HAMNET Report 17 September 2017

Stationed in an empty field at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter, South Carolina, Virginia Tech electrical engineering Professor Greg Earle and his team waited for the total solar eclipse of 2017. Rather than travelling toward the path of totality to see one of “nature’s most awe-inspiring sights,” Earle prepared to put his three-year-old hypothesis on radio propagation to the test.

With roughly two minutes to run diagnostics for the bulk of their project, Earle and his friends sat nestled between high-powered radars and transceivers. In the still of silence, they heard the sound of crickets turn on like clockwork, confused by their early bedtime call at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Over a dozen colleagues were involved in the making of vertical radar equipment that extrapolated data before, during and following the period of artificial light induced by the total solar eclipse.

After studying the ionosphere in graduate school, which is a part of the sky that conducts atmospheric electricity above 50 kilometres, Earle used his specialized research to understand unquantified events such as auroras and later eclipses in terms of radio, GPS and radar operation.

The eclipse, according to Earle, writing in the CollegiateTimes, will give him an opportunity to collect astronomical research with at least three separate technologies that were nonexistent in the early 1900s.

Not only are GPS receivers global now, allowing researchers to mine an extraordinary amount of data per cubic mile, but Software Defined Radio is barely a decade old. This programming function gives a computer the capability to act like a radio receiver but at an even faster speed.

These tools, partnered with the knowledge of thousands of wave frequencies from competing HAM radio operators, is what Earle believes separates his work from serendipitous discovery.

When an eclipse happens the artificial night allows more radio energy to generate signal strength rather than being consumed by the neutral particles in the ionosphere.

With over 700,000 HAM radio operators in the United States, all operating in the same frequencies, being monitored by Virginia Tech’s research team, Earle designed rules for a radio contest that would test wave efficiency, with tasks like, “How quickly can you make contact with someone from all of the 50 states?”

Once the Reverse Beacon Network goes through these logs, it will then be made available for this scientific study.

If artificial night could be manipulated in the future, Earle says that this research could lead to more secure communication between government officials in top secret situations.

“Once we know the effects better, there may indeed be people, especially in the Department of Defence (DOD) community who look at that seriously as a way to change the communication channel either for ourselves or for anybody we are currently having a conflict with,” Earle said.

In order to comprehend the extensive science behind a solar eclipse, Earle relates the world to a paper map and the eclipse to the lens on a magnifying glass; however, the roughly circular region that is magnified will act at wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye. The goal of his project is to look at as many rays propagating through that intensified region and its signal by-products, as possible.

Although it is estimated that the research will not be released to the public for another year or two, Earle has received instantaneous feedback from SuperDARN radar equipment, courtesy of a Blacksburg company, which has seemingly confirmed their simulations suggesting low frequency propagations to give long propagation paths in the eclipsed region.

The team is currently working on a presentation of findings for a meeting with the American Geophysical Union this December.

Thank you to the CollegiateTimes for this extract.

The ARRL Letter for 14 September carries news of the other two geophysical events of the last week. Hurricane Irma sowed death and destruction over Central Florida last weekend, and resulted in significant river flooding over most of the Florida peninsula. Millions were left without power. Thirty Florida counties were under mandatory evacuation orders, and thousands took advantage of Red Cross shelters.

SKYWARN nets activated in the West Central Florida Section and elsewhere to gather severe weather information, and Florida’s Statewide Amateur Radio Network conducted a coordination and assistance net to help communicate between the county EOCs and the State EOC and to provide assistance to Amateur Radio operators in other ways, time permitting. The priority during the weekend was tactical shelter communication, EOC communication, and SKYWARN nets as Hurricane Irma approached. “Once Irma was downgraded to a Tropical Storm, our focus shifted to collecting post-storm reports and handling emergency and priority traffic only,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said.

As if Earth’s weather was not bad enough already, an X-class solar flare at around [18h00 our time] on Sunday, September 10, hobbled the HF bands. The widespread communication blackout lasted for nearly 3 hours and “could not have happened at a worse time,” Graves said. “But,” he added, “we cannot control Mother Nature, only work around her.” Earlier solar flares had also affected HF propagation.

Greg Mossop G0DUB announced on Friday that “Mexican Radio Amateurs are activating again to deal with Hurricane Max which is due to hit the area of Guererra in the next few hours. They will be using 7060 and 14120 kHz for this storm and are also watching Tropical Storm 15-E, also known as Norma, which will move to the North of their country over the next few days.” So please keep away from 7060kHz and 14120kHz these next few days, until the all-clear is given.

Finally, the British “TX Factor” episode 18 launched yesterday, and is available for you to view, on their website, www.txfactor.co.uk. This episode covers the recent YOTA activity week in London, at which South Africa was represented, and a look at moonbounce, using the 32 metre dish at Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall.

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

HAMNET Report 10 September 2017

Well, more and more natural disaster news comes through. For the first time in recorded history, there were two hurricanes in close proximity to each other bearing down on the Caribbean with sustained wind-speeds of greater than 150mph (or 240kph). They are Irma and Jose, and, as I write this on Saturday afternoon, Irma is approaching Florida, and expected to move straight up Florida’s straight axis this evening, our time, having ravaged a lot of the Caribbean islands since Thursday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, on Thursday, the Dominican Republic had its population of 10.7 million in shelters as the hurricane churned overhead, Turks and Caicos experienced a storm surge of 6 metres on their low lying islands, Anguilla’s 17000 people reported significant structural damage and at least one death, St Barts suffered rooftops ripped off their houses, an electrical grid disruption, and rivers of debris flowing through streets. The dual nationality island of St Maarten/St Martin, suffered at least 8 deaths amongst its total population of 77000 people, Barbuda reported damage to 95% of all structures, and the death of a 2-year-old, but neighbouring island Antigua was less affected. And Haiti, which still hasn’t recovered from its previous hurricane Matthew damage in 2016, is being shored up as Hurricane Jose approaches.

Sadly, John ZS1JNT, tells me that friends of his on St Maarten island report widespread looting of the damaged boats there for anything sellable, and a supermarket opening its doors, letting the locals help themselves, to prevent further damage to their buildings by the looters.

