HAMNET Report 4th July 2021

We’ve heard again from Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Regional Director for HAMNET KZN, who tells me that 12 Hamnet KZN members provided communications from key vantage points along the coast for the 46Km Scottburgh to Brighton Sand and Surf Marathon on 26th June 2021, which saw 52 Single ski’s, 34 Doubles, 1 Triple and 48 runners taking part.

Race Control was situated at the QTH of Steve ZS5SH overlooking the beach, and operated by Duncan ZS5DGR and Jitesh ZS5JM.  Keith ZS5WFD was based at the finish at Brighton Beach.

Weather conditions were absolutely perfect with a moderate South Westerly and manageable surf conditions.  The South Coast had been in the grip of the sardine run with sharks having been sighted close inshore at Amanzimtoti the previous day, but fortunately no problems were encountered during the race.

Communications were maintained between positions on 145.550 MHz Simplex and no problems were encountered on 2 metres.

Eight Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRB’s) accompanying the various batches of ski’s had vhf portables on S.A. Lifesaving’s commercial frequency which proved to be a challenge, what with engine noise, batteries not holding charge and limited range, to the extent that we only managed to establish contact with 4 of them.  This will be addressed before next year’s event.

Troy ZS5TWJ at Toti main beach encountered some problems with local law enforcement and had to make hurried arrangements to obtain a beach permit, or his vehicle was going to be fined and towed.  Fortunately, this was resolved.  Due to changing surf conditions the compulsory check in was waived as skis were being smashed when trying to re-launch, so keeping a tally proved difficult. Troy also noted that a number of competitors who had checked in were not on the original organisers race sheet.  This was of concern to us as it could have resulted in a possible search being launched for competitors who were “unaccounted for”.

All’s well that ends well and Keith was pleased to report that all competitors were reconciled against those that had actually started, withdrawals, and those that finished.

Keith conveys his thanks to the members that gave of their time to assist.  He notes that, with the country back to Level 4 Lockdown, it may be some time until their next event!

Thanks for the report Keith. You were lucky to get that race in before lockdown.

The ARRL letter of Thursday July the 1st notes that the massive Duga-1 antenna array that transmitted the obnoxious and infuriating “Russian Woodpecker” HF signal from the 1970s until the late 1980s is now a cultural heritage site. The array, located near Chernobyl in Ukraine, was part of an over-the-horizon radar (OTH-R) system designed to detect and offer early warning of incoming ballistic missiles from the US. A complementary receiver site was located some 40 miles away. While the system was operating, its broad rat-a-tat signal, typically at a 10 Hz rate, caused severe interference in the amateur bands. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster and the end of the Cold War preceded the end of the system and the interference it caused. NATO military intelligence discovered and photographed the structure, which it dubbed “Steel Yard.”

Nearly 2,300 feet long and more than 450 feet tall, the steel beams of the radar array are in the Chernobyl exclusion zone and tower above the surrounding forest. Seen from a distance, it appears to be a massive wall or the start of a cage. As Vice recently reported, the Association of Chernobyl Tour Operators was the first to announce that Ukraine had made Duga-1 a protected heritage site. The Russian Interfax news service later reported the official designation.

“Our heritage is not only the area around the power plant but also the buildings located on its territory,” Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s Minister of Culture and Information Policy, said in a Telegram thread about the announcement. “So now we are working on identifying other objects that should be part of the list of monuments. Our goal is to prevent destruction where possible.”

The Soviet Union deployed two similar OTH-R installations — known as Duga-1 and Duga-2 — this one near Chernobyl and the other in eastern Siberia. Transmitter power levels were rumoured to be in the 10-megawatt EIRP range.

Duga-1 was the focus of a 2015 documentary, The Russian Woodpecker, by Chad Gracia. The film includes interviews with Duga Commander Vladimir Musiets and others involved in building and operating the OTH-R system. The production was a 2015 Sundance Film Festival winner in the documentary category.

Mention of Chernobyl reminds me of the unintended wild boar/pig experiment, which has taken place in Fukushima, after the area was evacuated of humans after the Japanese Earthquake and resultant tsunami drowned two nuclear reactors, causing them to release their radioactivity into the environment.

Donovan Anderson, a researcher at Fukushima University in Japan says that his genetic study of the wild boar that roam in an area largely abandoned after Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster, has revealed how the animals have thrived.

Using DNA samples, he discovered that the boar have bred with domestic pigs that escaped from farms.  This has created wild pig-boar hybrids that now inhabit the zone. “While the radiation hasn’t caused a genetic effect, the invasive domestic pig species has,” Mr Anderson explained.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings B, paint a biological picture from a vast experiment that was caused by a nuclear disaster. The scientists used DNA to track the legacy of the event on the landscape – finding out what happens to wild animals in a radiation-contaminated area that is suddenly deserted by humans and, at the same time, invaded by domestic livestock.

Examining the DNA of the wild boar and escaped domestic pigs showed that what researchers called a “biological invasion” could be seen in the boar’s genes.

It also revealed that those domestic pig genes have been gradually “diluted” over time. “I think the pigs were not able to survive in the wild, but the boar thrived in the abandoned towns – because they’re so robust,” explained Donovan Anderson.

So, he said, while the evacuated area was the origin of this hybridisation, or cross-breeding, the hybrid pigs then go on to breed with wild boar.

This confirms yet again that, if you leave nature to its own devices, it gets on with smoothing out genetic discrepancies, and allows the fittest to survive.

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