HAMNET Report 14th April 2024

The Western and Southern Cape is still licking its wounds after the severe winds, heavy rain and in some places fires fanned by the wind, caused a lot of damage last Sunday and Monday. Informal settlements were hard hit, and donations of foodstuffs, potable water, dry clothing and building materials were hastily arranged, as always hugely sponsored by The Gift Of The Givers.

The Western Cape cleared up first of course, but Knysna and George were still struggling on Tuesday and Wednesday. I am aware of only one fatality, a security guard who was killed by a falling tree while patrolling on his quad bike. GDACS reported a total of 2779 buildings affected or destroyed, at least 26 schools damaged, and several highways closed across the Winelands, the Overberg and coastal regions.

Meanwhile the Western Cape government plans to ask the national Disaster Management Centre for a disaster classification following this devastating storm, with a view to organizing relief funds to aid stricken communities.

A huge high pressure cell has moved in behind this damaging cut-off low pressure frontal system, and sunny skies, gentle winds and mid-twenties temperatures are forecast for the Two Oceans Marathon which is being run this weekend, and for most of the coming week.

So while we were being battered by wind and rain, the Americas were making a festival of the Solar Eclipse, which swept across many states in the afternoon their time of Monday. As usual NASA does these Astronomical shows very well, and there was a running commentary on NASA TV during the entire passage across Mexico and the USA.

I happened to have time to watch the channel, and saw the Sun’s corona, the diamond ring effect, and the flare promontories several times. Baily’s beads, the glimpses of sunlight shining over the silhouette of the moon’s surface geography were also striking. Even without an understanding of all that’s going on during one, you have to be impressed by the astronomical phenomenon that is a total eclipse!

All the citizen science and ham science that was generated round about the eclipse hours will take a while to be analyzed, but I look forward to hearing the developments that arise and discoveries made.

Across the world, radio amateurs participated in the HamSCI Solar Eclipse QSO Party. It involved operating to gather log data. Those logs will be studied by researchers in the coming years to investigate further the sun’s impact on the ionosphere.

HamSCI’s programme leader Dr. Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, was active from The University of Scranton Amateur Radio Club station. “I’m happy to report that we had an excellent day at W3USR in Scranton and believe that we had fun and [also] collected good data,” he wrote in a message to the HamSCI team.

Greg Mossop G0DUB is managing a JS8Call activity period for IARU Region One today the 14th April starting at 12h00 UTC, and lasting 2 hours. He had previously had interest shown by Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, South Africa, Norway, Netherlands and Ireland, and created objectives during the session, as follows:

To practice using JS8Call to relays short messages through other emergency communications groups;

To promote the use of the group call @R1EMCOR;

To send longer IARU format messages if conditions and confidence allow.

Frequencies to use will be 7.110 and 14.300 MHz

Greg says that there is no control station for this exercise and messages should be addressed to well-known members of the Region One Emergency Communications group.

He expects that it will be interesting to know how many Emergency Communications Groups were able to be worked, and how many IARU messages were sent or received. He notes that it can take about 3 minutes to send an IARU message using JS8Call at normal speed, but propagation conditions or QRM could break some messages. He reminds stations that a message is not “delivered” until a formal “ACK” is received from the receiving station.

Here’s something weird which will probably have lasting advantages in our drone-conscious lives. A team of biomedical, mechanical, and aerospace engineers from City University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has developed a hopping robot by attaching a spring-loaded telescopic leg to the underside of a quadcopter. Their paper is published in the journal Science Robotics.

Quadcopters have become widely popular over the past several years for recreational use by the general public, a means of surveillance, and as a research tool—they do allow for unprecedented aerial viewing and sometimes for carrying payloads.

Two features of the flying robots that are notably in need of improvement are flight time and payload capacity. In this new study, the researchers working in Hong Kong have devised a means to overcome both problems.

The approach they developed involved adding a spring-loaded telescopic leg (essentially a pogo stick) beneath a standard quadcopter, allowing it to hop when necessary. To allow the leg to work properly, the researchers also added stabilizing capabilities.

Adding the hopping ability reduced battery drain, allowing for longer flight times. It also allowed the quadcopter to lift much heavier loads because it did not have to keep them aloft.

The researchers found that the robot could hop around as desired, moving easily from one location to another. It could also take flight mid-hop and then fly as a normal quadcopter. Testing showed that in addition to clean vertical hops, the robot was capable of hopping on uneven ground and could even hop horizontally, which meant the leg could be used as a bumper of sorts, preventing damage if the robot ran into a wall or other structure.

The researchers describe their robot as being the size of a bird with a low weight, approximately 35 grams. Among possible applications, they suggest it could be used to monitor wildlife, for example, hopping among branches high in the trees. It could also be used in disaster areas, helping in assessments and finding survivors, or as farm monitors, hopping from plant to plant testing soil and moisture levels.

Frankly this sounds a bit like one hop away from crazy, but there have been many innovations which started out like this, and ended up being very useful and very mainstream.

Thank you to Phys.org for drawing my attention to this one.

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

HAMNET Report 7th April 2024

In a report issued on Good Friday, Reuters says that the final casualty figure in Madagascar from Cyclone GAMANE in that week was 18 killed and thousands displaced.

Tropical cyclone Gamane, which crossed the northeast of Madagascar on Wednesday and Thursday, displaced more than 20,000 people, the National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC) said in a report. Three others were injured and four were still missing, it added.

Gamane made landfall north of Vohémar in northeast Madagascar on Wednesday morning with average winds of 150 km per hour and gusts of 210 km per hour, BNGRC said late on Thursday.

It slowly dissipated on Thursday afternoon while still over land, the disaster management office said, having dumped heavy rain and caused flooding in many localities.

Roads and bridges collapsed in the north of Madagascar, BNRGC said.

Photographs posted on the disaster management office’s Facebook page showed its personnel wading in knee-deep water as they helped residents retrieve belongings from their flooded homes.

Gamane is the first this year in Madagascar’s cyclone and storm season.

Early last year, cyclone Freddy and tropical storm Cheneso killed at least 37 people and forced thousands from their homes.

It seems to have been big earthquake season this last two weeks. Of course, every day GDACS reports about 30 shakes of magnitude 5 or less, so earthquakes are not rare. But there have been a few more severe quakes reported.

The previous week there were strong quakes in Papua New Guinea, and off the coast of Indonesia. This week, a coastal area of Taiwan has been struck, and, as I write this on Friday evening, news of a medium strength earthquake in New York has just started to filter through.

Apparently a magnitude 4.8 quake struck the east coast of the US at about 17h20 CAT this Friday afternoon. It was felt from Philadelphia to Boston. Air traffic was immediately stopped, and only resumed about an hour later.

