HAMNET Report 7th November 2021


The Southern Africa Seasonal Update of the World Food Programme (WFP) has flagged western and southern provinces of Angola as area of high concern. Drought is affecting agricultural producing areas and below-average rainfall is again expected for October 2021 – February 2022.

A recent IPC report shows that 1.58 million people are likely to be food insecure through to the end of 2021 and on until March 2022. Malnutrition is sharply increased, affecting thousands of children. Deaths among children and the adult population are reported.

Angola is now entering the lean season, and emergency food assistance is urgently needed.  Angolan citizens (mainly women and children) presenting with high rates of severe malnutrition are crossing to seek for assistance in Namibia. In Omusati region, Etunda is hosting 2875 people and conditions are critical, with weekly influxes of 30 arrivals. Namibian local government has been providing food in some areas, but assistance is insufficient and conditions are difficult, with no basic services available. The regional government is calling for assistance and similar reports are coming from the Kunene region.

TechXplore reports that a research group at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has developed a method for making an ultra-high material efficient solar cell using semiconductor nanowires. If this is placed on top of a traditional silicon-based solar cell, it could potentially double the efficiency of today’s Si solar cells at low cost.

“We have a new method of using gallium arsenide (GaAs) material in a very effective way through nanostructuring, so we can make solar cells much more efficient using only a tiny fraction of the material that is normally used,” says Anjan Mukherjee, a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Electronic Systems. Mukherjee is the main developer of the technique.

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is the best material for making high efficiency solar cells because of its extraordinary light absorption and electrical characteristics. It is commonly used to make solar panels mainly for use in space.

However, high-quality GaAs solar cell components are quite expensive to make, which has driven a demand for techniques that can cut the use of the material.

In recent years, it was realized that a nanowire structure can potentially enhance solar cell efficiency compared to standard planar solar cells, even as less material is used.

“Our research group has found a new way to make an ultrahigh power-per-weight ratio solar cell that is more than 10 times more efficient than any other solar cell, by using GaAs in a nanowire structure,” says Helge Weman, a professor at the Department of Electronic Systems at NTNU.

The group’s research has been published in ACS Photonics, a journal from the American Chemical Society.

GaAs solar cells are most often grown on a thick and expensive GaAs substrate, which leaves little room for reducing costs.

“Our method uses a vertically standing semiconductor nanowire array structure on a cheap and industry-favourable Si platform to grow the nanowires,” Weman said.

The development of this technology can be straightforward and cost-effective with appropriate investments and industrial-scale R&D projects.

“We grow the nanowires using a method called MBE (molecular beam epitaxy), which is not a tool that can produce materials at a high volume. However, it’s possible to produce these nanowire-based solar cells at a large scale by using an industrial-scale tool such as metal organic vapour deposition (MOCVD),” Mukherjee said.

Integrating this product on top of a Si cell can potentially improve solar cell efficiency to as much as 40 % – which would mean a doubling of efficiency when compared to today’s commercial Si solar cells.

The researchers say their approach could be adapted so that the nanowires are grown on different substrates, which could open the door to many other applications.

“We are exploring growing this type of light-weight nanowire structure on atomically thin two-dimensional substrates such as graphene. This could open up enormous opportunities to produce light-weight and flexible solar cells that can be used in self-powered drones, micro-satellites and other space applications,” Mukherjee said.

Thanks to Phys.org for drawing my attention to this technology.

TechXplore notes, in another article, that a combined team of researchers from the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) and battery maker A123 Systems has developed a new way to reclaim some of the materials from the cathodes that are used in lithium batteries, which can then be used to make new batteries. In their paper published in the journal Joule, the group claims the process can be used to make new batteries that are more efficient than batteries made with newly mined metals.

Currently, very few new batteries are made using materials recycled from old batteries—instead, old, dead batteries wind up in landfills and new batteries are made using fresh materials. In this new study, the researchers have found that it is possible to use at least some of the materials in old batteries to make new ones. They have developed a recycling system that can remove the metals used in the cathodes of lithium batteries, specifically the metals—nickel, manganese and cobalt.

The technique begins with discharging the batteries. Next, the batteries are shredded and sent through a sieve where materials from the case, wires, plastics and other parts of the battery are removed. The resulting mixture holds cathode materials, other metals and some graphite. These materials are separated using both filtering and leaching. The output is nickel, manganese and cobalt in powder form. The researchers note that the powders can be used to create new cathodes for new batteries. They also note that under a microscope, particles in the powder had larger pores than metals taken directly from a mine, and they were also less brittle. They note that more porous metals make better batteries because they enable better ion diffusion. They are also less likely to crack after repeated charging and discharging.

The researchers also made batteries using their recycled material and tested them using a protocol developed by USABC. They found they performed as well as or better than batteries made with virgin metals. Also, some of the members of the team have formed a start-up called Battery Resources and they have already started selling their recycled materials. They have plans to build a facility capable of processing 10,000 tons of batteries a year by the end of next year.

What to do with expired Lithium batteries has been a headache for all of us. Here’s a potential solution to the problem.

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

HAMNET Report 31st October 2021


In an update by GDACS on the Canary Islands Volcano, I learned that a new rupture of the main cone was reported on 27th October and that lava has been flowing westwards over the coast. An increase in Sulphur dioxide (SO2) values has been recorded on the west side of the island as well as seismic activity, with earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.5 at medium and deeper depths of more than 20 km.

According to the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service, 2,183 buildings have been destroyed, 113 damaged and an area of 911 ha affected.

Following the possibility that the northern lava flow could reach the sea, the Maritime Captaincy established a perimeter of exclusion from Puerto Naos to Tazacorte and 0.5 nautical miles off the coast.

So this eruption and seismic disaster is still far from over.

HAMNET Western Cape’s Regional Director, Michael, ZS1MJT, has issued a comprehensive report about a prolonged search for a missing hiker in the Stellenbosch mountain area, which was called off after 4 days of intensive searching.

He says that Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) received a call from Metro on 21st October saying they had reports of a missing 27-year male in the Stellenbosch area. He had gone hiking in the area around his house in Stellenbosch on Wednesday 20th October after lunch, and had not returned home. He was familiar with the mountain area in the vicinity of his house, across the road from the start of the hiking trails.

The Incident Commander and Emergency Medical Services gathered as much information as they could and then called for assistance from the various WSAR teams. HAMNET, Mountain Club of SA (MCSA), K9 and drone teams were initially dispatched. A small ground team was available and activated. Skymed was also authorized and did a thorough search of some areas. No signs or clues as to the hiker’s whereabouts were found.