The ARRL Bulletin dated 8 September says:

Please be aware that due to the breadth of this series of weather events, numerous emergency and public service nets are in session, especially on the 80, 40, and 20 meter bands. All stations should be aware that in a large-scale natural disaster, immediate threats to life and property can happen quickly. In order for Amateur Radio to play an effective role in supporting humanitarian efforts, it is key that all licensees cooperate to minimize potential on-air problems.

Amateurs should also be aware that the primary users on the 60-meter channels are using those channels extensively. Amateur stations, as secondary users, must ensure that their communications are conducted in such a manner to ensure that Federal government stations, as primary users, can have immediate use of any 60-meter channel. Amateurs, please make sure you are leaving adequate breaks between transmissions to allow the primary stations to use the frequency. If a primary user does break into an amateur contact on the frequency, the amateurs involved should immediately cease their transmissions.

At this time, it is ARRL’s understanding that only Amateur Radio Emergency or Amateur Radio Priority traffic is moving in and out of the affected areas. Amateur Radio Health and Welfare communications are being queued up for later delivery into the affected area, as the emergency and priority traffic eases.

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) reports its frequency being used as of Saturday afternoon is 14.325 MHz, while the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) is operating on 14.265 MHz.

Meanwhile, a smaller category 2 hurricane, named Katia is hovering on the North coast of Southern Mexico, and Greg Mossop G0DUB notes:

The National Emergency Network of the Mexican National Society (FMRE) declared on September 8 that they would be using the following frequencies as they prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Katia.

20m 14.120 MHz
40m 7.060 MHz
80m 3.690 MHz

14.325 MHz was also expected to be used to co-ordinate with the USA Hurricane Watch Net.

And at least 61 people have died after the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in a century struck off the Southern coast on Friday morning at 04h49 UTC.

The magnitude 8.1 quake, which was felt as far afield as Mexico City and Guatemala City, was registered off Mexico’s southern coast just as heavy rains from Hurricane Katia lashed the east. The epicentre was in the Pacific Ocean, some 1,000 kilometres southeast of the capital and 120 kilometres off the coast.

With the Earthquake hitting Mexico on Friday, we should assume that these frequencies are in use now as they respond to that disaster.

Various Winlink nodes may also be used to deal with the emergencies.

With HF propagation disturbed after the solar flare on Wednesday, Greg asks that we take all steps to avoid interference to emergency communications activities in the Caribbean.

To add insult to injury, a series of massive explosions on the Sun caused a radio network designed to warn people of the hurricanes in the Caribbean, to go on the fritz during the time period when it would have been issuing information about Hurricane Irma, both the manager of the network and a NOAA representative confirmed to Motherboard, whom we thank for these notes.

Solar flares like the ones reported this week are known to interfere with high frequency radio signals. “When that solar flare happens, it’s like static frying,” Bobby Graves, Net Manager for Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), told reporters over the phone. This group of licensed amateur radio operators, based across North and Central America and the Caribbean, works with the National Hurricane Centre to disseminate information about storms. When a solar flare happens, “it’s like they just turned the radio off,” Graves, who lives in Brandon, Mississippi, said.

Bob Rutledge, lead forecaster at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre, confirmed receiving “isolated” reports from the Caribbean about radio blackouts related to the series of solar flares observed on the Sun this week, including from HWN. “It’s truly a complete radio blackout,” Rutledge said. “The signal just can’t get through.”

HWN also gathers data from people on the ground and sends the information back to the NHC in Miami, according to Graves. He said that blackouts this week lasted from 20 minutes to up to four hours.

“It’s sad, knowing you’re trying to get the information out, or maybe someone out there is trying to talk back to you,” Graves told me. Radio operators have to wait out the solar storm, and “hopefully the people are still there when the frequency is recovered.”

Starting on September 4, a series of solar flares belched radiation and solar plasma at Earth—including three of the largest and most powerful types of solar flare, which are called X-class, Rutledge told Motherboard. Many more were M-class, a lower designation.

One was an X9.3 flare, the largest recorded in about a decade, according to NASA. NOAA’s space weather agency issued warnings for geomagnetic storms, which are major disturbances in our planet’s magnetosphere that can meddle with all kinds of technologies we rely on, including satellites, radio communications, and GPS signals. According to Graves, these storms make everything sound “gurgly,” like you’re talking “underwater.”

Just what the emergency networks in the Caribbean needed this week!

Let it not be said that we don’t live in interesting times…

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

HAMNET Report 3 September 2017

The World Wide Web this week has been flooded, if you’ll pardon my choice of words, by news of Hurricanes and Monsoon rains.

In Texas, one meteorologist estimated that by the time Hurricane Harvey subsides it will have dropped a mind-boggling 95 trillion litres of water across the state. Certain locations along the Gulf of Mexico are expected to see as much rain in a few short days as is typical in an entire year. Harvey has wrought havoc along the Texas Gulf Coast, just as meteorologists warned it would. The previous benchmark for flooding in an American city was Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which dumped 40 inches of rain on Houston in five days, killing nearly two dozen people and causing $5 billion in damage. Harvey delivered as much rain as Allison in roughly half the time

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers have been pitching in to support communication at some Red Cross shelters in south Texas in the ongoing aftermath of catastrophic and unprecedented flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey, now a Tropical Depression. ARES members also have been serving as net control liaisons to the Harris County Office of Emergency Management (OEM). At mid-week, some 3 dozen volunteers were assisting at shelters. Another dozen were on tap to serve as OEM liaisons. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said the Red Cross is in need of Red Cross-trained shelter managers and volunteer management specialists.

A variety of emergency, health-and-welfare traffic, and tactical nets in south Texas have been active on HF at various times of the day as well as on a wide array of VHF and UHF repeaters, which remain available as needed. On August 31st, the National Hurricane Centre reported that flooding rains were continuing across far eastern Texas and western Louisiana, with heavy rainfall expected to spread north-eastward through the lower Mississippi Valley and into the Tennessee Valley over the next day or two. ARES volunteers are on standby in Louisiana.

