HAMNET Report 30th May 2021

India is in the wars again. They are now experiencing a second Tropical Cylone, Cyclone YAAS-21, this one moving northwards in the Bay of Bengal, and striking India close to the Border with Bangladesh.

It came ashore over the northern coast of Odisha on 26th May, with flooding also in West Bengal, closing airports and forcing cancellation of train services. At least 22000 houses were damaged, 15000 people displaced, some deaths reported, and continuing heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast for all the northeastern states of India. Ten million people were in the path of the storm and its peripheral wind and rain.

YAAS forced the evacuation of more than 1.2 million people in the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha.

The Indian Meteorological Department said landfall began around 9:00 am (0330 GMT) and warned that it would generate waves higher than rooftops in some areas. Coastal areas experienced wind gusts up to 155 kilometres an hour and pounding rain.

“We have been experiencing heavy rainfall and strong winds since last night,” said Bibhu Prasad Panda, a resident of Balasore district in the storm’s path. “Several trees have been uprooted. The cyclone has also led to snapping of overhead electricity cables.”

A tornado that preceded the storm left two dead electrocuted as it tore through West Bengal’s Hooghly district, authorities said. Kolkata, West Bengal’s main city, ordered its international airport to shut down for most of Wednesday. The airport in Odisha’s capital, Bhubaneswar, followed suit.

“Every life is precious,” said Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik as he appealed for people not to “panic” and to move away from the coast.

A record 4,800 disaster workers had been positioned in the two states, equipped with tree and wire cutters, emergency communications, inflatable boats and medical aid, the National Disaster Response Force said.

It just doesn’t stop for the unfortunate Indian nation.

Here’s an interesting bit of research. The website Phys.org reports that adverse encounters between police officers and young men from underrepresented backgrounds garner significant national attention around topics of social justice and have been called a matter of public health by several organizations. Now, with a new, four-year, $2.75 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, an interdisciplinary team of researchers aims to examine transcripts of police radio communications to observe what happens during these encounters and study any patterns of interaction that may lead to unfortunate or tragic outcomes.

“We’re hoping to identify signals in language, such as vocabulary and discourse, that suggest an encounter between a law enforcement officer and a male minority youth will take a turn for the worse,” said Shomir Wilson, assistant professor in the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology. “Language conveys a lot of information about a person’s frame of mind, their actions, their mood and their level of comfort.”

Working with experts in human development from the University of Chicago, Wilson will lead a Penn State team to use natural language processing to draw insights from Chicago-area police scanner transcripts at a large scale. His team will also carefully examine the privacy ramifications of police communications by radio in general and the dataset specifically.

“Law enforcement officers frequently use their radios to report what they encounter, and they use a combination of standard jargon and freeform language to quickly describe situations,” said Wilson. “We want to go beyond the literal descriptions and try to infer what police are thinking and assuming during encounters. If we can do that, it’s a step toward identifying strategies that will de-escalate adverse encounters.”

The interdisciplinary project will combine research in natural language processing, computational social science, and privacy. Penn State’s contribution will include developing automated methods to sort through a large volume of transcripts, using supervised and unsupervised machine learning to explore the transcripts, and studying how incidents are structured to be able to identify distinguishing characteristics in language that may predict incident outcomes. The Penn State team will also identify potentially sensitive data and determine the best approach for sharing it with the research community while also protecting the identities of those involved.

I wonder whether it would be possible to extrapolate this kind of research to a country with 11 separate languages. In that it is quite possible that the law enforcement officer’s mother tongue is different from that of the suspected perpetrator of an illegal deed, the likelihood is high that nor the officer nor the civilian will understand nuances in the other’s use of language, and misunderstanding is highly likely. But if it raises awareness in the minds of the trained forces as to what they may be intimating while interacting with their “suspects”, it will be all to the good, and unnecessary violence may be avoided.

The ARRL Letter of May 27th reports that HamSCI is looking for radio amateurs to record time-standard stations during the June 2021 annular solar eclipse across the Arctic Circle as part of a citizen science experiment. Researchers will use the crowd-sourced data to investigate the superimposed effects of auroral particle precipitation and the eclipse on HF Doppler shift.

