HAMNET Report 8 April 2018

HAMNET REPORT 8 APRIL 2018

I’m very pleased to tell you that Greg Mossop G0DUB of Region One of the IARU has picked up on the notes I sent last week of the HAMNET Blackout Exercise Dave Higgs and his merry men of the Eastern Cape Division are organising for the beginning of May.

After quoting the announcement Dave put out, and mentioning the team booklet that is already available for the event, Greg makes a good point when he says: “While the exercise is only for South Africa, the exercise booklet may give some of you ideas for your own exercise”. We monitor the IARU Region One news as it is issued for news and ideas on how to improve our efforts in this country, and it is good to know that the other member countries monitor our news too. So well done Dave ZS2DH for striking the right sort of chords!

How many of you relative old-timers in amateur radio cut your electronic’s teeth on the circuits and ideas in that wonderful monthly publication of the 50’s to 70’s, called “Popular Electronics“? I know I did, though I didn’t have access to the periodical every month.

Well John ZS1JNT has drawn my attention to a website which has catalogued and copied them all, in PDF format, to the web. I looked at a few and was instantly transported back to my pre-teens, when I could only dream about the projects and test-kits on offer! They are to be found at http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Popular-Electronics-Guide.htm. Thanks for that information, John.

I have mentioned the next subject before on this platform, and here are further notes on the use of drones in emergencies.

Law enforcement and emergency responders have been using drones to give them an eye in the sky for years. But the unmanned aerial vehicles may soon provide ears as well. Two of the United States’ largest mobile phone companies are exploring using drones as flying mobile hot spots to provide phone and other services when cell towers are down or in areas where service does not exist.

“After Hurricane Sandy, we lost cell service countywide for several days,” said Martin Pagliughi, the director of the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management in New Jersey.

So on a raw day last month, several of Cape May’s emergency responders gathered at a municipal airport in Woodbine to watch Verizon launch a 200-pound drone into the sky. When it reached an altitude of 3,000 feet, a hot spot on board started transmitting a wireless signal. On the ground, members of the Cape May Police Department noted the strength of the service on the Verizon-issued phones they were carrying.

“They were testing texting, they were testing voice, they had full coverage in the radius,” Mr. Pagliughi said.

And, in 2017, AT&T won a $7 billion federal government contract to construct a nationwide disaster readiness network called FirstNet. Parts of the programme will include technology to provide cell service from the sky. When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, AT&T relied on mobile hot spots driven to sites and raised onto masts to provide cell-phone service. The company also can launch a remote four-rotor hovering drone known as a “Cell on Wings”, which is tethered to ground cables for data exchange and power.

“A vast majority of the time” the combination of a truck and a mast will solve the communications problem, said Chris Sambar, a senior vice president at AT&T. “But there are times where what’s needed is a drone.”

In addition to providing phone and other data services for emergency responders, Verizon is pursuing other possible uses for drones.

“We envision the ability for the aircraft to have a camera onboard to collect the photographic data and beam it to the ground,” Christopher Desmond said, providing situational awareness at the scene and also at a command centre. That, he said, would enable better collaboration between those inside and outside a disaster zone.

The pilotless airplane with its 17-foot wingspan is much larger than a hobbyist’s drone. It does not hover and it does not run on batteries. Instead its petrol engine supports flights that can be as long as 16 hours, while producing 400 watts of power — enough to control the airplane and feed the electrical needs of a communications hot spot, camera and other onboard equipment.

“It’s a unique vehicle, a unique way of carrying sensors with a persistence you can’t get from manned aircraft,’’ said David Yoel, the founder and chief executive of American Aerospace, the company that owns the drone and operates it for Verizon.

Before Verizon started testing its aerial hot spot, Cape May had conducted its own tests using a drone from American Aerospace equipped with radio, cell and satellite transmitters. Mr. Pagliughi said he wanted to see how effective the various options might be and that the county would work with any company that could expand the range of airborne service for emergency responders.

Thank you to the New York Times for these notes.

Next weekend, the SARL will be holding its Annual General Meeting, which I hope to attend. I have previously mentioned the importance of having a quorum of votes at the meetings to allow them to continue. To this end, you, the “Ham-in-the-street”, can ensure the meetings occur, even if you cannot attend yourself, by providing a person of your choice with your proxy. So this is my final plea to all of you HAMNET members to send a proxy to a person in your region, who you believe can carry your wishes to the meetings. If you have particular feelings about any of the AGM motions, tell your proxy-holder so, but please don’t let apathy prevent your feelings from being made known, or stop the meetings from happening because a quorum wasn’t present.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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

HAMNET Report 1 April 2018

The indefatigable Dave Higgs ZS2DH of HAMNET Eastern Cape has spearheaded a HAMNET exercise in South Africa, to be called the “HAMNET Blackout Exercise 2018”. He writes:

“Hamnet are pleased to announce the 2018 exercise – a 24 hour blackout – off grid, on radio!

“The event will take place on the weekend of Saturday 5 to Sunday 6 May 2018.  Teams should be between 4 and 8 members in size, may include non Hamnet members, but must be led by a Hamnet member.  Teams comprise a VHF/UHF unit and an HF unit.  Teams will be tasked with relaying messages and completing simple tasks – such as working with GPS coordinates.

“To find out more, download the team booklet from https://www.eyedeal.co.za/blackout/  Register and join the fun!”

Thank you for the effort, Dave – hopefully all divisions in HAMNET will field some teams.

Now a good news story from the TWO OCEANS run yesterday. A 32-year old man from Rustenburg, Ipeleng Khunou, is the first ever runner to finish the Two Oceans half-marathon on crutches.

Born with a rare brain deformity called septo-optic dysplasia, which affects balance and his eyesight, Khunou cannot walk without crutches.

Known to his friends as ‘Crazy Legs’, Khunou never let that hold him back, however. He told Business Insider SA that his crutches are as much part of him as the rest of his body.

He grew up playing soccer at school and took part in school athletics. He can still run the 100 meters in under 16 seconds.

He took up jogging a year ago when his weight hit 120 kilograms. Khunou says that he was initially embarrassed, and would leave his home at 4am to avoid being seen by people on the road.

