REPORT 12 February 2017

The earth got shaky again this week, and produced a magnitude 6.3 earthquake 10km below the ground on the coast of Pakistan near the Iranian border on Tuesday at midnight our time. Although a quarter of a million people could have been affected by the earthquake, no major casualty figures have been released.

Meanwhile, the Philippines has also been struck by an earthquake, this one a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in central Philippines on Friday 10th February, 10km below the surface, and with an effect estimated to damage the property, or threaten the lives, of up to 1.9 million people within 100km of its epicentre. Again, no reports of casualties yet.

And Tropical Cyclone Carlos-17 continues to hover just off the South Eastern coast of Madagascar, having affected none yet, but perilously close to the Eastern coast. Maximum wind-speeds have been measured at 120KpH.

And also from the East comes news of a sound like a foghorn on 7, 10 and 14Mhz, which is apparently emanating from a Chinese over-the-horizon Radar, which jumps around and emits a sound in 66.66 SPS bursts. It is apparently a strong signal and is an easily heard station on 7,10 and 14 megahertz. It has been reported to the IARU monitoring service. Several countries use over-the-horizon radar, which often has frequency-hopping characteristics, making it difficult to pin them down. Amateur radio frequencies are often the first targets of this interference, and invoking the authorities to do something about the interference is difficult.

In Cape Town yesterday, HAMNET assisted at a very successful charity cycle race called the 99er, held in and around Durbanville. This is the 18th time the race has been organised as a fund-raising event for charities by the el Shaddai Christian School in Durbanville, and it ran as smoothly as a well-oiled machine, thanks to the dedicated organisers from the school.

HAMNET fielded sixteen operators, of whom two were in the JOC, one supervised a temporary APRS digipeater installed on the wine farm Meerendal, outside Durbanville, and three accompanied section chief marshals on their rounds and provided a link to the JOC. The remaining ten were spread along the route, and all vehicles carried APRS trackers, including the four ambulances and one rapid response vehicle. The day proved extremely hot, and the organisers pulled the last handful off the race just before the cut-off at 13h00, because of the dangers of heat exhaustion.

The Medical team managing the race operated from Metro Emergency Services Disaster bus, but had a wired feed from the HAMNET ops vehicle to provide them with an APRS map, providing up-to-the-minute position information of all rescue vehicles. No serious injuries were reported, and the stand-down took place at about 13h30. The organisers complimented HAMNET and thanked them for their contribution and APRS coverage, which made management of the race easy. Well done, HAMNET Western Cape.

A similar race takes place next Sunday the 19th, but has a smaller field, shorter distances, and so a similar operation will be mounted, but from a different start/finish site. After that, there is a short rest-period for HAMNET to catch its breath before the Cape Town Cycle Tour in March, and the Two Oceans over the Easter weekend. Later in April, a trail run sponsored by Wildrunners takes place, and HAMNET will be there too.

Our weekly inspection of dam level averages around the country reveals that Lesotho, Limpopo. Mpumalanga, and North West provinces have all shown a single digit improvement over last week, but poor Western Cape continues to deteriorate, and now has dams only 36% full on average. As mentioned last week, nearly a quarter of that 36% will be too muddy to drink, when the water levels in the dams reach the last 10% of their capacity. There has been almost no rain in February yet, and this station has recorded 0.2mm of rain so far, plus another 11.2mm in January.

Hurried research is being conducted into the best pesticides to use for the new “Fall Armyworm” infestation reported in about 5 of our provinces. Apparently, the worm comes from the Americas, and was first reported in Africa in Nigeria, but a strong wind can blow the moths hundreds of miles in one night, to where they lay their eggs, and hundreds to thousands of the caterpillars hatch, to wreak havoc on wheat and corn crops before marching on to their next crops areas. Luckily, the South African grain manufacturer’s pesticide officials are very progressive, and had already chosen the best substances to control the pandemic in the country.

