HAMNET Report 10 December 2017

Thousands of KwaZulu-Natal residents, armed with sieves, have united in a bid to rid its coastline of a toxic threat that has contaminated its water and endangered its beaches and marine life.

People have volunteered their time to collect billions of little white plastic pellets called nurdles, which have infested beaches from Richards Bay on the North Coast right through to the South Coast. So widespread is the problem, that it has even hit Port St John’s in Eastern Cape. The total quantity of nurdles is estimated to weigh 49 tons.

The nurdles have the ability to absorb pollutants that are harmful to both marine life and humans if consumed.

“Nurdles never disappear, but merely break down into smaller and smaller fragments. Both the nurdles and the toxins they have absorbed can enter the food chain, as they are eaten by fish and other marine animals,” according to the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (Saambr).

The disaster started when a container containing a cargo of nurdles was swept off a ship in Durban Harbour during devastating storms in October.

According to The Independent, Di Jones from the Dolphin Coast Conservancy warned that the pollution was “comparable to an oil spill. There is a disaster in the making”.

So far, less than 5% of the nurdles that were swept into the sea have been recovered, according to East Coast Radio. Nurdle Clean-up’s Caroline Reid told the station this week that it was “scary” that they had collected such a small fraction.

“We’re mobilising more people. Local and government bodies have been great in mobilising crews,” she said.

The environmental affairs department, while acknowledging and praising clean-up efforts to date, has urged coastal communities to continue pitching in to clean the affected beaches.

“The department therefore would like to commend all persons involved in the response to the incident to date. Members of the public are encouraged to join in and to contribute toward the protection of the coast,” said environmental affairs minister Dr Edna Molewa.

As a follow-up to the insert of a few weeks ago, referring to the levels of radioactive Ruthenium-106, nearly 1000 times higher than normal, I can confirm that  scientists using sophisticated climate modelling technology, pinpointed the site where the radiation originated. These experts pointed directly to a site in the South Ural mountains in Russia as the probable location.

The site of the radiation spike is conveniently located at what The Guardian calls a “secretive Russian nuclear facility” named Mayak, which was the home of the top secret Russian nuclear bomb program in the late 1940’s.

On November 21, Russia acknowledged the radiation spike was true, and admitted they’d also detected a 986 times increase in the radioactive isotope near the suspected leak site. It remains to be seen what effect the radiation has on biology.

And, on a related subject, Rodina Energy Group and Enerparc Ag will be working on a $1.2 million project that places one megawatt worth of solar panels in close proximity to the deactivated Chernobyl reactor. Both companies are capitalizing on the Ukrainian government redeveloping and offering around 1,000 square miles of the land for cheap. While the area isn’t safe for farming, it creates an ideal situation for renewable energy, as power lines are still connected in the evacuated zone.

“Bit by bit we want to optimize the Chernobyl zone,” Evgeny Variagin, CEO of Rodina Energy, told Bloomberg. “It shouldn’t be a black hole in the middle of Ukraine. Our project is over 300 feet from the reactor.” Rodina has installed 150 megawatts worth of solar panels in their portfolio.

Both Rodina and Enerparc could develop up to 100 megawatts at Chernobyl. The Ukrainian firms aren’t the only energy companies that are developing in the area. According to Bloomberg, companies from France and China are interested in building solar farms on the redeveloped land. In particular, Engie SA in France is “conducting a pre-feasibility test with a gigawatt-sized project in mind.” It’s been a study since last July to see if the project could work.

Now, let me tell you about the Rooster, which is a new robot from Israeli start-up RoboTiCan that can help reach injured victims of natural disasters where it’s not safe to send a human rescue worker.

Rooster got its name from the fowl’s preference for walking but being able to fly when necessary, Ofir Bustan, RoboTiCan’s COO, told ISRAEL21c. “Most of the time it walks, but when it runs into an obstacle, it can hover and fly.”

That makes Rooster different from most other search-and-rescue robots, which can either walk or fly but not both – meaning they can get stuck or are too high above the ground to search effectively for survivors.

RoboTiCan’s highly manoeuvrable Rooster is one tough bird. The 30-by-40-centimeter robot rolls inside a metal “cage,” which allows it “to take some pretty hard hits,” Bustan says. “It can crash from six meters high and keep on working.”

It’s the robot’s communications that really sets it apart, Bustan explains. A team of Roosters, which can be deployed simultaneously by a single operator, set up their own independent “wireless mesh network” so they can talk to each other and the operator over a distance of hundreds of meters. No need for a cellular connection, which may be offline anyway in a disaster situation.

The operator can also send out a single Rooster and, when it reaches as far into the disaster zone as its communications will carry, send a second Rooster out. The signals will be relayed back to the operator piggyback style. Clever indeed!

HAMNET Western Cape’s end-of-year function was enjoyed by a group of regulars who gathered at the Observatory in Cape Town for a bring and braai on Wednesday evening, at which Grant Southey ZS1GS, Western Cape Regional Director, presented certificates of appreciation to the members, and acknowledged their contributions to the comms needed during the year. Your writer joins him in congratulating these members of HAMNET Western Cape.

Finally, a thought for the day: 100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars. Today everyone has cars and only the rich own horses!

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

HAMNET Report 3 December 2017

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, HAMNET”s KZN Provincial Director, has reported the sudden and unexpected  passing of Des Mullen ZS5DDM. Des was a Fireman by profession, but also an active HAMNET member and committee member of the Midlands Amateur Radio Club. We extend HAMNET’s deepest sympathies to his family and friends on their sad loss.

What do selfies from the South Pole have to do with deep space missions? Quite a lot, actually. David Szondy, reporting in New Atlas on Wednesday reported that, on Monday November 20, NASA used a selfie taken outside Antarctica’s McMurdo Station at the bottom of the world and sent to the International Space Station to show off a new technology called Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN). This communication technology will allow spacecraft far from Earth to communicate with mission control using an interplanetary version of the internet.

The internet is an excellent way of moving data from one part of the world to another, but it does have its limitations. One of these is that it’s designed with the assumption that it’s connections from point A to point B can be kept uninterrupted or, if it is broken and can’t be established by another route, it’s possible to restart sending the data packets.