Within three months, he had lost 30 kilograms, and went on to complete the Om Die Dam, Wally Hayward and Soweto half-marathons. He ran the Two Oceans, which took place on 31 March in Cape Town, to raise disability awareness and raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

Khunou aimed to finish the half-marathon under the cut-off time of three hours. His strategy is usually to run by himself and keep away from other runners. This is because he fears that his four-legged gait will trip up other participants. He also must watch out for patches where the road is wet, like water stops, as his crutches tend to slip.

Well done, Ipeleng, you are a shining example to all!

For the rest, I can report that the Two Oceans Marathon went off well, with all organisation and service functions running smoothly. The weather was just right, with not too much heat or too much wind. Maximum temperature measured was about 24 degrees, and humidity not more than about 70%.

Unfortunately, there were a few nasty casualties, and I have to report a death on the field of a runner on the short race just short of Rhodes Drive.

The deceased was a 43-year-old half-marathon runner.

According to race organisers, the runner experienced difficulties on Southern Cross Drive and collapsed.

“Despite prompt and prolonged medical attention, the runner could not be resuscitated,” read a Two Oceans statement.

Carol Vosloo, general manager of the Two Oceans Marathon, also commented: “We would like to extend our sincerest condolences to her loved ones, and also thank her fellow club members who gave up their own finish time to remain with, and assist her.”

Another resuscitation in the same area was successful, and some nasty falls and a runner suffering an epileptic fit added to the drama. It was also noted that there was an inordinately large number of runners dropping out, though a reason for this was not immediately obvious.

About 40 runners didn’t make the cut for the 21km race, and about 100 the long race, so there was a fair amount of fetching and carting for the sweep vehicles and bailer buses to do, over and above those who withdrew of their own accord, and needed retrieving.

HAMNET Western Cape salutes the operators who volunteered their time and capabilities to make the race safer for the nearly 28000 runners. We’ll be doing it again next year – our twentieth consecutive race!

Poor old Papua New Guinea has been struck again by a major earthquake, this one a magnitude 6.9 shock on Thursday at 21h25 UTC.

The strong earthquake shook Papua New Guinea on Friday their time, a month after a more powerful quake killed at least 125 people in the Pacific island nation. Damage and casualties were not immediately reported.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii said the quake may have caused small changes in the sea locally but the danger had passed within about an hour or so. There was no tsunami risk to Australia or the wider Pacific, according to the PTWC and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.9 with a depth of 35 kilometres about 162 kilometres southwest of Rabaul in a remote area of East New Britain province. Fortunately its epicentre was sparsely populated, but 8700 people were exposed to risk to their lives.

And so has Tajikistan, an hour later at 22h54 UTC on Thursday evening, by a magnitude 5.6 quake, exposing a population of 1.64 million people within 100km of its epicentre to risk. Again, fortunately, we haven’t received any reports of major loss of life. Let’s hope the news hasn’t just been hidden.

Clearly, the earth’s mantle is a very unstable thing, and we in South Africa are lucky not to be on any of its major faults.

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

HAMNET Report 25 March 2018

For the three Wildrunner events taking place in the Western Cape in the next few months, Regional Director Grant ZS1GS is looking for persons willing to step up and organise the HAMNET contingent involved in each race. Grant correctly feels the load of planning the radio comms, assembling the teams and liaising with the organisers should not be borne by one person for all three. Younger and less experienced men should be trained to help handle these events, with a view to increasing their capabilities. So if you’re a HAMNET member in the Western Cape, please consider offering to help organise these events. The first is the Jonkershoek event which takes place at the end of April, so get your intention in soon, please?

In a very nice report from Dave Higgs ZS2DH, of HAMNET Eastern Cape, he notes that “Hamnet Eastern Cape has assisted at a number of activities including the Herald Mountain Bike Race, the Herald Road race a week later, and the Addo Extreme 100 mile trail run series!

“The Addo Extreme is worth a bit more than a mention as it took place after some of the heaviest rains the Eastern Cape has seen in a while. Several of the higher checkpoints were inaccessible by 4×4 or even quad bike, and the organizers had to make use of the alternative routes they had planned.

“Radio communications were also nearly completely revised – without the usual high checkpoints, linking the lower river valley checkpoints with the higher checkpoints and the control centre proved difficult. But not too difficult for Hamnet Eastern Cape who deployed an HF station as a relay at the manned cross-band repeater (VHF/UHF) setup by Dave ZS2DH and Glen ZS2GV.

“As usual Tony ZR2TX was in the control centre, and Chris ZS2AAW, with the help of Michael ZS2MG, manned an internet breakout point at the Kabouga house. This satellite link provided WhatsApp for a number of the checkpoints along the route.

“Access to the park was by 4×4 only as the dust roads were reduced to mud!

“PEARS has received a thank you letter from the organizers who were very impressed with the flexibility and professionalism shown.

“This weekend we are supplying communications for a local rally and a mountain bike race while we prepare for a new extreme event on the 7th April and the full Iron Man event, also in April.

“What is this new extreme event? The Cockscomb classic is a mountain bike race over 103Km in the Cockscomb mountain range just north of Port Elizabeth. The challenging terrain will take riders over the range and as a result, communications will be needed on both the north and south side of the range and in a few deep valleys as well.

“This is a new event and no previous event has been done in this area. For the purposes of this event, and to improve communications in the Addo area, PEARS has placed a UHF repeater on one of the radio repeater sites high up in the Cockscomb range, and will add a VHF repeater there soon.”

Thanks you Dave – PEARS has certainly not been idle!

Now news from Stellenbosch University.

Alberto Francioli, a staff member of the Research Alliance for Disaster and Risk Reduction (RADAR), graduated on Thursday (22 March 2018) with the first-ever M.Phil in Disaster Risk Science and Development at Stellenbosch University (SU).  Francioli, who is also a volunteer firefighter, received his degree at the fifth ceremony of SU’s 2018 March graduation. His supervisor was Dr Robin Pharoah from RADAR.