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck just south east of the coast of Taiwan at 23h58 UTC on the 2nd April at a depth of 11.4km and 13km off the coast exposing a local population of 230000 to danger. GDACS reported nine deaths, 52 people still missing, over a thousand injured, and more than 130 still trapped in rubble.

A minor tsunami alert was issued and nearby Japanese and Philippine islands were placed on alert, but the wave measured 1.6 metres or less.

More than 300 aftershocks of up to magnitude 6.4 have been reported.

Hackaday.com notes that, in the past few years we’ve seen the rise of low-power mesh networking devices for everything from IoT devices, weather stations, and even off-grid communications networks. These radio modules are largely exempt from licensing requirements due to their low power and typically only operate within a very small area. But by borrowing some ideas from the licensed side of amateur radio, Peter Fairlie built a Meshtastic repeater which can greatly extend the range of his low-power system.

Peter is calling this a “long lines relay” after old AT&T microwave technology, but it is essentially two Heltec modules set up to operate as Meshtastic nodes, where one can operate as a receiver while the other re-transmits the received signal. Each is connected to a log-periodic antenna to greatly increase the range of the repeater along the direction of the antenna. These antennas are highly directional, [and pointing in opposite directions], but they allow Peter to connect to Meshtastic networks in the semi-distant city of Toronto which he otherwise wouldn’t be able to hear.

With the two modules connected to the antennas and enclosed in a weatherproof box, the system was mounted on a radio tower allowing a greatly increased range for these low-power devices. If you’re familiar with LoRa but not Meshtastic, it’s become somewhat popular lately for being a straightforward tool for setting up low-power networks for various tasks.

Including, I may add, emergency communications. I know HAMNET in various provinces is experimenting with Meshtastic low power radio networks.

CP24.com says that NASA wants to come up with an out-of-this-world way to keep track of time, putting the moon on its own souped-up clock.

It’s not quite a time zone like those on Earth, but an entire frame of time reference for the moon. Because there’s less gravity on the moon, time there moves a tad quicker – 58.7 microseconds every day actually – compared to Earth. So the White House Tuesday instructed NASA and other U.S agencies to work with international agencies to come up with a new moon-centric time reference system.

“An atomic clock on the moon will tick at a different rate than a clock on Earth,” said Kevin Coggins, NASA’s top communications and navigation official. “It makes sense that when you go to another body, like the moon or Mars that each one gets its own heartbeat.”

So everything on the moon will operate on the speeded-up moon time, Coggins said.

The last time NASA sent astronauts to the moon they wore watches, but timing wasn’t as precise and critical as it is now with GPS, satellites and intricate computer and communications systems, he said. Those microseconds matter when high tech systems interact, he noted.

Last year, the European Space Agency said Earth needs to come up with a unified time for the moon, where a day lasts 29.5 Earth days.

The International Space Station, being in low Earth orbit, will continue to use coordinated universal time or UTC. But just where the new space time kicks in is something that NASA has to figure out. Even Earth’s time speeds up and slows down, requiring leap seconds.

Unlike on Earth, the moon will not have daylight saving time, Coggins said.

The conspiracy theorists in North America seem to have drummed up a concern that cell phone coverage will be affected by Monday’s Eclipse. Cell phones use radio, after all, and we all know that radio waves are affected by an ionospheric disturbance.

Well, the good news is that the most likely disruption of cell phone coverage will be caused by excited people phoning each other to ooh and aah over the eclipse! Signals at about 900 MHz go straight through the ionosphere anyway, and cell phone towers rely on line-of-sight communications, all parallel to the earth’s surface to allow phone calls.

I doubt whether the eclipse will get in the way of those much, and certainly not very likely in South Africa.

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

HAMNET Report 31st March 2024

When this report was being written, Tropical Cyclone GAMANE was crossing northern Madagascar and weakening, and on 28 March at 0.00 (UTC), its centre was located inland over the Andapa District area, Sava Region with maximum sustained winds of 45 km/h as a tropical depression.

According to media reports, heavy rainfall and floods had affected the regions of Sava, Diana Sofia, Analanjirofo, Alaotra Mangoro and Atsinanana and resulted in six fatalities, one person still missing and more than 2,600 people affected negatively. 

GAMANE was forecast to move southeast still inland and to go towards the sea, south of Masoala Peninsula on 28th March in the evening. 

For the following 24 hours, moderate to very heavy rainfall and strong winds were still forecast over northern, north-eastern and central-eastern Madagascar.

Last weekend’s level 4 geomagnetic storm as a result of two simultaneous solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) off the sun both aimed directly at us, must surely rank as one of the most severe we have experienced in the last 10-15 years. Your author cannot recall seeing a Planetary K index of 8, as it was last Sunday at 18h00 UTC, in the last 30 years, and it was definitely an evening to turn off the HF radio, because the bands were completely dead, and to go back to my knitting!

Luckily, the K index had settled down again within 24 hours, and the bands were open again by Tuesday. The two large offending sunspot regions are rotating off our side of the sun, but this kind of disruption is to be expected again as we close in on the peak of solar cycle 25.

In fact on Sunday 28th March, an M7.1 solar flare, followed later in the day by an X1.1 flare and a CME, were released from that sunspot group 3615, the origin of one of last Saturday’s 2 CME’s, but 3615 was far enough rotated to the west of the Sun’s face not to have any effect on our ionosphere.

I’m sure those people living at high latitudes, and who like looking at Auroras had nothing to complain about last Sunday and Monday nights. The geomagnetic storm must have put on a display worth watching.

NASA has added a dimension to the study of the ionosphere during next Monday’s eclipse of the sun, with a plan to launch three instrument-laden sounding rockets on April 8, with the goal of studying how the temporary blocking of sunlight affects part of the upper atmosphere.

The sounding rockets will each blast off from the space agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, one 45 minutes before, one during, and the last 45 minutes after the local peak eclipse.

The trio will soar into the ionosphere, a region 55 to 310 miles above the Earth’s surface where, in the day, particles are electrically charged, or “ionized,” by radiation from the sun.

“It’s an electrified region that reflects and refracts radio signals, and also impacts satellite communications as the signals pass through,” explained mission leader and engineering physicist professor Aroh Barjatya, of Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in a statement.

At night, the ionosphere thins out as electrons and ions relax and recombine back into neutral atoms, only to separate again the next day.

A solar eclipse creates, in effect, a temporary, localized night—causing the local temperature and ionospheric density to drop and then rise again.

In this way, the passage of the moon’s shadow across the Earth triggers both large-scale atmospheric waves and smaller-scale disturbances that have the potential to interfere with radio communications passing through the ionosphere.