That’s fine on Earth where there are trillions of potential connections across the information superhighway, but deep space missions usually rely on one data link that can be interrupted by distance, the Sun getting in the way, or plain bad luck. If that one link is broken, important mission telemetry and other data can be lost forever. So, though internet technology is very useful for space communications, it does need some important tweaking.

This is where McMurdo and DTN come in. With its remoteness, high latitudes, stormy weather, and scant infrastructure, Antarctic data transmission suffers from demand exceeding capacity and the constant threat of information being lost due to outages. It’s a pain, but it also makes places like the South Pole a perfect analogue for trying to stay in touch with a Mars rover or a Jupiter orbiter.

DTN sends information much the same way as the conventional internet does. Information is encoded and broken into packets, which are bundled and sent through the system to its destination. But, unlike the internet, if a connection isn’t available, DTN stores the bundle until communications are re-established. The bundles can then be sent and the file reconstructed at the destination.

For the demonstration, the selfie was taken with a smartphone camera and the DTN software sent the image file from the McMurdo ground station to NASA’s White Sands Complex using the repurposed Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). When the transmission reached North America, a series of DTN nodes routed the data bundles to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, from which it was transmitted to the ISS using another TDRS link. On the space station, the bundles were collected by the TeleScience Resource Kit demonstration payload and a final DTN node reconstructed the image.

According to NASA, the open-source DTN technology can not only ensure secure communication links with spacecraft, but can also find applications on Earth – in Antarctica, but also in disaster areas and other places that suffer from disrupted communications.

“We’re cutting our teeth on this software, in real field conditions,” says Patrick Smith, technology development manager for polar research support with the US Antarctic Program. “The simplicity of transmitting from a smart-phone could have significant implications for increasing and diversifying the science we support in the polar regions. This represents a vision of how our remote autonomous field research instrumentation might operate one day.”

This could be used by HAMNET too.

HAMNET Western Cape will be holding its end of year function this Wednesday evening the 6th of December at the South African Astronomical Observatory, with fires lit at 17h30, and the members hopefully presenting themselves there at about 18h00 or so. There will be no business discussed, except for the report by the Regional Director Grant Southey ZS1GS, and the meeting will take the form of a bring-and-braai. We look forward to seeing all Western Cape’s HAMNET members there!

With schools breaking up this week, families who have early leave will be travelling to start their holidays from the end of this week. If you’re one of the holiday makers, please drive carefully, and, if you’re staying at home, please leave your radios on and tuned to your local emergency VHF or HF frequency, to be available if anyone needs help .

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

HAMNET Report 26 November 2017

News coming from mainstream sources in Europe, and being analysed by American sites suggests a huge increase in radioactive toxicity in clouds wafting across Europe, a thousand times stronger than usual. Alex Jones, speaking on InfoWars.com, tells us that the kind of radiation measured is not that which one might expect from ordinary nuclear leaks, which just about any nuclear reactor could be guilty of, as the technology ages, but rather that created by secret nuclear tests or even an explosion in a facility building nuclear weapons.

Russian, French and British sources are identifying a particularly dangerous isotope called RUTHENIUM-106, which arises from fission reactions within a nuclear reactor, and is present at this intense level 968 times more than expected. The origin seems to be in Eastern Central Russia, but the Russian sources have not formally admitted to an accident, or where it has occurred. An area in Russia, bigger than the whole of France, is polluted with Ruthenium-106, and winds are blowing the cloud into Italy, Ukraine, Switzerland, and on to France, as well as up towards Sweden, Finland and Germany.

Alex expresses his huge concern at the cover-ups which continue as the general public is reassured that none of this kind of radioactive leakage is important, and it will be spread out and wafted away, while a million people have been shown to have died of illnesses directly attributable to Chernobyl’s 1986 accident, and Fukushima’s nuclear reactors continue to leach radioactive materials into ground water at the site, and ultimately into the Pacific ocean.

And, as an extension to that, the mind can only boggle at what will happen if a nuclear war breaks out over the Korean Peninsula. In early phases of such a war, local fatalities could run to millions, but radioactive clouds will be relatively confined to the Northern hemisphere for a while, and radiation sickness and deaths in the short-term will be greater there. However, with generalised diffusion, the whole globe will be affected, and you and I could suffer the misery of this chaos too.

Alex Jones pleads for greater attention to be paid to coal-fired power stations, with more modern scrubbing of released fumes, such that coal-dust and lung disease can be restricted, and the only ejecta released by the power stations being carbon dioxide.

The times we live in are very distressing indeed.

In a remarkable show of camaraderie, various and unexpected countries have pitched in to help look for the Argentinean submarine lost off the coast of South America. Unfortunately, it would seem that the supply of oxygen for the 44 crew members trapped has probably run out by now, and the likelihood of survivors being found is very slim. Nevertheless, such disparate countries as England and Russia have sent ships and aeroplanes to try to find the signature of a sunken submarine on the bottom of the ocean.

Tass, the Russian News Agency, says that the Russian oceanographic ship, Yantar, will reach the area by the end of the week, and be able to deploy its high tech survey equipment and submerged search capability.

So far, the countries involved are Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany,  Norway, Peru, Spain, the U.S., the UK, Uruguay and now Russia. Wonderful cooperation indeed, and I hope they are able to locate and retrieve the sub.

A report given to Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, this week, charts the progress made in various communal water projects as the day the taps in the Western Cape run dry draws nearer.

Boreholes have been completed in Beaufort West, Knysna, Kannaland, and various other projects in Bitou, Saldanha Bay, Matzikama, Langeberg and Theewaterskloof municipalities. Newly appointed Geo-Hydrologists and Provincial Engineers are partnering well with municipalities in all districts. Boreholes have been drilled and water supplies secured at Beaufort West, Stellenbosch, Lentegeur, and Mowbray Maternity hospitals, and further drilling will soon commence at Clanwilliam, Vredendal, Karl Bremer and Red Cross Children’s hospitals.