Francioli’s study set out to identify the energy sources being used by low-income households in Lwandle, Nomzamo and Asanda Village in Somerset West and Strand. In particular, he wanted to investigate whether residents continue to employ frequently dangerous non-electric energy sources such as candles, paraffin and even firewood despite the access to electricity. Francioli says the aim was to determine the factors influencing these choices, the implications these energy choices have for fire risk, as well as the measures households employ to mitigate the risk of fire.

He held focus group sessions with residents and also used a household survey to collect information on household energy use strategies, perceptions of safety and accessibility of energy sources, and experiences of energy related fires from residents living in different types of dwellings.

Francioli points out that approximately 67.2% of households make use of energy stacking i.e. they alternate between electricity and paraffin to meet their daily energy needs.

“Unsurprisingly, fires in areas such as Lwandle, Nomzamo and Asanda Village have been attributed to the usage of unsafe and potentially hazardous forms of energy such as candles for lighting, paraffin for cooking and boiling water, and firewood for heating of dwellings. It has often been prescribed that key to curbing dwelling fires among low-income residential areas is to increase people’s access to electricity.”

However, Francioli’s research also found that dwelling fires caused by electric sources also appear to be on the rise, particularly among formal households and their backyard dwellings situated on their property.

Thought-provoking news, and congratulations to Mr Francioli!

Finally, HAMNET Western Cape is virtually all sorted out to assist at the idyllic Two Oceans Marathon taking place this Easter Saturday the 31st March. Nineteen members will man mobile sweeps, rovers and a back-marker, while two operators will supervise the cut-offs at the 25 and 42.2Km marks. Radio comms will be on City of Cape Town Tetra frequencies, with a dedicated channels for our sweeps, and all vehicles on the race will be tracked by GSM Trackers, which we will have sight of in the JOC. There will be several Race Tec sensor mats for the runners to cross, along the two courses, to help reduce cheating, and to help isolate where runners were last seen. The short course is a half marathon, as is customary, and the long race is a 56 km course along the False Bay coast as well as the Atlantic coast over Chapman’s Peak Drive. I hope to have a short report for you next Sunday.

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

HAMNET Report 18 March 2018

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, or GDACS, is reporting on Tropical Cyclone Eliakim, which since Thursday has been approaching the North-Eastern aspect of Madagascar. By 18h00 on Friday it had crossed the coast South of Maroantsetra heading South-West with winds in excess of 83kph, before turning due South on Saturday and losing some strength on its way to cross the coast again today (Sunday) at about midday. Intense rainfall could trigger flooding and mudslides, and evacuations are taking place in some areas. We’ll tell you of any loss of life and property we hear of.

From R&D Magazine comes an interesting development in the field of power generation in your rucksack.

Most soldiers carry a heavy burden in the field, including an 35 Kg backpack filled with essential supplies and tools. If that’s not heavy enough, soldiers often carry an additional 10 to 15 Kg in backup batteries to power their radios and other necessary electronics.

However, a new innovation offers a solution.

Lighting Pack—a 2017 R&D 100 Award Winner—is able to generate electricity as soldiers walk and run through the field, eliminating the need for them to carry batteries.

The backpack works by harvesting kinetic energy, while also reducing the heavy load soldiers have to carry around the field, said Lawrence Rome, PhD, the founder and chief scientific officer of Lightning Packs LLC, in an interview with R&D Magazine.

“Essentially in our backpacks there are two frames, there’s a frame connected to the person with a hip belt and shoulder straps and there is a second frame called a moving frame in which the bag is attached and the whole load sits there,” he said. “In normal backpacks, the two frames are locked together and move in unison.

“What we did is we suspended the moving frame from the fixed frame attached to the body by a spring mechanism,” he added. “So essentially as you walk up and down the moving frame moves in respect to the fixed frame and that generates electricity.”

By reducing the need for extra disposable batteries, soldiers using the backpack can opt to either reduce the overall weight of their backpacks or use the extra space to carry other necessary supplies. The pack also permits longer mission durations and reduces the demand for resupply operations.

In addition to providing a benefit for soldiers, the electricity-generating backpack could provide wearable, renewable electricity for disaster-relief workers operating in remote locations, as well as forestry service workers, medical aid relief workers, hikers, campers, and hunters.

Thank you to Keith ZS5WFD of HAMNET KZN for bringing us a brief report-back on Hamnet KZN’s involvement in last week’s rally:

He says “Ten operators assisted with the event which covered a total of 11 stages over the two day event which started on Friday 9th March.   Ballito Lifestyle Centre was chosen as Rally HQ with the top parking level area  being cordoned off for the use of rally support teams.  This gave a good opportunity for the general public to get up close and see the rally cars and their service crews at work. A shuttle bus service was also on offer to take the public to designated spectator points in the various stages throughout the two days.

“Weather conditions were very hot and dry on both days making for some difficult conditions for the radio operators at start and end of the dusty stages out in the sugar cane fields.

“A total of 20 teams entered on day 1,  9 teams in R2N Class with the remaining 11 teams in the Open Class.  I am pleased to report that no serious accidents or medical emergencies occurred, but only 11 teams completed the event, the majority having to retire with mechanical breakdowns.  It was also pleasing to note that no incidents were received of private vehicle incursions onto the live rally stages which was a problem encountered on the previous rally on the South Coast.

“The special stage on Friday night around the Ballito beach front drew a large crowd who came to see the blazing headlights, hear the screeching of tyres and the exhaust explosions around the very tight circuit.

“Communications between stages worked extremely well with probably 90% conducted on 145.550 MHz simplex.  From Rally Control I had direct communication with all but two operators, but Dave ZS5HN, strategically situated on a high point on both days, was able to relay their communications to me.  The previous monotonous task of passing stage book-in, start and elapsed  times was replaced by taking a picture of the time sequence sheet and sending it in via a WhatsApp group.  This eliminated any error from our side and the organisers were very happy with the result.

“A big thank you to all that assisted in making the event the success that it was.”

And thank you to you Keith and your team for ensuring the rally went off safely!

In case you thought the Western Cape had cornered the market on droughts, let me tell you that South Africa has declared that the drought afflicting Cape Town and other parts of the country is a national disaster.

The government announcement on Tuesday allows officials more easily to direct resources to drought relief and long-term recovery plans.