Participants would collect data using an HF radio connected to a computer running open-source software. A precision frequency standard, such as a GPS-disciplined oscillator, is desirable but not required to participate. Radio amateurs and shortwave listeners around the globe are invited to take part, even stations far from the path of totality. Last year’s eclipse festivals included more than 100 participants from 45 countries.

The experiment will run June 7 – 12. All participants will receive certificates as well as updates as the data is processed. This is a pilot experiment for HamSCI’s Personal Space Weather Station project, which seeks to develop a global network monitoring the geospace environment

This eclipse will be an unusual annular or “ring of fire” eclipse. This occurs when the moon is too far from Earth to fully block the sun, but will fit entirely within it. The eclipse path will cross over the North Pole, so it first will travel north and then south.

The HamSCI convenors encourage anybody from any part of the globe to go to their website, and download the software to use with their HF radio, because eclipse effects on HF don’t only occur in the path of the eclipse, and careful observation may reveal unexpected worldwide effects.

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

HAMNET Report 23rd May 2021

I’m sure that you, like me have been stunned this week to hear of the large number of civilian casualties incurred in this week’s hostilities between Israel and fighters operating out of Gaza. It is appalling to realize that it is impossible for two enemy forces, no matter which side you support, to engage with each other, without placing the lives and possessions of local civilians in jeopardy.

We have witnessed physical damage to buildings, roads and vehicles, heard reports of civilian men women and children being killed in collateral damage inflicted, and learned that hundreds of thousands of local populace have been displaced or had their homes destroyed during the offensives.

Let us hope that the flimsy cease-fire that went into effect midnight on Thursday can be made to last.

On the other side of the globe, GDACS has reported at least three major earthquakes in China since midday Friday, local time. The first was a Magnitude 6 quake at a depth of 10km very close to the Myanmar border, at 13h48 local time. There was limited public danger as a result of this one. A minute or so later a Magnitude 6.1 shock at the same epicenter, close to the Myanmar border was experienced. Population exposed this time was 423000, because the Richter scale is a logarithmic scale, and a decimal point in magnitude makes for a much stronger quake. The third quake was even stronger, a magnitude 7.4 version at 18h00 on Friday, but in a less densely populated area, and not threatening as many people.

At the time of compiling this bulletin, news of casualties had not filtered through, and I sincerely hope there weren’t any.

And, remarking on the double disaster in India this week, a blogger writing in the Times of India notes that Cyclone Tuaktae of the week was similar to Cyclone Amphan which hit Bengal last year. In both cases, disruptions were huge, but worse this time around, because of the huge Covid surge, with Cyclone Tauktae seriously disrupting operations at Covid hospitals that already have a high patient load, disrupting oxygen supply logistics, hitting vaccine cold storage, and raising the risk of Covid infection in evacuation shelters in the affected states.

In such a scenario, Central Disaster Relief has assured all help to the cyclone-hit states, including deployment of central forces and NDRF teams. This is welcome and all necessary assistance should be made available. However, over the long term, our disaster response systems need to be prepared to operate in multi-crises situations. For Covid may not be the last pandemic we see in our lifetimes with zoonotic diseases on the rise. Same is the case with climate change and the increasing frequency of natural disasters. Therefore, appropriate Standard Operating Procedures need to be developed to manage natural disasters in pandemic situations and other multi-crises events. The lessons from this pandemic period must not be forgotten.

The competitive swimmers amongst you will be interested to know that a one-way communications system has been developed so that coaches may talk to their swimmers while they’re in the water, without having to shout to be heard.

The Sonr system is designed to address that problem, using one-way radio communications. Invented by swimmer and entrepreneur Dmitri Voloshin, Sonr is manufactured by Moldovan company Simpal.

The system consists of two parts – a walkie-talkie held by the coach, and a waterproof bone conduction speaker/receiver worn by the swimmer. The latter device is slightly buoyant – so it will float if it comes off – and can be worn either under a swimming cap or clipped to the wearer’s goggles strap.

In order to provide the swimmer with feedback or instructions, the coach simply speaks into the walkie-talkie, with his/her voice being transmitted to the athlete’s receiver in real time. The system has a lateral range of 300 metres, plus its signal can travel up to 1 metre underwater.

Additionally, by selecting different frequencies, one coach can speak to as many as 30 swimmers at once. That said, they can still select any one of those people – or small sub-groups of them – and talk to them individually. The system can also be set to act as a metronome, providing audio signals that help swimmers time the pace of their strokes.