Earlier this week, ARES team members were advised that the impact to the region’s communications infrastructure had been relatively minimal, considering the strength of the storm and the magnitude of the flooding. The storm did ravage cellular service in some Texas counties, however, especially Aransas (84%) and Refugio (73%) counties, the FCC reported. Overall, however, the FCC deemed the cellular system 95% functional.

ARRL South Texas Public Information Officer Mike Urich, KA5CVH, told ARRL on August 30th that “hardening” of the telecommunications infrastructure to make it more immune to storm damage had diminished the need for Amateur Radio communication support and altered hams’ traditional role there. Urich pointed out, however, that the Amateur Radio telecommunications infrastructure in South Texas has remained analogue, as “the lowest common denominator” of technology — VHF/UHF FM, and HF — and has the highest degree of interoperability. “That’s what we train to, that’s what we teach, that’s what we practice,” he said. Urich said the area’s extensive system of repeaters makes it possible for local radio amateurs to serve as “another set of eyes and ears” in spotting and reporting problems that may require official attention.

320, or 4%, of the 7,804 cell sites in the region were out of service, the WSJ reported. And although most cell towers have backup batteries, they only last about 8 hours, and if they’re flooded or their equipment is blown away, they’re toast.

On the government side, FEMA does have an app to push information about disaster preparedness, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the FCC is working to protect communications networks, monitoring outages, working with the Department of Homeland Security and state and local partners, and has activated the Disaster Information Reporting System.

Thank you to the ARRL and many American News agencies for these details.

Another Hurricane, this one called “Irma” is starting to be felt in the Atlantic and predictions forecast that this storm will be heading toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Meanwhile, across the globe, seasonal monsoon rain has inundated the Eastern side of India, with the major affected area being most of the Bihar state villages. National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India, Jayu S. Bhide VU2JAU, reports that HAMS from East Bengal and Patna were in action passing messages during the flooding. 1300 deaths were reported and about 8 million people have been displaced. This kind of makes Hurricane Harvey seem mild, by comparison.

The emergency communications teams helped the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams. All HAMS assisted in controlling the communication on VHF mainly. The situation was brought under control, and the NDRF rescued most of the people identified by the HAMS in their message handling. The affected areas now mainly face a problem with drinking water as all the boring pumps are contaminated due to the flood. Fresh water and food packets are reaching the flood area. The monsoonal rain also affected neighbouring Bangladesh but no report on emergency communications from there has been provided.

Monsoon rains also hit early on Tuesday August 29 causing flooding in the Mumbai and Pune areas with immediate action by local HAMS helping out during the adverse weather. All traffic was disrupted, even local trains and buses were submerged and unable to move. Children stranded in a school were left hungry and the electricity also went off.

Satish Shah VU2SVS and Ankur Puranik VU2AXN and 50 HAMS involved arranging food and power for the school. The HAMs of Mumbai were in touch with each other, even those who don’t have a VHF transceiver. The ‘ZELLO app’ was used to connect those without suitable radio equipment to interface with a VHF HAM radio frequency. Many workers were stranded in their offices or at railway stations until midnight. Looking after the central railway in Mumbai were the Bharat Scouts & Guides that had undergone previous disaster communication training. The recent rain is likely to remain for a while, with schools and offices closed. All the HAMS are kept on alert by government and local bodies should their communications be needed

– Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee with Jayu S. Bhide VU2JAU National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India.

As the saying goes “Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink!”

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

HAMNET Report 27 August 2017

Dave Holliday ZS5HN has sent in a report on last week’s iSimangaliso four day mountain bike event. He writes:

HAMNET KZN assisted with Communications for the 2017 iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day Event held from the 17 – 20 August, this year starting in Mkuze Reserve, going through Phinda Reserve, both home to the Big 5, on past Lake Sibaya and then Lake St Lucia. Our communication channels were good, using VHF Simplex with a High Site Relay, Mike ZS5MB and Rob ZS5ROB running Ops Control, and with Communications with the Phinda Rangers on their Radio Network. Dave says he was at the JOC, John ZS5J served as a Rover, and Craig ZS5CD and Guy ZR5GB drove the 2 Sweep Vehicles patrolling the route.

The JOC and Ops Control also had communications with the Doctor, Medics & Ambulances on Event VHF Portables.

Each day both the JOC and Ops Control Relay moved to new positions to cover the route as it progressed Southward towards St Lucia. On the 4th day the route was around St Lucia so HAMNET was not required, and returned back to Durban.

Early on the second day, Guy ZR5GB was injured when the vehicle he was in hit a tree in Mkuze Reserve, when the driver lost control. Guy suffered bruises to his left & right ribs, but is apparently making a good recovery at home.

The formal report issued also refers to all kinds of minor accidents and damage to vehicles, broken axles, lots of vehicle and cyclist punctures, and minor injuries to riders and sweeper crews. Animals got in the way, routes had to be changed on the fly, as trees fell across the tracks, and the ambulances were kept busy with a total of 44 injuries amongst the riders.

All in all, an eventful race, I’d say! Thank you Dave for your work and the report.

Two tropical storms in both Western and Eastern Hemispheres are demanding attention. Off the coast of China, Tropical Cyclone Pakhar -17 is manifesting winds of up to 139km/h and sweeping westwards towards Vietnam. Two point six million people are being threatened by wind speeds of up to 120km/h.

And in the Bay of Mexico, Hurricane Harvey is making landfall over Southern Texas with wind speeds in excess of 200km/h. Half a million Texas inhabitants are in its path. Thursday’s warnings carried recommendations on safe behaviour, making communications plans with your family, stocking up with essential household goods and food, and preparing your house for the strong winds. Even distant family members have been advised on how to maintain contact if possible, and how to support their Texas families during the hurricane’s traverse of Southern Texas. Mandatory evacuations have been announced of areas expected to be hardest hit, and Red Cross workers have been mobilised in preparation for shelter management.

Our usual source of information, Greg Mossop, G0DUB, IARU Region 1 emergency communications coordinator notes that, as Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas coast in the USA, various nets are activating as part of the emergency response. In addition to tropical and hurricane-force winds along the Texas coast and further inland, the main concern with this storm is heavy rain and flooding in an area which has not has a hurricane make landfall for nine years.

