HAMNET Report 28th August 2022

Tropical Cyclone MA-ON 22 was announced on Monday this week, brushing the Northern-most tip of Philippines and travelling due West, to hit mainland China on Wednesday the 24th at 06h00 UTC. Wind speeds of up to 140 km/h were expected in the following 5 days, 19 million people were in its path of destruction, and Vietnam was the next country in its focus after China.

Fortunately, by Thursday the 25th, the storm’s maximum wind speeds had reduced to 120 km/h, though still threatening a huge number of people at the periphery of the storm’s path. Not much news has come to light of damage or injury so far.

Well known Agulhas radio amateur Trevor ZS1TR was involved in the search and rescue attempts, as the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, the NSRI, and Cape Town Radio (CTR) tried to find the yacht Panacea and her lone sailor, somewhere between Cape Town and Mossel Bay last week and overdue in Mossel Bay..

Though not in very good seaworthy condition, Panacea had set sail from Cape Town on 12th August, and, by 18th, not yet arrived in Mossel Bay. The sailor’s family was naturally very worried and contacted CTR to initiate a search.

Trevor alerted his coastal radio contacts to keep a listening watch, but, by nightfall on 18th, nothing had been heard in the way of distress signals. At around 10h30 Central African Time on the 19th, an ocean-going vessel, the Solin reported a possible sighting of the yacht, but communications were poor, and a language barrier between Trevor and the Solin’s operator made confirmation difficult. A vessel nearby called Monsoon started to act as “interpreter”, relaying information between the Solin, Trevor, and Cape Town Radio.

MRCC subsequently directed a third vessel, a 276m tanker called Front Clipper, to divert from her course and head to the coordinates received from
Solin and Monsoon. Front Clipper found the yacht, positively identified it with photographs, and stood by, while the NSRI at Hermanus and Stilbaai was activated to try to recover the yacht. Front Clipper had seen no sign of life on the yacht.

Seeing that the NSRI was on its way, Front Clipper was released to carry on its journey, and NSRI at Agulhas was also activated to head to the area. Arriving in the dark, and in adverse weather, the NSRI vessels were unable to locate the yacht, and so stood down until the morning of the 20th.

On Saturday the 20th, MRCC dispatched a SAAF Oryx helicopter from 22 Squadron, with airborne sea rescue, to continue searching, together with the NSRI vessels.

The Panacea was finally found on Saturday afternoon, as well as the lifeless body of the lone sailor. The Stilbaai rescue craft of the NSRI attempted to tow the yacht back to Stilbaai, but in deteriorating weather, was forced to release the tow.

Eventually, the deep sea rescue craft Spirit of Safmarine lll was launched from Mossel Bay early Sunday morning, and managed to connect a towline to the yacht, and install a water extrication pump. Before a second pump could be installed and 12 nautical miles from Mossel Bay, the yacht Panacea sadly sank, taking her sailor to a watery grave.

Attempts will be made to raise the yacht, and hopefully retrieve the body of the sailor. Our condolences are extended to his family, and our thanks go to Trevor, ZS1TR, in his experienced role as maritime communications specialist, and the NSRI, MRCC and Cape Town Radio for their valiant attempts to reach the yacht and its occupant.

Thank you to the NSRI headquarters, reports from Trevor, and HAMNET Western Cape, for this summary of events.

In an attempt proactively to reduce the impact of weather disasters in the area, the United Nations (U.N.) announced its plans to establish a disaster preparedness hub in the Caribbean earlier this month. Located at the international airport in Bridgetown, Barbados, the hub will support air and sea operations to accelerate responses to natural disasters in the region.

“The Caribbean islands are right on the frontlines of climate change. As hurricanes become more frequent and severe, we need to be fully prepared so that lives are saved, livelihoods are defended and hard-won development gains are protected,” said World Food Programme Chief David Beasley when announcing plans for the hub.

It’s something that’s desperately needed in a region that is notoriously hard hit by natural disasters. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions regularly have an impact on the Caribbean, making the need for a preparedness hub long overdue.

When small islands with fragile economies are hit by multiple hurricanes in a year, the economic impact can be overwhelming. Many of the Caribbean islands rely on tourism as a large part of their economy. Hurricanes not only cause immediate damage but also deter tourism until clean-up and restoration is complete.