At the same time, the ionosphere can be disrupted by both regular weather and its space-based counterpart.

“Understanding the ionosphere and developing models to help us predict disturbances is crucial to making sure our increasingly communication-dependent world operates smoothly,” Barjatya added.

He told Newsweek: “Sounding rockets will help us study if, when, where, and why small-scale perturbations happen due to sudden reduction in solar radiation and/or due to meteorological changes brought on by the eclipse shadow.

Thank you to newsweek.com for this report.

Here is some interesting research. Writing in Phys.org, David Appell asks whether it could be that human existence depends on gravitational waves. Some key elements in our biological makeup may come from astrophysical events that occur because gravitational waves exist, a research team headed by John R. Ellis of Kings College London suggests.

In particular, Iodine and Bromine are found on Earth thanks to a particular nuclear process that happens when neutron stars collide. In turn, orbiting neutron star pairs spiral in and collide due to their emissions of energy in the form of gravitational waves. There may thus be a direct path from the existence of gravitational waves to the existence of mammals.

Humans are mostly made up of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, with many additional trace elements. (There are in fact 20 elements essential to human life.) Those elements with an atomic number less than 35 are produced in supernovae, implosions of stars that have exhausted their nuclear fuel and collapsed inward. The implosion/collapse results in a [surface] explosion that spews their atoms all over the universe.

But two elements are provided by other means—Iodine, needed in key hormones produced by the thyroid, and Bromine, used to create collagen scaffolds in tissue development and architecture.

Thorium and uranium have been indirectly important for human life, as their radioactive decays in Earth’s interior heat the lithosphere and allow tectonic activity. The movement of tectonic plates removes and submerges carbon from the crust of the planet, which is itself removed from the atmosphere via water reacting with carbon dioxide and silicates, avoiding the possibility of a runaway greenhouse effect like has happened on Venus.

About half the heavy elemental atoms on Earth (heavier than iron) are produced by what’s known as the “r-process”—the rapid neutron-capture process [too technical to go into here]. The paper concludes that the iodine essential for human life was “probably produced by the r-process in the collisions of neutron stars that were induced by the emissions of gravitational waves, as well as other essential heavy elements.”

“Neutron star collisions occur because binary systems lose energy by emitting gravitational waves,” said Ellis, “so these fundamental physics phenomena may have made human life possible.”

Their paper, “Do we owe our existence to gravitational waves?” is available on the arXiv preprint server.

It appears that the deeper we research, and the more we learn, the more we realise we don’t know.

I’d like to end by wishing a very Happy Easter to all for whom this time is meaningful.

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

HAMNET Report 24th March 2024

The amateur radio world has lost a huge font of knowledge of the measurement of RF signals as they are transmitted or received by radios in the amateur bands, with the passing last week of Adam Farson AB4OJ/VA7OJ, at the age of 84.

For many years, Adam has maintained a website of deeply insightful technical reports on all new ICOM products as they have been released, and has also co-administered a collection of groups.io on every ICOM radio as it came out. His reviews are extremely technical, but at the same time, not biased towards ICOM only, because he has compared them to Yaesu, Elecraft and Kenwood competitors along the way.

He immigrated to South Africa as a youngster with his parents in the 1960’s, and originally worked for Racal here, before moving to the UK, America, and finally Canada, which is where he died, of age-related causes.

Adam was an officer and a gentleman, with a great sense of humour, friendly and willing to share his knowledge and offer advice on any radio-related subject, no matter how simple the question asked of him. He will be greatly missed. The groups.io will continue, and his website will make all his reviews permanently available, so consider viewing his material on www.ab4oj.com/

A formal obituary to Adam has not been released yet, but he is deserving of the highest tributes.

Rob Sherwood, NC0B, of Sherwood Engineering is in the same category of super-giants, but he has specialized in the review of receivers, comparing all major brands with each other for sensitivity and selectivity, together with a host of other very technical parameters. His reviews are also available on the web.

I note that HAMNET Gauteng has had a change of leadership, with Regional and Deputy Regional Directors moving sideways, to take on a training role in improving member’s communications skills. Leon ZS6LMG and Johan ZS6DMX are to be thanked for their long years of service as directors, and I hope they rise to the challenge of the new duties. Until such time as a proper appointment of new regional and deputy directors is made, Brian ZS6YZ and Hannes ZS6EMS will hold the reigns, and we wish them well, as they fill in for Leon and Johan. Best wishes, fellows!

David Ingram, writing for NBC news says that several online retailers and drone technology companies are marketing the sale of radio frequency jammers as drone deterrence or privacy tools, sidestepping federal laws that prohibit such devices from being offered for sale in the U.S. 

Radio frequency jammers are devices that interfere with communications systems, usually by sending out competing radio signals to confuse nearby electronics. It is a decades-old technology that federal regulators have tried to crack down on, but interest in jammers persists because people can use them to keep away unwelcome drones, disable security cameras or block Wi-Fi networks. 

The Federal Communications Commission has warned that jammers can interfere with emergency communications, disrupt normal phone use and have other unintended consequences such as confusing airport navigation systems. According to the FCC, jammers are illegal to sell and may not be operated, marketed or imported into the United States. In general, even local police aren’t legally allowed to use them. 

“These jamming devices pose significant risks to public safety and potentially compromise other radio communications services,” the FCC says on its website. 

But those warnings haven’t stopped some companies from marketing the devices online. These companies take many forms: from Amazon third-party sellers to separate online stores based in China to small domestic companies that specialize in drone-related equipment.

After NBC News published this report, an FCC spokesperson said on Wednesday that the commission had several ongoing investigations into jammers. Those investigations have not been previously disclosed.

Thanks to nbcnews.com for this news.

In general, the average citizen is aware of RF jammers being used to block their attempts to lock their cars remotely as they walk away from them. I don’t know about you, but I unconsciously press my car’s remote button about 6 times as I leave my car, in case the first attempt was blocked. This is a simple form of the same jamming which the FCC is attempting to declare completely illegal.

A team of aroma chemists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, working with psychologist colleagues from the Technical University of Dresden, has uncovered the reasons for the dissimilar smells between babies and teenagers. The study is published in the journal Communications Chemistry.

Prior research and anecdotal evidence have shown that babies have a pleasant smell, often described as sweet. Teenagers, on the other hand, especially males, have often been described as smelling less pleasant. In this new effort, the research team sought to find out what causes the difference.

The researchers recruited the parents of 18 children aged up to 3 years old to wash the youngsters with a fragrance-free gel and to take swab samples of the armpits of their pyjamas prior to sleep. They did the same with 18 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. All the cotton pads were then collected and analysed in a lab setting.

