HAMNET Report 24th October 2021

There’s yet another Tropical Cyclone sneaking up the West Coast of Mexico, this one called RICK, with maximum windspeeds of 167km/h, and threatening the lives and comfort of some 500000 people on coastal Mexico. Will it turn inland like PAMELA did last week? We wait to see.

The ARRL reports that The HamSCI Antarctic Eclipse Festival in December is seeking amateur radio participation. As the shadow of the moon passes across Antarctica on December 4th, it will generate traveling ionospheric disturbances that will, in turn, affect radio propagation. The unusual geometry of this year’s eclipses will give researchers an opportunity to investigate complicated ionospheric dynamics over the poles as the long daytime of polar summer is briefly interrupted by the eclipse.

During this and other HamSCI eclipse festivals, hams and citizen-scientists are asked to collect Doppler-shift data from time-standard stations, such as WWV. All that’s needed is an HF radio connected to a computer. A GPS-disciplined oscillator is helpful for collecting data, but it is not required. Data collection will run from December 1 through December 10, and the results will be made available for scientific analysis.

All radio amateurs and shortwave listeners are invited to join in, even those located far from the path of totality. In 2020, more than 100 individuals from 45 countries took part in eclipse festivals.The instructions are available in multiple languages.

HamSCI is an initiative of ham radio operators and geospace scientists dedicated to advancing scientific research and understanding through amateur radio activities. Eclipse festivals are pilot campaigns for the Personal Space Weather Station (PSWS), HamSCI’s flagship project. The PSWS team seeks to develop a global network of citizen-science stations. Participants monitor the geospace environment to deepen scientific understanding and enhance the radio art.

For more information on the Antarctic Eclipse Festival and how to participate, visit the HamSCI website.

Thanks to Kristina Collins KD8OXT for the write-up.

Michael ZS1MJT, our HAMNET Western Cape Regional Director, was responsible for putting together a team of volunteers last weekend to assist at the Cape Town Trail Marathons, which took place on Saturday the 16th, the day before the Cape Town Marathon on Sunday the 17th.

He says he needed 7 radio operators, 3 4×4 vehicles, 4 medics, and 10 technical or mountain savvy members. A long 46km race and a shorter 22km race started early on Saturday from the Cape Town Stadium. The long race runners climbed Signal Hill, Kloof Neck, Platteklip Gorge to Maclear’s Beacon, across the top of Table Mountain to de Villiers Dam, down the Kirstenbosch side to the Blockhouse, coming back up again over Kopppelskop, along the contour path below the cable car, down to the lower cable station, along via Kloof Neck, up Signal Hill again and down to the finish at Cape Town Stadium. Blimey – I get tired just reading all that!

There were radios and APRS trackers at various points along the routes, and some quick-response teams, up on the mountain, but fortunately, their services were not needed, and the trail races passed fairly uneventfully. The stragglers came back to the finish late in the afternoon, so it was 18h00 bravo before the base station closed down.

Michael thanks ZS1ZV, ZS1OSK, ZS1PDE, ZS1TAF and ZS1SCH for their volunteerism. And I thank ZS1MJT for his willingness to drive the event. Well done to the team.

Michael also reports that Sybrand ZS1SJ, our Deputy Regional Director, has been in discussion with the Western Cape Local Government Fire Services to provide help in setting up or manning communications when there are fires in and around the Western Cape.

Sybrand has assisted in testing their equipment, and ensuring interoperability amongst their systems, and HAMNET’s, if needed. HAMNET Western Cape is therefore looking for volunteers willing to help with the communications equipment the Fire Service has, to enable fast and efficient set-up of these radios and mobile repeaters.

I’m pleased to report that the Western Cape Repeater Working Group very rapidly sold all 100 raffle tickets in its competition to raise funds, and the draw took place over the weekend. The winner of a Retevis RT 84 dualband DMR Radio was Daniel ZS1ND, and the winner of the Baofeng UV9 Plus dualband analogue radio was Pierre ZS1HF. Well done to you both. Thanks are again due to Andre ZS1F and David ZS1DDK for donating the Baofeng radio.

Finally, Science News reports this week that, when ivory poachers target elephants, the hunters can affect more than just animal numbers. In Mozambique, past hunting pressure led to an increase of naturally tuskless elephants in one park, a study finds.

During the Mozambican Civil War, which lasted from 1977 to 1992, armies hunted elephants and other wildlife for food and ivory. This caused the number of large herbivores to drop more than 90 percent in the country’s Gorongosa National Park.

Now, video footage and photographic records show that as elephant numbers plummeted, the proportion of tuskless female African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) rose from about 18 percent to 51 percent.

Decades of poaching appear to have made tusklessness more advantageous from an evolution standpoint in Gorongosa, encouraging the proliferation of tuskless females with mutations in two tooth genes, researchers report in the Oct. 22 Science.

Jake Buehler says that the rapid culling of tusked individuals changed the makeup of traits in the elephant population in only two decades, leaving behind more tuskless individuals, say evolutionary biologist Shane Campbell-Staton of Princeton University and colleagues. The tuskless trait is heritable, and the evolutionary change in the population may stick around for several generations at least, even as poaching eases.

The team also analysed the genetic instruction books of 18 tusked and tuskless females, zeroing in on two genes rife with mutations in tuskless females. In humans, the disruption of one of those genes can cause tooth brittleness and the absence of a pair of upper incisors that are the “anatomical equivalent of tusks,” Campbell-Staton says. Abnormalities in the other gene’s protein product can cause malformations of the tooth root and tooth loss.

Poaching “changing the course of evolution” in Gorongosa’s elephants, Campbell-Staton says, can have reverberating effects through the ecosystem given elephants’ dramatic impact on their surroundings.

“[Tusks are] not just ornamental. They serve a purpose,” he says, detailing how elephants use tusks to dig for water and strip tree bark for food. “If an elephant doesn’t have the tool to do those things, then what happens?”

It would be like humans developing without thumbs. We’d be severely handicapped.

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