The government says the drought is especially severe in the three Cape provinces in the south of the country.

City of Cape Town warned for months of the threat of “Day Zero,” the date when the city would have to close most water taps because of the drought. However, the opposition party running the city said last week that “Day Zero” might not happen at all this year because of water conservation efforts.

The opposition Democratic Alliance says the government’s declaration of a national disaster should make relief funds available for affected areas.

Aid must therefore be equitably distributed among all the affected areas, to bring relief to all communities waiting anxiously for rain.

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

HAMNET Report 11 March 2018

Our neighbour Mozambique was struck by a magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Thursday the 8th, at 10h49 our time. The quake struck at a depth of 6.4km in an area not far from the Malawian border in Zambezia province, exposing a population of about 16000 people in the area to danger. So far, we have not heard of any serious loss of life or injury, but the area is remote and communications sparse.

Meanwhile, in Papua New Guinea, one of the 80 or so aftershocks I mentioned in last week’s bulletin was a 6.7 magnitude shock that left another 18 people dead or injured. This adds to the death toll of over a hundred lives lost last week.

The original quake and subsequent aftershocks were centred in the country’s remote Highlands Region, and a complete picture of the scope of the destruction has been slow to emerge, says a report in the New York Times of 7 March.

“Loss of family houses is spread across the province,” said a report by the Hela Council of Churches. “Many families are sleeping together in temporary camps under canvases.”

The report added that health clinics, water supplies and gardens that residents depend on for food were all damaged in last week’s earthquake.

“Citizens have become traumatized,” the report said. “People are confused and frightened and many more are refusing to return to their own houses.”

The Papua New Guinea Red Cross said as many as 143,000 people could have been affected by the earthquake, with 17,000 displaced from their homes.

William Powi, governor of Southern Highlands Province, told the Associated Press that collapsed homes and landslides had killed at least 39 people in his province, and the blockage of feeder roads was impeding recovery efforts.

“It is beyond the capacity of the provincial government to cope with the magnitude of destruction and devastation,” he said. “Our people are traumatized and finding it difficult to cope.”

Papua New Guinea, which comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and several smaller islands, has eight million people who mostly live in rural areas. It is one of the least developed countries in the region, and the lack of road and communication networks across its mountainous central region has slowed the disaster response, officials said.

“The rugged terrain and loss of communications in the area impacted means it is taking time to build a complete picture of the damage but we know that tens of thousands of people are reported as requiring humanitarian assistance,” Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister, said in a statement on Monday.

A well-known amateur radio personality in America, Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, is this year’s recipient of the Hamvention Awards Committee “Amateur of the Year” award.

Valerie was first licensed in 2006 and has been very active in local Amateur Radio clubs and in ARES. Once she “discovered” HF, she became obsessed with DXing and contesting. In the past few years, she has enjoyed inviting new hams to her station to DX or contest. She has been the pilot or lead pilot for four major DXpeditions.

Hotzfeld is a co-host of the netcast “Ham Nation” and has created several how-to videos on YouTube for the ham radio community. She also enjoys giving presentations on various topics via Skype to Amateur Radio clubs across the US.

She is currently the treasurer for her contest club and the prize chairman for W9DXCC and SMC-fest. In 2017, she became very active in public service, travelling to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to help rescue small animals. She was subsequently deployed to Puerto Rico with the American Red Cross for 3 weeks as part of a group of volunteer Amateur Radio operators, facilitating critical communications after Hurricane Maria. Hotzfeld has said that Amateur Radio has enriched her life because of the challenges and great friends the hobby brings. Thanks to the ARRL News for these notes.

Our congratulations to Valerie – she is a deserving winner! You can watch her insert on Ham Nation every week on You Tube.

Incidentally, her partner, Jerry Rosalius, WB9Z, was one of the Bouvet Island DX’ers pictured in Cape Town after the ship brought them all back after the unsuccessful expedition. Visit his QRZ page if you want to see their antenna farm!

Friday and Saturday saw HAMNET KZN assisting at the Tour Natal Rally on the North Coast, as mentioned last week. We’re hoping the weather was acceptable, that the rally went off without mishap, Keith, and that you will send us a short report of the event for inclusion in next week’s bulletin?

And today sees about 35000 cyclists exploring the Cape Peninsula in the Cape Town Cycle Tour. After last year’s disastrous start, which saw the race called off because of the windstorm at the start, which prevented riders from even getting on to their bicycles, the start has been moved this year to the roads near the Grand Parade, which will prevent the wind tunnel effect experienced last year! Hamnet is partially involved in the communications for this race, and we are aware of some Hamnet members actually riding it. We hope to have some news of this one for you next week too.

From then on, HAMNET Western Cape will concentrate on the Two Oceans Marathon, over the Easter weekend. The Organisers of that race are extremely up-to-date, and everything has been thought of already. Our team has helped to supervise this race for 19 years now, so we are fairly used to it too. Let’s see if the Western Cape will live up to its reputation for raining over the Easter weekend, for which it is notorious. We down here don’t know whether we will be glad or sad if it rains that weekend. Either way, the race will probably go on!

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

HAMNET Report 4 March 2018

Papua New Guinea has been in the news all week. On Sunday the 25th, at 17h44 UTC, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck in the Southern highlands province, endangering a population of 314000 people. By the end of the week, another 82 aftershocks between magnitude 4.5 and 6 had been recorded, an astonishing number.

The powerful earthquake this week killed 31 people, injured dozens and brought work to a halt at four oil and gas fields in a remote Papua New Guinea region, the local governor said Wednesday.

His comments were the first confirmation of deaths from a high-ranking official after the magnitude 7.5 quake severed communications and blocked roads in the central region, hindering assessment of the scale of the destruction.

Southern Highlands Governor William Powi told The Associated Press that communication remains difficult and the death toll may rise. “We are looking at massive, catastrophic havoc and destruction,” Powi said.

“There are people who are traumatized, people in terrible devastation who have never felt this kind of destruction before,” Powi said. “It has really brought a lot of fear into people’s lives.”

Powi said three oil fields and a liquefied natural gas plant run by ExxonMobil Papua New Guinea have halted operations for now as they assess the damage to their operations.