The search resumed on 22nd October at 08h00 with HAMNET, the K9 team, MCSA and ORRU, and Delta Search and Rescue involved. ORRU did extensive patrols into the Jonkershoek nature reserve and all access roads to Vriesenhof, Blaauwklippen and Stellenrust on Friday and Saturday. The EMS drone searched the lower slopes of Stellenbosch mountains, and a notification of a missing person was posted on neighbourhood watch and trail runner group social media platforms, all being asked to keep a look out for him.

Weather conditions deteriorated and the decision was made to resume the search on Saturday, 23rd October after assessing the weather conditions and cloud cover, safety first being of utmost importance to all parties involved.

More field operatives were requested as the area of the search was extensive and growing. 4×4’s were dispatched to drop off and collect field operatives deeper into the mountains. A communications relay was set up as the search stretched to the other side of the mountain where communications were challenging. Skymed was also assisting again with an aerial search, an opportunity to use the helicopter being grabbed by the IC as the weather had cleared for a brief period. Teams stood down for the day around 20h00 as they awaited the last of the searchers to come off the mountain and report back to the base. The search was set to resume on Sunday 24th from 08h30.

On Sunday morning, a large number of private volunteers and trail runners were also at the search base and dispatched with MCSA team leaders. HAMNET members were there, serving as Incident Commander, and Logistics Field manager, and providing communications and relay services. ORRU and MCSA members were also present and managing the ground teams. HAMNET set up SARTrak tracking software and handed APRS units to the search parties to track their movements. This tracking was exported on to Google maps and the Incident Command could clearly see where they all were and the areas covered. The SARTrak system worked very well indeed.

A decision was taken at about 15h30 to call off the search until more information was available. At this stage, all possible areas and leads had been followed up and resources extended to their limits.

This was a very extensive 4-day search in very rugged mountain terrain, involving a large number of personnel from all facets of the WSAR family as well as involvement from the public. Donations of food, snacks, refreshments and coffee were brought to Metro 4 (the Incident Command vehicle) at the rendezvous point, and distributed to the various teams where possible. Public support, well-wishes and thanks were in endless supply. Communications proved in the end to be a major success and SARTrak was well implemented, to give a great overview of the areas searched. A successful operation in the end, but sadly, the missing person has as of now, still not been found.

His family has thanked all involved in this search. Michael personally thanks all those involved. And thank you, Michael for heading up the HAMNET team, and for the report.

HAMNET in the Western Cape was contacted this week by the organizers of next year’s Two Oceans Marathon, with the news that they are going ahead with plans to run the event over the Easter Weekend, which occurs from 15th to 18th April 2022. As is customary, Hamnet has been asked to provide communications for the sweep vehicles used to ferry drop-out runners back to the finish, and to provide rapid response rover vehicles to respond if needed to logistical or organisational problems along the route. We usually have stationary vehicles at all major cut-off points for the 21km half marathon, and for the 56 km ultra.

The organisers have had to split the short and long races over two days, to allow for Covid restrictions on numbers present per event, so the short race will take place on Saturday the 16th, with about 15000 runners sent off in batches, and the long race on Sunday the 17th, with about 11000 runners, also dispatched in groups.

The organisers understand fully that all plans may be scuppered if the next Covid wave takes place later than December, meaning that there are still too many infected but asymptomatic people in the community by April, to allow the race to take place in safety.

With an air of optimism, HAMNET Western Cape is preparing itself for the 99er cycle tour in early February and the Two Oceans in April. As Alexander Pope said “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”!

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

HAMNET Report 24th October 2021

There’s yet another Tropical Cyclone sneaking up the West Coast of Mexico, this one called RICK, with maximum windspeeds of 167km/h, and threatening the lives and comfort of some 500000 people on coastal Mexico. Will it turn inland like PAMELA did last week? We wait to see.

The ARRL reports that The HamSCI Antarctic Eclipse Festival in December is seeking amateur radio participation. As the shadow of the moon passes across Antarctica on December 4th, it will generate traveling ionospheric disturbances that will, in turn, affect radio propagation. The unusual geometry of this year’s eclipses will give researchers an opportunity to investigate complicated ionospheric dynamics over the poles as the long daytime of polar summer is briefly interrupted by the eclipse.

During this and other HamSCI eclipse festivals, hams and citizen-scientists are asked to collect Doppler-shift data from time-standard stations, such as WWV. All that’s needed is an HF radio connected to a computer. A GPS-disciplined oscillator is helpful for collecting data, but it is not required. Data collection will run from December 1 through December 10, and the results will be made available for scientific analysis.

All radio amateurs and shortwave listeners are invited to join in, even those located far from the path of totality. In 2020, more than 100 individuals from 45 countries took part in eclipse festivals.The instructions are available in multiple languages.

HamSCI is an initiative of ham radio operators and geospace scientists dedicated to advancing scientific research and understanding through amateur radio activities. Eclipse festivals are pilot campaigns for the Personal Space Weather Station (PSWS), HamSCI’s flagship project. The PSWS team seeks to develop a global network of citizen-science stations. Participants monitor the geospace environment to deepen scientific understanding and enhance the radio art.

For more information on the Antarctic Eclipse Festival and how to participate, visit the HamSCI website.

Thanks to Kristina Collins KD8OXT for the write-up.

Michael ZS1MJT, our HAMNET Western Cape Regional Director, was responsible for putting together a team of volunteers last weekend to assist at the Cape Town Trail Marathons, which took place on Saturday the 16th, the day before the Cape Town Marathon on Sunday the 17th.

He says he needed 7 radio operators, 3 4×4 vehicles, 4 medics, and 10 technical or mountain savvy members. A long 46km race and a shorter 22km race started early on Saturday from the Cape Town Stadium. The long race runners climbed Signal Hill, Kloof Neck, Platteklip Gorge to Maclear’s Beacon, across the top of Table Mountain to de Villiers Dam, down the Kirstenbosch side to the Blockhouse, coming back up again over Kopppelskop, along the contour path below the cable car, down to the lower cable station, along via Kloof Neck, up Signal Hill again and down to the finish at Cape Town Stadium. Blimey – I get tired just reading all that!

There were radios and APRS trackers at various points along the routes, and some quick-response teams, up on the mountain, but fortunately, their services were not needed, and the trail races passed fairly uneventfully. The stragglers came back to the finish late in the afternoon, so it was 18h00 bravo before the base station closed down.

Michael thanks ZS1ZV, ZS1OSK, ZS1PDE, ZS1TAF and ZS1SCH for their volunteerism. And I thank ZS1MJT for his willingness to drive the event. Well done to the team.

Michael also reports that Sybrand ZS1SJ, our Deputy Regional Director, has been in discussion with the Western Cape Local Government Fire Services to provide help in setting up or manning communications when there are fires in and around the Western Cape.

