HAMNET Report 26th March 2023

Michael, ZS1MJT, our Regional HAMNET Director, tells me that, on Saturday 18th  March 2023, Cape Peninsula Motorcycle and Car club (CPMCC) hosted the first of this year’s rally championships in Darling, Western Cape, and HAMNET was there to help.

It was a cool, gloomy start to the day with rain during the first stage. This was short lived and by the end of the rally, there were no more signs of rain!

Fourteen cars started the event. Our radio officials had positions at the start and end of each stage, one mobile operator was with the Clerk of the Course and another ran Rally Control, which was stationed at Darling Brew.

There were 3 first time operators at the event and I took the opportunity to double up the starts to coach the ‘newbies’ and show them the ropes. Davy, ZR1FR assisted with the training at the one start and I coached Jannie, ZS1JFK at the other.

Roger, ZR1AKK, had the privilege of having Ian, ZS1BR, with him at control and Ian managed superbly in this position.

Michael thanks all who assisted at this rally, namely: ZR1AKK, ZS1BR, ZS1JFK, ZS1JM, ZS1RBT, ZR1FR, ZS1TAF and ZS1CQ. Without their enthusiasm and help, these types of events would not be held.

And Michael ZS1MJT conveniently leaves himself out, overlooking the fact that he did most of the work, organizing the event in the first place.

Thank you for the report, Michael.

I hope you weren’t outside last night at about 10pm, standing on a very tall ladder. If so, you might have had your hairstyle disturbed by a 66 metre asteroid that whizzed past earth at a distance of about 170000 km, less than half the distance to the moon.

2023 DZ2 is the temporary designation for an approximately 66 metre wide asteroid passing near Earth this weekend. The asteroid got closer to Earth than the Moon. So this week, it is a very special object. However, asteroids like 2023 DZ2 pass this close to Earth every decade, so it’s not a unique event in a person’s lifetime.

The asteroid was the closest to Earth (but still over 170,000 km away) on Saturday, March 25th at approximately 21h51 CAT. NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office has been monitoring 2023 DZ2 and has deemed it safe.

DZ2 is a good example of the kind of object that the DART mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) was designed to prepare humanity to defend itself against. While DZ2 doesn’t present a threat, objects like it may in the future, and the DART mission has shown us that kinetic deflector technology works to redirect asteroids.

You’ll remember that Dimorphos had its orbit around Didymos altered by 32 minutes by a kamikaze spacecraft that slammed into it in September 2022, proving that DART-type missions could perhaps protect us from asteroids deemed to be in danger of hitting the earth, causing calamitous changes to our climate and future.

Did you notice that the Planetary K index on Friday morning at 06h00 UTC was almost 8? That is the highest I have ever experienced (not that I have been paying attention all my life, mind you). By Friday night, the K index was still 6, and all the bands were basically closed! I do hope you got on with your knitting while waiting for it to abate!

The SARL website says that the severe geomagnetic storm was all due to a coronal mass ejection from the sun on 20th March, and which took about 3 days to reach us. It reached G4 status, or severe conditions, on Friday morning, but by Saturday midday had settled to about 3 or 4, and the bands were opening again.

The sport of Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF), or Fox-hunting, is well known to amateurs, and involves finding radio transmitters on foot, using a radio receiver, map, and compass in diverse, wooded terrain. ARDF joins orienteering skills like the proper use of topographic maps, compass skills, and locational awareness, with radio direction finding skills using hand-held portable receivers and antennas. It is great fun for young and old alike – an opportunity for personal challenge in the great outdoors!

ARDF competitors use only topographic maps and compasses for navigation. Up to five radio transmitters are hidden in the woods. Competitors carry portable radio receivers with directional antennas with which they try to find the transmitters. A typical ARDF course may be four to ten kilometres long. Winners are determined by those who find the most transmitters in the fastest overall time.

But direction finding is not only a sport. It has purpose too. Michael ZS1MJT tells me in another report that, on Friday 24th March 2023, at 10h43, Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC), in conjunction with Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), alerted HAMNET Western Cape to a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), usually carried by ocean-going yachtsmen, which had been activated and asked if we could help them locate the beacon.