With the one sunspot group on the Sun today, and the low sunspot number and Solar Flux associated, near vertical incidence preferred frequencies remain in the five to six MHz region, so your local sky-wave connections will have to be on the 80m band. But don’t be shy – you won’t get a chance to check your equipment and antennas for faults unless you put out a call, and see who comes back. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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

REPORT 5 February 2017

Maize farmers in Limpopo, Gauteng, Free State, North West and the Western Cape have recently confirmed the presence of armyworms, which derive their name from their tendency to destroy vast quantities of crops in a relatively short space of time, making an infestation difficult to contain.

Reports from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have detailed the carnage armyworms can wreak on the production of maize crops, and South Africa needs a plan of action in order to prevent a possible food security disaster. Indeed, the armyworm ‘plague’ has already destroyed 70 % of crops in certain areas in Zimbabwe, 100 000 hectares in Zambia and 2000 hectares in Malawi.

Governmental silence on the issue is alarming, especially considering the far-reaching implications of a possible plague. The arrival of armyworms is a threat to our country’s food security and could lead to further increases in food prices, which will have a negative impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in our country.

If the armyworm is confirmed to be of the American variety, South Africa will also not be allowed to export maize which will then impact on this sector’s ability to sustain jobs.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have been urged to start a process of open dialogue with fellow African countries that have been plagued by armyworms, in order to find a swift solution to this crisis.

From Andrew Gray ZS2G comes this sad news of a rescue attempt at Sardinia Bay, Port Elizabeth. On Sunday afternoon, 29th January,  a 22 year old Zimbabwean student went in to the water to swim. The man entered the water outside of the designated swimming area and this area is not monitored closely by the  lifeguards.

Sardinia Bay is known for its strong backwash and undercurrents. With minutes the swimmer had disappeared under the water. The lifeguards were alerted and swam out to look for the man.

Andrew, ZS2G who was visiting the beach at the time, alerted the PEARS/ HAMNET WattsApp group and asked that those who could come and assist, bring binoculars.

All in all there were 8 people from the PEARS HAMNET group who responded and between them they brought three pairs of binoculars and seven handheld radios. The amateur radio group was tasked to search the rocky shore area next to the beach and this group was the only one on the beach with any binoculars.

The NSRI launched a boat and an Emergency Medical Services helicopter did a search over the water. From the helicopter, a body was seen submerged in the water,  but the waves were too rough for the rescuers  to retrieve it.

On Sunday evening everyone had to stand down. The emergency services have been continuing with the search during the week, but until now the body has not been found.

Andrew, ZS2G ,would like to thank the following who responded to the call:

Mandy ZS2AV, Denise ZS2DG, Colin ZR2CRS,  Graydon ZU2GH,  Mike ZU2MOO,

Dakota ZU2DW, and Bev Higgs , wife of ZS2DH.

Andrew says “A lesson learned by ZS2G during this incident, is always to keep a 2m handheld radio and a pair of binoculars in the car.” Thanks for the insert, Andrew.

And from Riaan Greeff ZS4PR comes a report on the Value Logistics One Cycle Race for 2017, held last Sunday the 29th January. The Vaal Hamnet division was invited by Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN of the Gauteng South Hamnet group to assist at this event. Gauteng fielded 18 hams, while Vaal supplied 10, and they assembled on Saturday in the afternoon to install radios and APRS trackers in the ambulances and set up the JOC and the UHF repeaters.

An army marches on its stomach, and so it was that the Vaal team supplied the evening braai and the next morning’s early breakfast. The start was on time, and the race went well, with accident or incident messages clearly relayed to the JOC, manned by a race representative, both ambulance services, traffic and fire department personnel, and HAMNET. 3600 riders were all home by 13h00, and HAMNET Vaal again fed the team at lunchtime.

Riaan says a lot of positive feedback was received from the organisers, and HAMNET in this region left a positive footprint on the community of Midvaal and Meyerton. Thanks Riaan and Glynn for your partnership on the course.