The quake also disrupted work at a large gold mine and at coffee plantations in the region.

Powi said many roads remain cut off by landslides and that supplies will need to be airlifted. Many people live subsistence lives in the area, Powi said.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced an immediate State of Emergency had been Declared for Highlands Earthquake Disaster areas in Hela, Southern Highlands, Western and Enga Provinces.

“This is an unprecedented disaster in the Highlands Region and the appropriate response is underway by the National Government,” the Prime Minister said.

“A State of Emergency has been declared to expedite the restoration of essential public services including healthcare services, schools, road access, airports, power and communications facilities.

“The Emergency Disaster Restoration Team will be supported by Department of Works and Implementation, and all other relevant Government agencies,” O’Neill said.

A spokesman from the country’s National Disaster Centre said a preliminary damage assessment from the quake, which struck the mountainous Southern Highlands some 560km northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, was still incomplete.

Thank you to SBS news for that report.

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, HAMNET Provincial Director for KZN, reports that Hamnet KZN will be providing 10 operators to assist at the Trade Brands Tour Natal Rally taking place next week Friday 9th and Saturday 10th March on the Natal North coast with around 150Km of  special stages (11 stages in total). The Tour Natal Rally has been around since 1959. Traditionally the rally stages for this event have all been on the South coast, so this will be a welcome change for the participants.  Keith Lowes ZS5WFD will be positioned at rally control based at the Ballito Lifestyle Centre.  Friday night will see a special stage along the beach front of Ballito which should draw a good spectator crowd. Saturday sees stages run in Kwa Dukuza (Stanger), Compensation, Doringkop, and Blythedale.

Dave ZS5HN will again operate as “Ops Control” to assist with relaying messages with the challenging hilly terrain in the sugarcane fields in the area.  The Highway Amateur Radio Club 145.7625 repeater gives good coverage into the Rally Control Centre at Ballito.  Communications within the stages will primarily be on 145.550 simplex.

Operators will be positioned at the start and end point of rally special stages to record vehicles entering and leaving stages as well as passing times back to rally control for scoring purposes as a back up to the electronic rally clock systems. Medical Response vehicles will be positioned at the start of stages in case of any reported incidents.

Glen ZS5GD will be in the Chief Marshal vehicle with Barry Neal, and Duncan ZS5DGR will be with the Route Director Jimmy Dewar.

Good luck to you, Keith, and your troops. We hope you have a successful rally.

With the kind of luck that radio amateurs and HAMNET members seldom have, amateur astronomer Victor Buso had a lucky break on September 20, 2016, while he was testing a new camera mounted to his 16-inch telescope in Argentina.
Once the sky was dark, Buso pointed his telescope at NGC 613 — a spiral galaxy located some 70 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor — to take a series of short-exposure photographs. To ensure his new camera was functioning properly, Buso examined the images right away. This was when he noticed that a previously invisible point of light had appeared on the outskirts of NGC 613, and the point was quickly growing brighter in each successive image.

In no time at all, astronomer Melina Bersten and her colleagues at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata learned of Buso’s fortunate photo shoot. They immediately realized that Buso had caught an extremely rare event — the initial burst of light from a massive supernova explosion. According to Bersten, the chances of making such a discovery are between one in ten million and one in a hundred million.

“Professional astronomers have long been searching for such an event,” said UC-Berkeley astronomer Alex Filippenko, whose follow-up observations were critical to analyzing the explosion, in a press release. “Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that cannot be directly obtained in any other way. It’s like winning the cosmic lottery,” he added.

Once Bersten realized that Buso had accidentally witnessed the first optical light from a normal supernova explosion, she contacted an international group of astronomers to plan and carry out additional follow-up observations over the next two months.

Based on all the available data, the researchers believe that Buso captured the first optical images of a supernova undergoing “shock breakout,” which occurs when a supersonic pressure wave from the star’s rebounding core slams into the gas at the star’s surface. This generates a tremendous amount of heat at the star’s surface, which causes a burst of light that rapidly brightens.

Thank you to Astronomy Newsletter for the story of this lucky break and valuable photographic evidence.

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

 

HAMNET Report 25 February 2018

HAMNET is shocked to read in ARRL News that the chair of the International Amateur Radio Union Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee, Jim Linton, VK3PC, of Forest Hill, Victoria, Australia, died on February 22 of thyroid cancer. For many years, Linton was a consistent and reliable source of news and information regarding Amateur Radio disaster response activities in IARU Region 3.

A Life Member of the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA), Linton received the G.A. Taylor Medal in 2011, the WIA’s highest honour, for his service to the WIA Centenary Committee and contributions to Amateur Radio over many years. Linton was involved in WIA’s communications, marketing, and publications efforts, and he served as the news editor for Amateur Radio magazine. He was a past president of Amateur Radio Victoria and was its public relations officer.

A veteran radio enthusiast, Linton joined the WIA as a teenager and shortwave listener. IARU Secretary David Sumner, K1ZZ, called Linton, “a tireless worker for the common good.”

HAMNET sends its sincere condolences to his family and to the Wireless Institute of Australia.

Cape Town DX and HAMNET enthusiasts went the extra mile to host the 3Y0Z Bouvet Island team, who got a warm welcome back to terra firma on February 17 upon arrival at Cape Town, South Africa, following their return voyage from Bouvet Island according to ARRL News.

The 3Y0Z DXpedition had to be called off due to adverse weather while the team was sailing within view of the sub-Antarctic island, which is #2 on the Club Log DXCC Most-Wanted List. The team’s vessel Betanzos also suffered an engine failure, and it was decided that, with just one engine, Cape Town was the closest safe destination.

Among the greeters in Cape Town was South African Amateur Radio League (SARL) President Nico van Rensburg, ZS6QL. A 37-foot ketch with a crew of South African hams on board met Betanzos outside the Port of Cape Town. The beleaguered 3Y0Z team had been at sea for more than a month, logging some 9,000 maritime mobile contacts en route.

“For some, this has been a difficult time, but now stability and dry land are on the horizon,” team co-leader Ralph Fedor, K0IR, tweeted as Cape Town came into view. “Thank you once again to all of you for your support during this difficult time.” The team presented a signed 3Y0Z banner to the Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre.