Sybrand has assisted in testing their equipment, and ensuring interoperability amongst their systems, and HAMNET’s, if needed. HAMNET Western Cape is therefore looking for volunteers willing to help with the communications equipment the Fire Service has, to enable fast and efficient set-up of these radios and mobile repeaters.

I’m pleased to report that the Western Cape Repeater Working Group very rapidly sold all 100 raffle tickets in its competition to raise funds, and the draw took place over the weekend. The winner of a Retevis RT 84 dualband DMR Radio was Daniel ZS1ND, and the winner of the Baofeng UV9 Plus dualband analogue radio was Pierre ZS1HF. Well done to you both. Thanks are again due to Andre ZS1F and David ZS1DDK for donating the Baofeng radio.

Finally, Science News reports this week that, when ivory poachers target elephants, the hunters can affect more than just animal numbers. In Mozambique, past hunting pressure led to an increase of naturally tuskless elephants in one park, a study finds.

During the Mozambican Civil War, which lasted from 1977 to 1992, armies hunted elephants and other wildlife for food and ivory. This caused the number of large herbivores to drop more than 90 percent in the country’s Gorongosa National Park.

Now, video footage and photographic records show that as elephant numbers plummeted, the proportion of tuskless female African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) rose from about 18 percent to 51 percent.

Decades of poaching appear to have made tusklessness more advantageous from an evolution standpoint in Gorongosa, encouraging the proliferation of tuskless females with mutations in two tooth genes, researchers report in the Oct. 22 Science.

Jake Buehler says that the rapid culling of tusked individuals changed the makeup of traits in the elephant population in only two decades, leaving behind more tuskless individuals, say evolutionary biologist Shane Campbell-Staton of Princeton University and colleagues. The tuskless trait is heritable, and the evolutionary change in the population may stick around for several generations at least, even as poaching eases.

The team also analysed the genetic instruction books of 18 tusked and tuskless females, zeroing in on two genes rife with mutations in tuskless females. In humans, the disruption of one of those genes can cause tooth brittleness and the absence of a pair of upper incisors that are the “anatomical equivalent of tusks,” Campbell-Staton says. Abnormalities in the other gene’s protein product can cause malformations of the tooth root and tooth loss.

Poaching “changing the course of evolution” in Gorongosa’s elephants, Campbell-Staton says, can have reverberating effects through the ecosystem given elephants’ dramatic impact on their surroundings.

“[Tusks are] not just ornamental. They serve a purpose,” he says, detailing how elephants use tusks to dig for water and strip tree bark for food. “If an elephant doesn’t have the tool to do those things, then what happens?”

It would be like humans developing without thumbs. We’d be severely handicapped.

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

HAMNET Report 17th October 2021

As Hurricane season continues in the lower latitudes, we have two tropical cyclones to mention this week.

One is Tropical Cyclone KOMPASU, which headed across the South China sea, brushed the top of the Philippines, and went westwards directly into the coast of Vietnam this week. Forecasts predicted it would cross the coast of Vietnam on Thursday the 14th at 06h00 local time.

The other is Tropical Cyclone PAMELA, which was travelling innocuously up the West coast of Mexico, until Tuesday this week, when it turned north-eastwards, and crossed the Mexican coastline on Wednesday at roughly midday, with wind speeds of the order of 120 km/h. It is threatening the safety of about 130 000 people in its path.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System has been reporting regularly on both these storms, but has not made mention of casualty numbers or structural damage, so hopefully they will soon pass into history.

Sotirios Vanikiotis SV1HER, the National Emergency Communications Coordinator for IARU Region One in Greece, reported this week, that another large 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the Greek island of Crete on Tuesday the 12th, and a tsunami warning had been issued.

The quake struck the east coast of the island at a depth of 10km under the village of Palekastro, according to the US Geological Survey. The village is 84km from Agios Nikolaos, which is a popular destination.

It comes three weeks after an earlier tremor killed a man on the island and damaged hundreds of buildings.

The quake struck the east coast of the island at a depth of 10km. Crete’s deputy regional governor, Yiannis Leondarakis, said the quake was felt ‘all over the island’

There were no immediate reports of serious damage or injury after Tuesday’s earthquake, which, according to the Geodynamic Institute in Athens, was followed by aftershocks measuring 4.1 and 4.6 in magnitude. Authorities said police and fire crews were checking buildings in eastern Crete for damage.

In the ARRL Newsletter of the 14th, there is a write-up after that successful ARISS contact by hearing impaired school children with the ISS. It states:

“Ten students at the Mary Hare School for deaf children in the UK took part in what appears to have been a world-first event for Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). Facilitating the late-morning direct contact with astronaut Mark Vande Hei, KG5GNP, at NA1SS were ARISS-UK volunteers and members of the Newbury and District Amateur Radio Society (NADARS).

“The ground station used the call sign GB4MHN. ARISS-UK volunteers handled the technical aspects, while NADARS members provided students with the “amateur radio experience” through events and activities.

“Students asked their questions orally, and the astronaut’s replies — as well as questions and answers posed by the audience before the contact began — were displayed in closed caption format beneath a huge video screen.

“The Mary Hare School is an aural school for the deaf that teaches students to develop lip-reading skills and to make use of technology. Students range in age from 5 through 19 years old. An enthusiastic audience of some 250 individuals was in the auditorium, where the contact took place, while another 600 students at other locations in the school observed the contact via a web feed.

“Leading up to the contact, students at the school learned about radio- and space-related topics that touched on physics, chemistry, and biology. Student activities have included designing and flying model rockets, making astronomical observations, and observing authentic spacesuits.

“Students wanted to know if the astronauts used sign language in space in case something goes wrong, how the ISS would be evacuated in the event of a fire, and whether mobile devices such as cell phones work in space.”

Thanks to the ARRL for this report.

It is very gratifying to note that even those with hearing impairment can participate in a totally auditory experience, using modern technology to sidestep the inability to hear the spoken word. May this kind of technology only improve? I am on record as being certain that auditory impairment is a more difficult disability to overcome than the impairment associated with blindness.

Now TechXplore reported on Friday that, between September 1982 and December 2020, at least 51,512 people were rescued on land and at sea with help from a network of Earth-orbiting satellites able to detect and locate emergency distress beacons.

ESA’s OPS-SAT Space Lab recently demonstrated that by processing data from these beacons in space, instead of on Earth as currently happens, the whole process could be made more efficient, saving data and perhaps helping to save lives.

The international Cospas-Sarsat cooperative was established in 1979 and remains a fundamental, life-saving system. Using a network of instruments on board more than 50 satellites, it detects emergency beacons from aircraft, ships and people anywhere on Earth, passing the coded information to ground stations to be processed and then forwarded to local Rescue Coordination Centres for a response.

