge. This race is run by the Vaal Rotarians every year towards the end of January. This year the event took place on 26th January 2020.

The event consists of a very short, a short, and a long cycle race departing from Midvaal Raceway in Meyerton, and finishing at the same venue.

HAMNET Gauteng South was requested to assist with this event again. Requirements were to set up communications in the organizer’s VOC with HAMNET members placed strategically in the field. Their role was to report on the progress of the race, investigate and report any incidents as requested, and report anything to the VOC considered important to the success of the race. These usually relate to potholes, traffic, water tables, route demarcation, marshals, metro or traffic police, and, last but not least, the safety of the cyclists.

HAMNET Gauteng South also assisted with communications for the deployment of ambulances as requested by the VOC commander or Ambulance head, as well as making tracking information available to all the managers in the VOC. HAMNET was also responsible for the “Tail-end Charlie” function which ensures that no cyclists is left stranded on the road. A reconnaissance unit was also dispatched 30 minutes before the start of the race start to check the condition of the route. HAMNET also provided telephone support and a filtered and fire-walled internet access to all the personnel in the VOC.

HAMNET Gauteng South, East Rand and Vaal’s members made themselves available for this event, with Riaan ZS4PR and Leon ZS6LMG as the event coordinators. This event was a full-on training event for many of the newer HAMNET operators who shadowed and assisted the more experienced operators. Alan ZS4HWG was in charge of the VOC, with Gideon ZS6GJA being the main radio operator. Awie ZS6AVI was the runner and Gideon’s relief. Ambulance Comms was the responsibility of Linda ZS6LML, with Jaco ZS6JCO as Linda’s runner and relief. Johan ZS6DMX, Eugene ZS6ECJ, Leon ZS6LMG and Deon ZS6DAB were responsible for the technical support of the VOC. Jacques ZS6JV was tasked with Venue Communications.

Some of the members were already at the Midvaal race track on 25 January to assist with setting up the VOC and getting radios and tracker units ready for installation in the ambulances. These members also slept over at the raceway ready for the early start the next day. The braai that was hosted by the Vaal members was really great and the camaraderie experienced was fantastic.

On the day of the event 26 January, Midvaal Traffic closed the roads and no entry without permits was allowed. From 03:00 in the morning the HAMNET members were ready to start installing the equipment in the ambulances, but these only arrived shortly before 05:00, which put some pressure on the team.

At 05:00, Riaan ZS4PR and Leon ZS6LMG briefed all the HAMNET team members while enjoying a hotdog and refreshments supplied by the Vaal members. At 05:15 the HAMNET member assigned to do the recce left to do the route inspection. At 05:30 the rest of the team deployed to their respective locations. By 05:50 the final report-in and comms checks were done, ready for the start of the race at 06:00.

The event finished around 14:00, and all units reported back to the venue to enjoy a boerewors roll and cold drinks again supplied by the Vaal team. After a short debrief everyone departed for home, each reporting on the Telegram group when they had reached home safely.

Brian thanks the operators once again for a job well done!

HAMNET Western Cape assisted at the 99er Cycle tour around Durbanville yesterday, and I’ll have a report back on that event next week.

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

HAMNET Report 2nd February 2020


Greg Mossop G0DUB, IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Coordinator issued a communique on Friday morning early. In it, he referred to the reports from Aziz, TA1E, on the Turkish 6.9 magnitude earthquake of 24th January.

Aziz said: “As the affected area was very small and the intensity limited, our involvement was also limited. 2 TRAC-Branches in the area stepped in. TRAC, being a “Telecommunication Working Group Solution Partner” in the National Emergency Response Plan, contributed by conducting tactical communication in the affected area and supporting the Ministry of Health by installing and getting operational  their repeater in a mountaintop. Due to the relatively limited scale of the disaster, foreign assistance, therefore also deployment from IARU R-1 was not needed.”

After the 7.7 magnitude earthquake in the Caribbean on 28th January, Greg asked for information on whether Radio Amateurs had responded in Cuba or Jamaica as the two islands closest to the location of the quake. That information is still coming in but even though the earthquake was strong and felt on both islands, there was no significant property damage or injuries so there was no formal request for Amateur Radio to assist. However, that did not stop amateurs in affected areas of Cuba activating on their local repeater networks, which showed that they were ready to assist if needed.

