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.