Distress beacons are fundamentally radio transmitters that can be activated in emergencies, either manually by pressing a button or automatically upon detection of certain triggers—a physical shock, contact with water, a sudden drop in altitude etc.

The Cospas-Sarsat system detects radio transmissions in the protected 406-MHz frequency band, gathering information on the type of vessel in distress and relaying its signals to ground stations on Earth known as Local User Terminals (LUTs). While some beacons contain the location of the vessel in question, many don’t, and for these ground stations must perform a mathematical analysis to determine the location of the beacon.

Many satellites in low, medium and geo-stationary orbit carry ‘repeater instruments’ which shift the frequency of the 406 MHz beacon transmissions to a different frequency in order to avoid interference with the original transmissions. The so-called ‘up-converted’ signals are sent to User Terminals where they are processed and decoded.

Once verified, beacon information is forwarded to the nearest Rescue Coordination Centre.

In a recent “In Orbit Demonstration,” OPS-SAT Space Lab, an orbiting Cubesat, performed the first in-orbit decoding and processing of radio-signals from emergency beacons on Earth, using open-source software running on the satellite.

This reduced the amount of unnecessary data sent back to land stations, making for more efficient communications, and, more rapid response times

This is progress, clearly to be applauded.

Reporting for HAMNET in South Africa, I’m Dave Reece ZS1DFR.

HAMNET Report 10th October 2021

Here’s a problem that hadn’t dawned on me before, and which is going to prevent future Mars explorers from easily phoning home.

It appears that every two years Mars and Earth end up on opposite sides of the Sun at a distance of 245 million miles in what is called a Mars solar conjunction.

During this conjunction, in Earth’s sky, Mars is close to the Sun, as the Earth is close to the Sun in the Martian sky. This is more than a bit of astronomical trivia; it’s also a major headache for space engineers. Mars doesn’t actually pass behind the Sun, but it is close enough for the Sun to interfere with radio communications between the two planets. Not only does it take 22 minutes for a radio signal to travel one way between Earth and Mars, but the proximity of the Sun affects communications because it is a major radio wave emitter and the ionized gas that makes up its giant corona acts like a barrier to radio signals.

Though this solar interference isn’t total, it can degrade communications to the point where data and command signals can be distorted and might cause robotic spacecraft to start acting in unpredictable ways – which is something you definitely don’t want to happen on a hostile alien planet hundreds of millions of miles away.

To prevent this, NASA mission control will stop sending signals after ordering its Mars spacecraft to go into a go-slow mode until the conjunction passes. Give or take a couple of days for particular missions, the communications shutdown will start on October 2 and end around October 16.

Though mission control will not be sending signals, the probes will send status updates and some data back to Earth at a low transmission rate. During this time, the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers will sit still and take weather, radiation, and other sensor measurements, the Ingenuity Mars helicopter will be grounded, and the InSight lander will continue seismic measurements. Meanwhile the Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and MAVEN orbiters will gather data and relay transmissions from the surface.

Once the conjunction is over, the spacecraft will transmit their backlog of images and other data to Earth through NASA’s Deep Space Network for about a week before resuming normal operations.

Thank you to New Atlas for this revelation to me.

The ARRL says that the oft-cited figure of 3 million radio amateurs worldwide may need updating. That number was what the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) published in 2000 for the global head count. The IARU once regularly collected amateur radio population statistics, but stopped the practice around the point when the worldwide amateur radio population began to decline.

Data available elsewhere for a few major countries shows a steady decline in radio amateurs since 2000, with the exception of the US, where ham licenses — not necessarily licensees — number some 780,000 to date in 2021. Japan’s ham radio population has dropped by more than 600,000 over the past 2 decades; as of 2015, it was 435,581, according to JARL. China boasts more than 174,000 radio amateurs as of 2021. According to 2018 statistics, Thailand has 101,763 hams; the UK has 75,660, and Canada has 70,198.

But, the specific size of the worldwide amateur radio population remains open to speculation, although a 2021 figure of 1.75 million may be closer to the truth. The ARRL thanks Southgate Amateur Radio News, and other sources for these details.

Evidence that South African sporting life may just be returning to some semblance of normality comes in the invitation in Cape Town, from the organisers of the annual 99er Cycle Tour, to HAMNET to assist at next year’s event, to be held on 12th February, if the wretched Coronavirus will let it. We are hoping it will take place, having missed 2021’s event because of COVID-19. In 2020, the race happened just before the disease took off in South Africa. Let’s hope 2022 will signal a return to relative sporting freedom.

The Western Cape Repeater Working Group is running a raffle to raise funds to assist with the maintenance and repair of the repeaters they manage. Tickets are R50 each, and the lucky one whose ticket is drawn will win a brand new Baofeng UV-R 9 Plus, donated by ZS1DDK and ZS1F. If you buy two tickets for R100, you’ll get three chances in the draw, so don’t delay. Use your call sign and UV9 as a reference when you make an EFT into the Working Group’s bank account, which is available on www.wcrwg.co.za  The draw will take place once 100 tickets have been sold!

Here’s a doggy rescue story to end this week’s bulletin.

A pug sparked a widespread rescue mission involving two coastguard teams and a social media campaign after it got stuck in the mud.

The dog went missing near Rhyl’s promenade in North Wales and an online appeal found its way to both Rhyl and Flintshire coastguard teams who sprung to action.

The dog’s family was greatly concerned over his whereabouts, especially 12-year-old James, who is autistic and relies on Buddy to keep his anxiety levels low.

Thankfully, Buddy was soon found near the River Clwyd where it was discovered he had become stuck in the mud.

Rescuers were able to free him allowing owner Sarah to share the good news on Facebook.

Speaking to North Wales Live, she said: “I would just like to say thank you to everyone from the bottom of our hearts. We are over the moon with finding Buddy and James is the happiest boy alive right now.

“Nobody ever gave up and they travelled out to help look, they phoned, visited, messaged and shared anything they could to help.

“We were given the best support anyone could wish for, so thank you to everyone; you kept me going all night and day.”

After his ordeal, Buddy was given a much-needed bath.

Sarah added: “James and Buddy have been snuggling since being back together and slept right through the night.

“Buddy means the world to the entire family and helps keep James calm and his anxiety levels low, giving him comfort and making James feel safe.”

I’m sure you’ll agree this is altogether a better story than last week!

