HAMNET Report 7th February 2021

That endless source of news, Southgate Amateur Radio News reminds us this week that the YouTube channel called “Ham Radio Perspectives” carries an interview Tom, WA9TDD, had with Quin, K8QS, a known communications expert, about how we can grow Amateur Radio. I’m sure this subject is close to the heart of all radio amateurs, gloomily watching the lure of amateur radio being whittled away by the social media channels, and the electronics boffins siphoned off by the hacker community. If I just described you, and you’re alarmed at the state of radio affairs, please watch this video, entitled “How to grow Ham Radio – Part 1” and apply your minds to a solution to the problem.

The Western Cape Regional Director of HAMNET, Michael, ZS1MJT says that the Wildrunner Organisation has been the first to step up to the plate, and announce a recommencement of their mountain trail running series, now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted a bit. The Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge has been set to take place on Saturday, the 22nd of May. How it will take place is not known at this stage, and, frankly, the pandemic could still throw a curved ball, to continue the metaphor, and fox the batter! Time will tell, but Michael is already advertising for a few HAMNET volunteers to assist with the challenging mountain communications during the race. If you’ve assisted before, you will know what fun it can be, and your experience will be greatly appreciated.

Australia started reporting on Tropical Cyclone NIRAN on 1st March, when it formed in the Coral Sea. By the 3rd, its centre was located about 300 km east of the far-north eastern Queensland coast, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 120 km/h. Strong wind and heavy rain have been reported in the Cairns Region (eastern Queensland). According to media, about 42,000 residents experienced power outages. Material damage was reported to several buildings and crops.

NIRAN was forecast to move south-east over the Coral Sea and was likely to approach New Caledonia on 6 March. GDACS’ forecasted track for the cyclone had it just North-West of New Caledonia at midnight UTC on Friday night, and over the island at midday UTC on Saturday. Alert levels were pegged at RED, wind speeds were measured at more than 118km/h, and forecast to rise to 204km/h between Friday and this coming Tuesday.

After New Caledonia, Norfolk Island and Vanuata are projected to be in NIRAN’s path. At the time of writing this, I have not heard of casualties or damage. Let us hope it remains this way.

In an interesting item on their website, the ARRL notes that RF noise is a frequent discussion topic among radio amateurs. A proliferation of electronics has cluttered and complicated the noise environment; it’s not just power lines anymore. Unless isolated from civilization, most hams experience RF interference (RFI) — sometimes without even realizing it, although spectrum scopes on modern transceivers make RF noise much more apparent. Various approaches to address the apparently worsening noise floor have been taken around the world, some addressing lax regulation.

“We all want to enhance our ability to copy the weak ones by increasing our signal-to-noise ratio,” Alan Higbie, K0AV, said in his March/April National Contest Journal article, “Tracking RFI with an SDR, One Source at a Time.” He suggests practical methods for individual radio amateurs to improve their own noise environment. “We can do that by reducing the noise on each band that we operate. Lowering the noise floor increases the relative signal strength of weak signals. Those in typical residential environments find that locating and eliminating RFI sources is a never-ending process. It is much like weeding a garden.”

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) warns against complacency. “Radio amateurs cannot sit back, because even if the desired noise limits are agreed, there are many rogue manufacturers and dealers who will happily sell noise-generating devices, leaving out filter circuits to cut costs,” IARU said in a statement. IARU has urged member-societies to get involved.

Thanks once again to the ever-observant Southgate Amateur Radio News for spotting that one.

This coming Thursday the 11th marks the tenth anniversary of the magnitude 9   earthquake that struck Japan in 2011, just east of the Miyagi Prefecture, moving Japan’s Honshu Island 2.4 metres to the East, and creating tsunami waves estimated to have been up to 16.7 metres high. Almost all the deaths in the disaster were caused by the tsunami, and the toll was staggering. Confirmed deaths now stand at 15899, and another 2577 people are still unaccounted for 10 years later.

The biggest problem was the flooding by the tsunami of three of the Fukashima nuclear power reactors, which promptly melted down, and further damage to a fourth one.

A decade later, the decommissioning of Fukushima is still moving slowly, with the entire process expected to take decades.

Challenges include disposing of a growing amount of water contaminated by radiation. Once put through a filtration process, most radioactive elements are removed, but releasing the water into the sea — as recommended by some officials — remains a controversial option.

An evacuation zone of 20 kilometres around the reactors was immediately declared, and nearly 165000 people were evacuated from that area. Many more further away from the power station left the area voluntarily. Ten years later, 2.4% of Fukashima is still a no-go area.

Four hundred and thirty non-contiguous kilometres of seawall will eventually be   constructed or reconstructed, 80% of which is now complete, and the project will finally cost US $12 billion once finished.

Amazing to think that a decade has passed since that one, and more than 16 years since the undersea earthquake in the Indonesian sea that created the tsunami that took over a quarter of a million lives along all the coastlines surrounding that epicentre, on Boxing day 2004.

All of which pales into insignificance next to the death toll from the miniscule Coronavirus causing the current Pandemic, which has so far claimed two and a half million lives, in one short year.

It seems to me we are becoming stunned into submission by the extent of the disasters that befall us with the passage of time, having no choice but to shrug our collective shoulders, and move on with our lives, battle-scarred as we have become.

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