Many of the frequencies used will be outside Region 1 allocations in 80m and 40m but there are some on 20m which may suffer from Region 1 QRM if operators are not careful. The US National Hurricane Centre station WX4NHC activated at 1900 UTC 25th August on 14.325 MHz. The Hurricane Watch Net operates from 1500 UTC on their daytime frequency of 14.325 MHz. When the 20 meter band closes they are likely to move over to 7.268 MHz. The VoIP Hurricane Net was expected to activate at 2 PM EDT/1800 UTC on Friday 25th August.

The Southern Territory SATERN Net was due to activate for one day on Saturday, 26 August 2017 during local daylight hours on its regular frequency of 7.262 MHz.

And shortly before making landfall on the Texas coast yesterday morning early, our time, the Hurricane was upgraded to a category 4 storm, exceeding all previous predictions.

At ARRL Headquarters, the Emergency Preparedness Staff continued to keep a close watch on Harvey and on Amateur Radio Emergency Service preparations in Texas and neighbouring states. ARRL staff had been coordinating with the American Red Cross, where some 600 Red Cross Volunteers were en route to South Texas. W1AW has been in monitoring mode but will activate, if needed. The ARRL New Mexico Section remains on standby and has offered assistance, if needed. Mexico’s national association for Amateur Radio, FMRE, has also offered assistance.

As of yesterday afternoon, nearly 100 evacuees were in seven open shelters. Another 50 shelter locations were on standby. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, reported yesterday that it anticipated some 20,000 individuals will require sheltering for 4 days, and 10,000 will require sheltering for 14 days. “This is expected to be a long-haul event, up to 6 weeks,” he said in an afternoon update.

It is also possible that Harvey may retreat into the Gulf of Mexico after hitting Texas, regain strength, and then make a second landfall in Louisiana. That state is at a Level III activation.

All these notes were written on Saturday afternoon. You, the reader or listener, may have far more information by the time this bulletin is made available.

After my mention of 47% of statistics quoted being inaccurate last week, National  HAMNET Director Paul van Spronsen, ZS1V, has written in to point out to me that this is mainly due to the fact that 99% of all statistics are invented on the spot! I wonder if he made that up….?

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

HAMNET Report 20 August 2017

A group of six HAMNET operators assisted with the event communications at the Kogelberg Wildrunner Trail Run which took place in rainy conditions at Kleinmond on Saturday morning, 12th of August.  The six operators consisted of: Matt ZS1MTF and Steven ZS1DAD who operated from a location where having vehicles with high ground clearance was essential.  John ZS1JNT and Douw ZS1DGK operated from the golf course parking area, while Peter ZS1PDE and Alister ZS1OK operated the base station located in the parking area of the Kleinmond beach and lagoon.  It was the first time that Steven and John had been involved in a trail running event.

Conditions were rather wet, with regular rain squalls during the event and this impacted the runners having to negotiate areas of large standing water in some of the trail areas. Because of the wet conditions they mostly operated from within their vehicles. Fortunately there were no serious incidents during the event and support of the communications went off well without issues.  Thank you Alister ZS1OK for the report.

Greg G0DUB has reported from the IARU Region 1 Emergency Comms section that the IARU Region 1 conference will be taking place in Landshut, Bavaria, in 31 days time. The different IARU working groups have been asked to have meetings on Sunday 17th September and the Emergency Communications meeting will be at 14:00 in room S.0.211 for two hours.

From earlier responses and the participants list, Greg knows the following people who are listed as Emergency Communications Co-Ordinators will be present at the meeting:

7X2RO, YO3CZW, TF3JA, 9K2QA, 9H1PI, ON7TK and C31US.

The original aim of the WG meetings was to provide good input into the main meetings of the IARU conference. Since Greg does not have many Emergency    Co-Ordinators who are also in their National Society Delegations he thought a meeting could be better spent as an introduction to Emergency Communications to those countries who are not involved yet.

And in another report, Greg, G0DUB, says that Cesar Pio Santor HR2P has reported that as Tropical Storm Harvey passed through the Windward Islands in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN) was activated as flooding was reported in Barbados along with some houses losing their roofs. Jeff, 9Y4J, hopes to provide more detail, once more information is collected on the situation in the area, and also on the activities that amateurs are involved in by the passage of Tropical Storm Harvey on the islands of the Caribbean.

The CEWN Network uses the frequencies 7,162 kHz and 3,815 kHz according to propagation conditions. The storm is expected to continue through Central America until Thursday. When a more detailed report is available from Region 2 he will post it to the website.

Times Live reports that KwaZulu-Natal’s disaster management teams were on high alert as extreme weather conditions hit the province.

The MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)‚ Nomusa Dube-Ncube‚ appealed to residents‚ particularly in areas prone to heavy snowfalls and flooding‚ to heed the advice and updates from the South African Weather Services when planning trips that require driving or any other outdoor activities.

“We are specifically appealing to parents to ensure that all school-going children avoid precarious routes that are prone to flash flooding. We urge all schools to plan all outdoor activities carefully and in line with the latest weather updates‚” said Dube-Ncube.

She warned snow watchers to stay clear of affected areas as they risk being trapped if the areas become impassable.

Motorists have also been urged by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport‚ Community Safety and Liaison‚ Mxolisi Kaunda‚ to exercise caution.

Heavy snow has fallen in parts of the Eastern Cape and southern Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal‚ with heavy rain and warnings of flooding expected in the province from Friday.

“There have been reports of snow and mist in some parts of the province and certain parts of the Eastern Cape and Lesotho. I urge all motorists to stay clear of areas where there is snow until the situation is back to normal‚” said Kaunda.

Here’s a good news story, where two-way radio saved the life of a runner. The Otago Daily Times reports that a woman who got lost while running in bush near Bluff in Southland was able to contact friends of her plight by cellphone before her battery died.

But police search and rescue volunteers still had a bit of work to do to find the 33-year-old. The woman’s friends called Invercargill police at 7.25 pm on Tuesday. “Contact with the missing person was lost when her cellphone battery died,” police said.

Twelve search volunteers from Invercargill Landsar and amateur radio emergency communications groups, along with police, were involved in the search.