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

HAMNET Report 3rd October 2021

This weekend we first turn our attention to the Island of Crete, Greece, which experienced a magnitude 5.8 earthquake last Monday the 27th. Sotirios Vanikiotis SV1HER, Emcomm coordinator for Greece, reported that one person had been killed and twelve injured. Radio amateurs were not activated as the quake time was very short. The nearest village Archalochori sustained some minor damage.

Sotirios says interestingly that, in the previous 30 days, Crete had been shaken by 1 magnitude 5.8 quake, 10 between 4 and 5, 60 between 3 and 4, and 166 between 2 and 3 magnitudes. 86 quakes of less than magnitude 2 were measured, but would not have been felt by the inhabitants. That is a total of 323 jolts in one month, an average of 10 a day. Difficult to carry on normal daily life, I should think, waiting for the really big one to happen. Happily, so far, it hasn’t!

RTE reports that Spain has classified La Palma as a disaster zone, a move that will trigger financial support for the island where a volcanic eruption has wrecked buildings and destroyed crops over the past nine days.

The government announced a first package of €10.5 million, which includes around €5 million to buy houses, with the rest to acquire furniture and essential household goods, government spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez said.

Lava has been flowing down the volcano’s western flank towards the sea since 19th  September. It has destroyed almost 600 houses and banana plantations in La Palma, which neighbours Tenerife in the Canary Islands archipelago off the North African coast.

Thousands have been evacuated and three coastal villages were locked down yesterday in anticipation of lava meeting the Atlantic Ocean and releasing toxic gases. But authorities cannot determine if and when the molten rock will reach the sea or how long the eruption will continue.

For several hours yesterday, the eruption slowed to a near halt before roaring back into life in the evening.

“We are still waiting [for] whatever the volcano wants to do,” said Miguel Angel Morcuende, director of the Pevolca response committee. “When the lava reaches the sea, the lockdown must be strictly observed.”

Now, in the “Ag Shame” category, we read a story from the National Sea Rescue Institute’s monthly newsletter of an inland rescue on Hartbeespoort dam in September. The NSRI writes:

“When reports came flooding in that a dog was in the middle of Hartbeespoort Dam struggling to make her way to shore, Station 25 (on Hartbeespoort Dam) wasted no time in launching to find and save her.

“On the afternoon of Friday, 17 September, Hartbeespoort Dam’s community Facebook page was abuzz with reports of a dog in the middle of the dam in danger of drowning. At the same time, Station 25’s station commander Arthur Crewe received call after call (more than 20, he says) from concerned members of the public asking the NSRI to help. Arthur and three crew members mobilised quickly, launching the rescue vessel Sea Legs and within minutes had reached the area where the dog had last been spotted.

“They noticed a jetskier trying to guide the dog in the direction of the shore. They reached the frightened, exhausted animal and brought her to shore where two bystanders, Jaco and Anne, from Kosmos, were waiting with blankets and water. They gently warmed the dog, rehydrated her, and offered her a little food, all the while trying to keep her as calm as possible.

“Anne then took the dog, which we named Sea Legs to the Hartbeespoort Animal Welfare Society (HAWS),” Arthur says. “When we found her, she was about 100 metres from shore, and it’s unlikely she went for a swim by herself,” he adds. While reluctant to speculate, it’s very telling that despite all the publicity, no one has claimed the dog, and when she was found she had quite a severe head wound. She was also on heat.”

“Thankfully, Sea Legs is in the capable and safe hand of HAWS personnel who are attending to her injuries and taking care of her. A foster family has been found, and she can look forward to a safe and loving home in the future.

“Grateful thanks to all who reported the incident and to Jaco and Anne for their loving assistance.” Close quote.

One does not have to be Sherlock Holmes to realize that a doggie does not just end up in the middle of a dam with a severe head wound all by herself. This appears to be another example of man’s inhumanity to animals. Thanks to the NSRI for reminding us of the love we ought to be showing to man’s best friend.

Finally, Cision PRWeb reports that Tait Communications, a leading provider of critical communications solutions for the public safety, utilities and transportation industries, announced the TAIT AXIOM® Wearable on Friday the 1st, a compact, broadband-connected device that allows mobile teams to work beyond the radio network edge and in challenging areas like building interiors, automatically switching communications bearers.

“Emergency response can send workers into areas where radio communications are suddenly not available, and critical conversations between the dispatcher and team members stop,” said Yoram Benit, Tait Communications Chief Executive Officer. “The Wearable provides an alternate communication path through broadband networks to ensure the conversations keep going.”

The lightweight, standalone device mounts on a uniform like a radio speaker microphone and accesses TAIT AXIOM® cloud-based Push-to-Talk services using broadband networks, including public/private LTE, WiFi and Ethernet. Heads-up operational controls, like a rotary dial and large dedicated buttons for PTT and distress calls, keep eyes looking safely forward. Interoperability with Tait LMR networks allows companies to invite broadband-connected workers outside the LMR network into radio conversations regardless of their location, and without the expense of a dedicated radio or network expansion.

“Now, support personnel can become part of the larger conversation, helping front-line workers be safer and more productive by communicating one-on-one or through talk-groups, without the added step of sharing information through a dispatcher,” said Benit.

When attached to a Tait TP9000 Series portable radio via cord or Bluetooth, the Wearable performs the function of a powerful speaker microphone, delivering exceptional audio via a 3W front-facing speaker and three active noise cancellation microphones. In the event the portable radio loses connection with the LMR network, communications automatically switch to the Wearables broadband connection, providing a path for voice conversations as well as emergency alerting and location information.

Clever technology that I hope will filter through to all levels of rescue comms.

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

HAMNET Report 26th September 2021

This week’s natural disaster is the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which took place on La Palma, Canary Islands. Apparently the island had experienced hundreds of small earthquakes during the preceding week, and, last Sunday afternoon, the 19th, the volcano couldn’t contain itself any longer and erupted, for the first time in 50 years.

Jose EA9E Emergency Comms Coordinator for Spain sent out a message to the IARU region 1 countries, asking that the emergency frequencies be kept clear in case of traffic. These are 3760, 7110, 14300 and 21350 KHz.

Later on Monday, Roman, EA8RH, Emcomm Coordinator for the EA8 region sent out a report, saying that civil wireless communications were not compromised since they are located in unaffected areas. There are amateur radio repeaters in the area which are active and functioning normally.

Roads were blocked in the populated areas of El Paraíso, Todo que, and Las Manchas, where lava has destroyed everything in its path. Power lines, landlines and water supply lines in the area have been interrupted by lava flows.

The entire area was evacuated before the eruption, which means that an approximate 5,000 inhabitants of the area were evacuated and another 5,000 inhabitants of the area were preparing to be evacuated according to the evolution of the situation.