There is a ten minute insert in this week’s “Ham Nation” videoblog covering the 3Y0Z team’s arrival in Cape Town, with pictures and description of the Sunday buffet lunch hosted by the Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre at the Royal Yacht Club. Look up “Ham Nation 339” on YouTube, and skim to the 44th minute, to see the insert.

Further news from the (other) Bouvet Island DXpedition 3Y0I, is that Members of the expedition to Bouvet Island will be doing more than handing out contacts to the world’s community of DXers. According to the 3Y0I Bouvet Island DXpedition, this will mark the first-ever Polish-led expedition to Bouvet, and it will include geographical exploration of the island, a trek to the top of the island’s glacier, Olavtoppen, at 760 meters (nearly 2,500 feet) above sea level, and photo and video documentation of the team’s voyage to Bouvet and stay on the island, both for sponsors and the Norwegian Polar Institute. The DXpedition also will place what 3Y0I is describing as a “time capsule” on Olavtoppen. A dependency of Norway, Bouvet is considered to be among the most remote places on the planet.

“Such gigantic geographical isolation, combined with severe weather conditions, and a lack of communication channels in this region of the world, Bouvet Island is one of the least-visited places on Earth,” the 3Y0I website describes. “Fewer people have put their feet on Bouvet than on the surface of the moon. Our expedition is really an expedition into the unknown.”

Bouvet is #2 on the DXCC Most-Wanted List, right behind North Korea, from which 3Y0I DXpedition leader Dom Grzyb, 3Z9DX, operated briefly in December 2015. “Over 1 million hams from all continents are waiting for a contact with Bouvet. No wonder. The last time Bouvet Island was heard on the amateur bands was 10 years ago,” the team’s website said.

The DXpedition’s members face a voyage of up to 3 weeks on often-stormy South Atlantic waters. Grzyb has raised the possibility of live online video feeds from the trip, as well as social media exposure. The contingent of DXers will set sail from South Africa on a seagoing yacht adapted for extreme weather.

No dates for the 3Y0I DXpedition have been announced, but it will take place during the sub-Antarctic summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thank you to the ARRL letter of February 22 for these notes.

Returning to science for a moment, you will have noted the high Planetary A and K figures of the last few days as high speed solar wind streams reach Earth.

On 22nd February, a magnetic observatory in Lofoten, Norway, picked up unusually pure low-frequency magnetic waves rippling around the Arctic Circle.

Known as “pulsations continuous” (Pc), these rare magnetic oscillations can energize particles in our planet’s magnetosphere, boosting the brightness of auroras. Indeed, strong auroras are being seen right now in Scandinavia.

You may visit Spaceweather.com to learn what caused these Pc waves and to monitor the ongoing display. Even when the Sun has no spots or activity on it, it influences our ionosphere.

Continuing our thoughts on contact with Extra Terrestrials, world renowned physicist, Prof Michio Kaku, has said we will first discover extraterrestrials by “listening in” on their radio communications. He concedes there is no way of knowing what their intentions will be. However, he does believe there will be a major gap that renders communication impossible.

He was asked: “If we make contact with alien civilisations, then what? And how will we talk to them?”

Prof Kaku responded: “Let me stick my neck out. I personally feel that within this century, we will make contact with an alien civilisation, by listening in on their radio communications. But talking to them will be difficult, since they could be tens of light years away.

“So, in the meantime, we must decipher their language to understand their level of technology and their intentions. Will they be expansive and aggressive, or peaceful?” Only time will tell. Thank you to the Daily Star for these thoughts.

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

HAMNET Report 18 February 2018

Hamnet is in a pickle! Why, I hear you ask?

Well, in an article published in Science Alert, the question is asked: “If we receive a message from Aliens, should we delete it without reading?”

Scientists have been conducting multiple surveys in the hopes of find indications of “technosignatures” – i.e. evidence of technologically-advanced life (such as radio communications), for at least 50 years.

To put it plainly, if humanity were to receive a message from an extraterrestrial civilisation right now, it would be the single greatest event in the history of civilisation.

But according to a new study, such a message could also pose a serious risk to humanity. Drawing on multiple possibilities that have been explored in detail, they consider how humanity could shield itself from malicious spam and viruses.

The paper, titled “Interstellar communication. IX. Message decontamination is impossible”, recently appeared online.

The study was conducted by Michael Hippke, an independent scientist from the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany; and John G. Learned, a professor with the High Energy Physics Group at the University of Hawaii.

Together, they examine some of the foregone conclusions about SETI and what is more likely to be the case.

To be fair, the notion that an extraterrestrial civilisation could pose a threat to humanity is not just a well-worn science fiction trope. For decades, scientists have treated it as a distinct possibility and considered whether or not the risks outweigh the possible benefits.

As a result, some theorists have suggested that humans should not engage in SETI at all, or that we should take measures to hide our planet.

As Learned told Universe Today via email, there has never been a consensus among SETI researchers about whether or not ETI would be benevolent:

“There is no compelling reason at all to assume benevolence (for example that ETI are wise and kind due to their ancient civilisation’s experience).

“I find much more compelling the analogy to what we know from our history… Is there any society anywhere which has had a good experience after meeting up with a technologically advanced invader? Of course it would go either way, but I think often of the movie Alien… a credible notion it seems to me.”

In addition, assuming that an alien message could pose a threat to humanity makes practical sense.

Given the sheer size of the Universe and the limitations imposed by special relativity (i.e. no known means of faster-than-light travel), it would always be cheaper and easier to send a malicious message to eradicate a civilisation compared to an invasion fleet.

As a result, Hippke and Learned advise that SETI signals be vetted and/or “decontaminated” beforehand.

In terms of how a SETI signal could constitute a threat, the researchers outline a number of possibilities.

Beyond the likelihood that a message could convey misinformation designed to cause a panic or self-destructive behaviour, there is also the possibility that it could contain viruses or other embedded technical issues (i.e. the format could cause our computers to crash).

They also note that, when it comes to SETI, a major complication arises from the fact that no message is likely to be received in only one place, making containment possible.