Approximately one third of schools in the province have an existing borehole, and treatment of groundwater to be able to use it is being tested. Stellenbosch University scientists have developed a  water meter that can be monitored electronically, to be able to notify the school authorities of water leakage before too much is wasted, and these are to be installed in at least 270 schools, as a result of pledges and donations by commerce and industry in the Western Cape to fund their installation. We were lucky to receive 25mm of rain this week, which will help the groundwater levels, though not make a big difference to the dam levels.

Dam storage levels for the City of Cape Town at the beginning of this week, were 36.2% full, down 0.6 percentage points on last week, and usage in the City of Cape Town an average of 602 million litres a day. This is 100 million litres a day more than the city would wish for, so a lot more conservation is needed.

Alister, ZS1OK, has posted a very comprehensive report on the City of Cape Town’s nuclear disaster exercise held this last Thursday. His long report includes photos of strategic positions occupied by disaster managers and HAMNET members, as well as well thought-out arguments on future exercises, and the kinds of digital communications we should be incorporating in these activities.

The report will be posted on our HAMNET website at hamnet.co.za, so do go and have a look there. Thank you for this, Alister.

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

City of Cape Town DRM Koeberg Nuclear Disaster Exercise 23 November 2017

Alister van Tonder ZS1OK writes:

HAMNET was invited to participate by the Disaster Risk Management of the City of Cape Town with their annual Koeberg Nuclear Disaster Exercise.  This was the first time we participated with this particular exercise and the second time we’ve participated with the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management exercises.

We had seven volunteers who participated, consisting of David zs1dav, Dean zs1kp, Hendrik zs1eee, Philip zs1pvv, Rob zs1sa, Stephen zs1bsw, and Alister zs1ok.

The exercise simulated a nuclear leak at Koeberg, and we had HAMNET personnel in the following roles:

  • Joint Operations Centre – Dean as a former mechanical engineer at Koeberg sat with the rest of the members in the JOC and from here all the aspects of the exercise was managed.

index

Figure 1. A view of the various role players managing the exercise from the JOC

index2

Figure 2 The video walls inside the JOC depicting information relevant to the exercise

  • HAMNET Communications Room. Rob zs1sa and Stephen zs1bsw were behind the controls relaying messages as and when required, using the VHF/UHF and HF equipment.
  • Command Bus – David zs1dav represented HAMNET at the Command Bus, which at one stage departed at high speed to a new location quite some distance from where they were due them being put at “risk” by the a change in wind direction which carries “radiation” with it. Dave’s multi-faceted ability came to the rescue of some of the very hungry participants when he was able to open their tuna cans, which was part of the day’s ration packs, with his Leatherman.

index6

Figure 3 One of the two locations where the Command Bus was parked, together with various role players also taking part in the exercise.

  • Hendrik zs1eee and Philip zs1pvv were stationed at the Koeberg Volunteer Centre from where they operated on both VHF/UHF and HF.
  • Alister zs1ok was a part-time roving participant during the event. One of the advantages of living in Cape Town was setting up a cross-band repeater on Blouberg Hill .

index3

Figure 4 A cross-band repeater set up on Blouberg Hill – with a magnificent view from there

 

In general the exercise and the HAMNET participation went off well.  Everyone learnt a great deal in various ways, and since this was the first exercise of this nature with the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management there are several areas where we could definitely improve on.

 Feedback, Suggestions and Improvements

We would love to get more HAMNET operators to participate, despite the exercise being run during normal working hours.

We need to make use more of digital technologies, in particular systems that can be used to send text to other operators or participants.  This requirement is particularly relevant for information or formal communications issued from the JOC and the HAMNET Comms Room.  Using text based system is the best way to keep operators well informed without interrupting them with their parallel activities. An operator can re-read a text message rather than having to request a voice message to be resent for clarification.  Specific terminology can be used in a text based message which would be more difficult to convey in a standard voice message.  The other major advantage of a text based system is that it automatically provides a log of all messages, communication and whatever else needs to be recorded.

In prior discussions with ESCOM they expressed specific interest in HAMNET’s ability to offer backup communications because of their ability to transfer text messages and files (using digital modes, e.g. fldigi) as well as sending of emails (e.g. using Winlink) via radio.

The ability to provide nomadic HF comms rather than mobile HF comms.  We generally do not require HF comms to be used while driving a vehicle.  In this context an HF station requires the ability to up and leave to a new location within minutes.  The operator should therefore ideally operate from their vehicle or a go-box and all that is required is to pack away their HF antenna.  The operator must be able to set up to use 80m and 60m comms with the current propagation conditions.  During winter months being able to use 160m would also be required.

HF comms is important to test and maintain since there is a requirement with certain of the Koeberg exercises for the Koeberg region to be “vacated” and for the command teams to relocate to rural areas such as Citrusdal, Mooreesburg or even Ceres to get away from “nuclear fall-out and contamination”.  During such events it is vital to maintain comms via HF due to these areas not necessarily being served via VHF/UHF repeaters.

During a real Koeberg incident HAMNET would be required to assist for several days.  It is therefore important having sufficient HAMNET volunteers to permit operations to run over multiple days using 12 hour shifts.

  1. JOC – Joint Operations Center

Meticulous notes were maintained by Dean during the development of the exercise.

It was felt that using an electronic version of this which could automatically share vital information with all the HAMNET role players and would be of much more value than only using voice communications.

This concept was reinforced by the fact that it is impractical to use radio communication (handheld radio) in a controlled environment such as the JOC, and the audio from the radio caused disruptions.  Even using a headset with the radio was said to be impractical in this setup.

  1. HAMNET Communications Room

At least two operators are required for the Control room as there is just too much happening in parallel for one operator to manage appropriately.

Since it was the first time that both Rob zs1sa and Stephen zs1bsw operated from the HAMNET communications room they were not very familiar with the facility’s equipment despite them being skilled amateur radio operators.  During an emergency it is vital for operators know their equipment well and are able to optimally use the equipment.  It is not a static operating environment and there are ongoing changes required on the equipment.