A supplied logistics hub in the Caribbean will reduce response and coordination times when disaster strikes.

When there is proper preparation for a disaster, the effects of that disaster are reduced substantially. It might sound like common sense, but even still it has been difficult to get funding to prepare for disasters. Having the supplies ready to go, staff trained, and transport vehicles available to dispatch when a disaster strikes, such as is being constructed in Barbados, will save money and lives.

The planned hub in Barbados is a step in the right direction to alleviate the effects of natural disasters in one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions.

Thank you to triplepundit.com for these excerpts from their report.

Phys.org reports this week that an area of the brain specifically involved in putting in effort to help others out has been pinpointed by scientists at the University of Birmingham and University of Oxford.

The research, published in Current Biology, shows that effortful altruistic behaviour – choices people make that help others – takes place in a different part of the brain from that used to make physically demanding choices that help oneself.

Understanding more precisely what goes on in the brain when these decisions are made could help clinicians to develop approaches for treating psychopathic behaviours. It could also be useful for better understanding why people are willing to perform everyday effortful helping behaviours like voluntary work, recycling waste to slow global warming or stopping to help strangers.

Let’s hope we’ve all got that piece of brain functioning at full throttle.

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

HAMNET Report 21st August 2022

Since the 18th of August, a tropical storm, so far only called FOUR, has been threatening the North Eastern corner of India, and Southern Bangladesh. It has not quite escalated to the level of Tropical Cyclone yet, but has more than 13 million people squarely in its projected path as it comes ashore.

Meanwhile, extreme weather, with heavy rainfall, flooding, landslides and even loss of life have been reported this week from Niger, Chad, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South East Asia, Mexico and even New Zealand.

There are minor flood alerts out for France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Belgium, even though parts of France and Spain are still battling wild fires!

And we in the Western Cape are trying to keep up with the pace, by experiencing, and passing on to the rest of the country, a couple of cold fronts, absolutely sure to bring freezing levels to all the highlands from the Overberg to the Drakensberg. I’m certain you can expect snow all over the show in the next few days!

Earlier this week, the sun had a cadenza of its own, and launched two coronal mass ejections on consecutive days (Wednesday and Thursday), following an M2 solar flare. Both ejections were deemed to have an earth-directed component, and their effects on our ionosphere were dramatic. Geomagnetic storm activity was observed and the Planetary K index rose to the highest I’ve seen it, namely 6 (out of a possible score of 9), effectively killing the top bands on Wednesday. The K index is measured at a wide range of earth stations, and a new (averaged) report is issued every 3 hours. By midday Friday it was down at 2 again, which is much more acceptable. However, by 8pm our time Friday night, another coronal mass ejection had been detected, and the K index was on its way up to 5 again. This may well have scuppered your chances for some decent lighthouse contacts this weekend. I certainly hope not!

Keith Lowes ZS5WFD, he of the KZN HAMNET Division, tells me that HAMNET KZN were invited to setup and display a field station at Forest Hills Sports Club, Kloof, on Tuesday 9th August 2022. This was in support of S.T.A.R.T – Specialised Tactical Accident Rescue Team which is a non-profit organization that interacts with, and provides support to Municipal, private and volunteer emergency units.  S.T.A.R.T was conducting a recruitment drive and a number of their partners were showcasing or demonstrating their capabilities; namely:

Netcare 911 Rapid Specialised Extrication Unit                                                           Netcare 911 Medical Response                                                                         Rescuetech Search and Rescue                                                                                                              IPSS Medical Rescue                                                                                       S.T.A.R.T K9 Search and Rescue   and                                                                  S.T.A.R.T 4 x 4 unit

HAMNET KZN members Justin ZS5JW and Chris ZS5W are already both active members of Rescuetech Search and Rescue.

Prospective volunteers were given a basic safety induction course prior to a practical abseiling lesson in the Kloof Gorge before returning to the Sports Club for a meet and greet along with a braai.

At least twenty prospective new members were signed up.

Keith says HAMNET KZN will return to the same venue on Sunday 2 October to provide communications support for the Krantzkloof Trail Run.