The research team used mass spectrometry to identify the chemical compounds in the pads, and used gas chromatography along with a human sniffer to assess the odourousness of the smells associated with each chemical compound.

The researchers found that most of the chemicals responsible for body odour were similar between the two groups of volunteers. But there were a few that made the difference. Teenage sweat, for example, had high levels of many kinds of carboxylic acids, which the assessors described as “earthy, musty or cheesy.”

They also found two steroids in the teen sweat not present in the baby sweat, one of which resulted in “musk or urine-like” emanations—the other, the assessors suggested, smelled more like “musk and sandalwood.” Without such chemicals, the sweat of babies smelled much sweeter.

The researchers suggest that study of the chemical compounds in teen sweat could prove fruitful for makers of odour-control products. They also suggest that more work could be done better to understand the impact of such odours on parents.

Silly me! All along I thought the difference in smell was because one group washed, and the other group didn’t!

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

HAMNET Report 17th March 2024

A happy St Patrick’s Day to all my listeners! And if you’re not Irish, that’s not a reason not to think of green things. I hope you have a great Sunday.

By Monday of this past week, GDACS was starting to make mention of Tropical Storm FILIPO, which had arisen in the Mozambique channel, was heading for the coast of Mozambique, and also threatening, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa. Wind-speeds of 127 km/h were forecast, but at that stage, no large populations of locals were threatened. Wind-speed forecasts were cranked up as the week progressed to about 140 km/h, but no big threat to populations expected.

FILIPO made landfall in Mozambique over the Inhassoro City area, northern Ihambane Province in the very early morning  of 12 March, with maximum sustained winds up to 116 km/h. 

Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management and Reduction (INGD) reported 2,780 people affected and seven injured in Vilankulo and Morrumbene Districts, Inhambane Province, 12 houses destroyed, another 510 houses, 14 health centres, and 6 schools affected. Preliminary reports indicated minor damages in Gaza province with ongoing assessment. Three accommodation centres were open and hosting 43 people.

FILIPO was expected to continue over the southern Indian Ocean, well off the coast of southern Mozambique and northern South Africa on 13-15th March, strengthening, with maximum sustained winds of 135 km/h (as a tropical cyclone).

Over the following 48 hours, heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surge were forecast over Gaza and Maputo provinces in Mozambique, the whole of Eswatini and north-eastern South Africa.

By Friday, storm warnings were showing the wind speeds to be up to 158 km/h. but the Post-Tropical Depression as it was then called, was veering away from the Eastern coastline of South Africa, and heading into the south-eastern Indian Ocean.

We are aware of large amounts of rain along our eastern coastline, but not of any really major losses.

May I remind you that it is exactly 5 years to the week, since Cyclone IDAI devastated Mozambique, claiming 500 victims, displacing 120000, completely destroying 36000 houses, flooding hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable land, and placing 1.85 million people in need of humanitarian aid? The country has still not fully recovered from that catastrophe.

The Stellenbosch Flying Club is hosting an airshow this coming weekend, the 22nd and 23rd of March. Their Chairman is Stuart Burgess, ZR1SB, and he has invited radio amateurs in general, and HAMNET in particular, to assist with on-site communications during the show. A fairly large attendance is expected on Friday, and an even bigger attendance on Saturday, and Stuart’s club is hoping to deploy a number of monitors – that is, hams with handheld radios – among the crowds to report on security or medical issues to their central JOC.

HAMNET has taken up this challenge and has almost got its expected quota of volunteers – 8 on Friday and 10 on Saturday – to do the job. Michael ZS1MJT got the ball rolling, and the volunteer list is almost full.

The plan is to deploy our newly completed HAMNET comms trailer, kitted with all frequency monitoring and APRS and Internet facilities, next to the airshow JOC, so the foot-mobile operators can report to our trailer, who will in turn report to the JOC.

I hope to be able to squeeze a short report in to next week’s bulletin.

In an encouraging article posted in the Idaho clearwatertribune.com website, mention is made of the absence of communications for days after the devastating 2023 Hawaiian fire. Except for amateur radio, of course.

Clearwatertribune.com continues: “During the 2015 fires in North Central Idaho [they] lost 72 homes [and] 212 outbuildings. Throughout the fire if you tried to use your cell phone you learned that the cell towers were easily overwhelmed by the large traffic load. We find this to be true during most disasters. During the fire amateur radio operators worked with the local Emergency Operations Centre to provide backup communications and they were able to talk to their families and friends, and help keep each other informed of the fire activities without interruption.

“Amateur radio operators have been providing emergency communications in disasters such as floods, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes since 1910. Hams typically are first to get information out of the area when public service communications are down or overloaded.

“Amateur radio is far more than just voice. With an amateur license you can send emails without the internet. You can text someone without a cell-phone. You can send pictures or video.

“You can build a wi-fi mesh network that doesn’t require the internet and you can boost the wi-fi power up with your Amateur license. You can use amateur radio satellites to talk some very long distances with just a handheld radio.

“If you use GMRS, FRS, or MURS radios and you have antennas on your vehicle it’s time to move up to amateur radio. Remember Ham radio is great for family trips, camping, four wheeling and hunting.

“The Amateur Radio Service is the only group that can provide many types of personal and emergency communications with reliability. Nationally/ Worldwide and at any time.”

Thanks to clearwatertribune.com for the report.

Now all of this is old hat to you, if you are already an amateur radio operator, or HAMNET member, but, if you’re not, this might be a stimulus to you to log on to the SARL website at www.sarl.org.za, and zero in on ways of acquiring your operator’s licence, so that you can become involved in volunteer emergency communications.

And don’t forget to register for the SARL Convention to be held in Cape Town over the weekend of 19th to 21st April 2024. The event details are on the landing page of the SARL website. We look forward to seeing a large contingent of HAMNET members there, and thank the CTARC for hosting the event.

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

HAMNET Report 10th March 2024

I’d like to use this platform to remark on the passing of an amateur who was huge in the field of audio reproduction and microphone technology. The SARL has not made mention of the death of Bob Heil K9EID.

The man who defined the sound of live rock ‘n’ roll music and brought audio engineering principals into mainstream amateur radio use, Dr. Bob Heil, K9EID, has passed away at the age of 83. A Facebook post from Heil Ham Radio paid tribute to their founder: “Bob fought a valiant, year-long battle with cancer, and passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.”