The evacuees were relocated to the barracks of the fort in Santa Cruz de la Palma and the sports centres of the affected municipalities of El Paso, Llanos de Aridane and Tazacorte.

The area has a high population of radio amateurs with the capability of going out on HF and VHF.

By this last Wednesday a 9th eruptive vent had opened up on the summit of the volcano, but lava flow was slowing down. 6800 people had been evacuated from the area, 200 hundred houses damaged or destroyed, schools in 3 municipalities closed, 400 tourists relocated, and 6 roads were still blocked by lava in the surrounds.

Greg G0DUB has information that the volcano is expected to keep erupting for another 3 to 12 weeks.

In the light of possible emergency traffic on 3760 KHz for some time, HAMNET Western Cape has taken the decision to move its 80 metre relay of the Wednesday evening bulletin at 19h30 Bravo to 3770 KHz until further notice. Please take note of this change.

Meanwhile, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake at a depth of 10km occurred on 21st September at 9h15 local time in southeast Victoria State, in southeast Australia, followed by an aftershock 17 minutes later. Up to 21000 people were subjected to strong shaking, but no immediate reports of serious injury or deaths have been received, though damage to buildings and power supplies have been reported in Melbourne.

And, at about 4am local time on  22nd September, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck about 84km southwest of Jiquilillo, Nicaragua, and at a depth of 20km. There are apparently tectonic plates in the area which are colliding, as these things do.

This earthquake was followed by another 4.0 magnitude earthquake around 6:30am local time and other aftershocks of less intensity as confirmed by Juan de la Cruz Rodríguez Pérez, YN1J, President and National Emergency Coordinator of the Club de Radio Experimentadores de Nicaragua (CREN). Perceptibility reports have also been received from San Salvador, El Salvador.

Taking this situation into account and at the request of Juan de la Cruz, YN1J, the following emergency frequencies in Nicaragua on HF should be kept clear, namely the main frequency of 7098 kHz, and 7198 kHz as an alternative.

Carlos Alberto Santamaría González, CO2JC, EmComm Coordinator for IARU-R2 thanked everyone for their support and promised to remain vigilant.

The earth’s mantle has clearly been restless, with 26 earthquakes of magnitude 4.5 or higher being recorded on Tuesday alone, and another 20 on Thursday. The gods of the underworld must be angry about something!

Now you’ve heard me talking about the use of drones to aid in reduction in loss of life during natural disasters. These drones are obviously what you would call benevolent ones. What about malicious drones? These might be launched by agencies intent on damaging people or places by dropping small explosives, with a view to surveillance, or possibly disruption of airspace.

BBC Science Focus notes that, in the near future, swarms of robot vehicles could become even more dangerous, both on battlefields, and around civilian spaces like airports or sports grounds.

To address the issue, military researchers and arms manufacturers are developing directed energy weapons with the power to disable drones, by using lasers, particle beams, radio frequency waves, and more.

A US start-up called Epirus has created a system called Leonidas, which uses high-powered microwaves (HPM) to overwhelm drones’ on-board electronics. The system uses gallium nitride semiconductors to produce extreme levels of power density while firing the HPM. Operators can narrow the beam to target individual drones, or take down multiple threats across a wider field.

Epirus staged a demonstration event for government officials earlier this year, and the device disabled all 66 drones sent to swarm around it! Unlike some directed energy weapons, Leonidas is small enough to mount on a truck or a boat, and its rapid-fire capabilities make it practical on kinetic battlefields. Epirus is also in the late stages of development of even more compact and portable systems, and the technology could eventually lead to some kind of microwave gun.

And, as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) become cheaper and more prevalent, so too does their potential for harm in civilian spaces. In December 2018, London’s Gatwick Airport closed for two days after mysterious drones were reported in the skies around the runways. Fearing a collision could take down a passenger aircraft, the military was deployed and more than 1000 flights cancelled.

Other identified threats included recreational drones flying too close to rescue helicopters, attacks in civilian spaces, reconnaissance of nuclear sites, invasion of privacy and even as a distraction to aid criminals.

Thanks to BBC Science Focus for these paragraphs from their article.

Personally, it seems to me that anti-drone technology might be developed, only to be countered by anti-anti-drone technology systems which neutralize the high powered microwave beams, only to be overshadowed by cleverer microwave beams, and so on, ad infinitum.

When, I wonder, will mankind stop trying to destroy itself?

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

HAMNET Report 19th September 2021

This week, China is suffering even more natural disaster woes. The Tropical Cyclone called CHANTHU of last week is still leaving a path of destruction in its wake, still affecting 5 million people with 120km/h winds, rain and damage, as it moves North-East up the coastal areas of China. By this last Thursday, it was starting to threaten South Korea and the Southern Islands of Japan with heavy rain and strong winds.

Meanwhile a magnitude 5.4 earthquake struck South Eastern Sichuan Province in China on Wednesday the 15th at 20h33 UTC and at a depth of 10km. 15000 people were exposed to very strong shaking, and up to 372000 to strong shaking. Fortunately the area is apparently not very densely populated, and few casualties were reported. National authorities deployed emergency teams to the affected area.

In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, local infrastructure such as cell towers, power lines, and telephone and internet cable are often damaged or destroyed, limiting the ability for responders to share data and access the internet. With more organizations moving to a cloud-first IT strategy, the ability to bridge applications running in the cloud and tools operating at the edge is a key requirement for creating solutions that allow responders to operate effectively in these challenging environments.

Recently, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Disaster Response team conducted a field testing operation designed to replicate a common disaster response scenario. Held in Northern Virginia, it included forward-deployed field locations (at/near a  disaster site) and a headquarters location (HQ) that was more than 25 miles away. The field sites had minimal working infrastructure and no cellular or internet connectivity, and the HQ was an office building with standard internet access and stable infrastructure. The goal of the exercise was to establish an ad-hoc network at the field sites that allowed team members to collect and process data at the edge, as well as create a link between the field site and HQ using the well-known Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) to provide access to cloud-based resources in the field.

Four licensed AWS amateur radio operators demonstrated how inexpensive and readily available radio hardware can be configured to use AREDN to provide connectivity between the edge site and the HQ location. By using commercial off-the-shelf hardware, the AWS team simulated real world response conditions, where hams bring equipment into the field to re-establish connectivity for disaster response teams.

Amateur Radio Emergency Data Networks are not new. The system has been in   use for some years already, and we have seen several “mesh” networks run in this country. Like all digital technology, it needs concentrated effort and understanding to keep the system alive and operating, but in times of emergency communications, such networks will allow messages and visual evidence easily to be transmitted.

Thanks to Mark, ZS6MDX for drawing my attention to this article, and to AWS for the use of excerpts from their write-up.