Despite having sound dampening facilities, which is ideal for a very active comms control centre, the one drawback of the facility is that it is isolated from where real the rubber hits the road.  As a result they have insufficient information about the development exercise.  Having the text based system mentioned above would also greatly assist.

  1. Command Bus

It was the second time David zs1dav has been with the Command Bus and fortunately the staff operating from the bus were well informed of his presence and his role.  Since the bus may be redeployed to more suitable or different locations at any time it is vital for this HAMNET operator to be set up and proficient at using mobile comms.  Even their HF equipment needs to be setup such that they can redeploy at short notice – and merely recover their long wire antenna deployed from their vehicle.

  1. Volunteer Centre

Hendrik zs1eee and Philip zs1pvv are quite adept at setting up a station in a new location.  This was their first involvement at this facility and as we also intended testing HF communications, the HF antenna had to be set up in a manner that the environment remained safe for other staff participating in the event.  We did not want people to get RF burns from the antennas.

One of the drawbacks of using a cross-band repeater is that it does not provide any feedback (i.e. a whiplash) when pressing your PTT. Thus an operator using a cross-band repeater needs to have two radios – each one tuned to one of the frequencies of the cross-band repeater.  When transmitting on the one radio you should hear yourself on the other radio.

All the personnel at the Volunteer Centre were required to relocate to a new location necessitating moving the radio station elsewhere.  Thus this nomadic requirement makes the ability to have a go-box very practical.  Basically unplug your power (if you are only using mains), pack away your antenna, and load your equipment in the vehicle and move to the next location.

  1. Rover One

Alister zs1ok was mobile during part of the exercise, and being mobile leaves an operator with a limited ability to effectively participate with communications while driving.  You need a second person to assist –  either as driver or as communicator.  Particularly once you start using digital comms (text or graphics) it would be safer and better to have one to assist you.

Once again thank you to everyone on the team who made this event a learning event and an enjoyable one!!

Alister van Tonder  ZS1OK

HAMNET Report 19 November 2017

Inasmuch as solar weather can make the life of an emergency communicator very difficult, I thought I’d tell you about a proposed NASA mission to reveal unprecedented details about solar flares, powerful eruptions that explode with enough energy to interfere with radio communications and satellites near Earth.

The proposed mission, Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager, or FOXSI, was one of five proposals that received Phase-A funding under NASA’s Small Explorer Program.

Although scientists are familiar with the effects of solar flares, they don’t completely understand the physical mechanisms that unleash these bursts of energy and light, or those which power associated clouds of electrons and ions that can be accelerated to near the speed of light.

Once unleashed, the particles affect all the Sun’s atmospheric layers. They pass through the Sun’s outermost layer – the corona where they also are known to originate – and race across the solar system. When they travel toward Earth, the particles and energy can interfere with space-based communications systems or even trip onboard electronics. The more scientists understand this process, the more situational awareness they have to protect assets in space.

“FOXSI is very new and very different,” said Principal Investigator Steven Christe, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who leads the multinational FOXSI team developing the satellite mission.

“We’ve not done a mission like this before. For the first time, we’re going to actually peer into the region where electrons are accelerated by applying technology that was developed to study the faintest sources in the galaxy but now pointed at the Sun.”

The combination of new technologies used is expected to result in a mission that is 20 times more sensitive, 10 times faster at imaging solar-flare events, and 10 to 100 times better at imaging the relatively faint regions within flares.

Thank you to SPACE DAILY for these notes.

Business Day carried a report on Thursday about Western Cape Hospitals drilling new boreholes, or re-activating old ones, to provide extra water on their premises. Tygerberg, Karl Bremer, and Khayelitsha Hospitals have all augmented their supply of water from Province this way. The water is being used at health facilities for “cleaning linen‚ floors‚ toilets‚ scrubbing‚ disinfecting equipment‚ bathing‚ drinking and others”. Water from boreholes was tested at a laboratory for safety before use.

However‚ caution is needed. Chris Jack‚ a researcher at the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town‚ said boreholes were helpful in times of a lack of municipal water supply, but that groundwater extraction “can have negative impacts such as land sinking‚ salt water intrusion in coastal areas like Cape Town‚ and a drop in water quality”.

The department is aware of this‚ and is being careful “not to exhaust the resource”.

And, according to the website of the National Drought Mitigation Centre in the US‚ “health problems related to low water flows and poor-quality water‚ and health problems related to dust‚ reduced incomes and fewer recreational activities” can be expected in any country where a drought unfolds.

Greg Mossop G0DUB reports that Emcomm SPAIN was active yesterday on 40 metres for their national EMCOMSET2k17. The exercise was organised as a “no notice” event, and ran all day. Operations took place around the 40 metre Centre of Activity of 7110 Khz, as well as on another frequency on 40 metres not being announced. They also used frequencies in VHF/UHF as well as DMR and Winlink.

HAMNET Western Cape has been contacted by the organisers of the annual el Shaddai 99er cycle tour in early February next year, who are looking for our usual contingent of volunteers and our APRS support for their ambulance system. So this is an early invitation to Capetonians to join me on the scene on Saturday the 10th February next year. We’ll be sending out further invitations locally.

Then, a reminder that HAMNET in the Western Cape will be assisting the City of Cape Town in a disaster exercise on Thursday the 23rd November. The scenario is a nuclear scare at Koeberg power station. At least 4 operators will be needed between 09h00 and 14h00 on that day, and Alister, ZS1OK will welcome your mail to volunteer at zs1ok.alister@gmail.com if you can help. His volunteer list is almost complete.

Finally, a further inspection of interesting units of measurement, and, in this case, one “New York Second”, defined as the period of time between the traffic lights turning green and the car behind you hooting! A very short time indeed. Perhaps it should be used to describe the time between your signing your callsign on the repeater, and the other fellow answering you!

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

HAMNET Report 12 November 2017

This Sunday past, the 5th November, HAMNET Gauteng South, through their relationship with the organisers of the Emperors Palace Classic through Ekhuruleni in Johannesburg, were asked to assist with the first ever Tshwane Classic cycle race in Pretoria.

Glynn, ZS6GLN, tells me that, for a first ever event, over 4700 riders participated, with one of the VIP riders on the day being the mayor of Tshwane, who, we believe, rode the 20km event.