Heil founded Heil Sound in 1966, through which he created the template for modern concert sound systems for musicians like the Grateful Dead, The Who, Joe Walsh, and Peter Frampton. The talk box used on iconic live record Frampton Comes Alive! was of Heil’s design. His audio engineering products have been featured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and he was honoured in 2007 with the Parnelli Audio Innovator Award for his impact on the live sound industry. “My life has been about achieving great sound, whether on the concert stage or in the amateur radio world,” Bob Heil recounted in 2022. “I’ve watched Heil Sound go from a regional sound company to a world-class microphone manufacturer. This company has been my passion,” he said.

Parallel to his commercial and artistic success in live music, was his passion for amateur radio. He was active in ham radio from a young age and merged his expertise in audio engineering with his love for radio. Heil Ham Radio was founded to produce microphones, headsets, and other gear for radio amateurs with an emphasis on high-quality audio.

Heil was known for his passion for AM operations. He served for many years as an on-camera host of the Ham Nation podcast. Tributes to Heil have been flooding social media, including from his co-hosts.

ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, said Heil’s passing is a significant loss. “Bob Heil’s technical achievements that brought high-quality audio to amateur radio pale in comparison to his generosity and willingness to help his fellow ham. He’s long been known as someone eager to help mentor and teach. His legacy [to] our hobby will be long-lasting. 

Thanks to the ARRL newsletter for these excerpts from their tribute. Our condolences go to his wife and family.

At its monthly virtual meeting on 6th march, HAMNET Western Cape enjoyed a presentation by Danie ZS1OSS, comparing and contrasting the variety of digital communication methods available to amateur radio, but more importantly, of significance during emergencies or for disaster communications.

The need for simple technology, an easy way to interface a computer with a radio, and an efficient way to send simple one line messages, as well as occasional files or pictures, were stressed. Amongst the digital contenders are Winlink, APRS, VarAC, JS8Call, and QO-100.

In other divisions of HAMNET, some of these data modes are commonly used, but the Western Cape is still finding its feet. The average HAMNET member is either not computer literate enough to take on the challenge, or does not understand the interfaces necessary, or is put off by the expected expense of the ancillary equipment necessary to get their PC’s to talk to their radios. Your writer regards himself as a Neanderthal in this regard!

After some discussion on Wednesday, it was decided that Winlink has the advantage of allowing point-to-point file, picture and message transmission, and that VarAC will become the most widely used point-to-point message transfer system, and that these two should probably be promoted to the Western Cape members.

This opinion was conveyed to the HAMNET National Council members for discussion or rebuttal. Clearly, all divisions must be uniform in the systems they use and are accustomed to, or else they will not be able to provide countrywide communications if called upon to do so.

Personally, I feel that the way to spread the knowledge and experience of digital comms, is to advocate the simplest possible PC-Radio interface, and to encourage VHF communications first, because most if not all HAMNET members have a PC or laptop, and a radio of some sort on their desk for VHF/UHF work. Digital comms on HF can be restricted to headquarter stations or Operation Centres primarily, with the hope that, once familiarity with digital modes has been acquired, the average amateur may be more willing or able to experiment with HF processes.

Now I know most amateurs pay close attention to grounding their antennas and equipment to guarantee a good signal. But what about what is in the ground? I doubt whether you think about worms very much.

It turns out that worms living near the world’s most well-known nuclear disaster zone appear to have developed a ‘super power’. While it may have taken place many years ago, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster is still very relevant to this day.

In fact, scientists continue to visit and conduct experiments in the area, with a new study providing some intriguing findings. Recently, experts visited Chernobyl to investigate Nematodes, tiny worms with fairly simple genetic makeup. The worms were gathered from soil samples, rotting fruit and other materials.

While conducting that, the scientists also tested local levels of radiation. They took the worms they gathered to New York University to freeze and study them. And as is often the case with radiation levels in that part of the world, they varied from low levels often recorded in large cities, to high levels found in outer space.

Dr Sophia Tintor, lead author of the study, said: “Chernobyl was a tragedy of incomprehensible scale, but we still don’t have a great grasp of the effects of the disaster on local populations.

“Did the sudden environmental shift select for species, or even individuals within a species, that are naturally more resistant to ionizing radiation?”

The 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant subsequently transformed the nearby surrounding land into the most radioactive on Earth.

Of course, human inhabitants had to leave their homes and everything they loved, but plants and animals were able to stay in the area despite the high levels of radiation.

But nearly 40 years after the disaster, animals living in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are typically genetically different from the same species found elsewhere.

This has therefore raised questions surrounding the impact of chronic radiation on DNA.

What is perhaps the most eye-opening part of this latest study is the fact that, despite the obvious high radiation levels, the genomes of the worms were not damaged… AT ALL.

But before you get your hopes up that Chernobyl could be safe for the first time in the best part of four decades, this doesn’t really apply to us.

It appears that the latest study concludes that worms are resilient animals which can withstand extreme conditions. You can say that again.

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

HAMNET Report 3rd March 2024

HAMNET Western Cape participated in the blackout exercise arranged by the Western Province Disaster Management agency, on this past Friday morning. The scenario was to be a progressive failure of all electrical power to the province’s communications systems with its outlying areas, at the same time tasking departments with keeping contact with their peripheral offices using less and less resources.

So the first stage involved keeping contact with regional agencies in Beaufort West, George, and the Overberg, using only cell-phone systems. The second allowed contact only by landline telephone, as electricity failed, and the third by radio only, as internet, landline and cell towers progressively failed.

For this third stage HAMNET was their only means of communication. We had previously tested the bands (last Sunday morning in fact), and found 40 metres to be the most reliable between about 9 and 10am, provided the sun played along of course and didn’t kill HF communications. Some 14 stations from around the province had called in last Sunday during our tests and proved to have good signals on 40 metres between each other. Although many stations had good signals on 60 metres as well, we at the JOC at Tygerberg Hospital running ZS1DZ found our antenna not to resonate well on 60, and received and gave low RS signal reports on 60.

Happily, on Friday morning the K index was dropping at the time of the exercise, and was 2 at the time of our tests, so all went well. At about 09h45, all systems failed, in the scheme of the exercise, and ZS1DZ was faced with several anxious departments wanting messages to be conveyed to their outlying agencies. All messages were successfully sent, though those to George needed to be relayed via ZS1L’s home station in Gordon’s Bay, and the organizers of the exercise were impressed at how quickly and effectively HAMNET functioned.

ZS1DCC, the equivalent Ops station of the City of Cape Town was also activated, though not needed to distribute messages, and we had a chance to try out our 5GHz microwave digital link between the two stations, sending keyboard to keyboard messages, pictures, and a unilateral video and audio stream from DCC to DZ, which was very clear. The distance between the two stations, as the crow flies is about 5km, and our microwave link is private and free of QRM.