For the second week in a row, the dams in all provinces except the Eastern and Western Cape, are, on average, slightly fuller than last week. The Eastern Cape’s dams are standing at 58% full, like last week, but far behind the 74% full at this time last year. The Western Cape’s dam are on average 38% full, compared to 40% last week, and 46% this time last year. If you remember that the last 10% or so of the dam water will be too muddy to be used for drinking purposes, you realise that the Western Cape is perilously close to a major problem, with enough water perhaps to last until the end of March. The City of Cape Town is cracking down on inconsiderate users, with stiff fines for abuse of water. Potable water may not be used to wash cars or boats, hosepipes may not be used at all, and watering of gardens by bucket or watering can may only happen before 9am or after 6pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Tough times indeed.

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

REPORT 29 January 2017

The Western Cape had a welcome spell of rain on Friday morning early, with some areas measuring 25mm and others in the Northern parts less. This is the first rain since New Year, and definitely not enough to make a measurable difference to the Cape Peninsula’s storage dams. As of this coming Tuesday, the City of Cape Town will place a ban on all watering of gardens for longer than an hour, and then only on Tuesday and Saturdays, before 9am or after 6pm. No potable water may be used to wash cars, and of course, the use of hosepipes is already prohibited.

Countrywide, the news is not very good this week either. Most provinces have dams at more or less the levels as they were last week, but Eastern Cape, KZN, and Western Cape all have lower levels than last year.

In KwaZulu Natal, Keith ZS5WFD advises us that the Albert Falls Dam’s water level has fallen to 26.1% of full as of last week. So, although large parts of the Midlands have had regular rainy spells, and some of their dams are filling up, the Department of Water and Sanitation has taken a decision to impose restrictions to the greater Umgeni River system, since domestic, industrial and commercial consumers have been unable to achieve a 15% reduction in usage, and farming and irrigation use not reduced by 50%. Restrictions were reduced during the holiday season because of the influx of visitors over Christmas. A blanket reduction of 15% is thus now in place, as of 2 weeks ago. The areas of EThekweni directly or indirectly supplied by a chain of reservoirs all stemming from the Mount Moriah reservoir are thus experiencing water cuts between 9pm and 4am, seven days a week. This is a very serious situation, and we hope that all parts of the summer rainfall area in KZN will get enough rain to refill all these systems before winter.

Wherever you live in the country, please be very considerate of the parlous state of our water supplies, and waste nothing!

HAMNET members are reminded again, of their need to update their membership details on the portal on the HAMNET website, < hamnet.co.za >. Click on the portal tab at the top right, enter your call sign and start the process of getting Chad ZS6OPS to send you a temporary password you can use to change or update your details, before saving the info to the portal. If you choose not to do this update, you will be lost to HAMNET, because the hardcopy database previously held by ZS1TR has been phased out.

Interesting news off the Sun is the arrival of the first sunspot that belongs to Cycle 25. When the new cycle starts the sunspots demonstrate opposite polarity to the sunspots of the previous cycle. Thus it is that the first reversed polarity sunspot group was spotted in the Southern Hemisphere of the Sun last week, to the West (or right) of the midline, and busy disappearing off the edge of the Sun. Before you get all excited and rush off to test the bands, please realise that cycle 24 doesn’t stop suddenly, and cycle 25 start dramatically. There is a considerable overlap, and it may be years before cycle 25 is anything to be proud of. However, we desperately need a bit of optimism these days – the bands are that poor. Near Vertical Incidence propagation charts this week suggest that you will not manage intermediate distance communications on anything but the 80metre  band. The Solar Flux yesterday was 80, but the planetary A index was 20 for the previous 24 hours, the K index at that moment 2, and the geomagnetic field unstable, because of a solar wind stream passing by. If we were further from the equator, we might see Auroras by night.

The World Health Organisation has issued its annual pre-flu season encouragement to people to take flu vaccines before winter. They say:

“The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year, before influenza season begins, although getting vaccinated at any time during the influenza season can still help prevent flu infections.

