HAMNET Report 28th May 2023

A tropical cyclone is threatening parts of the north-west Pacific. GDACS reports that Tropical Cyclone MAWAR-23, with maximum sustained winds of up to 249 km/h, is travelling in a westerly direction and has passed the island of Guam and was aimed at the area of the Luzon Strait, between northern Philippines and southern Taiwan, due to arrive there on Friday evening or Saturday, our time. As the storm approaches the Philippines, the naming convention will change and Mawar will become known as Typhoon Betty.

Radioworld.com says that the eye of Super Typhoon Mawar passed about 24 km north-northeast of Guam as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of up to 225 km/h around 8:45 p.m. Chinese Standard Time on May 24. On Rota, the southernmost island in the Northern Marianas, the typhoon brought Category 1 winds with Saipan and Tinian receiving tropical storm-strength winds. Six radio and TV stations on Guam were taken off the air by storm damage or power outages.

927 people were evacuated to shelters across Guam and Rota Islands, where strong winds were forecast from Thursday. Heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surges are forecast over northern Luzon between today (Sunday) and Tuesday. By last Friday evening, no casualties had been reported.

Southern Africa got its first real winter cold front this week, with a double-whammy frontal system arriving in the Western Cape on Thursday morning very early. The front was preceded by a lot of cold north-westerly wind, but once it started raining in earnest, the wind died down, and steady rain was the order of the day.

By Friday the rain had departed the Western Cape, but the cold air behind the front brought us the first snow of the season experienced in the Cedarberg and Matroosberg area. The Snow Report website expects high ground in the Swartberg range between Ladismith and De Rust, as well as around Sutherland and Calvinia in the Northern Cape to get a light dusting, and the peaks around Graaff-Reinet and Hogsback in the Eastern Cape too. The highlands around Barkly East and Rhodes are more likely to see some decent falls.

Again the message is conveyed to all, to take care, remain protected as far as possible from the elements directly, and to look after your animals. Wise words!

How many of you have heard of the tiny island of Rockall? Boatsnews.com says that Rockall Island is a confetti of the United Kingdom territory, an uninhabited and un-vegetated granite islet lost in the middle of the North Atlantic, 370 km west of the Outer Hebrides. Claimed by the British Crown since 1955, it has been the object of envy and challenge ever since. Chris Cameron, a 53-year-old Scottish electronics lecturer, son of a sailor, oceanographer and former military man, wants to break the record for survival on this inhospitable rock, currently 45 days. The adventurer has set himself a goal of 60 days alone on Rockall. The idea came to him following the confinement linked to the Covid-19, wanting to experiment further the concept of solitude.

Rockall is 31 meters long and 17 meters high. The only flat surface at the top measures 4 meters by 1.5 meters. To survive there, the adventurer, who will share the first week or so with 2 companions, one a radio amateur and the other a mountaineer from Bulgaria, who also has his amateur licence, will have to use mountain equipment. An ultra-resistant mini-tent will be set up at the summit, which can accommodate 2 people. The mountaineer will sleep suspended from the cliff, thanks to specific mountaineering equipment.

The two radio hams will spend their week making contacts, presumably on VHF from Rockall, allowing avid radio amateurs to collect a QSL card from them.

After a week, the boat that brought the team will leave with the 2 acolytes, leaving Chris Cameron with the food necessary for his 60 days on site, a computer, a VHF radio, an Iridium satellite phone and a solar panel. It appears he does not have an amateur licence.

To give meaning to his experience, Chris Cameron has decided to raise money for charity. He hopes to raise £50,000 for the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines Charity and ABF Soldiers. To do this, the team will be issuing QSL cards to amateur radio operators attesting that they have been in communication with Rockall.

As its name suggests, the island is called Rockall, because it is all rock.

I don’t know whether this will be news to anyone, but Phys.org reports that a team of psychiatrists from Duke University and Yale University has found what they describe as a causal association between evening social media use and delayed sleep. In their study, reported in the journal Sleep Medicine, the group tracked social media use and delayed sleeping patterns for 44,000 Reddit users.

Prior research has shown that exposure to blue light, such as that emitted from phones and tablet computers, can lead to sleep problems because it interferes with production of melatonin. In this new effort, the researchers have found that posting to a social media site prior to normal bedtime may delay the time that people go to sleep.