A call was put through to Johan de Bruyn (ZS6JHB), regional director of Gauteng North asking if his team would like to assist. Johan replied with 5 eager volunteers and assigned Brian Jacobs (ZS6YZ) as his fill in for the event. Brian and the Gauteng North team turned out to be an exceptional asset. Brian attended the briefing session with Glynn Chamberlain (ZS6GLN) on the Saturday morning and was perfectly placed to provide critical info on the route not only for HAMNET, but also the organisers who were not all fully familiar with Pretoria.

Furthermore, Chad Mileham (ZS6OPS) who is regional co-ordinator for the HAMNET Gauteng South West Rand group, forwarded the request to his team and another 5 members eagerly volunteered.

Everyone arrived on the Sunday morning for a team briefing at 04h30, and after formalities and the briefing had been given, everyone dispersed to their respective positions on the course.

Everyone was apprehensive as to how members from 3 different HAMNET groups who had never met before were going to work together. Well, the team matched the professionalism of many of our previous races in the past, and the interaction between the members was incredible. It is gratifying that, if groups are required to come together for a real emergency one day, they will operate like they did on the day.

In the end, there were some serious altercations and eventual hot spots. Brian (ZS6YZ) landed up in the thick of it when traffic at his intersection got out of hand. Barricades were being set up, rocks placed on the roads and stones thrown at the TMPD (Tshwane Metro Police Department). Through Brian’s immediate reports back, Police and Metro Police manning the JOCC and listening to Brian’s reports were incredibly swift to deploy additional support to the intersection and bring it back under control. To say the JOCC got quite active is an understatement.

While this was happening, HAMNET resources that were stationed at other intersections with fewer issues were deployed north to possibly assist with a route change because of the issues at Brian’s intersection. The rendezvous for these teams was the intersection of Paul Kruger and Mansfield Avenue, two major arterials. Unbelievably, the situation there started deteriorating with the police battling to control motorists. By the time HAMNET members started arriving there for the possible re-route, Brian’s intersection was under control, so they jumped in to assist the police right there. In the end, there were Anette (ZR6D), Awie  (ZS6AVI), Francois (ZS6COI), and Judy (ZS6JDY), with later support from Leon (ZS6LMG) and Johan (ZS6DMX), all ably controlled by Rory Crouch (ZS6RBJ) who constantly gave and received instructions from the JOCC and communicated with the impromptu team who were now assisting in the intersection. In order not to overload the JOCC frequency, Rory managed a sub net amongst the team members on scene and became the one communications point between the JOCC and everyone on the intersection. Well done Rory!

To summarise, the comments received from the team members were fantastic. They all thoroughly enjoyed the day and experienced something completely new and enjoyable. Both Leon and Glynn felt the cream on the cake was seeing how well three separate HAMNET groups could interact in such a friendly and professional manner. And, new friendships were forged in a wonderful hobby helping with community service and self-sacrifice.

Thank you Glynn for the comprehensive report. It sounds like you all had a day of many and varied experiences!

News of future exercises comes from Alister ZS1OK, who tells us that the City of Cape Town will be running a disaster exercise on Thursday the 23rd November. Alister says at least 4 HAMNET volunteers are required to assist, each at a different permanent or mobile control centre, from 09h00 until 14h00 that day. John Bayly Brown, the CoCT Volunteer coordinator, has promised to provide a letter to employers motivating and stating the role HAMNET volunteers will have during the exercise.

If you can take time off on a Thursday, please contact Alister at zs1ok.alister@gmail.com. Thank you.

In a more humorous vein, some of you will know that Helen of Troy had beauty which was enough to launch a thousand Greek ships to rescue her from Troy. You’ll therefore understand that one milliHelen is the amount of beauty required to launch one ship. David Goines “Helen Beauty Scale” defines a microHelen as enough beauty to Christen a motorboat and start a grass fire, and a gigaHelen as enough to launch one trillion Greek warships and destroy the solar system. In similar vein, a picture paints a thousand words, and a millipicture therefore paints one word, and Carl Sagan, who narrated the original “Cosmos” and was always describing things in terms of “billions and billions”, has had his name immortalised as being equivalent to an impossibly large quantity of anything and everything! Thank you to Wikipaedia for these units of measurement.

I wonder whether a milliHAMNET member could be defined as someone who can get the message through using just one word…….

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

HAMNET Report 5 November 2017

Glynn Chamberlain, ZS6GLN, Deputy Regional Director, HAMNET Gauteng South, tells us that Hamnet exhibited at the Southern African Emergency Services Institute (SAESI) expo at Nasrec Expo Centre in the south of Johannesburg from Wednesday the 1st of November till Friday the 3rd November inclusive.

Hamnet Gauteng South had their forward control centre on show together with other equipment used in community events and disaster situations.

This is the first of hopefully many expos that Hamnet will be participating in to spread the word of emergency communications in disaster and community events.

For more info on SAESI, visit https://www.saesi.com/. Thanks, Glynn.

Continuing my references to space and radio signals, consider the case of the two Voyager spacecraft, which have left the solar system and are currently in interstellar space. Voyager one and two are about 20 Billion Kilometres and 16 Billion Kilometres away from us respectively, and a round trip to send and receive the results of a command to and from either of them takes about 39 hours. They were launched in 1977, completed their solar system tasks in the 1980’s, and have been travelling outwards ever since.

The fact that their signals can still be received is a tribute to the antennas they carry and transmit to, and those are the figures I’d like to bring to your attention today.

The signal path loss for Voyager one, using one of its comms frequencies of 2.3 GHz, has been calculated at 306.6dB. Voyager’s 3.7m parabolic dish antenna has a gain of 57 dB, but the strength of its transmitted signal is only 23 watts. However, at the receiving end, NASA’s Deep Space Network has three sites, at Goldstone, Canberra and Madrid, each of which has  three or more large dish antennas, the biggest of which is 70 metres in diameter, giving it 82 dB of gain.