Three members in Saldanha Bay, Western Cape, were alerted and asked if they could triangulate and then track the PLB. The simplest thing to do was to head towards the GPS co-ordinates given them by the authorities, but this showed an address on terra firma in Saldanha. On arrival, no vessels were to be seen on the property!

Next step was to bring out the direction finding equipment and put their “fox-hunting” skills to the test. The signal took them in the direction of the Saldanha Bay Yacht Club. On inspection there, no signal was heard in that area either. Back to where the signal was heard, and finer tracking ensued.

A little bit of tweaking here and there and at around 13h10, the elusive PLB was tracked to a sailing vessel that had apparently broken its moorings after some serious storms the previous night and met its demise on the rocks at the end of the quay. Semi submerged, the vessel was identified, and the Yacht Club commodore handled the situation further.

The information they received was that the previous owner of the small yacht had sold the yacht 7 years previously and that he had no idea of who the new owner was or where he could be found. The PLB was still registered in his name as this transfer had not gone through.

Michael thanks the ARCC and MRCC for alerting us and the professional manner in which they handled the situation, as well as Marais, ZS1NOS and Chris, ZS1FC for their successful efforts to track down the PLB, while Charles ZS1CF and Trevor, ZS1TR were on standby!

Thank you for the report of this important function of HAMNET, Michael.

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

HAMNET Report 19th March 2023

I’m starting to sound a bit like a stuck record, but I’m afraid the effects of Cyclone FREDDY are still with us.

This week, FREDDY moved across Mozambique, and entered the South East corner of Malawi, bringing with it torrential rain and strong winds, and resulting in at least 326 deaths, with 201 still missing, 796 injured and the displacement of more than 183000 people..

Finally, on Thursday, GDACS started forecasting light to moderate rain only over Malawi. Since 21st February, FREDDY has hit Madagascar and Mozambique twice, as well as Malawi as mentioned, affecting nearly 800,000 people overall, and displacing over 250,000. It has also broken the record for the longest lasting named Tropical Cyclone in history, one of only four that has formed on the coast of Australia, and made it right across the Indian Ocean to reach Africa, but definitely the longest lasting. As I said once before, FREDDY was not just a minor storm.

At the Western Cape Government’s (WCG) weekly Energy Digicon on Thursday Colin Deiner, the Chief Director: Disaster Management and Fire/Rescue Services, detailed the province’s blackout contingency plan.

At the outset, Mr Deiner stressed the plan is put together in the event of a worse-case scenario. “Our job is to protect the province. We look at what is the worst thing that could happen and then we plan around that,” said Mr Deiner. He emphasised, however, for the time being, that there is a low probability of a total blackout.

He pointed out that the main priorities of the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) and its partners are to save lives and protect the safety of citizens.

Premier Alan Winde, [who chaired the meeting] added, “It is better to be over-prepared for any eventuality than to be caught off guard.”

Deiner outlined the possible risks that could lead to blackouts which include:

Primary energy constraints, Generation plant performance, Infrastructure damage; or Industrial social unrest

He went on to explain the process which authorities, among them Eskom and disaster and emergency management officials, will follow in the event of a total blackout to stabilise and return the power grid to operation:

Should there be a complete black-out, the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) has a number of priority areas, such as Water, Sewerage, Transport and mobility, Health, and Emergency services amongst others.

Mr Deiner offered advice to the public as to how to prepare themselves for a scenario where the power grid collapses or there are extended levels of load-shedding, such as knowing their load-shedding schedules, ensuring they have a stock of chronic medication, ensuring security systems will work during load-shedding; and ensuring access to emergency lighting.

Thank you to the westerncape.gov.za website for this brief summary of their meeting report.

New technology from Israel provides tethered balloons that can locate people trapped under meters of rubble from their cell phones.

They process and transmit the signal to a ground unit, which calculates and displays a 3D geo-location of the cell phones in natural disasters, terrorist incidents and combat zones. 

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), together with video surveillance company RT, has developed the helium-filled balloon – or aerostat – which floats at 1,500 meters above the ground.

The new Skystar ResQCell can be carried by a team of two in backpacks, or by any vehicle. It can operate in both heavily-damaged urban sites, as well as in open areas affected by hurricanes and floods.