All in all it was a successful exercise, and Michael ZS1MJT thanks all operators from around the province, who called in, and then acknowledged the messages sent to them, from the organizers of the event.

In a good news story from New Zealand, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications assisted in the search for a 72 year old man, who had gone hiking this last Monday in the Taruarua Ranges. Last seen at 4pm local time on Monday the 26th, he was found alive just before 7pm Wednesday evening by family who were helping the search in the Ohau Gorge. He was airlifted to Palmerston North Hospital.

Inspector Ashley Gurney said: “We are so pleased to be able to share this news.

“Obviously he has been through quite an ordeal after spending close to three days in the Ranges, but the community rallied together determined for him to return home, and he will.”

Police, land search and rescue, search dogs and a team from Amateur Radio Emergency Communications had assisted with the full-time search. Private helicopters, as well as a Royal New Zealand Airforce chopper, supported the operation from the air.

Police have thanked everyone who gave their time and expertise to the rescue mission. The man is receiving medical care and is being supported by his family.

Thanks to newshub.co.nz for that report.

My favourite volcano, named Popacatepetl, located in the States of Puebla, Morelos, and Mexico, central Mexico erupted on 27th February and the ash plume reached up to 2,000 m above the crater. 

According to Mexico’s National Centre for Prevention of Disasters (CENAPRED), a tiny ash fall was reported across several Municipalities in the States of Morelos, Tlaxcala, Mexico City, and Mexico. In addition, media report the cancellation of more than 20 domestic and international flights.

The authorities raised the alert level to 2, and recommended inhabitants to respect the exclusion radius of 12 km around the crater, because it is unsafe to be within this area.

Popacapetl last erupted in December 2018, so has been relatively dormant.

For my last story I was going to tell you of evidence found of phonon chirality from impurity scattering in the antiferromagnetic insulator strontium iridium oxide, but thought that would probably be too low-brow for you all.

Instead I will tell you that Phys.org says that a team of chemists and engineers affiliated with several institutions has found an electrolyte solution that can be used to reduce the recharging time of lithium-ion batteries while allowing battery capacity to remain comparatively high even at low temperatures.

In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes the new electrolyte and how well it worked during testing. Chong Yan and Jia-Qi Huang with the Beijing Institute of Technology have published a News and Views piece in the same journal issue, outlining the work done by the team on this new effort.

As Yan and Huang note, lithium-ion batteries have proven their usefulness in a wide variety of applications, but that does not mean there is no room for improvement. One improvement that users of battery-powered devices would like to see is faster recharging. They would also like to see improvements in battery capacity as temperatures drop during the winter months. In this new study, the research team found an electrolyte solution that they claim reduces charging time while also preventing loss of capacity when exposed to cold temperatures.

In their work, the team working in China found that the use of organic solvents could greatly improve the mobility of ions in a battery electrolyte, allowing for faster charging. They noted that such solvents could also be used to prevent loss of capacity in temperatures as low as -80°C.

In their work, the team used a solvent called fluoroacetonitrile, which has molecules that are much smaller than those typically used to make the electrolyte. The molecules of the solvent tend to surround the lithium ions, forming a shell. As the shells touch, they form a sort of tunnel, allowing the ions to move more quickly through the electrolyte.

Testing showed ionic conductivity approximately four times that of standard batteries. They also found that putting their test batteries in a freezer did not reduce their capacity.

This is actually very good news, because it will improve the efficiency of lithium ion batteries hugely.

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

HAMNET Report 25th February 2024

The Dischem Ride for Sight is an annual cycle event held in February every year. This year marked the 35th cycle race held at the Boksburg Stadium and attracted 2800 cyclists who participated in one of three race distances: 116 km, 62 km and an 8 km fun ride.

SARL HAMNET Gauteng has been involved with providing communications and other services for the event for a number of years and this year once again excelled at ensuring that the race was successful, enjoyable and safe for all the participating cyclists.

The HAMNET contingent consisted of radio amateurs from Gauteng as well as their neighbours from across the Vaal from Sasolburg in the Freestate. HAMNET Gauteng and Freestate regularly assist each other on either side of the Vaal and between them are quite a formidable team who do not stand back from any challenges. The HAMNET members within the Vaal Triangle encompassing Vereeniging, Vanderbijlpark and Sasolburg areas are known as HAMNET Vaal even though they technically belong to two different regions. Members of Pro-Ethnos Search and Rescue as well as the Chaplaincy also assisted in the event, either as drivers, co-drivers or medical response alongside Dial-A-Medic, who were the official medical support service providers.

The VOC situated at the Boksburg Stadium was already being set up on the Saturday preceding the event where sweep vehicles all driven by radio amateurs were installed with radios and APRS tracking devices, whether RF, GSM or phone based. All medical response vehicles and ambulances were also installed with radio and tracking devices. A number of the HAMNET members who had travelled long distances slept over in the VOC so that they could be up and about by 03h00 on Sunday morning, the 18th February.

There were 4 water points on the long 116 km route that extended from Boksburg down to Alberton, Midvaal, around the south and eastern side of the Suikerbosrand to Heidelberg and back to the Boksburg Stadium via Carnival City. Each water point manager set up a mini-JOC and managed two sweep vehicles that patrolled their section of the route.

The Short 62km route had only one water point at the 30 km mark and one sweep.

As the race proceeded and the back-marker closed the various water points as the last cyclist passed them, the respective sweeps were re-assigned to the next water point and the water point managers escorted their water trucks to the next water point to supplement the rapidly diminishing stocks of water and Coca-Cola. Temperatures along the route on the day were in excess of 30 degrees and all sweeps who had a BLS medic on board were on the look-out for signs of dehydration amongst the riders, and encouraged those who were showing symptoms to abandon the race and rather opt for a free ride back to the finish on a sweep vehicle or one of the two buses that were available.

The event ran seamlessly and no serious incidents were reported, thanks to the sterling work done by the team lead by Leon ZS6LMG and Johan ZS6DMX, the Regional and Deputy Regional Directors of HAMNET Gauteng. Well done to everyone involved.

This report was compiled by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ, HAMNET Deputy National Director, who on the day performed the duties of water point manager and later a sweep along with his daughter Anja ZS6SJC who was also a sweep and participated in her first HAMNET event on her own. Thank you, Brian, and congratulations to you and Anja on a job well done.

A message from Michael ZS1MJT, HAMNET Regional Director for the Western Cape says that the Western Province Disaster Management Agency is planning a communications system test on Friday the 1st March between 08h00 and 10h00. In anticipation of that, HAMNET will hold a test session today the 25th activating both our Cape Town stations ZS1DZ and ZS1DCC.