The team wondered whether social media posting might be interfering with people’s normal sleep patterns, especially in the evening hours. To find out, they conducted an exhaustive analysis of data on the social media site Reddit. As with other social media sites, users on Reddit can post comments or links to content, and comment on what others have posted.

The researchers found that if a user posted to the site approximately one hour before their normal bedtime, they were much more likely to stay up past their normal bedtime—on average, they were still awake after posting, from one to three hours after they normally went to sleep. And if they posted multiple times before their normal bedtime, they stayed up even later.

The researchers suggest that a rise in dopamine levels due to anticipation of a response from other users on the site could make it difficult for posters to relax and go to sleep. Prior research has shown that a rise in dopamine levels contributes to mental activity and alertness, neither of which is conducive to going to sleep.

And this, folks, is a looming disaster of immense proportions, as dependence on electronic equipment and media becomes more and more widespread, and sleep deprivation leads to reduced productivity and greater likelihood of accidents in our next-day lives.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR, leaving his cell phone in the study at bedtime, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 21st May 2023

In a report back from GDACS about Tropical Cyclone Mocha last weekend, I learned that, across all the affected states in Myanmar, at least 54 fatalities were reported; there were around 700 people with injuries, approximately 100,000 evacuees and 5.4 million persons affected by the storm.

The worst affected area was western Rakhine, which included several Rohingya Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps, which have been significantly damaged. In Chin, over 1,200 houses were partially or completely destroyed. Approximately 50 damaged houses were reported across Sagaing. Severe flooding affected more than 100,000 people in villages in Magway and Sagaing.

In Bangladesh, the UN reports, as of 15th May, nearly 430,000 affected people, over 2,000 destroyed houses and more than 10,600 damaged houses across the Chattogram Division. Rohingya refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar area were severely affected.

This week, parts of northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region received half their average annual rainfall in just 36 hours. TheGuardian.com says that rivers burst their banks and thousands of acres of farmland lie submerged. By Thursday evening, an estimated 20,000 people had been left homeless and 13 were confirmed dead.

This is just the latest weather disaster to hit the country. Six months ago, 12 people died on the southern island of Ischia in a landslide triggered by torrential rain. Eleven more were killed last September by flash floods in the central region of Marche.

Across Europe, as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide increase, so too does extreme weather – consecutive years of drought have afflicted farmers in Spain and southern France, while last year there were unprecedented heatwaves across the continent.

“Climate change is here and we are living the consequences. It isn’t some remote prospect, it is the new normal,” Paola Pino d’Astore, an expert at the Italian Society of Environmental Geology (SIGEA), told Reuters.

Experts say Italy’s geography makes it particularly vulnerable to climate disasters: its varied geology makes it prone to floods and landslides, while rapidly warming seas on either side make it vulnerable to increasingly powerful storms, amid rising temperatures.

The frontlines of the climate crisis have hitherto been in the global south, leading to the oft-repeated refrain that those least responsible for the climate crisis are facing the worst effects. But for Italy now, and probably soon the rest of Europe, the enemy is at the gates.

Curiously, and coincidentally, while the search was on in Division 6 for a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that had been activated about 2 weeks ago, a similar scenario was developing in the Western Cape.

Michael ZS1MJT, our Regional Director for HAMNET writes (and I quote):

“On Thursday evening, HAMNET WC was alerted by the ARCC to an emergency PLB beacon which had been activated in the Hermanus area.

“No reports of any vessel or aircraft had been received as missing or in distress.

“The PLB was sending GPS coordinates of its position via satellite, and this was received by the MRCC and ARCC. These coordinates were relayed to me, and I plotted them, triangulating the best possible position of this device. Initial coordinates were pretty much over a vast area and we determined that this unit was most likely in an informal settlement. This was monitored through the night and it seemed that the device became mobile on Friday morning, heading in to Hermanus and then back towards the informal settlement.

“On Saturday morning, HAMNET WC was requested (by ARCC and MRCC) to locate the PLB, find the reason for its activation, and switch it off.

Sybrand, ZS1L (Deputy Regional Director) and I, left Gordon’s Bay just after 09h00 and arrived in Hermanus at 10h30.

“We met with Sean, a paraglider from the area who has a good knowledge of the area. The three of us set off with the idea of getting bearings of the PLB. This proved easy as the signal was quite good and strong, but also challenging to get around building complexes so we could get a decent line of sight of the basic direction of the device, as we did not want to get any reflections from these buildings.