Adi Dulberg, VP & General Manager of IAI, said: “This life-saving solution can track and locate the exact location of a missing person, during any disaster.

“The comprehensive solution revolutionizes disaster response and delivers a detailed picture of missing or trapped people and rescue teams, by accurately geo-locating their cellular phones. 

“Because time is a significant component when a disaster occurs, the system can be deployed in minutes and provides rescue forces with a long-endurance, highly-effective and easy-to-use, lifesaving solution.”

CEO of RT Aerostat Systems, Rami Shmueli, said: “Partnering with IAI ELTA has helped us bring a precision lifesaving system to the emergency services sector, especially after the recent earthquakes in Turkey.

“We are happy and proud to be partnering with IAI ELTA, which has led to the development of this important system. 

“The integration of our systems has created an advanced solution that enables situational awareness, rapid response, and access to any disaster area. We believe this solution will be able greatly to assist rescue teams around the world.”

Thank you to the website nocamels.com for this report.

How many of you remembered the 12th anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 11th March 2011 that struck Fukushima in Japan, effectively melting down three nuclear reactors at the power station, and creating the worst radiation disaster since Chernobyl in 1986? The local inhabitants have still not returned to the radioactive environment there, though the wild boar population doesn’t seem to have turned a hair.

Another anniversary this week was the death in the Forum of Julius Caesar, 2067 years ago, on the 15th March 44BCE, due to multiple stab wounds by opposition members of Parliament. The 15th March has always had an unlucky connotation to it. Beware the Ides of March, they all said, but Julius didn’t listen.

However, all is not lost, because the world helped Ireland celebrate their National Day, St Patrick’s Day on Friday the 17th. I’m sure many a pint of Guiness met its match that day. I hope you wore green on Friday…

Finally, a funny one for you. Fraser Cain, writing in Universetoday.com, says that, like many of us, he is his family’s default technical support person. For decades his children have brought him malfunctioning video games and computers to fix. He told them he wouldn’t help them until they tried turning it off and back on again. This apparently works for spacecraft too. NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) went into contingency mode last month. On March 4th, NASA sent a command to “power cycle” the spacecraft, asking it to turn itself off and on again. The command worked, and IBEX is fully operational!

So, it seems the first plan of attack for any failed item that runs on electricity, is to switch it off (or disconnect it from the electricity actually), wait a while, and then turn it on again, and it will probably be fixed. Now if that would only work for my memory!

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

HAMNET Report 12th Match 2023

Tropical Cyclone FREDDY unfortunately turns out to be a sort of gift that keeps on giving. Having continued eastward over the Mozambique Channel, from Mozambique toward Madagascar, and strengthening, it re-formed in the afternoon of 4th March as a tropical storm. On 6 March at 06.00 UTC, its centre was located over the sea approximately 90 km south-west of the coast of Madagascar. Due to the heavy rainfall over Madagascar, another fatality was recorded, about 350 people needed to be moved to safety, and about 200 houses were damaged.

Between the 7th and 9th March, FREDDY strengthened and moved north-westward over the Mozambique Channel again, toward central-northern Mozambique, with maximum sustained winds up to 145 km/h. It was forecast to make landfall on 10th March in the evening local time over the southern Zambezia Province of Mozambique.  Malawi may also later be in its line of fire. As of Friday, 2 ½ million people were projected to be threatened by the expected course of this long-lasting storm.

Meanwhile, the website Phys.org reports that tropical storm FREDDY is on track to break the record as the longest-lasting cyclone of its kind, the United Nations said on Friday, as the killer storm was set to hit Mozambique once again.

Freddy has been a named tropical cyclone for 33 days since developing off the north Australian coast and becoming a named storm on February 6. Freddy has periodically weakened below tropical storm status, such as when it was lingering over Mozambique and Zimbabwe the first time around.

Once it has dissipated, a WMO climate extremes expert committee will assess all the data to determine whether a new record has indeed been set, a process that could take months.

Michael ZS1MJT has sent me a report of a rescue exercise held last Saturday in Cape Town. He says that, on Saturday 4 March, there was a joint Wilderness Search and Rescue exercise held around Table Mountain. HAMNETs primary task was to set up SARTtrack and track the movements and routes of all the various teams in the field by APRS, as well as ensure there were radio communications between the teams and the JOC.