The idea will be to confirm good enough links with George, Mossel Bay, Agulhas, Porterville, and possibly Beaufort West. Although HF will be used between these areas, were it to turn out that the disaster management centre in any of these areas cannot hear or be heard, the plan is for local participating amateurs to attempt HF comms with Cape Town, and then relay their messages by VHF to the centres that are not hearing or being heard.

So it will be a combined effort amongst those at the disaster management centres, and local amateurs in the neighbourhood who can relay information on.

Michael notes that “Our performance on Friday 1 March is crucial, and it’s essential that this exercise is meticulously organized. We are under scrutiny, and it’s imperative that we excel.”

Designated HF frequencies will be 7110 kHz LSB and 5410 kHz USB.

I hope to carry a feedback report of this exercise of 1st March on next Sunday’s bulletin.

Three top-tier X-class solar flares launched off the sun between Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The first two occurred seven hours apart, coming in at X1.9 and X1.6 magnitude respectively. The third, the most powerful of the current 11-year “solar cycle,” ranked an impressive X6.3.

Solar flares, or bursts of radiation, are ranked on a scale that goes from A, B and C to M and X, in increasing order of intensity. Solar flares and accompanying coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, can influence “space weather” across the solar system, and even here on Earth. CMEs are slower shock waves of magnetic energy from the sun. Flares can reach Earth in minutes, but CMEs usually take at least a day.

All three of the X-class solar flares disrupted shortwave radio communications on Earth. But the first two flares did not release a CME. And, after careful review, scientists confirmed that the third also did not produce one. Therefore, no additional impact on Earth was expected. Three back-to-back radio blackoutsdidoccur in response to the trio of flares, but primarily over the Pacific and Indian oceans. They were rated “R3” or greater on a 1 to 5 scale.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Centre, such a radio blackout results in a “wide area blackout of [high frequency] radio communication, [and] loss of radio contact for about an hour on the sunlit side of the Earth.”

Thank you to the Washington Post, for this report of solar activity.

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

HAMNET Report 18th February 2024

As we celebrated World Radio Day this week, themediaonline.co.za reported that radio is thriving across Africa. Exact figures are difficult to come by because audience research differs across countries. But studies estimate radio listenership to be between 60% and 80% of the continent’s population of 1.4 billion,according to a group of researchers from the University of the Western Cape, and the Universities of Mauritius, Nairobi, Indiana, Namibia, and the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

In contrast to many western countries, where there has been a shift towards streaming and podcasts, traditional radio continues to be widely embraced in Africa. Because of poor literacy levels and uneven access to the internet and technological infrastructure, old-fashioned radio remains a reliable and inclusive medium.

This year’s celebration of the 100-plus years of radio offered the researchers an opportunity, as African media scholars, to reflect on the historical significance, cultural relevance, political power and social impact of the medium on the continent. In their report, they homed in on examples from the regions they studied to demonstrate this rich history.

In early years, radio in Africa served colonial interests, and allowed Europeans in their colonies to connect to home, their culture and their languages.

In the early 1920s amateur radio enthusiasts had already begun tinkering with the technology. The first official broadcast seems to have been on 18 December 1923 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Western and eastern African countries were quick to follow. Colonial powers such as the UK and France upped their radio transmission efforts after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The 1940s were marked by the introduction of indigenous language broadcasts by colonial powers wanting to influence public opinion and garner support for their war effort. While the British broadcast to Africa in some African languages, France broadcast only in French.

This laid the groundwork for future developments. After the war, the British officially adopted a policy of extending broadcasting services across most of its African colonies.

The 1950s saw the expansion and transformation of radio in Africa. Radio stations across British, French and Belgian colonies rapidly increased as people under colonial rule increased their efforts to achieve independence.

From the late 1940s to the early 1960s the number of radio-receiving sets increased fivefold, from 90 sets per thousand people in Africa to 450.

In some respects the 1960s was a golden era for African radio. A wave of independence movements birthed new nations as radio technology was becoming more affordable.

Many newly independent countries established national broadcasting services. This expanded the reach of radio and the opportunity to embrace local languages, music and cultural programming.

These days, digital convergence is reshaping radio consumption, blurring audience patterns.

This isn’t happening uniformly across the continent. Digital platforms face challenges, such as the digital divide and economic inequality.

Radio’s influence is likely to endure, with podcasts complementing rather than replacing traditional broadcasts. A 2022 survey across 34 African countries found radio was “overwhelmingly the most common source for news”. This is a testament to its enduring influence and unique ability to connect with diverse audiences – even a century after its introduction.

Thank you to themediaonline for this summary of their article.

Associate Professor Nathaniel Frissell of the University of Scranton’s Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering is a well-known radio amateur in America, with call sign W2NAF. He has built a science of using amateur radio to study propagation and ionospheric characteristics, and has drawn a large cohort of amateurs into the studies.

In April this year, a large portion of the central USA will experience a total solar eclipse, and Frissell has created a set of interesting studies to determine the effect of the eclipse on our atmosphere, and on our communications and on natural science. The studies consist of 4 fields.

Chron.com news says that amateur radio citizen scientists will be focused on listening to the eclipse rather than watching it. In Earth’s ionosphere, the upper region of our planet’s atmosphere, the Sun’s energy knocks out electrons from atoms, making the region electrically charged, or ionized. This helps radio transmissions travel long distances. However, once the Sun gets blocked out by the Moon during the eclipse, those communications will be affected. 

Radio amateurs making as many contacts as they can during the eclipse will test the strength of radio signals to observe how the ionosphere changes. The studies should lead to a better understanding of the interactions between the Sun, the ionosphere, and radio wave propagation. That research should benefit hams, professional broadcasters, satellite operators and many other users of radio spectrum.

In a second study, eclipse viewers on or near the path of totality can help scientists map out the Sun using nothing but their smartphone camera. Photos of the solar eclipse uploaded to the database of an app called SunSketcher, which was developed by students at Western Kentucky University, will be analysed to allow scientists to sketch out the true shape of our nearest star. Doing so will help study flows in the solar interior since material flowing within the star is what alters its shape. The project also aims to gather more information about the Sun’s gravitational effects on the planets. 

Thirdly, crowdsourced images of the total solar eclipse will be stitched together to create a film of the once-in-a-lifetime event. The NASA funded Eclipse Megamovie 2024 seeks to “discover the secrets of solar jets and plumes,” according to its description. These solar phenomena tend to disappear or change as they form on the Sun and move out in solar wind. Photographs taken by volunteers will be used to identify solar jets as they leave the Sun’s surface and solar plumes as they grow and develop.