No matter how strong the signal, it is the quality of the antenna which guarantees the reception of the signal. And the greater the gain, the narrower the beamwidth, so the antennas need to be pointed exactly at each other to hear each other. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the success of any radio system lies with the antennas. In the case of the Voyagers, there’s nothing to be done about the speed of travel of the message, at the speed of light, so those astronomers need to be patient and wait the 39 hours!

Thank you to Microwaves & RF for the details in this insert.

Now, here’s something for the scientists amongst you. In the ARRL letter for November the 2nd, HamSCI – the Amateur Radio citizen science initiative – has announced a 2-day workshop February 23-24, 2018, at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark. HamSCI’s Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, has posted a survey to gauge interest and potential attendance.

“We are inviting all hams and scientists interested in ham radio science,” Frissell said. “The aim of this workshop is to foster collaborations between the ham radio and the space science and space weather research communities through presentations, discussions, and demonstrations. This year’s meeting will focus on solar eclipse analysis, ham radio data sources and databases, and the development of a ‘personal space weather station.'”

Frissell, an NJIT assistant research professor, invited presentations from within the Amateur Radio community. “We will also accept submissions of abstracts and demonstrations of other topics that are of interest to ham radio and ionospheric science,” he said. “The solar eclipse topic is a follow-up to this summer’s total solar eclipse and the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP). We hope to have presentations from both ham radio operators and professional scientists showing the data that they have collected and what they think it means.”

The tentative schedule calls for oral presentations on “Ham Radio Data Sources, Databases Analysis” and “Solar Eclipse Effects on the Ionosphere, including results from the Solar Eclipse QSO Party.” Phil Erickson, W1PJE, of MIT’s Haystack Observatory is scheduled to be the Friday evening banquet speaker. Tutorials on Saturday will include “Ham Radio for Space Scientists,” with Frank Donovan, W3LPL, and “Space Science for Ham Radio Operators” (speaker pending).

Frissell said HamSCI would like to encourage development of the “Personal Space Weather Station” concept. “This is analogous to a personal weather station that people install at their homes to measure temperature, wind speed, rainfall, and humidity, and report this data to groups like the NWS, NOAA, and Weather Underground,” Frissell said. “We want to create a similar package for space weather and have that data go to a single repository.”

“An ideal personal space weather station would likely include instruments able to detect things such as traveling ionospheric disturbances, radio blackouts, propagation changes, lightning, and magnetospheric activity, Frissell said. It would probably include, at a minimum, a wideband software-defined radio, a magnetometer, a timing source, and a computer — all currently available, but not as an integrated package, he pointed out.

At the February workshop, HamSCI wants to better define the capabilities of a personal space weather station as well as how to implement the concept. “HamSCI will be teaming up with TAPR to do this,” Frissell said. “Scientists will talk about what science topics the device should be able to measure, and TAPR will discuss how to actually design and implement the device.”

Frissell said he hopes hams attending will come away more knowledgeable about ionospheric and space science, and scientists will gain a better understanding of Amateur Radio.

So there’s a nice challenge for you!

A quick dam report for the Western Cape. The dam levels have subsided with 0.1percentage point, which is a relief, and other good news is that the water quality compliance is 99.59%, above the 98% target, so whatever comes out of the taps is drinkable! We squirm uneasily in our chairs as we watch the sky for clouds!

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

 

HAMNET Report 29 October 2017

HAMNET congratulates the RAE candidates who wrote and passed their exams this week, and have been allocated their new call-signs. We look forward to welcoming you all to the bands, and repeaters, promise to do our best to guide you through all the pitfalls encountered as you start your exploration of RF electronics, and hope at least some of you will join HAMNET, the emergency communications wing of the South African Radio League. We practise providing communications to sporting events, local or national disasters, and car rallies, and have groups in all the regions in South Africa, so look on the SARL website for the HAMNET page down the left hand side of the home page, and pick up some information there on your area’s activations.

Today sees HAMNET Gauteng South assisting with the Carnival City road race for cyclists, and next Sunday the Tshwane Classic race. Good luck with these two events, Leon, ZS6LMG, and all your operators. We hope you’ll report to us on both the events.

Richard Talcott, writing in Astronomy’s local group Blog, has commented on something that I’m sure a lot of you have been puzzling over. He says:

“While discussing the possibility of intelligent life in the universe over lunch with his fellow scientists, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi asked the simple question: “Where are they?” The line came to be known as the “Fermi Paradox,” and the argument boils down to this: If the universe is teeming with life, and some reasonable percentage of that life has developed advanced technology, then these civilizations should have populated our corner of the Milky Way long ago. Several potential solutions to the paradox exist, ranging from the possibility that we are alone in the cosmos to the chance that the aliens already live among us.

[Last] Thursday at the 49th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences in Provo, Utah, S. Alan Stern suggested a new solution: Perhaps the aliens populate ocean worlds cut off from the outside universe by thick crusts of ice or rock. Stern, best known as the principal investigator on the New Horizons mission that explored Pluto, points out that we now know of at least four such worlds in our solar system, and evidence suggests there could be five or more additional ones. And there’s no reason to suspect that they wouldn’t be common among the exoplanet population.

Such water worlds might even have a few advantages over their surface-water cousins. For one, they would be better protected from external hazards like harsh radiation, large impacts, and changing climates. Interior oceans would provide a more stable environment that poses less risk to any life that might develop. But their thick crusts also naturally isolate them from the universe beyond. They would be hard to detect and would face enormous difficulties communicating with the outside world — if they even knew a outside world existed.

The existence of these ocean environments hidden beneath thick shells could offer an elegant solution to the Fermi Paradox, and fittingly one that Enrico and his lunch buddies could never have imagined.”

The most recent discussion of subsurface water worlds surrounds Enceladus, one of the many moons of Saturn, recently researched by the Cassini spacecraft, which burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere after a successful 13 year mission of investigation. Using magnetometers on board Cassini, researchers proved that Enceladus has a dry crust, which has been fractured, and which is leaking water vapour from within, with other molecules of organic materials like methane, revealed by spectrometers on board! The question is, what is going on under that crust? When Cassini’s fuel cells were running dry, and it was decided that Cassini should be allowed to self-destruct in Saturn’s atmosphere, it was purposely made to crash into Saturn, and not allowed to drift to its demise, in case it hit one of the moons and polluted the atmosphere, thereby preventing future scientists from ever being absolutely sure whether the life forms there were indigenous, or accidentally imported from earth! We watch for further results of the investigations into extra-terrestrials with great interest.

