HAMNET Report 26th September 2021

This week’s natural disaster is the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which took place on La Palma, Canary Islands. Apparently the island had experienced hundreds of small earthquakes during the preceding week, and, last Sunday afternoon, the 19th, the volcano couldn’t contain itself any longer and erupted, for the first time in 50 years.

Jose EA9E Emergency Comms Coordinator for Spain sent out a message to the IARU region 1 countries, asking that the emergency frequencies be kept clear in case of traffic. These are 3760, 7110, 14300 and 21350 KHz.

Later on Monday, Roman, EA8RH, Emcomm Coordinator for the EA8 region sent out a report, saying that civil wireless communications were not compromised since they are located in unaffected areas. There are amateur radio repeaters in the area which are active and functioning normally.

Roads were blocked in the populated areas of El Paraíso, Todo que, and Las Manchas, where lava has destroyed everything in its path. Power lines, landlines and water supply lines in the area have been interrupted by lava flows.

The entire area was evacuated before the eruption, which means that an approximate 5,000 inhabitants of the area were evacuated and another 5,000 inhabitants of the area were preparing to be evacuated according to the evolution of the situation.

The evacuees were relocated to the barracks of the fort in Santa Cruz de la Palma and the sports centres of the affected municipalities of El Paso, Llanos de Aridane and Tazacorte.

The area has a high population of radio amateurs with the capability of going out on HF and VHF.

By this last Wednesday a 9th eruptive vent had opened up on the summit of the volcano, but lava flow was slowing down. 6800 people had been evacuated from the area, 200 hundred houses damaged or destroyed, schools in 3 municipalities closed, 400 tourists relocated, and 6 roads were still blocked by lava in the surrounds.

Greg G0DUB has information that the volcano is expected to keep erupting for another 3 to 12 weeks.

In the light of possible emergency traffic on 3760 KHz for some time, HAMNET Western Cape has taken the decision to move its 80 metre relay of the Wednesday evening bulletin at 19h30 Bravo to 3770 KHz until further notice. Please take note of this change.

Meanwhile, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake at a depth of 10km occurred on 21st September at 9h15 local time in southeast Victoria State, in southeast Australia, followed by an aftershock 17 minutes later. Up to 21000 people were subjected to strong shaking, but no immediate reports of serious injury or deaths have been received, though damage to buildings and power supplies have been reported in Melbourne.

And, at about 4am local time on  22nd September, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck about 84km southwest of Jiquilillo, Nicaragua, and at a depth of 20km. There are apparently tectonic plates in the area which are colliding, as these things do.

This earthquake was followed by another 4.0 magnitude earthquake around 6:30am local time and other aftershocks of less intensity as confirmed by Juan de la Cruz Rodríguez Pérez, YN1J, President and National Emergency Coordinator of the Club de Radio Experimentadores de Nicaragua (CREN). Perceptibility reports have also been received from San Salvador, El Salvador.

Taking this situation into account and at the request of Juan de la Cruz, YN1J, the following emergency frequencies in Nicaragua on HF should be kept clear, namely the main frequency of 7098 kHz, and 7198 kHz as an alternative.

Carlos Alberto Santamaría González, CO2JC, EmComm Coordinator for IARU-R2 thanked everyone for their support and promised to remain vigilant.

The earth’s mantle has clearly been restless, with 26 earthquakes of magnitude 4.5 or higher being recorded on Tuesday alone, and another 20 on Thursday. The gods of the underworld must be angry about something!

Now you’ve heard me talking about the use of drones to aid in reduction in loss of life during natural disasters. These drones are obviously what you would call benevolent ones. What about malicious drones? These might be launched by agencies intent on damaging people or places by dropping small explosives, with a view to surveillance, or possibly disruption of airspace.

BBC Science Focus notes that, in the near future, swarms of robot vehicles could become even more dangerous, both on battlefields, and around civilian spaces like airports or sports grounds.

To address the issue, military researchers and arms manufacturers are developing directed energy weapons with the power to disable drones, by using lasers, particle beams, radio frequency waves, and more.

A US start-up called Epirus has created a system called Leonidas, which uses high-powered microwaves (HPM) to overwhelm drones’ on-board electronics. The system uses gallium nitride semiconductors to produce extreme levels of power density while firing the HPM. Operators can narrow the beam to target individual drones, or take down multiple threats across a wider field.

Epirus staged a demonstration event for government officials earlier this year, and the device disabled all 66 drones sent to swarm around it! Unlike some directed energy weapons, Leonidas is small enough to mount on a truck or a boat, and its rapid-fire capabilities make it practical on kinetic battlefields. Epirus is also in the late stages of development of even more compact and portable systems, and the technology could eventually lead to some kind of microwave gun.

And, as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) become cheaper and more prevalent, so too does their potential for harm in civilian spaces. In December 2018, London’s Gatwick Airport closed for two days after mysterious drones were reported in the skies around the runways. Fearing a collision could take down a passenger aircraft, the military was deployed and more than 1000 flights cancelled.

Other identified threats included recreational drones flying too close to rescue helicopters, attacks in civilian spaces, reconnaissance of nuclear sites, invasion of privacy and even as a distraction to aid criminals.

Thanks to BBC Science Focus for these paragraphs from their article.

Personally, it seems to me that anti-drone technology might be developed, only to be countered by anti-anti-drone technology systems which neutralize the high powered microwave beams, only to be overshadowed by cleverer microwave beams, and so on, ad infinitum.

When, I wonder, will mankind stop trying to destroy itself?

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