Here is a nice twist to the usual stories carried about students talking to astronauts on board the ISS. For the first time the students asking the questions will be hearing impaired.

The Reading Chronical reports that a group of deaf students at a school in Newbury will be making conversation with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station next month.

In October 2021, the Mary Hare School, Newbury, will be using Amateur Radio equipment set up with the help of Radio Amateurs from the Newbury and District Amateur Radio Society (NADARS).

These will be the first deaf children to have done this, making it a world first. The pupils will each ask a question to the astronaut who will then answer live over amateur radio. The reply will then be interpreted into subtitles.

During September, the deaf-specialist school will be running a competition inviting students to enter their question from one of five categories: science in space; space technology; living in space; space communication, and earth from space.

The ten best questions will be chosen by staff, and those students invited to ask their question on the day of broadcast.

Mr Ayling, science teacher at Mary Hare School, said: “It is a very exciting event – a world first for deaf pupils.

“I think it is very important to our deaf pupils as it shows whatever your challenges with communication are, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

The sky is not the limit.”

Indeed, in this day and age, there need be no limit!

Now how many of you have heard of “Havana Syndrome”? And, no, it doesn’t refer to quality cigars!

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that doctors, scientists, intelligence agents and government officials have all been trying to find out what causes “Havana Syndrome” – a mysterious illness that has struck American diplomats and undercover agents. Some call it an act of war, others wonder if it is some new and secret form of surveillance – and some people believe it could even be all in the mind. So who or what is responsible?

It often starts with a sound, one that people struggle to describe. “Buzzing”, “grinding metal”, “piercing squeals”, was the best they could manage.

One woman described a low hum and intense pressure in her skull; another felt a pulse of pain. Those who did not hear a sound, felt heat or pressure. But for those who heard the sound, covering their ears made no difference. Some of the people who experienced the syndrome were left with dizziness and fatigue for months.

The “Havana Syndrome” naturally first emerged in Cuba in 2016. The first cases were CIA officers, which meant their symptoms were kept secret. But, eventually, word got out and anxiety spread. Twenty-six personnel and family members would report a wide variety of symptoms. There were whispers that some colleagues thought sufferers were crazy and it was “all in the mind”.

Five years on, reports now number in the hundreds and, the BBC has been told, span every continent, leaving a real impact on the US’s ability to operate overseas.

Uncovering the truth has now become a top US national security priority – one that an official has described as the most difficult intelligence challenge they have ever faced.

And before you start wondering, this problem arose before Covid-19!

As they used to say on Springbok Radio, don’t miss next week’s thrilling episode of this intriguing drama!  And, next time you light up one of your unhealthy but expensive cigars, spare a thought for some folks for whom the Havana experience is no pleasurable matter!

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

HAMNET Report 12th September 2021

This week it is China’s turn to be in the Tropical Cyclone spotlight. On Tuesday, two storms running parallel to each other in a north-westerly direction were announced. Tropical Cyclone CHANTHU was aiming for the mid-eastern coastline of China, having skimmed over the top of the Philippines and threatening nearly 6 million souls. And Tropical Cyclone CONSON was going to cross central Philippines, before making landfall on China’s coastline, slightly more south of CHANTHU and bringing danger to over a million people in its path.

By Wednesday afternoon, a RED alert for CHANTHU was announced, potentially bringing winds of up to 260 km/h, and imminent danger to 7.4 million people in China.

On Wednesday morning, our Region One coordinator, Greg Mossop G0DUB reported that he had received a communique from the Region Two coordinator, Carlos Alberto Santamaria Gonzalez CO2JC about an earthquake that had just occurred in Acapulco, Mexico, perceptible in the country’s capital and whose preliminary data from the National Seismological System were a Magnitude of 6.9, an epicentre 14km southeast of Acapulco, on 7th September at 20h47 their time, and at a depth of 10km.

Zian Julio Aguirre Taboada, XE1ATZ, director of Mexico’s National Emergency Network reported that nets were already active on a frequency of 7120 kHz.

At the time of the communique there were no reports of structural damage or loss of life. CO2JC reported that they were monitoring the frequency for any calls for help.

In the face of a potentially disastrous storm like Hurricane Ida, people take to Twitter and other social media sites to communicate vital information. New research published in the journal Risk Analysis suggests that monitoring and analysing this social media “chatter” during a natural disaster could help decision makers learn how to plan for and mitigate the impacts of severe weather events in their communities.

Jose E. Ramirez-Marquez from the Stevens Institute of Technology and Gabriela Gongora-Svartzman from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College performed an analysis of more than six million Twitter posts over time during three major hurricanes that made landfall in 2017: Harvey (Texas), Irma (Florida), and Maria (Puerto Rico). The goal of their study was to develop and test a new method for measuring social cohesion, an important factor in a community’s resilience during the severe weather events brought on by climate change.

The methodology presented in Risk Analysis involves combining and implementing text processing techniques and graph network analysis to understand the relationships among nine different categories of Twitter users during a hurricane. These include citizens, media, government, entertainment, business, charity-NGOs-volunteers, sports, technology-science-education, and other verified accounts. Knowing who the participants are behind the messages can help researchers identify how authorities communicate which kinds of messages, how people affected by the hurricanes interact with them, and what their needs are.

Visualizations incorporated into the study illustrate the connections between social media participants and the degree of social cohesion throughout each hurricane’s timeline.

Social cohesion has been described as “the glue that holds society together.” It affects how a community comes together in times of need. Social cohesion can help reduce the number of vulnerabilities experienced by a community during a disaster and reduce the time it takes to rebuild. The stronger the social cohesion, the more resilient a community is.

Visualizations in the study illustrate the seven metrics that are combined to create a single measurement of social cohesion. One of those metrics is information dissemination. This refers to the intensity of tweets, or communication between participants, during the timeline captured for each hurricane. This timeline of social media activity for each hurricane shows how active participants were on each day before, during, and after the hurricane. A graph of the data shows that the intensity of communication peaks for each hurricane shortly before or shortly after it makes landfall. In the case of Maria in Puerto Rico, the analysis shows that a significant amount of conversation continues for more than a week after the hurricane ends—signifying that post-disaster management strategies were being put in place, rescues were occurring, and rebuilding efforts were starting to evolve.

The researchers hope this new method for tracking and visualizing social media communications during a severe storm can contribute to future risk management and disaster mitigation policies. “Because we identify the types of actors in a social network and how this network varies daily,  decision makers could use this measurement to release strategic communication before, during, and after a disaster strikes—thus providing relevant information to people in need,” says Ramirez-Marquez.