In the end, it appears that the only real solution is to maintain a vigilant attitude and ensure that any messages we send are as benign as possible.

As Hippke summarised: “I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that a message will be positive, but you cannot be sure. Would you take a 1 percent chance of death for a 99 percent chance of a cure for all diseases? One learning from our paper is how to design [our] own message, in case we decide to send any: Keep it simple, don’t send computer code.”

Basically, when it comes to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, the rules of internet safety may apply. If we begin to receive messages, we shouldn’t trust those that come with big attachments and send any suspicious looking ones to our spam folder.

So if Darth Vader decides, with evil intent, to send you a possibly encrypted 3D hologram from Death Star, either by audio, or digitally on your PC, do think twice before opening the attachment, will you?!

On the other hand, if some of you had given up all hope of receiving a HAMNET message from Bouvet Island because the 3Y0Z team is sadly in Cape Town licking its wounds instead of working a pile-up on the island, there may be hope ahead.

The ARRL Newsletter of 15 February notes that Peripatetic Polish DXpeditioner Dom Grzyb, 3Z9DX, and four other operators announced over the weekend that their postponed plans to mount the 3Y0I DXpedition to Bouvet Island are back on.

“Our trip, planned originally at the end of 2017, was cancelled at the request of the organizers of the 3Y0Z expedition,” an announcement said. “Due to the cancellation by the [3Y0Z] organizers, we are now returning to the implementation of our project and preparations for our trip as a matter of urgency.”

DX-World has reported that the 3Y0I license has been renewed and a landing permit — good for 1 year — issued by the Norwegian Polar Institute. While no specific dates for the DXpedition have been announced, the 3Y0I team said its plans call for operating during the sub-Antarctic summer, which suggests they could be on the air late this year.

The 3Y0I team said it has chartered a seagoing yacht adapted for extreme weather conditions to make the 12-day, 2,800-nautical mile trip from South Africa to Bouvet Island. The team anticipates operating for about 2 weeks. In addition to 3Z9DX, the 3Y0I operators will include Stanislaw, SQ8X; Leszek, SP3DOI; Branko, YU4DX, and Frans, J69DX.

However, the sun is having the last laugh at the moment. The magnetic canopy of sunspot AR2699 exploded on 12 February, for more than 6 hours. The blast produced a C1-class solar flare, and hurled a Coronal Mass Ejection directly at Earth.

For the last three days, Earth has been experiencing a Geomagnetic storm, with high A indices of about 12, and K indices of 4 or higher. With a Solar Flux Index currently of 72, you’re not going to hear Darth Vader or Bouvet very clearly for a while yet!

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

HAMNET Report 11 February 2018

Riaan Greeff ZS4PR has sent me a very comprehensive report of the 2018 Value Logistics “The Fast One” Cycle Race, held on the 27th of January. He says Gauteng South, West Rand and Vaal Region HAMNET members teamed up to provide the main communications interface for the event.

On behalf of Leon ZS6LMG and Glynn ZS6GLN, he writes “Just under 5000 cyclists entered this annual event this year.  Regular planning meetings involving the event organisers, the Rotary club, The Midvaal Raceway owners, the Midvaal traffic department, SAPS, the volunteering car guard company in Meyerton, all the sponsors and the emergency services in the form of St. John Ambulance and ER24 ensured that the event started off on a smooth note on Saturday 26 January.

HAMNET set up the operations centre, installed and activated additional 70cm repeaters and used the 145.6375 Vaal Triangle repeater for the main communication services.

APRS tracking units were installed in every ambulance, sweep vehicle and the lead vehicles.  In the operations venue the different representatives of each organisation were set up to connect with their own people via radio and/or cell phone contact.  The cyclists were given access to “MySOS” as a service to send emergency messages to HAMNET.  The national HAMNET phone lines were also active.

HAMNET used an electronic dispatching system for the first time, to manage the dispatch and tracking of all resources.

Every vehicle with APRS tracking was also in contact with the operations centre via UHF repeater coverage.  It is essential that all vehicles on the track have direct communication with the communication centre at HAMNET, since HAMNET provides the most effective interaction between all the parties involved.

Some experiments with the Vaal DMR repeater, as well as the East Rand DMR repeater, also proved successful and this may be a way forward in future events since these repeaters also work very well.

In the operation centre all the APRS positions of all the units around the two routes of 48km and 96km were tracked in real time and displayed on LCD projectors.  These clear and up-to-date displays were very efficient in the transfer of location and real-time incident reporting.

Feedback after the event from the Rotary Club and organisers confirmed that HAMNET was a key role-player in the success of the event.  Swift reaction to the accidents on the route ensured that the ambulances were dispatched to the correct places, saving time.

The team of 24 SARL HAMNET members are keen to return in 2019 for the next event.  Being visible and efficient makes this service such a success.  The public and the people involved all played their parts and HAMNET through amateur radio ensured smooth operations.

Over all, the race had very few casualties, in fact less than 2017, and this is partly due to the effective communication service rendered by HAMNET.

Thank you Riaan, Leon and Glynn, for sending us the photos, and for keeping our flag flying high!

On a smaller, but just as important note here in Cape Town, HAMNET managed the race communications for the 99er Cycle tour yesterday the 10th February. For the tenth time in a row, we provided all the roving stations for the short 64km race, and the long 99km distance. The Western Cape had been promised about 10-15mm of rain overnight by the Clerk of the Weather, but he/she was hopelessly wrong, with less than 5mm measured. However, the little rain did cool the day down, and the wind was mild, while some cloud kept the race temperatures in the early 20’s.

The Metro Incident Command Centre bus was used by the medical team, and two HAMNET members managed radio communications with 10 Rovers out on the route, divided up into suitable sections. All Rovers, all ambulance and response vehicles, and the three main sector marshals, were monitored on APRS, which was enhanced by a temporary digipeater installed on the slopes of the farm Meerendal, as a gap-filler for blind spots.