The woman was found at 11pm south of Omaui “slightly cold, but in very good health,” police said. The two-way radio I referred to? Cellphone comms, of course!

Finally, let me leave you with a glimmer of light at the end of the Western Cape’s drought tunnel. The Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town has finally released details of the plans to provide desalinated water at about 4 different sites, to claim water from the ground and the Table Mountain Aquifer by means of several specialised boreholes, and to reclaim water from water treatment plants in and around Cape Town. The campaign to encourage the community to use less that 87 litres of water per person per day continues, and may even be further restricted in future water restriction announcements. The small amount of rain we’ve experienced in the last week or two have actually increased the average dam levels in the Western Cape by two percentage points to 30%, though still badly down on the 57% at this time last year.

And lest you all take me too seriously, may I remind you that research has shown that 47% of all statistics are inaccurate!

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

HAMNET Report 13 August 2017

Keith Lowes ZS5WFD says that the route of the 18,6Km run, and 6,5Km fun walk, of the Kloof Conservancy Three Falls Trail Run offers magnificent views of the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, including its rich fauna and flora, as well as the Kloof Falls, Uve Falls, and mPhiti Falls.  Hamnet provided 14 operators this year to assist with the event which started at 06H30 on Sunday 6th August 2017 from Forest View Primary School in Waterfall.  306 runners entered the event and were joined by 41 walkers. A total of 294 runners finished the race, making for 12 that did not complete the course for various reasons.

Communications were via 145.500 or 550 simplex as well as the 145.625 Highway Amateur Radio Club repeater.  Keith had a link to the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife repeater which a number of other marshals were using.

At approximately 09H50 a report was received from Jon Sargood who was a volunteer with Rescuetech and also running the race, of a female runner with a suspected broken ankle that required assistance.  Brad ZS5Z was requested to proceed to the location to establish a direct communications link from the scene.  Information to hand was that the patient would be unable to make her own way out and Rescuetech would be required to assist in carrying her out in a Stokes Basket Stretcher.  Meditech had already been notified and despatched to the scene.

Rescuetech’s Chris Williams (ZS5CJW) was notified and requested to mobilise his team to a point approximately 600m down from the Kloof Falls picnic site.  It took approximately 1 hour to stabilise and safely bring the patient to the picnic site where Meditech’s ambulance was waiting to transport the patient to hospital.

Keith extends his sincere thanks to all that assisted with the event to ensure a successful outcome for all involved.  It was a great opportunity to forge good working relationships with all of the emergency services involved.

There are lots more trail run events taking place in the Western Cape these next four weeks. Yesterday saw the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve hosting the Wildrunner Cape Winter Trail race at Kleinmond. Alister ZS1OK managed the six operators who helped shepherd the runners, and all seems to have gone well.

Next weekend, the17-20th August, the third iSimangaliso Mountain Bike Ride takes place, this year starting in Mkuze Game Reserve and going through Phinda Game Reserve (both home to the Big Five), passing Lake Sibaya and ending at Lake St Lucia.

Hamnet KZN will be providing the Communications, linking the Event Control, the JOC, 2 High Site Relays, 3 Sweeper Vehicles, the Mkuze & Phinda Rangers, a Spotter Chopper to look out for any dangerous game along the Route, 2 Paramedics and the Ambulance!

We greatly look forward to hearing and perhaps reading about this event on the HAMNET webpage. Thanks to Dave Holliday ZS5HN for that news.

Then, next Sunday the 20th August, Peter ZS1PDE is organising the communications during the Helderberg Mountain Challenge, in Somerset West. Four operators are needed for this race, and we wish him luck with the undertaking.

Alister ZS1OK is looking for six HAMNET operators to assist him at the Sanlam Cape Town Peace Trail Run on Saturday the 17th September. This forms part of the multi-day Sanlam Cape Town Marathon event. The two races he is working for, are the 22 and 12km trail runs to be run on the 17th, along Signal Hill and Lions Head before descending to finish at the Green Point Athletics track. If you haven’t volunteered your help yet, please consider doing so.

Finally, in the Western Cape early Spring, we have the Marloth Mountain Challenge run outside Swellendam on Sunday the 24th September. This is a big race, needing fourteen operators, but the weekend is a long one, making it easy for the radio operators to get into position on Sunday morning early, and overnighting on Sunday evening before coming back to Cape Town on Monday. Please volunteer your services to Grant ZS1GS if you haven’t already done so.

From the ARRL News Letter this week, we have news that the Hurricane Watch Net activated for Tropical Cyclone Franklin.

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) activated on August 9 to keep an eye on then-Tropical Cyclone Franklin — which was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall between Tampico and Veracruz, Mexico, early on August 10.

“Reports from Mexico were few and far between,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, reported afterward. “We did hear from hams in Campeche and Puebla. Our Spanish operators did a great job in working to find reporting stations on the Mexican 40-meter emergency nets, but we were never able to find stations on the air or else we received interference from elsewhere. During the day, 20-meter propagation was not that good, but we had members in various locations throughout the US, Caribbean, and Central America that were able to reach the affected area.” After an 11-hour activation, HWN suspended operations. “We will continue working to encourage radio amateurs throughout the Caribbean to get on the air and participate whenever a hurricane threatens their area,” Graves said.

The net was monitoring 14.325 MHz on August 10 to gather post-storm reports.

The VoIP Hurricane Net reported that it was informally active from about 1200 UTC on August 9 until 0600 UTC on August 10.

Franklin is now weakening rapidly over the mountains of Mexico and is expected to produce total rainfall of 4 to 8 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches possible. — Thanks to Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, and Rob Macedo, KD1CY and the ARRL News Letter.

This Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 6 August 2017

Michael Muller, ZS6MLV/1  has invited all WSAR operatives in the Western Cape to attend a training lecture to be held on Wednesday 16 August 2017. This will be the first of regular training sessions to be held for WSAR operatives. Although these sessions will be hosted by the Logistics Component, all operatives will benefit from attending.  During this session, we will introduce revisions to the call out process as well as provide updates on current Logistics and Communications issues.