He says further that, although the twenty new members signed up for rescue duties, and not HAMNET, he will nevertheless prevail on them to consider becoming licenced radio operators. Good luck with your endeavours, Keith.

Writing in The Daily Telegram on Wednesday. David Panian reports that a telescope designed by Adrian-based PlaneWave Instruments is being used by NASA to demonstrate laser communication technology for future spaceflight missions.

A PlaneWave RC700 laser communication telescope was installed in November at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.

The development of the RC700 began when PlaneWave’s team realized that the industry needed more from laser communication, the release said. From software, design, assembly and testing, this is the first telescope engineered to meet the exact needs of the consumer.

“Previous laser communication missions at NASA have been supported by one-of-a- kind ground terminals built specifically for each mission. If NASA is to build a global network of optical terminals to enable widespread use of optical communications, then a blueprint for an economical ground terminal able to support a variety of missions is needed,” a research paper about the project said.

The paper said optical communications offer a way for space missions to return data to Earth at higher rates than what is possible by radio communications. Also, the size, weight and power requirements of an optical terminal needed for a given data rate are less than an equivalent radio terminal, the paper said.

An impediment to adopting laser communications has been a lack of an existing ground network of terminals, the paper said. A mission that wanted to use laser communications would need to create both a terminal to use in space as well as terminals on the ground to receive the signal from the spacecraft. Not only does that add cost to the project, but the equipment that is built is specific to that mission and will go into storage when that mission is over.

This new development means that similar systems can be installed in all parts of the world critical to the reception of laser signals from space, and standardization of output from them can be guaranteed.

Thank you to The Daily Telegram for these excerpts.

In case you need reminding, the International Space Station now has two amateur radio frequencies you can use to experiment with satellite operation. Voice communications are handled by the Kenwood D-710 dualband radio in the Columbus module, with an uplink frequency of 145.990 MHz and a CTCSS tone of 67Hz, and a downlink frequency of 437.800 MHz. Remember to adjust that downlink frequency on UHF up as the satellite comes towards you, and down as it moves away from you, for clear reception. Packet signals, also handled by a Kenwood D-710 but in the Service Module, may be sent and received on a frequency of 145.825 MHz, both up and down. Adjusting for Doppler effects is not usually necessary on VHF frequencies. Have fun experimenting with your antennas.

As the amateur radio stations sometimes need to be switched off during other important ISS activities, go to ariss.org/current-status-of-ISS-stations.html for up-to-date news of the availability of the voice and packet equipment on the ISS,

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

HAMNET Report 14th August 2022

The Philippines continues to be in the wars. A total of 3213 aftershocks has been felt after the magnitude 7 earthquake of the 27th July. Half a million people have been affected by the quakes, 53000 displaced, 29 cities or municipalities have been declared disaster areas, 35000 houses and 1500 public facilities damaged.

And to crown it all heavy rainfall has been falling since the 4th of August, affecting most of Philippines, triggering landslides, and causing floods that have resulted in evacuations and damage. Further rainfall continues.

I’m sure the whole country suffers from perpetual Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…

South Korea is not spared either. Since 7th August, floods caused by heavy rainfall have been reported across north-western South Korea, affecting particularly the Seoul area, the provinces of Incheon and Gyeonggi, and resulting in casualties.

Media report that at least eight people have died and six others are missing. Nearly 800 buildings in Seoul and nearby cities were damaged while at least 790 people were evacuated. Several roads and transportation services in Seoul have been flooded.

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), the accumulated precipitation from the evening of 7 August to 8 August reached more than 450 mm in Sanbuk (Gyeonggi Province).

May I remind you that 450mm of rain is nearly 18 inches in the language we old wrinklies still remember! And all that in only 24 hours.

Meanwhile the forest fires in France and Spain continue. Towns and rural areas have had to be evacuated in both countries.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that the International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 invited amateurs to come up with game changing ideas, which could lead to more licensed radio amateurs It has now announced the results.

Nestor 5B4AHZ presented a “Ham Radio Escape Room” project. The idea came during the Covid-19 crisis, when people needed to find a way to have fun remotely, while actual, physical escape rooms were closed. The radio-based escape room can be played in a very similar way to a virtual escape room with amateur radio themes/stories where teams playing the game can also communicate via radio rather than a webcam.