Terrestrials, on the other hand, are starting to lose themselves or come to grief on Table Mountain again, as the weather starts to warm up here in the Cape. There were at least seven searches and rescues on the mountains in the last eight days, one of them a fatality as a walker fell to her death. The HAMNET volunteers, working as they do with Wilderness Search and Rescue, which is also a completely volunteer organisation, of climbers, off-road rescue and 4X4 drivers, are gearing up for the many calls which will come in. WSAR cannot stress strongly enough how treacherous Table Mountain can be, and how important it is for hikers never to hike alone, always to take warm clothing along, to tell others where they going and how long they expect to be, and to take fully charged cell-phones and even reserve power banks, as well as food and enough water, in case they are trapped on the mountain overnight. A sunny warm day down at sea level is not necessarily a warm windless day on top of the mountain! Please be warned, if you are contemplating going up the mountain, and take this advice seriously.

Tropical Storm Selma, a small storm off-shore just South West of El Salvador in the Pacific, is threatening the coastal towns there, with an orange alert for high humidity, heavy rains, flooding of rivers and general floods in Southern and central regions of Gautemala yesterday, and possibly today (Sunday). Their VHF repeaters are all linked, so hopefully, internal messages will be transmitted on VHF, but Guatemala’s Amateur Radio Club uses 7075kHz and the Central American Chain 7090kHz LSB, so please be aware of 40 metre traffic, and listen carefully for skip before you use these frequencies this weekend.

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

HAMNET Report 22 October 2017

“Force of 50” volunteer Val Hotzfeld, NV9L, reported from Puerto Rico on October 15 that Amateur Radio volunteers on Culebra and in Fajardo — Jeremy Dougherty, NS0S, and Matthey Gonter, AC4MG — made it possible for physicians at the two locations to communicate directly in an effort to evacuate a patient who is an amputee.

“The chief doctor and the administrator at the Fajardo hospital were all smiles, as the doctor told AC4MG, ‘You guys saved a life today,’” Hotzfeld reported.

Sixteen Amateur Radio volunteers were stationed at hospitals, while another was at the fire station in Juncos. Another five ham radio volunteers were assisting Red Cross reunification teams.

Mike Logan, KM4WUO, arrived on October 13 — the first of 10 SHARES HF radio system operators. According to DHS, “SHARES members use existing HF radio resources of government, critical infrastructure, and disaster response organizations to coordinate and transmit emergency messages. SHARES users rely on HF radio communications to perform critical functions, including those areas related to leadership, safety, maintenance of law and order, finance, and public health.”

Dougherty, who was instrumental in saving the life of a burn victim last week, reported that fire-fighters on Culebra helped to re-install an HF antenna at the hospital there. “We had to climb a telephone pole off the edge of a cliff behind the hospital,” Dougherty said. “It was fun.” He also got their emergency VHF radio working again, and he presented a class to hospital staffers and first responders on how to use the Icom IC-706 that’s on site, encouraging them to get their ham licenses.

Jorge Ortiz-Santiago, WP4ONI, assisted with a reunification between a mother and a son in Jayuya.

By the 18th October, the “Force of 50” radio amateurs who deployed to Puerto Rico earlier this month as American Red Cross volunteers had ended their mission and will be back on the US mainland by this weekend. They have been in Puerto Rico for about 3 weeks.

“The Force of 50 volunteers demonstrated an extraordinary range of skills possessed by this accomplished team,” said ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF. “There was no task that they wouldn’t tackle. It also demonstrated the generosity of these volunteers, who not only performed their roles as communicators, but also engaged the population with their many acts of personal kindness.”

Val Hotzfeld, NV9L, who filed situation reports documenting the team’s activities, said the volunteers accomplished everything they went to Puerto Rico to do, “and then some.” She said that the Red Cross felt they had exceeded all expectations.

And in remarks made on International Disaster Reduction Day, Friday, October 13, Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) Secretary-General Bernadette Lewis described Amateur Radio as a “bedrock of sustained communications” during emergencies, and strongly suggested cultivating a new and younger generation of radio amateurs to carry this role forward. She spoke as part of a panel on emergency telecommunications during the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Telecommunication Development Conference 2017 (WTDC-17), now under way in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The CTU, she said, has been considering the role of Amateur Radio in light of this “very, very, violent hurricane season.”

“Amateur Radio has been a staple, and it is because of…the Amateur Radio operators in the region that we get a lot of the information that we need,” she told her audience. Her presentation defined Amateur Radio as one component of the coordination of preparedness, response, and recovery efforts on the part of national emergency management agencies.

Moderator Vanessa Gray later asked Lewis what “one concrete step” could be taken to make better use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for disaster management.

“We really have to cultivate a new generation of Amateur Radio operator,” Lewis replied without hesitation. “We found that they are all on the northern side of 50.”

“Amateur Radio has been the bedrock of sustained communications during such emergencies,” she continued, “and one of the things we’re looking at is actually facilitating this process of having a network of disaster-resistant centres that, in times when you don’t have a disaster, could be used for training new operators and generating that interest across the region.”

We thank the ARRL Newsline for these two excerpts.

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, KZN Regional Director for HAMNET, reports that HAMNET KZN will be deploying 11 operators to assist with the Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic Cycle Race this Sunday 22nd October 2017. It is estimated that around 10,000  cyclists will be participating this year. The event comprises a 106Km race starting in Pietermaritzburg, a 65Km event starting in Cato Ridge and a 35Km fun ride starting in Hillcrest. The 65Km and 35Km races start at 05H30 whilst the main 106Km race starts at 06H45.

