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.