The long race set off at 06h00, and the winners were back by 08h35, while the short race started at 07h30. Three thousand one hundred riders rode the two races, and a cut-off to weed out the stragglers was effected at 10h30 about 30km from the finish for both races, while the race closed at 12h30. There were a few minor injuries, but no serious multiple pile-ups, and all the plans to manage major catastrophes were unnecessary. In fact the race was mildly overshadowed in Cape Town by the fire which broke out at Mitchell’s Plein District Hospital, almost requiring us to surrender the Metro Bus for use managing the fire. We understand there were no actual casualties at the hospital, but over 200 patients had to be transferred to other facilities. Never a dull moment in Cape Town!

Anyway, the race authorities were their usual magnanimous selves in thanking HAMNET Western Cape for contributing to a safe race, and we arrived home in the early afternoon after a job well done. This author thanks ZS1’s EEE, OSK, DAV, PXK, JM, VDP, JNT, GS, XS, CO, S, DUG, MOM and OK, for their generous help.

The Cape Town Cycle Tour comes next down here, for part of which HAMNET shepherds the riders, and then at Easter, the Two Oceans Marathon takes place, for which we take full responsibility for the roving, and the cut-off points.

There has a been a 0.7 percentage point drop in the dam water levels in Cape Town, to 25.1% this week. However, because the agricultural quotas for the season  down here have been met, future water usage will diminish a bit, and so our predicted day zero date has been shifted out to 11 May. It is clear that more people are trying more to live on as little water from their taps a day as possible. The inhabitants of Cape Town will never look on water as a  never-ending supply ever again.

Even if the drought is broken, it will be very difficult not to shower with a bucket between one’s feet, or not to attempt to use the same litre of water as many times for as many purposes as possible! Never a dull moment in Cape Town!

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

HAMNET Report 4 February 2018

An article in RADIOWORLD, on 1st February, discussed the false incoming missile alert raised in Hawaii on January 13, 2018.

In the minutes after the false missile Emergency Alert System alert was delivered in Hawaii, there was a great deal of general confusion — a lack of communication, general perplexity about the next steps, and phone call after phone call that didn’t get through to the right recipients.

But one group in particular said it knew exactly what it felt it had to do. While an official retraction from emergency officials of the alert did not come until 38 minutes had elapsed, amateur radio operators were able to confirm within 13 minutes that the Hawaii EAS alert was false.

“The big thing is, when all else fails, we’re able to provide emergency communications as required,” said Mike Lisenco, a member of the board of directors for the Amateur Radio Relay League.

At a hearing on  25th January, called by the Senate Commerce Committee, Lisenco discussed the role that amateur radio operators played in responding to the Hawaii EAS alert response. He noted that amateur radio, as a distributed form of communications infrastructure, is easily adapted to changing emergency conditions in disaster response situations.

And in this case amateur radio operators in Hawaii were well-prepared for the emergency event.

“Ironically, amateur radio members in Hawaii had just been drilling 20 hours before the actual false alarm, so everything was fresh on their minds,” Lisenco said during the hearing.

Rumours and stories began to circulate through various VHF and UHF repeaters about the alarm as part of the Hawaii State Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. Amateur radio operators picked up a conversation from a Coast Guard vessel outside the area that was relaying news that the alert was false. The operators, taught to listen for a local siren that indicates a true emergency, realized that siren had not sounded.

The result was that amateur radio networks were able to disseminate validated cancellation information long before the cellular networks via WEA were able to do so, Lisenco said.

“Because they were able to disseminate that information freely, they were able to get word out right way [that the alert was false],” Lisenco said.

At the hearing Sen. Roger Wicker asked why amateur radios are considered valuable in a situation such as these.

“We’re not dependent on the [same] infrastructure to operate,” Lisenco said. “And because we understand how radio works, we’re able to adapt quickly to many situations.”

The use of amateur radio proved vital during Hurricane Katrina, Wicker’s office said, when amateur radio operators helped restore communications lines with FEMA, the Red Cross, and other disaster relief entities when the primary emergency response network was down.

“We have amateur operators both within and outside a disaster area,” Lisenco said. “That gives us a unique ability to disseminate information within a disaster zone that others don’t have.” During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, amateur radio operators within the flood zones sent information to the outside to get first responders to where people needed help, he said.

And the official NASA website has issued an article written by Erik Lopez, discussing the ways in which Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) connects and inspires the world. The four ways are:

1) First-hand education about life in space

ARISS events educate students, teachers, and parents about living and working in space.

2) Direct connection with astronauts

Each ham radio contact brings a  student closer to space by connecting them directly to an astronaut aboard the space station. Each contact could potentially plant the seed of a future career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

3) Sharing amateur radio technologies

Ham radio educates the general public about amateur radio technologies, providing an opportunity for amateur radio experimentation and evaluation of new technologies.

4) Building global partnerships 

Like the space station, ham radio represents a multinational collaboration among different organizations to achieve one shared purpose. Each contact connects audiences from around the world, further uniting the world in the efforts of space exploration. Since 2000, ham radio has reached 57 countries in which more than 1,000 schools or organizations have been involved.

Thank you, Erik, for these thoughts!

The Martinsville Daily wonders if you have ever wondered why 2-way communications around the world commonly include the person on the receiving end saying “Roger” or “Roger that?” Well… here’s the story of how it came to be…

The first radio communications were in Morse code. In order to speed things up, abbreviations were used for everything. If the message was received the receiver would indicate this by responding with the letter “R”, abbreviation for “received.” When voice replaced Morse code as the preferred method the phonetic alphabet was used for letters to avoid confusion. The word “Roger” was assigned to the letter “R” at that time, so when the receiver got the message he/she would respond by saying “R” which meant received. Since protocol dictated the used of phonetics, “R” became “Roger.”

The first meeting of the Western Cape Division of HAMNET takes place this week on Wednesday evening, the 7th, at 19h30, at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg hospital, and all interested hams are welcome to attend. And our first sports event takes place this coming Saturday the 10th, out of Durbanville. It is the 99km cycle race, called appropriately the “99er”, and takes the riders out almost as far as Wellington and then back towards the N7 via Philadelphia, before using the N7 to get back in to Durbanville via Vissershok. Thirteen radio teams will shepherd the riders along the route, and the weather looks good at this stage for next Saturday. I’ll report back in a future bulletin. Umm.. Roger?!

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