Each team had been issued with a specific call sign and handed an APRS tracker to carry in their backpacks. Radio communications were tested before teams departed. Due to the geography, a relay point for both radio and APRS had to be deployed.

They all mustered at 07h30 Saturday morning and were briefed on 2 scenarios. The first involved 2 missing persons and the other was a technical rope rescue.

The missing persons’ scenario was held on the Camps Bay side of Table Mountain, along the pipe track hiking route. They were told that a party of 3 had started the hike the previous afternoon and only 1 person had returned to his home. The other 2 were still missing.

First sent to search were the two K9 search and rescue dogs and handlers. The idea was to get them on the scent before too many people contaminated the area where the search was to be conducted. Thereafter, the search teams were mobilized and they scanned the pipe track for clues and the 2 missing persons.

In the meanwhile, Mountain Club members took off up the mountainside to look for and assist a person who was ‘stuck on ropes’.  This scenario took place just under the cable way. The two scenarios were thus happening at the same time.

A K9 team eventually found the first missing person who was given some medical attention. More resources were sent to assist with the stretcher carry-out of this person.

The second person was later found by the second K9 unit.

The MCSA members had rigged their equipment to enable the safe removal of their “victim” from the ropes and then prepare him for the journey back to the JOC.

After the training was completed, They were given some eats and drinks and held a short debrief.

It was an extremely ‘busy’ exercise with the 2 scenarios at the same time, but a lot was learnt by all.

The de-brief concluded at 16h45.

Michael thanks ZS1’s WW, BWM, BR, JFK, AL and JM for helping him during the exercise. Thank you for the report, Michael.

He told me later that 10 APRS trackers were issued to the various teams, and successfully followed from the opposite side of Table Mountain, using a mobile digipeater positioned on Lion’s Head. All APRS facilities were thus successfully deployed and tested.

How many of you, I wonder, have noticed how a piece of music can cause you to relive moments in your life when you first heard or appreciated it?

This experience—when music brings back memories of events, people and places from our past—is known as a music-evoked autobiographical memory. And it’s a common experience.

It often occurs as an involuntary memory. That is, we make no effort to try to recall such memories; they just come to mind spontaneously.

Research has recently begun to uncover why music appears to be such a good cue for invoking memories. First, music tends to accompany many distinctive life events, so it can play an important role in reconnecting us with these self-defining moments.

Music also often captures our attention, due to the way it affects our minds, bodies and emotions.

When music draws our attention, this increases the likelihood that it will be encoded in memory together with details of the life event. And this then means it is able to serve as an effective cue for remembering this event, years later.

It seems that music is not only good at evoking memories, but also the times when we are more likely to listen to music are the times when our minds may naturally be more likely to wander anyway.

Indeed, the power of music to connect us with our past shows how music, memories and emotions are all linked—and it seems certain songs can act as a direct line to our younger selves.

This is certainly true for this reporter.

Thank you to Kelly Jakubowski, writing in “The Conversation” for these excerpts from her article.

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


Poor old Vanuata is in the wars again. On Tuesday, GDACS issued a red alert for Tropical Cyclone JUDY, approaching the island group from the north-east, and expected to be overland on Wednesday the 1st of March, with wind speeds up to 200km/h and a high humanitarian impact on the population, based on its strength and previous storm experiences. About 160000 people were in its line of fire.

In fact reports arrived of damaged buildings and power outages on Wednesday afternoon, and, while about 500 people had to be evacuated from their homes, there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries, though heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and floods were still expected over the northern Vanuata islands on Thursday.

Meanwhile, hot on JUDY’s heels, a tropical depression, to be called Cyclone KEVIN was forming in the Pacific, and due to follow JUDY’s path, bringing gale force winds to Vanuata on 2nd March, and later to New Caledonia.

GDACS reported on Friday that, as of 1st March, more than 226000 people had been affected by the passage of cyclone FREDDY over Madagascar, with 7 deaths, and 37700 people displaced by the storm. 28800 houses were destroyed or damaged, as also several schools, 16 community health centres and partial damage to 2 hospitals.