Lastly, Greg announced that the new IARU Region 1 website at www.iaru-r1.org has gone live today. He hopes that it will be stable and ready to use in the next couple of days, and, if you link to any of the emergency communications pages, please make sure and update your links as soon as you can.

Thank you, Greg. This bulletin writer had no trouble accessing the new website on Friday evening, and found that the new page had merely overwritten the old page, so no updating of links was necessary here.

In a report received from Leon Lessing, ZS6LMG, we hear that HAMNET Gauteng South was alerted by Chris Gryffenberg ZS6COG, to a missing girl in the vicinity of Nigel, and requesting the presence of a scent dog. Leon ZS6LMG was briefed by Martin ZS6ISH about the situation, after which, SAPS Nigel issued a directive to enable HAMNET to deploy a scent tracking K9 (canine).

HAMNET as a member of SASAR has access to specialist K9’s and in this instance, K9 Loki was deployed along with handler Marnus Rossouw. The on-scene information brief was as follows: The missing girl went for a jog and did not return. She was last seen jogging at about 18H00 to 18H30. SAPS and the Nigel CPF/community did an extensive search of the area, but found nothing and initial reports from another K9 search was that the trail ended in a body of water.

Johan ZS6DMX did scene backup and managed the night vision equipment, Martin Harris accompanied the search party as an extra set of hands and eyes.

Arriving on scene, it took 5 to 10 minutes to get K9 Loki settled, as the trip from Johannesburg was exciting for him. In K9 terms he had to wait an awful long time to start working. Using proper K9 scent techniques the team introduced a piece of clothing of the missing girl. Loki analysed the scent and indicated that the search could commence. They had a report that the girl crossed a traffic circle. Within 30 seconds K9 Loki found the scent and started the tracking process. After about 3km on the girl’s trail (2 hours+ of tracking and water breaks), K9 Loki seemed to have lost the scent track, and, at first, it was thought he was tired. They are unable to say why he “lost” the scent trail, but it was due to no fault of the dog or handler, rather to other circumstances.

On the way back to regroup and get a third SAR K9 to join the search it was reported that the girl was found alive, and the searchers were overjoyed. HAMNET would like to express their joy to the family, and hope for a speedy recovery of the young lady. HAMNET withdrew from the scene at about 01H00

HAMNET Gauteng South also wishes to thank Marnus Rossouw and K9 Loki for their help.

Thanks to Anette Jacobs, ZR6D, for sending me this report.

More than 75,000 people—ten times the official tally of confirmed cases—have been infected with the coronavirus in Wuhan, ground zero of a global health emergency, according to research published Friday.

“We estimate that 75,815 individuals have been infected in Wuhan as of January 25, 2020,” a team led by Gabriel Leung from the University of Hong Kong reported in The Lancet.

As of January 31, the Chinese government said the number of confirmed cases had risen above 9,700 for all of China, including 213 deaths.

For Hubei Province—including Wuhan, a city in central China of 11 million—the official figure was nearly 6,000 confirmed cases and just over 200 deaths.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak a global health emergency, but said it was not recommending any international trade or travel restrictions.

“The apparent discrepancy between our modeled estimates of 2019-nCoV infections and the actual number of confirmed cases in Wuhan could be due to several factors,” Leung said in a statement.

A time lag between infection and symptom onset, delays in infected persons getting medical treatment, and the time needed to confirm cases with lab tests “could all affect overall recording and reporting,” he said.

The study found that each person infected with the virus, which emerged in December, could have infected two to three individuals on average, and that the epidemic had doubled in size every 6.4 days.

If the virus spreads as quickly on a national scale, “it is possible that epidemics could be already growing in multiple major Chinese cities, with a time lag of one to two weeks behind Wuhan,” said co-author Joseph Wu, a professor at the University of Hong Kong.

“Large cities overseas with close transport links to China could potentially also become outbreak epicentres.”

If the new estimate of cases is accurate, it would mean that the mortality rate of the 2019-nCoV virus is significantly lower than preliminary figures suggested, with well under one percent of cases proving deadly. But a low mortality rate can still result in a large number of deaths if the virus spreads widely.

Let us hope that these statistics are true, because then the proportion of cases that become serious, is much, much smaller than reported, and the epidemic will pass without serious worldwide consequences.

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