“We ended up in the area close to an informal settlement where the PLB was signalling its GPS coordinates. We entered the settlement, escorted by SAPS and Law Enforcement, following the signal in-between the tin structures. As we got deeper in the settlement, the signal became stronger. The reflection of the signal off the structures made this search interesting, making us try various methods to discard the reflected signals and only follow where our equipment showed as directly from the device.

“Perseverance prevailed and we eventually located the PLB device at 14h05 attached under the corner of a roof of one of the structures.

“The antenna had been inserted under the roof sheet and the GPS module was facing other steel structures, which caused a lot of signal reflection, for both the GPS and location signals transmitted.

“After some study of our route and tracking, it became clear that the device was found approximately 120m from where we had triangulated to, and 70m from where one of the GPS coordinates had indicated.

“I would like to thank ARCC, MRCC, SAPS, Law Enforcement, and the community for all their assistance in tracking down the device. It was a pleasure working with you all.”

Thank you, Michael, for the report. The value of practising at fox-hunting is again made more pertinent.

Finally, an amazing story has come out of the Amazon Jungle, where Colombian Armed Forces have spent more than 2 weeks searching for 4 juvenile survivors of a plane crash, which killed their mother and two other adults.

The four children, aged 13, 9, 4 and 11 months, had wandered through the jungle together, surviving I know not how, but leaving a trail of small objects such as hair scrunchies, plastic wrappings and a baby bottle which made it possible for the authorities to follow their trail. The Colombian Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement earlier that they had even found a “shelter built in an improvised way with sticks and leaves.”

There is conflictual reporting as to whether the children have now indeed been found. Al Jazeera was quoted yesterday as saying photographic evidence was not yet available, because they were still on a boat coming down the river. I’m sure there will be a movie eventually made of this story, and I am equally sure that the oldest survivor, the 13 year-old, will turn out to be a girl. Only a girl at that age would have kept her head and held the group together!

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

HAMNET Report 14th May 2023

Tropical Cyclone Mocha-23 has arisen in the Bay of Bengal, and has been monitored since this Thursday. It originally travelled due North in the direction of Bangladesh, but by Friday was swinging north-east, aimed at the coast of Myanmar, and the Eastern-most edge of Bangladesh, due to cross the coast at about midday their time today (Sunday).

Maximum wind-speeds of 170km/h are currently forecast, and the cyclone will have a high humanitarian impact as it hits a densely populated area, with 3 million people directly in its expected path. From 12-14th May, heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surges are forecast for western and south-western Myanmar. The Alert Level is already set at RED.

This weekend sees the first of South Africa’s real winter cold fronts crossing the country. A prominent bank of cloud was visible on the Eumetsat weather picture on Wednesday, which the concurrent synoptic chart showed was stretching all the way from the West coast of the Cape, right down through Marion Island and virtually to Antarctica.

The Western Cape had good rain on Friday, but the huge high pressure cell behind the front pushed our barometric pressure up from 1010 millibars on Wednesday evening, to 1027 millibars by Friday night.

As a result the Southern Cape coastal areas have suffered a strong south-easterly wind, bringing icy polar air up from Antarctica, and resulting in a snow forecast, stretching from the Matroosberg here in the Cape, along the mountains through the Eastern Cape, to the Drakensberg in KZN. Up to 10cm of snow has been forecast here and there, and I’m sure the Southern half of the country has felt the cold.

So stay indoors, and protect your animals and yourselves from exposure hazards.

From the New Zealand Herald’s website comes a thoughtful dissertation on how to avoid “Disaster Fatigue”.

Massey University emergency management lecturer Dr Lauren Vinnell described disaster fatigue as a “specific type of exhaustion” when events of the same nature repeated or multiple different events happened all at the same time.

“It’s a general term. It’s not a specific disorder that you might get diagnosed with so it can look different for different people in a different context.”

Symptoms include tiredness, lack of sleep, difficulty making decisions and unusually strong emotions.

Vinnell, of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, said these impacts were not uncommon following an event like this week’s major flooding in New Zealand.

It is when these symptoms persist and have a negative impact on people day-to-day that it becomes a problem.

Vinnell said it was important [that] people kept track of how they’re feeling and “if it’s not getting any easier over time” to start seeking help by talking to friends and family or [gaining] professional help.

