HAMNET Report 24th September 2023

thenationalnews.com, in a report back about the Libyan storm tragedy, says that attempts to find survivors from the September 11 disaster have all but ended, with almost all of the estimated 4,000 to 15,000 victims thought to have died in the moments after two dams in the mountains above the city collapsed.

The flooded area caused by the collapse of the two dams in Derna City covers approximately 500 ha, with 2,217 buildings affected, 5 bridges destroyed, and 284 educational and 128 health facilities damaged.

On Thursday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said at least 43,059 people had been displaced by the severe floods in north-eastern Libya. The organisation said a lack of clean water supplies appeared to be driving many displaced people out of Derna to municipalities to the east and west of the Mediterranean city.

Anger has risen after a series of experts and local officials said the dams had not been maintained since 1998, while cracks in the structures had been identified.

When communications were interrupted on Tuesday, there was speculation that authorities had cut internet and phone lines to stem growing protests.

The communications problem has slowed recovery efforts in the city, which has been segmented by authorities in an attempt to stop the spread of waterborne disease.

Health authorities have launched a vaccination campaign that initially targeted search and rescue teams and children in Derna and other impacted areas.

General prosecutor Al Sidiq Al Sour has launched an investigation into the collapse of the two dams in Derna. In comments to local TV on Wednesday, he vowed to take “serious measures” to deliver justice for the victims of the floods.

“It’s a great catastrophe, and the casualty toll is significant. Certainly, if measures had been taken at the right time in the past years, a catastrophe with such magnitude wouldn’t happen,” he said.

In something that can surely only have been managed with smoke and mirrors, a space craft called OSIRIS-Rex, that collected a sample of primordial space rock off the asteroid called Bennu in 2020, and which has travelled billion of kilometres over the last 3 years to get back, is going to cruise past Earth today the 24th, and casually release a mini-fridge sized capsule containing the samples of rock for a soft landing!

One can only shake one’s head in amazement at the technology involved! Let’s hope the sample is in the fridge as planned, perhaps together with a few frosties for the NASA engineers to celebrate their success with.

Writing in “The Conversation”, Monica Grady says that the misconception that asteroids are “just lumps of rock” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, given the rich harvest of information about asteroid diversity that has come from studying meteorites. Meteorites have taught us about the origin and evolution of the solar system.

We can measure the ages of meteorites and identify the volatiles—water- and carbon-containing chemicals—that some meteorites contain. Volatiles are important for understanding how the building blocks of life were delivered to Earth.

But there are gaps in our knowledge, so we need to study samples directly taken from asteroids—in part because meteorites are often contaminated with compounds from Earth’s environment. This means we can’t always be sure that the volatiles in meteorites came from the asteroid itself, or from Earth.

We also don’t fully understand the relationship of specific meteorite types to different classes of asteroids. This affects our understanding of how volatiles were distributed in the early solar system and therefore what types of objects could have delivered life’s building blocks to Earth. Hence the need for sample return missions.

Bennu is recognized as a potentially hazardous asteroid, meaning there is a one in 3,000 chance of it hitting us in 150–200 years’ time.

By the time the global community of planetary scientists has analysed all the available material from Bennu, it is unlikely that any aspect of its formation, evolution and orbital history, composition and components will be unknown, allowing an effective “Earth rescue” mission to be launched, should it turn out to be on a collision course with earth in the next few hundred years.

And, by the way, you can watch the parachute landing on NASA TV starting at 10am Eastern Daylight Time in the US, which, until November 4, is 4 hours behind UTC, and therefore 6 hours behind us. So, log in to NASA TV no later than 4pm this afternoon our time.

I’d like to inform you, or remind you, of an enormous Digital Library of Amateur Radio and Communications, which has been set up, and which is free to anybody who may care to search its resources.

Internet Archive’s Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications has grown to more than 90,000 resources related to amateur radio, shortwave listening, amateur television, and related topics. The newest additions to the free online library include ham radio magazines and newsletters from around the world, podcasts, and discussion forums.

Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications is funded by a grant from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) to create a free digital library for the radio community, researchers, educators, and students. DLARC invites radio clubs and individuals to submit material in any format. You can access this treasure trove by pointing your browser to archive.org/details/dlarc.

It being Heritage Day today, I felt we should reflect on the heritage of Amateur radio handed down to us by our South African pioneers, and which we should be striving to pass on to our descendants.

Anette Jacobs and her band of merry historians are slowly compiling a history of Amateur Radio in our country so far be it from me to attempt correctly to place the pioneers in chronological order. But we have about 100 years of history to reflect on in this country, and should be encouraging young people to investigate and pioneer new technology to allow competent modes of communication to be developed.

This is nowhere more true than in Emergency Communications, where a competent mode of message handling is always necessary, to ensure that any important information is correctly conveyed.

As new digital technology spreads its wings, we have more and more effective ways to transmit messages, files, data, pictures and even video, which make our purpose to serve our fellow countrymen and women even more relevant.

In this country we are lucky not to have the kinds of major disasters we read about in the tropics and the Pacific Rim of Fire, but I remember with admiration the work of the solitary Ozzie Carstens ZS1DZ, providing all of the communications out of Laingsburg for nearly 3 weeks, after the flood ravaged the town in 1981. The Western Cape Division of HAMNET uses Ozzie’s callsign, ZS1DZ, with his family’s permission, as our primary call sign, to honour him and remember him for his devotion to emcomms, and the scouting movement in South Africa.

So, too, the assistance of radio amateurs in January/February 1984, when Tropical Cyclone Domoina smashed across Madagascar, dropping about 160mm of rain, before crossing into the Mozambique Channel. From there is touched down twice over Mozambique, eventually dropping 430mm of rain in the town of Goba over 5 days.

In South Africa, Domoina shed 950mm of rain between Richards Bay and Sodwana Bay. An area of 107000 square kilometres received at least 370mm of rain. 80000 people were left stranded near the border with the then Swaziland, the properties of 500000 people were damaged, and 60 deaths were recorded.

And South African radio amateurs were there to assist. We record with pride the volunteerism shown by those early HAMNET members, who dropped everything and travelled to assist.

This is Dave Reece, ZS1DFR, wishing you a happy weekend of reflection, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.