Christian HB9FEU tied with Nestor in first place with “A public database of fun projects for innovation”, which is a public database of fun projects for innovation and technology-oriented hobbyists with no or little experience and equipment. The project description may include an indication of the level of complexity and the required time, prerequisite knowledge, and required equipment, etc.

The 3rd place went to IU2FRL, Luca, and his team with their “UrgentSat” project, describing a simple carry-on luggage that can be transported to schools or public demonstrations, providing a brief demonstration of the incredible capabilities of the Ham Radio World, and how using cheap and second-hand tools can achieve great distances and reliable communications.

The transmissions are directed to the QO-100 satellite, a geostationary device with massive ground coverage capable of repeating SSB voice and both wideband and narrowband digital streams (including high quality video channels).

This project combines multiple sciences interconnected, creating an interesting environment to [attract] new users in the communication technologies at any level.

However, I tell you all this to give me the opportunity to congratulate Guy ZS6GUY, who wins the Youth Prize, with “A Workbook that will showcase various aspects of the hobby”. The proposed workbook is designed to help newcomers by increasing their knowledge of different aspects of our hobby and this workbook can become a valid tool for mentors to teach some of the most common amateur radio activities.

So congratulations to all the winners, and especially ZS6GUY!

Medical Xpress is reporting that a team of researchers from the University of Iceland and the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico City, working with a colleague from TU Dresden, has found evidence that suggests doctors may soon be able to measure recent stress levels in patients by measuring cortisol levels in their hair. The group has written a paper describing their research and have posted it on the open access site PLOS Global Public Health.

Cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone, is a type of steroid made by the adrenal gland. It serves a wide variety of purposes and is produced in abundance when people experience stress. Because of that, it has sometimes been referred to as the stress hormone.

In this new effort, the researchers wanted to know if cortisol winds up in the hair as it grows, and if so, is the amount related to stress levels. To find their answers, the researchers studied data in the Mexican Teachers and Icelandic Stress and Gene Analysis cohorts which included data on hair samples collected from 881 women living in parts of Mexico and 398 in Iceland. Each of the samples was yanked, not cut, so as to be able to test the root section as well. Each hair was also cut to just 3cm. The researchers noted that hair grows an average of 1cm per month, which meant each hair sample they studied represented the previous three months growth. Each of the women who volunteered to participate in the study also answered a short survey that asked them questions about how stressed they had been feeling over the past three months.

After testing the hair samples and analyzing the surveys, the researchers divided the results into five groups representing the stress levels of the participants, with number scores given to allow for comparison between the groups. In so doing, the researchers found a correlation between the amount of stress reported by the women volunteers and the amount of cortisol they found in their hair—the more stress they had been feeling the more cortisol they found in their hair.

The researchers suggest their findings indicate that cortisol levels in a person’s hair can serve as a biomarker representing stress levels in the recent past. They acknowledge that such a test would have to take into account other factors, however, that could have led to increases in cortisol production, such as the use of certain medications or the presence of benign tumours.

I note that this assessment won’t work in a large majority of half the population of the world, who have presumably experienced so much stress that their hair has already all fallen out. Personally, I can’t remember when last I had enough hair to make this test reliable!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR apologizing for an extremely gravelly voice, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 7th August 2022

In an update to news of the magnitude 7 earthquake which struck Philippines on 27th July, GDACS reports that the human and material toll of the earthquake that struck Abra Province in the Northern Philippines continues to increase. Close to 2,000 aftershocks have struck the area since then, the strongest of which was of magnitude 5.1.

On 1st August, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that 10 people had died and 394 had been injured. 50,514 people were displaced, more than 380,000 were affected, and 24,901 houses had been damaged across Ilocos region and Cordillera administrative region. 27 cities and municipalities were declared to fall under a State of Calamity, and, in the 24 hours to 2nd August, 246 aftershocks were recorded out of total of 2,202 aftershocks so far.