The movie is a sequel to Eclipse Megamovie 2017, in which citizen scientists reportedly submitted tens of thousands of photos of the last solar eclipse visible in the U.S. Their work aided studies of the Sun’s corona, which can only be studied during total solar eclipses. 

And fourthly, the NASA-funded Eclipse Soundscapes Project will study how solar eclipses affect life on Earth, revisiting research from the 1930s that observed the effects the sky’s sudden darkening during the day had on wildlife behaviour. During the upcoming total eclipse, experts will collect audio recorded by citizen scientists on or near the path of totality to analyse the affects disruptions in light have on circadian rhythms and ecosystems. 

So there is plenty to study, and lots to gain from observing the effect of the eclipse on our earth. What a pity very little of the research can be done from South Africa. We can of course attempt to make DX contacts during eclipse time, and aid studies of the potential collapse of the ionosphere during totality, but that’s about it.

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

HAMNET Report 11th February 2024

Hamnet around the country in general, and the Western Cape in particular have been concerned with the major storm that hit the little Karoo a week ago, resulting in major disruptions in electricity to lots of towns, which in turn resulted in inability to pump water to the affected areas, and manage sewage disposal there.

The Western Cape Provincial Administration’s disaster management processes were swiftly activated, and HAMNET members from both sides of the country surrounding the Klein Karoo watched and attended virtual meetings held by the senior disaster managers of the areas.

The ZS4 members from the Vaal triangle monitored radio activity radiating towards them, while Western Cape HAMNET members attended all the disaster meetings held while the large area of the Karoo suffered without any amenities.

Water was trucked in, and large sized generators were swiftly installed in the Laingsburg, Matjiesfontein and Prince Albert areas to supply electricity, as well as keep cell-phone towers operational. Smaller generators were installed in central business areas.

The power outage affected large parts of the interior of the Western Cape when Eskom suffered multiple powerline failures due to the thunderstorms.

Eskom confirmed that 7 powerline towers collapsed over last weekend, and ground crews were currently assessing the damage. In the Central Karoo, Leeugamka, Roggeveld, Merweville, Laingsburg, Matjiesfontein, and Prince Albert were affected. In the Northern Cape, Sutherland and Fraserburg were affected, while in the Garden Route District, the town of Ladismith was affected. In the Overberg District, Napier, and a substantial portion of the surrounding rural farming community, including the area between Wolwengat and Pearly Beach, was also affected.

Expecting no communications between areas around Beaufort West and surrounds, Michael ZS1MJT put out a call for volunteers to run the Western Cape’s two local emergency stations, ZS1DZ at Tygerberg’s Provinicial Emergency Management Centre, and ZS1DCC, the station at the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre in Goodwood.

Humanitarian aid was brought in to the affected areas by volunteer organizations and, by Tuesday, matters were starting to improve. ZS1MJT asked all HAMNET members who could, to monitor 3,760MHz LSB, 5,410MHz USB, 7,110MHz LSB, 10,135MHz USB and 14,300MHz USB, for signs of systems breaking down further.

Obviously, the provision of drinking water, and then of functional sewage management were the two main concerns requiring possible assistance. Thank you to Michael for supplying these details and for his concern.

Grant ZS6GS, our National HAMNET Director, reported the incident to the IARU Region One Emcor authorities.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre is planning a blackout exercise on 1st March this year, with a view to testing its own internal systems and effectiveness. HAMNET will be involved to test communications between the disaster centres, so the two stations ZS1DZ and ZS1DCC will again be activated.

Aerotime.aero reports that an SAS Scandinavian Airlines Airbus A320 was intercepted and escorted to Manchester Airport following the loss of radio communications between the aircraft and air traffic controllers. The aircraft was en route from Oslo to Manchester at the time of the incident. 

On the morning of February 5, 2024, the Airbus A320 took off from Oslo Airport at 11:19 local time for the two-hour 15-minute flight to Manchester in the north of England. However, as the aircraft crossed the east coast of England and descended towards Manchester, it lost contact with air traffic controllers, and a pair of Typhoons from the RAF QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) force was scrambled to intercept the aircraft. 

Once a rendezvous was made between the three aircraft, communications were re-established by flight SK4609 and the plane eventually landed at Manchester Airport at 12:40 local time, 30 minutes after its scheduled time of arrival. As is standard practice in such circumstances, the SAS plane was escorted by the Typhoons all the way down the approach until it was safely on the ground at Manchester Airport. An airport spokesman explained that it is common practice to escort planes that have lost communications to their final destinations. 

“We understand there to have been a technical fault and comms have now been restored. The flight was destined for Manchester so passengers haven’t been displaced but we have put on extra staff to provide support to any passengers that may need it,” said a spokesperson. 

The RAF QRA force equipped with their supersonic Typhoon crews remains on 24/7 constant standby to respond within minutes to any aircraft experiencing difficulties or to rogue aircraft in or near UK airspace.

3183 cyclists took part yesterday in the second biggest cycle race in the Western Cape, the Gryphon 99er, out of Durbanville northwards to Malmesbury and back to Philadelphia via the old Malmesbury Road. Unlike last year when the weather was so hot and the heat index so high, that the race was stopped more than an hour before the official cut-off time for fear of serious medical complications amongst riders, Saturday dawned cool, with a medium southwester blowing. Skies were clear as the first riders set off at 6am, monitored by a team of ambulances cruising with them, and HAMNET roving marshals stationed strategically along the way.

We had a total of 11 operators grouped in 8 roving vehicles, and another 6 in 3 sets of two, before and after risky areas, with narrow bridges or dangerous corners, warning traffic police to stop advancing cars as the riders swarmed through the danger spots. The JOC was manned by 4 operators, monitoring APRS beacons in three different types of software, as well as choreographing the routes our rovers took, and fielding news of injuries or riders wishing to give up and be picked up by sweep vehicles.

The medical despatch was manned by a Mediclinic doctor, an ambulance service and its despatch officer, the sweep vehicle coordinator, members of the provincial traffic departments of the area, and a safety officer.

The race reached its natural conclusion without major mishap, in spite of a headwind the riders from Malmesbury to Philadelphia struggled against, and the cut-off at 12h30 was achieved

There were two shorter races; one of 57km on tar, and a 60km trip on tar, on gravel and on bike tracks through farmlands. They set off later of course, and finished in amongst the long race riders.

I’d like to thank all our volunteers, too numerous to mention individually, for joining us, having fun, and most importantly helping to make the race a safer one for the 3000 odd riders.

This is a very sleepy Dave Reece ZS1DFR, not having recovered from the lack of sleep yet, as I report for HAMNET in South Africa.