Thanks to NewAtlas for that information. The technique is so obvious that I’m having difficulty understanding why someone hasn’t thought of the idea before! I don’t know whether it can be used during a sports competition, but I expect the instructions would have to be encrypted to prevent other competitors from benefitting from opponent’s communications, if that were the case.

The annual American National Hurricane Centre station on-the-air test will be held on Saturday, May 29, 13h00 – 21h00 UTC. The WX4NHC operators plan to be working remotely again this year as the National Hurricane Centre plans to maintain all CDC COVID-19 pandemic protocols until the end of 2021. The yearly exercise takes place just ahead of the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, June 1 – November 30. Assistant WX4NHC Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R, said the event offers an opportunity for radio amateurs worldwide to exercise the sorts of communication capabilities available during severe weather.

“We will be making brief contacts on many frequencies and modes, and exchanging signal reports and basic weather data (sun, rain, temperature, etc.) with any station in any location,” Ripoll said.

Participating stations may use HF, VHF, UHF, APRS, and Winlink, with WX4NHC HF activity centring on the Hurricane Watch Net frequencies of 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz, depending on propagation, and will operate elsewhere as conditions dictate. WX4NHC will also participate in the VoIP Hurricane Net, 20h00 – 21h00 UTC.

As for the upcoming hurricane season, Ripoll said, “Even if you are not directly affected by a hurricane situation, please volunteer to monitor and relay reports; just one report can make a difference and help save a life!”

Thank you to the ARRL letter for May the 20th for this insert.

May I end with an impassioned plea to all who are eligible, to register to be vaccinated against COVID as soon as possible? This disease is not going to go away until a majority of about 70% of us have either had it or been vaccinated against it.

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

Hamnet Report 16th May 2021

As if India is not currently suffering the worst wave of Covid infections in its history, it is also being threatened by Tropical Cyclone Tauktae-21, which is sliding up India’s western coastline. It was first identified on Friday afternoon as being potentially dangerous, and, at present, GDACS reports 4.1 million people as being in its 120 km/h path, and another 44.5 million people as being affected by its surrounding tropical depression.

Projections call for it to proceed in a generally northerly direction, parallel to India’s coastline, and finally coming ashore just south-east of India’s border with Pakistan on Tuesday morning their time. Wind-speeds are forecast to increase to 200km/h between now and Tuesday. We must hope that the storm remains offshore for as long as possible. India does not need, or deserve, to be battered by another disaster, as it reels from the effects of 300 to 400 000 new Covid-19 cases a day.

Writing on the Express.co.uk website, Oliver Pritchard-Jones says there is new hope for the discovery of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 after an expert claimed amateur radio sleuths could solve the mystery.

The Boeing 777 plane vanished with 238 passengers and crew on board on March 8, 2014, after setting off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing, China. Aerospace engineer Richard Godfrey recently published a study on how to interpret data about the plane’s final movements.

Using a process called Weak Signal Propagation Reporter (WSPR), it works by reconstructing its flightpath by analysing disturbances to radio reception at the time it went missing. Mr Godfrey explained radio signals acted like invisible “tripwires” in the sky. He said his theory that the pilot of the doomed flight deliberately tried to avoid detection was now a “working hypothesis” thanks to the technique.

The data revealed the plane turned multiple times as though to shake off aircraft tracking technology before plummeting into the southern Indian Ocean, he said.

Mr Godfrey, who is investigating the crash with the so-called Independent Group of Scientists, indicated the plane’s flight path was “significantly different” from earlier theories based on satellite data.

He claimed pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah took a series of turns and alternated the speed of the MH370 to leave “false trails” on unofficial routes while avoiding commercial flight routes.

Airlineratings.com quoted Mr Godfrey saying: “I would no longer characterise the track in the new paper as speculative but a working hypothesis.

“The MH370 flight path I have proposed is a hypothesis supported by a body of evidence in the form of a large number of position and progress indicators.

“The working hypothesis will remain valid until someone proves it wrong by presenting evidence that this flight path was not followed.

“One possibility would be the publication of raw radar data for example.”

Mr Godfrey previously said: “WSPR is like a bunch of tripwires or laser beams, but they work in every direction over the horizon to the other side of the globe.