“There are things that people can do just generally to help themselves feel better when they’re moving on from these sorts of events.

“Things like practising self-care, which I know is a bit of a buzzword that basically just means [that], if you can find time to do things that make you happy and refresh you, do so, whatever they may look like.

“It’s really important that people don’t overload themselves with negative information. You need to know enough to know what’s going on but spending too much time scrolling social media or whatever can be harmful.”

It was worth thinking about what steps people could take so that if it happened again they were more prepared to deal psychologically “with these quite daunting problems”.

Vinnell said people should prioritise making a plan with their family or household so everyone knows what to do during a traumatic event.

Thank you to the website nzherald.co.nz and Dr Vinnell for this summary.

In our country we don’t have that many natural disasters, but there are countless mini-disasters happening, like bus or taxi accidents, gender-based violence, mass shootings, or even informal settlement fires, all of which can increase the post-traumatic stress. And as the article says, it’s often the consecutive nature of the disasters, big or small, that lead to the fatigue.

One can easily see, for example, how countless sessions of load-shedding in any given week can add up, to cause complaints of tiredness, lack of sleep, difficulty making decisions, and unusually strong emotions.

So heed Dr Vinnell’s advice and so something that makes you feel happy, and refreshes you, like playing radio, and serving your community under HAMNET’s banner!

Writing in last month’s QST, Terry White, VE5TLW, says that a new antenna technology for VHF/UHF, developed by Upside Down Antenna Company promises to provide a breakthrough in RF communications. It effectively doubles the capacity of any VHF or UHF repeater.

The UpSide Down Antenna (USDA) replaces the existing antenna at a repeater site. It utilizes a special network (and there is a visual representation in QST) that combines the upright and inverted RF signal arriving at the repeater, and uses the existing transmission line. The USDA only responds to an upright or inverted signal and rejects the opposite signal. The manufacturer states that the isolation or rejection between the two signals is in excess of 60 dB.

To use the USDA system, you only need to hold your handheld radio in an upright or inverted position. Put out your call for your intended recipient in the upright position, and if there is no response, invert the radio and try again. While allowing for a bit of circular rotation of your signal, you must nevertheless hold the radio within an arc of 45 degrees of the upright or inverted position.

Two simultaneous conversations can then be held on the same repeater. So far the technology only works with handhelds, since the whole radio can be inverted. A USDA for mobile or base radio applications is in the pipeline.

Thank you to the much respected ARRL journal QST for these excerpts from their article.

Terry White doesn’t actually say as much, but I think the world famous Swedish Electronics Engineer, Prof Loof Lirpa, was involved in the development of the technology.

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

HAMNET Report 7th May 2023

On Thursday, GDACS reported that heavy rainfall hit the northern, western and southern provinces of Rwanda, causing floods, triggering landslides and leading to casualties and damage.

According to the Government of Rwanda, at least 127 people have died across the affected provinces, media report several injured people and some others still missing. In addition, some houses collapsed, and two main roads are impassable due to flooding and landslides.

Rescue interventions conducted by the national authorities are ongoing across the worst-hit locations, while moderate rain continues over most parts of the country.

Cape Town’s Wilderness Search and Rescue agency has reported yet another rescue of a foreign tourist.

Dedicated teams of professionals and volunteers from Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) responded to Table Mountain after a tourist injured himself near Maclear’s Beacon on Wednesday afternoon.

Teams were dispatched to the lower cable station shortly after 16h00 on Wednesday when a foreign tour group reported that one of their members had injured himself.

The 28 year-old had slipped and hurt himself while walking back to the upper cable station from Maclear’s Beacon. He was unable to continue further, and a call was made to the emergency number.

A rescue team was transported to the top of Table Mountain in the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.

Once on top the team quickly hiked to the patient. He was treated on scene and placed into a stretcher. The terrain taming stretcher wheel was again put to good use, allowing the team to quickly carry the injured gentleman back to the upper cable station, from where they were all brought down to safety in the Cable Car.

A spokesperson for Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR), David Nel said: “We’re mindful that many visitors will not know our mountains, gorges and valleys as well as locals.

“It’s an honour to support the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town tourist safety programmes.