Peter Dekker ZS1PDE has reminded us that the Helderberg Mountain Challenge will be held this year on Sunday August 20th. That is only two weeks away. He says he will need four Ham operators, two at base and two who will have to hike up the mountain with a field medic. The mountain team will have to start hiking not later than 6 AM , because all teams have to be in place at 6:50. Base comms have to be operational by 6 AM.

News of an IARU Region 2 communications exercise in August has been released.

This Emergency Communications Exercise is aimed mainly at amateur radio stations in the countries of IARU R2 Area G: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The objectives are firstly, to help radio amateurs in Area G acquire experience in Emergency Communications, measure response capacity and promote work and cooperation among operators; secondly to count on a database of radio amateurs interested in participating in Emergency Communications; and thirdly, to encourage the operation of stations operating with their own energy, low power, portable and mobile.

The participants will specifically be individual radio amateurs, radio clubs and institutions with a valid amateur radio license in Area G countries: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, but also operators from other countries willing to join the Exercise.

It will take place on Saturday, August 26, 2017, from 21:00 to 23:00 UTC, and  bands, frequencies and modes will be in the 40-meter band, on 7.050 kHz SSB, and
in the 20-meter band, on 14.255 kHz, SSB.

Radio amateurs who, because of their category or equipment, don’t have access to these bands, can participate as listeners. We suggest that they contact a participating radio club or group to follow the exercise jointly with more experienced radio amateurs so that they begin to understand how traffic is managed within a Net.

During the exercise hours, a Control Station will be on the air for each Area G country, and they will operate as Net Control in an consecutive manner, in order to have coverage in the entire Area. The Member Stations from each country in the Area will be available to act as Control Stations, or should delegate this activity to another station, which will be reported before the Exercise.

Given that it is an Emergency Communications Exercise, the retransmission or “bridge” mode must be used whenever necessary, because if someone wants to be heard by the Control but cannot achieve this, it is important that its presence is acknowledged and its message arrives and is recorded, according to the objectives of the Exercise mentioned above.

Stations reporting in the Net will send to the Control Station their Callsign, Name and Location (location and province, department or region).

Thank you to Greg G0DUB, for distributing this information.

The weekly ARRL letter has a very interesting description of the research to be done during the eclipse next week.

Virginia Tech electrical engineering professor Greg Earle, W4GDE, is heading up a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded solar eclipse experiment dubbed CEDAR — Coupling, Energetics, and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions. The experiment proposes to study the effects on the ionosphere of the August 21 total eclipse of the Sun, using a combination of GPS receivers, the university’s SUPERDARN (Super Dual Auroral Radar Network) radar system, HF Amateur Radio, and plasma modelling. Several graduate students and researchers, as well as the Virginia Tech Amateur Radio Association (K4KDJ) and the Amateur Radio community at large have been recruited to help.

“We want to understand how the ionosphere is affected by blockage of sunlight over a relatively short interval (~2 hours), understand how man-made systems are affected by the changes in the ionosphere, and use the data to improve our numerical models,” Earle told the ARRL.  Virginia Tech students Magdalina Moses, KM4EGE, and Xiaoyu “Harry” Han, KM4ICI, along with Virginia Tech electrical engineering professor Bob McGwier, N4HY, are among those pitching in.

Earle and his team  will use the data they collect to characterize ionospheric plasma density variations caused by the eclipse, measure HF scintillation, which are rapid fluctuations of signal phase and/or amplitude, during the eclipse, study the motions of plasma irregularities produced in both the E and F layers, and use numerical models to test cause-and-effect scenarios to compare with empirical data.

“The proposed study will utilize diagnostic capabilities that have never before been used to study a mid-latitude eclipse,” the CEDAR abstract explains. “Through this work we will answer several fundamental questions that remain unresolved, despite previous eclipse studies, and we will engage a huge cohort of non-scientists in gathering data that will constrain our models and enrich our understanding of ionospheric behaviour.”

That “huge cohort” includes participants in the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP), sponsored by ARRL and HamSCI. “During this event, radio operators will actively communicate throughout the eclipse interval over paths that transect the eclipsed region of the ionosphere,” the CEDAR proposal outlines. “These data will include information on the signal strength and maximum usable frequency in various HF bands, which are directly related to the density and altitude of the ionosphere.” The experiment will also draw on data generated by WSPR Net and the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN).

This research may aid understanding of Near Vertical Incidence Skywave propagation during short distance emergency contacts. Thank you to the ARRL for disseminating the advance information .

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

HAMNET Report 30 July 2017

HAMNET in the Western Cape has been busy searching and rescuing again. While the weather has been very un-Wintery, it has suited the walkers and hikers, who have as usual misjudged both the mountains and the weather. A walker in Bainskloof on Sunday last injured his ankle, and phoned his family to ask to be picked up at a rendezvous spot, but never pitched up. By Monday evening, Wilderness Search and Rescue, and HAMNET were involved, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday searching fruitlessly for him. His cell-phone had died, so there were no further contact with him, and as far as I am aware, he has still not been found. The nights are bitterly cold at this time of year, and he wouldn’t have had provisions to last him a week, so the outlook is bleak.

On Wednesday, another call for rescue volunteers came through for a person stuck on Table Mountain. This person was found, made comfortable on Wednesday evening, and extracted off the mountain by Skymed helicopter on Thursday morning.

And on Thursday, a 57 year old male went up the mountain on his own, without his cell-phone, and without telling his family his route, but asking to be fetched at Constantia Neck at 16h30 local time. By 18h28, he still hadn’t been seen, and his family were naturally panicking. Luckily, he was found by 18h48, so all ended well.

A friendly word of advice to everybody who ever goes walking anywhere, not just on mountains: Please tell your family where you’re going, and when you’ll be back; take precautionary food and protective gear, not to mention battery back-up for your phone, and NEVER hike alone! You’ll cause unnecessary anguish to your family, not to mention inconvenience to authorities and volunteers who have to try to find you.

HAMNET could probably have used the services of the Mars Rover, Opportunity, to help search for these hikers, but, believe it or not, Opportunity has “sprained its ankle”, so to speak! During a two-week driving moratorium in June 2017, the rover team diagnosed a stall in the left-front wheel’s steering actuator. The wheel was stuck pointed outward more than 30 degrees.