“The pilot of MH370 generally avoided official flight routes from 18:00 UTC onwards but used waypoints to navigate on unofficial flight paths in the Malacca Strait, around Sumatra and across the Southern Indian Ocean.”

He added: “The flight path follows the coast of Sumatra and flies close to Banda Aceh Airport.” Close quote.

Whatever plans the pilot of the doomed aircraft seems to have had, appear to have been doomed, possibly by the aircraft running out of fuel, and having to ditch at sea, probably breaking up on impact, and sinking without leaving any local trace.

You may remember that pieces of aircraft wing identified as belonging to the aircraft, washed up on beaches on the East side of the Indian ocean several months later, but of course did nothing to prove exactly where the aircraft’s final resting place is.

However, WSPR technology may provide sufficient proof to allow an accurate search in the correct area to be made, and finally discover the truth regarding the flight.

In research made possible when COVID-19 side-lined other research projects, scientists at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine meticulously counted brain cells in fruit flies and three species of mosquitos, revealing a number that would surprise many people outside the science world.

The insects’ tiny brains, on average, have about 200,000 neurons and other cells, they say. By comparison, a human brain has 86 billion neurons, and a rodent brain contains about 12 billion. The figure probably represents a “floor” for the number needed to perform the bugs’ complex behaviours.

“Even though these brains are simple [in contrast to mammalian brains], they can do a lot of processing, even more than a supercomputer,” says Christopher Potter, Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “They enable the insects to navigate, find food and perform other complicated tasks at the same time, and our study offers one answer to the question of how many brain cells come together to conduct these behaviours,” Potter adds.

Results of the research are summarized on May 14 in PLOS ONE.

Those who study insect behaviour and brain function have long suspected these insects must have hundreds of thousands of brain cells, says Potter, but when he and postdoctoral fellow Joshua Raji, Ph.D., followed chains of scientific papers that referenced the count, they did not find proof for it.

In response, they report, they set out to find proof using a relatively simple counting method called an isotropic fractionator, a technique familiar to pathologists when they tally the number of any type of cell in a tissue.

Potter says that researchers have determined the number of brain cells in only a few species of insects, including wasps and ants. “It would be interesting to apply this approach to social insects like bees, and see if there are differences between queens and drones,” he says.

The most challenging part of the technique, says Potter, was the microdissection of a brain that is smaller than the tip of a pencil. “It takes a really steady hand and lots of practice,” he says.

What he didn’t say was whether the brain of the average radio amateur has as many brain cells as the average fruit fly, and I suppose we may never know..

Thanks to Phys.org for this enlightening item of news.

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

HAMNET Report 9th May 2021

The Southern Cape has been battered by extremely heavy rain, strong winds and high seas since Wednesday, and only by Friday was a state of normalcy starting to return.

IOL reported that residents were evacuated from their homes after heavy floods in some parts of L’Agulhas, Struisbaai, and Struisbaai North on Wednesday. Rescue teams were deployed to the area, including Disaster Management, a statement from the Overberg District Municipality said.

Heavy rain that was initially predicted to reach 45mm, actually reached from 60mm to 100mm in mountainous areas. The weather bureau warned that the rainfall would be accompanied by thunderstorms and hail. Videos and pictures were posted to social media of flooded homes, hail the size of golf balls, and a crew from Cape Agulhas municipality on a small fishing boat helping to evacuate residents.

An orange level 6 warning was issued in the Overberg area, with an urgent note of danger to life due to fast flowing streams.

Residents in the Cape Winelands, City of Cape Town and Hessequa Municipality were also issued an orange level 4 warning, with possible flooding.

Social media were awash, if you’ll pardon the expression, with videos of water flooding streets, racing through gardens, getting rivers that had been dry for up to 7 years flowing again, and the NSRI operating on land, helping to rescue stranded families on farms!

Dam catchment areas in the mountains had huge amounts of rain, and, apart from the effect of filling all dams and reservoirs in the area, ground water has been restocked.

The Airforce was asked to be on standby to help rescue stranded groups of people, but so far, it seems that ground forces were adequate to the task.

At this stage it seems that 2 pairs of travellers in two vehicles lost their lives, being washed away in raging floodwater.

The Cape Winter has been late in starting, but has now started with a vengeance!