In light of the disastrous impacts of Hurricane Ida on the people of New Orleans, he adds, it is important to understand what happened during each storm to mitigate the impacts on the most vulnerable people. “If we had a national database of the social media communications pre-during-post disaster then we would be able better to identify the needs of a community and the limitations of current policy and response,” says Ramirez-Marquez. “It is concerning that the communities that experienced the harshest effects during Katrina will again be harshly affected during Ida. This shows a lack of learning from past events.”

Thanks to Phys.org for this interesting research report.

The ARRL reports that Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) founder Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF — an assistant professor in The University of Scranton’s Physics and Engineering Department — has been awarded a grant through the NASA Space Weather Applications Operations Phase II Research Program. Frissell will serve as principal investigator for a research project entitled, “Enabling Space Weather Research with Global Scale Amateur Radio Datasets.” He’ll collaborate with Philip Erickson, W1PJE, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Haystack Observatory and Bill Engelke, AB4EJ, at the University of Alabama.

“This grant includes significant funding for participation of Scranton undergraduate students in this research, as well as support for new computation resources,” Frissell said. He explained that the grant will fund “the development of an empirical model for the prediction of traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs) in high-frequency radio communications while investigating the geophysical drivers of these disturbances.” The grant will cover 2 years of work.

Frissell said that the predictive, empirical TID models will be developed using data collected by the Reverse Beacon Network, WSPR, and PSKreporter — all automated, global-scale radio communication observation networks operated by the amateur radio community. Undergraduate students will help the faculty researchers to create algorithms used for the model development.

Professor Frissell is to be congratulated for the manner in which he has drawn amateur radio in to Citizen Science.

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

HAMNET Report 5th September 2021

Eight days ago, Tropical Storm Ida was a category 1 storm in the Caribbean, with winds of less than 120km/h, and threatening Cuba, and then Louisiana. By Sunday last it had strengthened to have winds in the 240km/h range, and threatening 2.7 million people in its path. It made landfall in Louisiana as a category 4 storm, and knocked out power for more than a million subscribers.

Excerpts from the ARRL letter this week say that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and the VoIP Hurricane Net (VoIP WX) were busy gathering ground-truth weather observations from radio amateurs as Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana Gulf Coast on August 29 as a powerful Category 4 storm. ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) teams in Mississippi activated. Ida wrought extensive damage, especially in Louisiana and Mississippi, and left some 1 million customers in New Orleans and elsewhere without power — and some communities without water. Downgraded to a tropical depression, Ida continued its path up the eastern seaboard, causing further flash flooding and damage and even spawning a few tornadoes in the Mid-Atlantic States. The storm shut down New York City’s subways as well as rail and air traffic in New Jersey before moving into New England. At least 10 people died in the region as a result of the storm.

For the HWN, it was all hands on deck on Sunday, August 29, as the net resumed operation on both 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz. “We had a great number of reporting stations throughout the day and well into the evening,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said. “Unfortunately, there were times in which propagation completely disappeared.”

All told, the HWN was activated for 26 hours over the weekend, fielding reports ranging from mild winds to very high winds and torrential rainfall.

The VoIP Hurricane Net activation for Hurricane Ida wrapped up on Monday, August 30 after handling dozens of reports from stations in the affected area of Hurricane Ida that were sent to WX4NHC, the National Hurricane Centre Amateur Radio Station.

VoIP Hurricane Net Manager Rob Macedo, KD1CY, said radio amateurs on the N5OZG repeater system “provided constant ground truth from areas in and around New Orleans. All of these reports were also sent to WX4NHC, the amateur radio station at the National Hurricane Centre, as well.” Net control stations across the US also assisted with reporting and monitoring.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) in Mississippi activated on August 29 with several nets. On Sunday, August 29, VHF ARES nets were activated around the state for the purpose of passing weather reports, health-and-welfare traffic, and damage reports as needed.

Both the Mississippi ARES Emergency Net and the Mississippi Winlink Net activated on August 29. The Winlink Net operated until 18:00 on August 30, passing 80 messages, which were copied to KM5EMA, the Winlink station at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

According to further media reports, more than 40 people have died, of which 23 were in New Jersey, 13 in New York City, 5 in Pennsylvania, and 1 in Connecticut, 1 in Virginia and another in Maryland. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports evacuated people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and more than 100,000 people without power across New York and New Jersey. In addition, several rivers are at a major flood level.

Thanks to the various agencies for these compiled reports.

I received a report from Brian ZS1BTD, who assisted with an Air Sea Rescue exercise at Strandfontein Beach in the Cape on the 29th August. He writes:

“Arriving soon after 07:00B, a member of the BMW motorcycle club and I (representing WSAR) looked for a suitable landing zone. The usual LZ had numerous mole heaps. Walking in this area, I found myself falling up to 40cm into these holes. This made the area unusable and hazardous.

“An adjacent field had accommodated the dismantled desalination plant. Half the field had wooden sticks protruding in rows. The rest had parallel mounds crossing the width. It appeared to be made up of clay soil. This turned out to be ideal as it was firm and slightly moist, resulting in no dust during the exercise.

Sky-Med arrived at around 08:00.  (A potential Table Mountain callout had not materialized). Therefore extra exercise time was afforded. The Crew consisted of two pilots and two ELO’s (External Line Operators). Unfortunately only two out of five swimmers were on hand. One was from AMS, a female who volunteered to be a casualty. A senior female life guard from Fish Hoek also acted as a patient.  Station 16 provided the rest of the ‘casualties’. Various types of retrieval methods were practised, including something called ‘T-bagging’. The LZ was controlled, preventing any public access.

“After the swimmer and patient/casualty touched down, the long line was retrieved by kneeling down and zig-zagging it in front of you, while Sky-Med landed about 5 metres in front of that. The line was then passed under the skids. The attached end was handed to an ELO who loaded the line into a bag, with the end buoy and hook going in last.  A chopper landing in front of you is quite exhilarating, but focusing on securing the long line keeps your mind at ease.

“All in all it was reported to be a highly successful training session. All parties contributed to it being safe and informative.

“There was a request from the pilot for the Rescue craft to be positioned at 10 o’clock to the patient in the water.  This provided orientation when Sky-Med approached the swimmer and patient for the lift. This is a major help as it is difficult for the pilot to see below his aircraft.   The principal swimmer also gave a few instructions and requests.  Comm’s were maintained between the LZ and 16 Base.

“Ground communications at the LZ was conducted by me (ZS1BTD), but was limited to Marine Band. Sky-Med ZS-HCG requested for comm’s to be on Air Band as it had had all other radio’s removed. This was not possible as I did not have an Air Band radio available.  Hand signals were used instead.”

Thanks, Brian, for the comprehensive report. Well done there on demonstrating your capabilities.

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