“We again appeal to anyone venturing into wilderness areas to be cautious as the trails are still wet and very slippery in places. We would like to wish our patient a speedy recovery and we hope that he enjoys his remaining time in our beautiful city,” Nel said.

Now here is a good idea from Australia. The Nagaland Post reports that Australians in disaster zones will receive instant phone warnings from a new National Messaging System (NMS).

Murray Watt, Minister for Emergency Management, and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland announced the rollout of the NMS on Tuesday, saying it could save lives, reports Xinhua news agency.

The new system will allow state and territory governments instantly to send emergency warning notifications to mobile phones in a defined area in multiple languages.

It will replace the current SMS-based system, which was often overwhelmed during emergencies such as bushfires, delaying messages.

“Drawing on technology currently used overseas, the speed and effectiveness of the NMS will substantially improve Australia’s ability to send prioritized warnings from trusted sources, to prevent the loss of life, injury, damage to property, and mitigate the spread of misinformation during disasters,” the Ministers said in a statement.

“Being able to communicate effectively — from communities receiving emergency messages as quickly as possible to emergency service operators responding to an event — is critical in ensuring that there is minimal disruption to communities and individuals.”

The landmark royal commission into Australia’s natural disaster responses, which was held in the wake of the devastating 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, warned that safety messaging around disasters needed to be improved.

It found that the inconsistent approach of each state and territory having its own messaging warning system led to the public questioning the reliability of messages.

The new system will be designed and tested over the next 18 months before being implemented nationwide in time for the 2024-25 bushfire season.

In a report from Phys.org, Researchers from the Space Medicine Team, European Space Agency in Germany have conducted a study published in Scientific Reports that found female astronauts have lower water requirements for hydration, total energy expenditure, oxygen (O2) consumption, carbon dioxide (CO2) and metabolic heat production during space exploration missions compared to their male counterparts.

In the study, “Effects of body size and countermeasure exercise on estimates of life support resources during all-female crewed exploration missions,” the team utilized an approach developed to estimate the effects of body “size” on life support requirements in male astronauts. For all parameters at all statures, estimates for females were lower than for comparable male astronauts.

When considering the limited space, energy, weight, and life support systems packed into a spacecraft on a long mission, the study finds that the female form is the most efficient body type for space exploration.

According to NASA, the cost of getting payloads to the International Space Station (ISS) is $93,400 per kg. The study found that on a 1080-day mission, a four-member all-female crew would require 1695 kg less food weight. With some simple arithmetic, the mission could save over $158 million and free up 2.3 m3 of space (food packaging),

Compared to a previous study of theoretical male astronauts, the effect of body size on total energy expenditure was markedly less in females, with relative differences ranging from 5% to 29% lower. This translates into reduced use of oxygen, production of CO2, metabolic heat, and water use.

When exposed to the prolonged microgravity of space, bad things happen to astronaut bodies. Physiological changes induce muscle atrophy, bone loss, and reduced aerobic and sensorimotor capacity, potentially affecting crewmember health and ability to perform mission tasks.

While body size alone correlates to energy metrics (smaller stature, less energy used), missions requiring countermeasure exercise, designed to counter the physiological effects of being weightless, increase this disparity as larger bodies use more energy, need more oxygen, produce more CO2 and create more heat. Additionally, the study found that females had 29% less water loss through sweating during a single bout of aerobic countermeasure exercise and so required less water to rehydrate.

The theoretical differences between female and male astronauts result from the lower resting and exercising O2 requirements of female astronauts, who are lighter than male astronauts at equivalent statures, and have lower relative VO2max values, which are the rates at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise.

Aside from resource usage, there are also advantages in functional workspaces, especially when multiple astronauts are working in the same confined area, as often happens on the ISS. Aboard the ISS, the astronauts have just enough room to stand and work shoulder-to-shoulder or back-to-back when necessary. The spaces in the proposed NASA Gateway craft are tighter, creating a less ergonomic environment for multiple crew members to work together. Tighter spaces could operate just as efficiently with a smaller crew.

The study data, combined with the move towards smaller diameter habitat space for currently proposed mission modules, suggest that there may be several operational advantages to all-female crews during future human space exploration missions, with the most significant improvement coming from shorter females.

Oh dear, another example of the male of the species becoming more superfluous. No wonder female Praying Mantis bite the heads of their males off after mating!

This is Dave Reece, ZS1DFR, glad he is not a male Praying Mantis, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.