In these times of multiple simultaneous disasters taking place, I have had my attention drawn again to the plight of the disabled during disasters. There are many types and degrees of disability, but the one I wish to concentrate on here is the disability of being unable to hear – i.e. deafness.

Deafness has been described as the invisible disability, because it is not obvious that a person is deaf. Deafness prevents a person from having his/her attention drawn easily to a disaster broadcast of any sort.

Reporting in theconversation.com, Nick Craig and Julia Allen note that deaf people are highly vulnerable to disaster risk, but tend to be excluded from programs aimed at boosting preparedness and resilience.

I quote:

“Our study, published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, examined the challenges the New South Wales Deaf community faces in accessing the support they need to effectively respond to disaster risk.

“Our research showed that deaf people are vulnerable to disasters for various reasons, including low disaster awareness and preparedness, poor knowledge of emergency services roles and responsibilities, and dependency on family and friends for help.

“Communication issues are the biggest barrier, because deaf people have limited access to disaster information in sign language, in plain English or in pictorial form, emergency messages are usually communicated via TV and radio, door-to-door messaging, loudspeaker alerts and social media which are either audio in form or too complicated for many deaf people to understand, and emergency personnel and emergency shelter staff can find it hard to communicate with deaf people due to language barriers.

“Consequently, deaf people are frequently unaware of evacuation shelter locations, unsure of whom and how to ask for help, and more likely to return to unsafe homes and conditions.

“This marginalises them further and increases vulnerability. They also have difficulties in getting information on how to access recovery resources. Good communication requires trust between everyone involved but deaf peoples’ trust in the emergency services has been low due to past bad experiences.

“Deaf people reported that emergency services personnel were often uncomfortable communicating with them directly and lack the patience to use non-verbal communication methods.” End quote.

Thanks to the authors for the use of their report.

In my 4 decades of observing the human species, I have come to the realisation that to be deaf is worse than to be blind. I maintain that blindness robs you of your possessions, but deafness robs you of your friends. To be deaf makes you alone amongst a crowd. The conversation and interaction can go on around you, but you can’t take part. And non-disabled people are more tolerant of the blind, with whom they can communicate, than of the deaf, because they have to shout to make themselves understood, or repeat their message many times.

And, of course, deafness would rob us of the hobby of Ham Radio, an intolerable disability. EXCEPT for digital modes of radio communication, which still allow us to “chew the rag” with our fellow amateurs, and make our volunteerism in emergency communications still possible. This fact alone levels the playing field, so to speak, for all deaf people to continue to practice this hobby.

And it is the digital mode on the cell phone (that is, messaging of one sort or another) which has revolutionized life for deaf people in all walks of life. To message, to be warned, to attract someone’s attention, or be made aware of someone’s desire to communicate with you when you are deaf, is actually the greatest advance in smart phone evolution over the last 2 decades.

I think that being robbed of all exposure to music must surely be the most crippling loss to a deaf person.

So be kind to your deaf relative or friend, help them acquire the most sophisticated hearing aid they can afford, be tolerant of their loud voices because they can’t hear themselves speak, try to learn sign language if you live closely with them, teach them how to use a cell-phone effectively to reduce the loneliness, and use your skill in electronics to devise means to make their soundless life manageable, such as a doorbell that causes a light to flash.

Finally, one line to draw your attention to the signs that a third wave of the Coronavirus illness is just beginning in some of our provinces. Please remember the truism: “It’s not over for any of us, until it’s over for all of us”!

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

HAMNET Report 2nd May 2021

Authorities in the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius issued a disaster alert on Wednesday after heavy rains caused severe flooding making roads impassable to pedestrians and vehicles.

State-owned Vacoas weather station issued the alert and warned of impassable roads, thunderstorms and floods from torrential rains.

“Rainfall reached about 170 mm in the previous 24 hours, while thunder continued to rumble on the side of Plaines-Wilhems,” it said.

The warning noted that ”the atmosphere remains unstable over Mauritius and after a brief lull, very active clouds coming from the east will begin to influence the weather again. There will also be thunderstorms. Accumulations of floodwater have also been noted in the south, east and on the central plateau.”

Due to the unpredictable weather patterns, meteorologists from the Vacoas weather station told reporters they are not certain when the alert will be lifted.

Water sources, including rivers, have been polluted by the uncontrollable increase of rainwater and the water supply is irregular in several places in the east of the country due to the accumulation of mud in the rivers.