The race follows the same route as that of the Comrades Marathon and enjoys full road closure. Hamnet has operators at each of the 5 water points situated along the route as well as an operator in the JOC at the Fire Station in Pietermaritzburg and the Ethekwini (Durban) Disaster management Centre.  A roving patrol will also be deployed should any incidents be encountered along the route.

Communications will be on 145.750 Midlands Amateur Radio Club repeater which will be linked to the 145.625 Highway Amateur Radio Club repeater giving full coverage of the route. APRS will also be in use and can be displayed on the video wall in the Durban JOC. DMR is also going to be used for the first time by us to manage this event with the Worlds View, Kloof and Ridge repeaters giving good coverage of the route.

The event finishes under the foot bridge on Masabala Yengwa Avenue (Old NMR Ave) outside the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium before riders make their way into the Suncoast Casino complex.

Thanks, Keith, I hope you will supply us with a short summary of the race after the event.

We are currently in the middle of the 60th Jamboree On The Air, so I encourage you who have time to look on the HF bands for Scouting Stations calling CQ, and answer their call. Perhaps you will generate an enthusiasm for amateur radio in the youngsters that will culminate in their writing the RAE, as so many keen new amateurs did yesterday around the country. We hope you found the exams to your liking, and look forward to welcoming you to the ham bands, and perhaps even to HAMNET, where you can offer your skills to help in natural or manmade disaster situations.

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

HAMNET Report 15 October 2017

This week it was KwaZulu Natal’s turn to get the weather! Tuesday’s flash flood claimed 11 lives, and caused damage to hospitals, at least 133 schools, factories, homes and key infrastructure. Power outages were also reported, as the storm spread up the East coast towards the City of uMhlathuze, incorporating Empangeni and Richards Bay. Chad Mileham reported on Tuesday that the Emergency 7.110 Net was activated by 13h00, and kept a listening watch, until any likelihood of further damage had dissipated.  In idle speculation, I estimated that, if that amount of rain had fallen in the catchment area of Cape Town’s dams, our drought would have been broken and dams completely filled! Nature just isn’t fair, is it?

Kobus van der Merwe drew our attention to the magnitude 6.6 earthquake very near Bouvet Island on Tuesday, with the possibility of a Tsunami aimed at us, which fortunately didn’t happen. He pondered on how equipped we would be to deal with this kind of coastal flooding. Good question!

Chad Mileham has also been posting the ARRL posts regarding the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico to the HAMNET Facebook Pages. Look for HAMNET on Facebook, and you will find two pages to view. Thank you Chad!

Advance warning of severe weather conditions come from Vietnam, where Cyclone Khanun-17 is expected to strike from the East on Tuesday; and England and Ireland, where Hurricane Ophelia-17 is threatening from the South-West, moving slowly up off the coast of North Africa and destined for Ireland on Sunday, and England on Monday. And California’s residents and fire agencies are battling 18 huge wildfires that have claimed about 24 lives, forced at least 100,000 people to evacuate their homes, and destroyed countless properties. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service in that country is heavily involved with coordination and management of the evacuees.

Researchers at William Carey University in Mississippi are studying how disaster drones could carry medical kits to victims in a mass casualty event, before an ambulance arrives. Bystanders could use the kits to help victims, or first responders on the scene could use them when multiple victims are injured.

CNN says the disaster drones, which also could deliver medicine to hard-to-reach remote locations, were designed and built at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. The researchers have various prototypes, said Italo Subbarao, senior associate dean at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, who is involved in the university’s telemedicine drone research project.

“We have a kit that is a general medical emergency kit that we would probably fly to a farmer’s home, for a rural type of general medical emergency,” Subbarao said, such as a heart attack.

“We’ve got kits that are designed to go into the wilderness so that if you’re stung by a bee or you’ve got a snake bite, things of that nature, we can provide assistance in that moment,” he said. “Most recently, we demonstrated our trauma kits.”

These kits could be used in a mass casualty event like a terror attack or a train crash, or when someone needs critical care. “We look at this as a piece of the puzzle, an important piece of the puzzle, that can connect with the local emergency management system,” he said.

Subbarao and his colleagues follow in the footsteps of researchers around the world who are investigating how drones could help save lives and possibly even beat an ambulance to a medical emergency scene.

A team of researchers in Sweden recently tested whether a drone or an ambulance had a faster response time in delivering an automated external defibrillator to a patient in cardiac arrest. The device gives instructions to a bystander to use it for checking the heart rhythm and, if needed, sending an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.

The researchers conducted 18 consecutive flights with the drone, with an average flight distance of 3.2 kilometers, or about 2 miles. They compared the dispatch and travel time of the drone with the dispatch and travel time of emergency medical services.

The researchers found that the drone arrived more quickly than EMS in all cases, with an average reduction in response time of about 16 minutes, and that no adverse events or technical problems occurred during any of the drone flights. During a medical emergency, those minutes can be the difference between life and death. This preliminary study was published in the journal JAMA in June.

Yet much more research needs to be conducted before you could see first-responder drones flying around, delivering medical care.

Certain limitations of the technology include whether a drone could carry heavy medical supplies, could withstand the impact of extreme weather or could limit the risk of technical glitches.

In Mississippi, Subbarao and his colleagues are planning to continue their research.

“For now, we’ve been working with the Mississippi Emergency Management (Agency) and Mississippi (State) Department of Public Health. We’re in conversations with the state agencies to help us study our product, help us refine what we’re doing here,” Subbarao said.

Whether in Sweden or the United States, how would a disaster drone work? First, each drone should be equipped with medical kits and instructions.

In the US, those kits could incorporate recommendations put forth in the federal Department of Homeland Security’s initiative Stop the Bleed, which is intended to help bystanders become trained, equipped and empowered to tend to emergency situations before professional help arrives, according to developers.

A drone could also include audio or video communication systems so that the person who receives it could talk to a doctor for assistance. The researchers in Mississippi have been working with Google Glass and other types of visual technologies for this communications aspect, Subbarao said.

Thank you to CNN for these notes.

A fairly shallow cold front is approaching the Western Cape as I write this, and, if the rain gods look kindly on us, up to 22mm of rain could fall in these parts between now and next Thursday. Please hold thumbs for us..

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