HAMNET Report 29th May 2022

GDACS is warning of an approaching cyclone in the Pacific barreling down on the West coast of Mexico. Named Tropical Cyclone One-E 22, and with winds of up to 148km/h, it is threatening the lower half of Mexico, and 500 000 people are in its expected path. As of yesterday, it had not crossed the coastline of Mexico, so precise details are a bit sketchy. We’ll keep you posted as it develops.

A new APRS digipeater has been installed on du Toit’s Peak in the du Toit’s mountain pass area east of the Peninsula. Working in collaboration with Pierre ZS1HF in Worcester, the Western Cape Repeater Working Group built up a radio and KPC3 TNC system to work as a stand-alone parrot repeater of APRS signals whose range extends from the centre of Cape Town, about 150Km up the N1 in the direction of Touwsriver, as well as giving coverage to the North and South of this axis.

The site is apparently reliant on solar power only, so panels and batteries were installed with the digipeater and antenna. The site is only accessible by helicopter, so the group had to wait until another user of the site was ferrying equipment up, to hitch a ride on the chopper. The APRS system is being hosted free-of-charge up there, and thanks are due to all parties involved in the installation.

Look for callsign ZS0DZ in the path of APRS packets you may see, and for the digipeater’s own beacon on your digital map.

Michael ZS1MJT, our Western Cape Regional Director, has sent me a short report of the Klipdale National Car Rally, at which 5 HAMNET members assisted with radio communications. The rally was held on Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st of May. Eight rally stages were driven on the Friday, and another seven on Saturday. Control on Friday was at the Bredasdorp Park, manned as always by stalwart Davy ZR1FR and Christo, and on Saturday they moved to Ruens College. The 145.675 MHz repeater on Jonaskop near Villiersdorp provided coverage, and both days’ events ran smoothly.

Michael thanks Davy ZR1FR, Corrie ZS1CQ, Johann ZS1JM and Okko, ZS1OKO for their assistance, and as usual, takes none of the credit himself!

The newest version of the Global Radio Guide is out. In this 18th edition, author Gayle Van Horn discusses “familiar players and familiar places” as the radio industry responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Just like these events have brought up once buried feelings, it has also brought what many thought to be “old” technology back to the forefront,” he said. “While internet access is one of the first targets of invading regimes intent on controlling the narrative, the vast reach of shortwave radio transcends borders and other forms of connectivity.

“It is déjà vu with a front row view.”

The guide includes articles about the international broadcasters on the front lines as well as detailed information about the monitoring of utilities on the shortwave bands, including military communications.

The 18th edition also includes its usual 24-hour station/frequency guide with schedules for selected AM band, longwave, and shortwave radio stations. Plus, listings of DX radio programs and Internet website addresses for many of the stations included.

“Whether you monitor shortwave radio broadcasts, mediumwave, amateur radio operators, or aeronautical, maritime, government, or military communications in the HF radio spectrum, this book has the information you need to help you to hear it all.”

The current edition of the Global Radio Guide is available on the Teak Publishing website and via Amazon. Thank you to the Southgate Amateur Radio News for reporting on this publication.

A disaster which happens underneath our noses, every day of the week, and which should be of more than a passing interest to radio enthusiasts is the copper cable theft disaster.

MyBroadband.co.za reported on Friday that South Africa needs to prohibit the trade of scrap for cash to curb copper cable theft in the country, according to Metal Recyclers Association trade adviser Donald Mackay.

He also said specialised training should be provided for members of the police force to help them identify stolen copper and problematic scrap yards.

“There are a couple of low hanging fruit that we should immediately go after that could make a big difference quite quickly,” Mackay said in an interview with Radio 702.

“One of them is to prohibit the trade in scrap for cash. The moment you trade anything for cash, traceability becomes a challenge.”

“That’s something that’s relatively easy to do quite quickly,” he added.

He also explained that South Africa currently doesn’t have a specialised police force to tackle the problem. Non-specialists don’t always understand the difference between legitimately traded metals and stolen goods.

As a result, the stolen goods enter the regular trading stream.

“There used to be specialised people within the police. For example, in Cape Town, the metro police had “copper heads”, which were a specialised team looking at copper theft particularly,”

“The South African police, in fact, had an arrangement to have people specially trained to identify stolen scrap and taught how to inspect a yard to identify problematic dealers.”

Mackay explained that the South African Police Service no longer seems to do this, adding that the Metal Recyclers Association is reinitiating conversations with the police to get it back on track.

It would also be necessary for police to investigate foundries, as a significant proportion of stolen copper ends up in melted form.

“If we have a look at where the stolen copper ends up, we do see, for example, that some of it ends up in some kind of melted form before it is exported,” Mackay said.

“So presumably, a significant portion of the stolen copper is ending up at local foundries who are then converting the stolen copper into a melted form.”

This makes it much harder to trace, and Mackay said it could then be resold, exported, or used for illegal electricity connections.

“There is a second-hand goods act which regulates what you are meant to do, but of course, this is not well enforced,” he noted.

We all know that this has become a disaster of huge proportions in the electricity, rail and telephone industries, so the sooner the thieves and syndicates are brought to book, the better.

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