Writing in prnewswire.com, The Salvation Army says that, as natural disasters become more frequent and destructive across the U.S., it is prepared to assist millions of survivors and first responders with critical services. Many communities are in increasing need of a helping hand as inflation rises and the impacts of past disaster events linger.

As one of the largest disaster relief organizations in the country, The Salvation Army is already on the front lines of meeting needs, and can quickly activate response efforts unique to each community affected. In 2021 alone, The Salvation Army responded to 8,441 disasters; assisted over 2.3 million people in the aftermath of hurricanes, wildfires, winter storms, heat waves, tornadoes, and other events; and provided more than $8.3 million in financial aid to survivors.

The Salvation Army is on the ground now in Southeast Kentucky after historic flooding impacted the area and is coordinating their efforts with state and local officials, as well as other participating relief agencies. Salvation Army teams, responding to the disaster, plan to continue providing meals, drinks, snacks, clean-up kits, and emotional and spiritual care for as long as their services are needed.

Trained Salvation Army staff and volunteers have served in the wake of every major disaster since 1900. In addition to offering disaster-preparedness training programs across the country to get individuals and communities ready for emergencies, The Salvation Army also has a disaster preparedness handbook available.

When a disaster strikes, The Salvation Army works with organizations and federal authorities to identify and mobilize resources through their national network of disaster professionals and service locations positioned in all 50 states, and support survivors and first responders through mobile units that provide food, hydration, hygiene products, and emotional and spiritual care.

So, a huge congratulatory pat on the back definitely goes to this very dynamic emergency response organization!

In world news from Ukraine, we hear that the head of the UN‘s nuclear agency has warned that a massive nuclear power plant captured by Russia during the Ukraine invasion is “completely out of control”.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (pronounced “Zap-or-ritzia”), the largest such plant in Europe and responsible for one fifth of Ukraine’s energy needs, was seized by advancing Russian forces on March 4.

Under Russian control, it continues to generate electricity. However there are reports that it is also being used as a weapons store with several rocket launchers moved to the station’s grounds on the banks of the strategically important Dnipro River.

UN nuclear official Rafael Grossi warned that the Zaporizhzhia plant needed an urgent inspection and repairs.

“You have a catalogue of things that should never be happening in any nuclear facility,” he said at a UN conference in New York.

“The situation is very fragile. Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated one way or the other and we cannot allow that to continue.”

He said communication with staff at the plant had been “patchy”, warning the region will only have itself to blame if a nuclear disaster unfolds.

“While this war rages on, inaction is unconscionable,” he said. ”If an accident occurs at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, we will not have a natural disaster to blame – we will have only ourselves to answer to. We need everyone‘s support.”

Writing in Newsweek on Thursday, Ed Browne noted that a sunspot on the far side of the sun is so large that it’s changing the way sound moves through our star—and it could be revealed to us in days.

Sunspots are a known source of eruptions from our sun known as solar flares—bursts of radiation that travel to Earth at the speed of light. These flares, along with other potentially disruptive eruptions known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), are released whenever the intense magnetic fields associated with sunspots suddenly reorganize themselves.

Thus, scientists like to keep track of sunspots as they can be useful indicators of how active the sun is at a given moment. Flares, CMEs, and other solar phenomena that can affect Earth may be referred to as space weather.

Because the sun is a sphere, we can only directly see the sunspots that are facing us. However, it is also possible to detect sunspots on the back of the sun as well. Scientists can detect far-side sunspots and other hidden solar activity using a technique known as helioseismology.

Helioseismology is similar to regular seismology here on Earth. It works on the basis that sound waves, or vibrations, can travel through the interior of the sun and can be used to measure the star’s internal structure and dynamics.

These sound waves can be measured by observing the light released from turbulent gas on the sun’s surface on our side. By observing changes to the wave patterns on the sun’s visible side, it is possible to detect sunspots that are occurring on the other side, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). Using this method, it’s possible to produce an activity map of the entire sun every 12 hours.

“The detection of active regions on the far side of the Sun’s surface is of great importance for space weather predictions,” the U.S. National Solar Observatory (NSO) states on its website.

Currently however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Centre (SWPC) does not have any significant space weather warnings or alerts in place. We’ll have to see what happens in the next week, as the far side of the sun rotates into view.

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