The rover team was able to turn the wheel to point straight ahead, and now the rover only uses its rear wheels to steer. The steering actuator of the right-front wheel has been disabled since 2006. Since landing on Mars in 2006, Opportunity has driven 45 kilometres.

On July 7, 2017, Opportunity drove to a site in upper Perseverance Valley where it will spend about three weeks not driving while Mars’ passes nearly behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective, affecting radio communications. Opportunity is using its Panoramic Camera to record another scenic vista from its current location. Once full communications resume in early August, the team plans to drive Opportunity farther down Perseverance Valley in order to learn more about the process that carved it.
Thanks to Spaceflight Insider for those notes. HAMNET will in the meanwhile have to resort to humans with tracking beacons and two-way radios to find people!

In an amusing report in the Albany Democratic Herald, Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley, his deputies, and a collection of other agencies are preparing for the total solar eclipse weekend, Aug. 18-21, just like they would any emergency situation or natural disaster.

The only difference is, they know when and where it will happen. But to make matters worse, the eclipse, which threatens to bring a huge influx of visitors to the valley, will take place right on the heels of the Willamette Country Music Festival, an event that adds an entire city-worth of people to the county.

“It couldn’t be worse timing,” Riley said.

Riley added with a wry smile that he has tried unsuccessfully to have organizers reschedule the eclipse, his logic being that such a feat would be easier than calling off the country music fans!

Let’s hope his fears are unfounded – a total eclipse of the sun doesn’t happen every day, so hopefully the people there will be too pre-occupied looking up than with planning any criminal activities!

Greg Mossop G0DUB’s report on the EmComm aspects of the 42nd HamRadio Exhibition at Friedrichshafen says:

The Exhibition attracted 17110 visitors, among them many Emergency Communicators who attended the two meetings for Emergency Communicators at the event or looked at the exhibits in the main hall.

On Friday 14th July, the first IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications meeting was held in the English language with an average 15 attendees from 10 countries. The Open Forum as usual could have lasted longer with many good discussions and points raised. There was a very well received presentation from Alberto IK1YLO and Marco IU1GJE about the RNRE response to the Earthquakes and disasters in Italy in 2016. The results from the RAYNET-UK survey of their groups about the technology they used and how it matched the needs of their users were provided. The session closed with two discussion sessions about how we could organise international networks and when we should think of an event as an emergency. The discussion session presentations have been modified to provide a very short summary of what the session wanted to achieve. Thanks to Greg for the summary.

With the usual gloom, I can report that the Western Cape’s dam levels have risen by only one percentage point since this time last week, at 27% in total. Our biggest supplier, the Theewaterskloof Dam is 20.93% full, half a point up from last week, and 18 percentage points lower than this time last year. We had one rainy day this week, and for the rest, it looks like Spring down here.

Oh well, as Marcelline Cox once said: “One way to make the weather make up its mind and rain, is to hang out washing!”

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

HAMNET Report 23 July 2017

Keeping everyone connected when disaster strikes is a key component of all emergency communications efforts. Without communication, everything else breaks down.

Knowing which roads are open, which ones are jammed or damaged contribute enormously to rescue efforts. Emergency responders have all sorts of tools at their disposal to make sure first responders know what’s going on, but what about your family? How would you make sure everyone is safe?

A cell phone call likely won’t be an option. Cellular networks will be overloaded, land lines could be cut off, and internet disrupted as well. Email and texting may be viable options since they work on different systems than cell phones.

To avoid trouble contacting your loved ones, establish a pre-arranged contact out of your area. If someone is trying to call home in the disaster zone, the call may not go through. Your chances are better outside the zone.

Everybody should call a designated person, and tell them where they are, how they’re doing, and what they’re going to do. Then, you have one point of contact who can help coordinate things.

Amateur radio operators can be the hub that hold communications together in an emergency. They can reach anywhere in the world without the issues linked to phone and cell service. A radio operator might not be able to get you directly to your loved ones, but he or she can get you very close.

Thank you to King 5’s Disaster Preparedness Facebook page for these wise words.

Ward Silver N0AX has written a long article for Nuts and Volts magazine about the effects of the coming solar eclipse on radio signals. He notes that the usual slow change in ionisation in the upper atmosphere as evening approaches and nightfall arrives, will be speeded up and the temporary night-time conditions will last about 3 hours, bearing in mind the slow start of the eclipse and the final clearance of the moon’s shadow. Areas directly within the total eclipse will experience the most unusual phenomena, but areas North and South of the path of totality will also be affected, and DX to all parts of the world may be improved or reduced in intensity.

Radio amateurs will use the eclipse to hold a huge QSO party, to make as many contacts as possible, collecting data at the same time, and documenting the effect the eclipse has on their propagation. Automated receiving decoders, such as CW Skimmer, a programme written by VE3NEA, the Reverse Beacon Net and WSPRNet, will receive CW, RTTY, WSPR and PSK signals and store them. Professional researchers at Virginia Tech will turn all the data into a database that geophysics researchers can use.

Hams enjoy doing this kind of research. Science is what led to ham radio in the first place, and hams have worked with the scientific community since the early days of wireless.  Listening tests by radio amateurs conducted in the early 1920’s confirmed the presence of a reflecting mechanism in the atmosphere, now called the ionosphere.

So the eclipse will not just be a visual delight for those within its path. We wait to hear whether unusual effects were noted this time round. It will be a long time before we experience an eclipse in Southern Africa again.

Solar flux figures continue to deteriorate over this weekend, as the sun settles down again after the coronal mass ejection and resulting solar wind last week, pushed both the solar flux figures and the A and K indices up, both helping and harming our attempts at propagation during the week. The sun is basically spotless this weekend, but  an elevated solar wind stream is continuing to contribute to minor  geomagnetic storming at higher latitudes. Isolated periods of enhanced activity were possible during the last 24 hours. The K index is 5 as I write this, making DX communications poor.

The office of the Premier of the Western Province announced plans some time ago to use a mobile desalination plant, and tap the natural aquifer under Cape Town’s Table Mountain, to prevent a disaster in Cape Town. Boreholes are also to be drilled in hospitals and schools in high-risk areas in an effort to collect additional ground water.