Invercargill Police SAR Coordinator Sergeant Ian Martin reports that a Southland hunter was found after spending multiple hours lost in the cold in the Hokonui Hills last week.

Gore Police and Eastern Southland Land Search and Rescue team were alerted to the lost hunter on 21 April, after he used his mobile phone to raise the alarm with his wife, who in turn notified Police at about 6.30pm. Police were able to determine the man’s location by getting him to make a 111 call from his mobile phone.

Ten Eastern Southland LandSAR volunteers assisted and Amateur Radio Emergency Communications volunteers also responded to the call-out. Three search teams walked through the area near Dolamore Park. The hunter was located at about 10.30pm; four hours after staff were first notified.

He was feeling the cold, but otherwise in good health, and very lucky, as he had very little food and insufficient gear to spend the night in the bush.

The ARRL Newsletter this week also reports on a Ham Radio Rescue scenario.

A back-country hiker was rescued from Great Smoky Mountains National Park with assistance from amateur radio after she became exhausted on the trail and possibly dehydrated. A member of the hiking group on the park’s Little River Trail, Tim Luttrell, KA9EBJ, put out a call on the evening of April 11 via the W4KEV linked VHF repeater in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, requesting assistance in extricating the injured member. No cell phone service was available at the location, and Luttrell’s signal was spotty at times, owing to the mountainous terrain.

Responding was David Manuel, W5DJR, who obtained more information and called 911, which routed the call to Great Smoky Mountains National Park Emergency Medical Service (GSMNP EMS). The national park EMS relayed through Manuel a request for the group to continue down the trail as far as possible to shorten the rescue time.

A medic with the Park Service search-and-rescue team subsequently reached Manuel by telephone, who served to relay questions to Luttrell. Manuel contacted members of the hiker’s family after Luttrell provided contact numbers. Manuel was asked to relay information for the family to arrange to meet in Cherokee, North Carolina, and be prepared to transport the distressed hiker’s vehicle to her home.

Manuel got a call from Luttrell indicating “all clear” shortly after 2 AM.

The injured hiker was hospitalized and required surgery and rehabilitation. ARRL Tennessee Section Manager Dave Thomas, KM4NYI, told ARRL that he’d learned another hiker in the same group was close to hypothermia by the time they were rescued.

Powerline (PLC) devices have been a problem for amateur radio for years due to the RF Pollution they can produce. Now DARC reports a large scale plan for PLC.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says the Japanese electronics group Panasonic is currently planning a breakthrough in large-scale applications and in private business.

As Heise Online reports, Panasonic wants to manufacture chips e.g. for street lamps and household appliances that can be networked via power lines. The range of the power line data network should be able to be extended to up to ten kilometres.

According to the Japanese plan, one billion chips are to be produced by 2030. Elevators, offices and apartments as well as new sensors could then be networked without additional cabling. Electricity companies could also use the technology efficiently to read smart electricity meters remotely.

My heart sinks at the thought of the amount of litigation that will be necessary to help fight this degree of RF pollution.

For those of you using, or interested in DMR (Digital Mobile Radio), Allan ZS1AL and Danie ZS1OSS have created a dedicated HAMNET Western Cape Talk Group 6550087, which should work for all DMR operators using the Bottelaryberg or Helderberg DMR repeaters in Cape Town, as well as countrywide. Most operators in South Africa monitor Talk Group 655, so it is suggested you call on 655, and then move to 6550087 for further comms.

Thanks to Allan and Danie!

If you’ve felt isolated and lonely sometimes during the Covid-19 pandemic, spare a thought for Astronaut Michael Collins who stayed behind in the Apollo 11 Columbia Command Module, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969.

Once the lander had left Columbia, Collins orbited the moon on his own, and when on the far side of the moon, was totally isolated, and cut off from all humanity, with no means of contacting anybody, and the furthest humans had ever travelled from Earth. Collins later joked he was “glad to get behind the moon so Mission Control would shut up!”

He also said he remembered very little of the moon, but was struck by the view of the Earth, a tiny, shiny, blue sky’d and watered planet, white of cloud, with only a trace of brown land, all of which he described as “fragile”.

I think we can agree our Earth has become more fragile since he made those remarks. Michael Collins died this week, aged 90, the dimly remembered third crew-member of Apollo 11.

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