As it crossed Mozambique, FREDDY killed 7 people, caused the evacuation of 9268 people to 26 accommodation centres, and otherwise affected 163300 people. More than 27800 houses were destroyed or damaged, and reports were received of damage to schools, public infrastructure and services.

For Friday and Saturday, moderate rain and localized thunderstorms were forecast for Mozambique, and heavy rain expected across south-western Madagascar. FREDDY was not a minor storm, was it!

Grant Southey ZS6GS, our national HAMNET Director, and Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ, our deputy national Director both sent me reports on the conference held last week in Umhlanga, hosted by South African Search and Rescue (SASAR) under the auspices of the Department of Transport. 

The keynote speech was delivered by the Deputy Minister of Transport Ms Sindiswe Chikunga. During the conference, it was established that the government resources for Search & Rescue (S&R) are dwindling, and we are worse off than we were a few years ago. This means that more reliance is made on volunteer organisations such as MCSA, K9SARA, SARZA and of course HAMNET. 

A number of working group sessions were held to discuss some of the pressing issues that S&R in South Africa are facing, and resolutions that can be taken to the government were drafted for discussion. HAMNET were also given the opportunity to present some information on who we are and what we can do to assist the S&R members. 

A highlight of the three days was a gala dinner hosted on Monday evening, which included an awards ceremony. At the ceremony, Francois Botha ZS6BUU, now ZS4X was awarded a SASAR Platinum Aristocrat Award, recognizing his continuous commitment and dedication to S&R in South Africa over the years. HAMNET wishes to take this opportunity to congratulate Francois, and let him know that his efforts have not gone unnoticed by the S&R fraternity as well as HAMNET. Santjie White, another friend of HAMNET received the same Platinum Award in recognition of her ongoing contributions.

HAMNET also received a trophy and certificate, which reads: in grateful appreciation for many years of outstanding service and commitment to the South African Search and Rescue Organisation – Awarded by Honourable MR FA Mbalula, Minister of Transport.

Another invaluable outcome of the conference was the face to face meeting with some of the members within the community. Some good relationships were initiated, which will be built upon to further the goals of HAMNET for future endeavours. Many of the names that we have dealt with via electronic communications over the years now have a face to them, and we look forward to fostering these relationships. The motto of the organisation is “Joining hands so that others may live” and presents a real inspiration and initiative. 

The United States Coast Guard has been testing new electronic hearing protection earbuds. The earbuds do more than effectively block out background noise in loud spaces with machinery. Testers were able to carry on a normal conversation with the person next to them.

These adaptive earbuds lower the levels of harmful frequencies, while amplifying speech. They’re part of the Coast Guard’s ongoing effort to provide tools that promote its members’ safety.   

It’s a timely intervention. A 2019 Department of Veterans Affairs report found that tinnitus was the most common medical claim filed by military members, while hearing loss came in at number two. Cutters and small boats expose operators to 85 decibels when in operation, but most members aren’t in these environments consistently without hearing protection for the eight hours it would take to cause damage.  

Sound levels in engine rooms, on the other hand, can reach 105 decibels or higher. Once at that level, being in a space for a few minutes even can lead to acute hearing loss, putting personnel at risk during boarding or inspections. 

Currently, the service uses removable foam ear plugs and sets of large earmuffs. Both can mute noise, but in doing so, they also make it difficult to hear regular conversation. As one enforcement specialist at Sector Boston, described it: “Teams in the engine room have two choices: wear the earmuffs and lose situational awareness and radio comms, or go without to maintain comms with the team at the cost of damaging your hearing.”  

The search for an improvement eventually turned up electronic earbuds made by OTTO and 3M. The sets were similar in function and price to the bulky earmuffs, and could last up to 16 hours before needing to be recharged. In addition, the technology is there to incorporate radio communications in the future to improve situational awareness and safety.  

They sound like a specialized form of noise-cancelling earbuds, able to block out the intense noise at specific frequencies these engine-room operators and coast-guard inspectors have to endure. Certainly a clever adaptation of the earbuds with which you listen to your podcasts or music, while walking a downtown street.

Thank you to mycg.uscg.mil for these excerpts from their report.

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