The Western Cape province is facing its worst water shortage in 113 years. The Karoo and West Coast areas of the Western Cape previously declared drought disasters in 2016.

The southern African region has been experiencing a severe drought for almost three years, as a result of the devastating effects of the climatic phenomenon El Niño. The United Nations estimates that over 40 million people have been affected by the drought, which has resulted in the decimation of crops and water resources, leaving millions dependent on aid. While areas such as northern South Africa, parts of Mozambique, and Zimbabwe have benefited from heavy rainfall this year, other areas, such as in southern Angola, remain seriously affected by low precipitation levels.

Examination of the Provincial dam level averages, reveals that the provinces that don’t experience rain in Winter have dams emptying by about one percentage point this week, while the Western Cape has gained one percentage point over last week’s readings. The snow that fell over last weekend can be expected to add considerably to our dam levels as it slowly melts, but, at 25% full, Western Cape dams are very far from the 47% level they were at this time last year. And high pressure cells over the South-Western Atlantic  and Western half of the country are keeping the cold fronts far to the South of us, continuing to keep our Winter rainfall averages very low.

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

HAMNET Report 16 July 2017

Johann Marais, ZS1JM, of HAMNET Western Cape, and Wilderness Search and Rescue, issued a copy of the letter he received from Sanparks in the Eden district this week, after WSAR had assisted in the post-fire period. It read:

“On behalf of South African National Parks, I would like to extend  heart-felt thanks and sincere gratitude to you for taking time out from your work responsibilities and life, to assist in the infrastructure damage assessment of the Garden Route fires.

Without your dedication, commitment and professionalism this operation would not have been a success. It is generous people like you who make our communities a better place, and we thank you for your involvement and support, without you these things would not be possible. Yours sincerely, Len du Plessis.”

Len is the Manager, Planning, of the Garden Route National Park, and in charge of the damage assessment after the fires. While he addressed the remarks to Johann, I’m sure the thanks were also addressed to the nine operators who drove from Cape Town to do the grid-assessment of all the damage. Well done, all!

Talking of fires, there has been a wonderful fire on the Sun this week, in the form of a huge solar flare and a coronal mass ejection from sunspot region 2665, possibly celebrating Bastille Day on Friday! The M-class 2.4 flare was associated with a 10cm radio burst lasting 44 minutes. A minor S1 radiation storm occurred yesterday, a moderate G2 geomagnetic storm may occur today the 16th, and the coronal mass ejection may affect the earth today and tomorrow the 17th.

This mostly affects HF communications across the earth’s poles with commercial pilots flying over the North Pole. Occasionally airlines delay or cancel flights, fearing radio blackouts. Beautiful auroras will also be visible at high latitudes, both North and South, of the equator.

The Sunspot number is currently 58, Solar Flux 94, and K index 1, as I write this on Saturday afternoon. Let’s hope the bands open for a bit while the numbers are temporarily higher than usual.

In a message from Greg Mossop, G0DUB, of IARU Region One, he says that the Winlink development team will be testing a new central messaging server (CMS) system on July 16th from 15:00 UTC until 17:00 UTC (that’s today for two hours). The team says:

“This test requires no action on your part, other than to use the system as you normally would during the period.

However, if you do use it during this period, potential impacts could include:

-Temporary system outage (unlikely)

-Messages from a winlink account to another winlink account that are not retrieved by the addressee before the end of the testing period will be lost. Mail to Internet (SMTP) accounts as well as mail from Internet accounts will not be impacted.

-Mail from Internet accounts may be duplicated (received a second time) after the testing period.

-Changes made to account settings (password, forwarding address, sysop details, etc.) during the test period will be lost.

With these impacts in mind, we hope you help us by using the system during this period.”

The notice is issued by Steve, K4CJX, for the Winlink Development Team. So, if you’re experimenting with Winlink this afternoon, to use during your emergency comms, please bear this in mind.

Then, the TX Factor team has announced that Episode 17 is now available. This regular HD video insert features an intro to DMR, System Fusion and D-STAR, the path taken by QSL cards in getting to and from you, and a visit to a Field Day event with the Norfolk Amateur Radio Club. The URL is at: www.txfactor.co.uk

Then a major disaster was averted in San Francisco by the wonder of radio communications, when the landing of an Air Canada flight at San Francisco International Airport was aborted.

An Air Canada plane with 140 people on board came within 30 metres of crashing on to two of four planes lined up to take off at San Francisco International Airport last week, according to a preliminary report Canadian air safety regulators released on Thursday.

Instead of lining up to land on the runway, the pilot of the flight from Toronto mistakenly descended toward a parallel taxiway just to the right, where four other airliners were idling in the darkness, on Friday the 7th.

As the Airbus 320 pulled up sharply it flew 30 metres over the first two jets, about 60 metres above the third and about 90 metres over the fourth, the summary said.

“This was very close to a catastrophic event,” said John Cox, a safety consultant and retired airline pilot.

Collisions on the ground are particularly dangerous because planes waiting to take off are loaded with fuel. The deadliest crash in aviation history occurred in 1977 when a KLM Boeing 747 taking off in the Canary Islands ploughed into a Pan Am 747 that was waiting to take off; 583 people died in the crash and fires.

According to the report released on Thursday, the plane was less than a mile from the taxiway, flying well over 160 kilometres per hour, when a voice — apparently one of the pilots on the taxiway — interjected on the landing radio frequency, “Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway!”

Only at that point did the controller order the Air Canada jet to pull up. The jet then did another circuit and landed safely on the correct runway. At worst, five aeroplanes would have been involved in the smash, each with 140 people or more on board, and the risk of about 800 casualties or deaths. The matter is under investigation.

Finally, a strong cold front has just passed across the Western Cape, bringing a fair amount of cold rain to this province, snow to high-lying areas, and cold with snow to inland mountainous areas. If the forecast is correct, the Cape should experience about 50mm of rain, which will be nice, but the snow is equally welcome, because when it melts it runs into our dam catchment areas. Here’s hoping…..

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