Getting the flu shot is especially important for those most at risk: pregnant women, children younger than 5 years, people older than 65 years, people with chronic medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, asthma, heart and lung diseases and diabetes, and people with increased risk of exposure to influenza, which includes health care workers.

Influenza viruses evolve constantly. Twice a year WHO makes recommendations to update the vaccine compositions in an effort to match the most common virus types circulating in humans at that time.” End quote.

And while we’re encouraging people to do things, may I please encourage you, being members of the SARL,  quickly to seize the bull by the horns and nominate one of the retiring SARL Councillors or someone else in your area to a post on the Council of the SARL, before Tuesday the 31st January. HAMNET can make more of a difference to the lives of the people of South Africa and our fellow radio amateurs, if we have Councillors who are kindly disposed towards HAMNET.

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

REPORT 22 January 2017

Bad weather continues to plague Europe, and National Emergency Communications coordinators have been reporting in with their details.

Michal SP9XWM says that they started specific weather monitoring 2 weeks ago in Poland, as severe snowfalls started. Networks will be implemented as weather deteriorates. Critical storm weather conditions in coastal areas occurred twice last week.

In Italy Alberto IK1YLO notes that the weather situation in Central to Southern Italy is  very severe, as snow and very low temperatures are experienced.  Communications capabilities are good with no problems experienced. But, after this report came through, Italy was struck by 9 earthquakes of magnitude 4.5 or more on 18 January, and the avalanche we saw reported on, which engulfed a winter hotel and saw many casualties and lives lost.

From Germany, Michael DJ9OZ reports orange warning alerts of very low -15 degree temperatures, a thick layer of snow, some if it banked high by winds of up to 95 km per hour on high mountains in the Black Forrest area.

And in Essex, England, Essex RAYNET was officially notified last Thursday the 12th by Tendring District Council, via the Essex Civil Protection and Emergency Management Team that RAYNET’s support was required due to severe weather warnings in the area. Straight away, Essex RAYNET were en-route to Tendring and, within a few hours, a Control station was operational at Tendring District Council’s Emergency Response Centre in Weeley. Cross-band (2m/70cm) repeaters were active to cover the local area, as well as county-wide for other members of Essex RAYNET.

The group’s primary involvement was to support Tendring District Council, who were coordinating the evacuation of a potential 2,500 residents from Jaywick. Four locations were activated to provide coverage. Essex RAYNET members were deployed to each location making use of a cross-band repeater for robust communication back to Control at the council offices in Weeley. Through the use of cross-band 2m/70cm repeaters, most of the comms could comfortably be achieved using 5 watt handhelds.

In the run-up to an expected tidal surge, most of the effort from the emergency services involved contacting the residents, with police knocking on over 2,000 doors, leafleting residents and messaging via the media, preparing to evacuate the most vulnerable to a rest centre. Fortunately, the tidal surge and the next two high tides turned out to be less severe than expected, and the Raynet members were able to stand down on Friday evening the 13th, after a 40 hour operational involvement.

Thankfully, most of the Western Cape’s severe fires have now been brought under control. Gale-force winds and extremely hot conditions in the Cape have made fire-fighting very difficult, but we know our gales signify your rainfall in the Summer rainfall area, so are content in that knowledge. The fire-fighting teams have been very thinly stretched, some of the firemen working without rest for most of their 24 hour shifts. Local communities have been very generous in their donations of sustenance to the firemen. The most damage to property seems to have been in the Paarl area, where centuries-old farmsteads and large tracts of land under vines or orchards have been destroyed in the blazes.

The situation in our dams around the country, apart from the Western Cape, continue to improve. On average the percentage increase this week compared to last, is 2%, while the Western Cape’s dams have decreased by 2%. The Western Cape’s dams will keep us supplied with drinking water for another 100 days, unless it starts to rain, and rains well. The closer we get to our danger levels, the more stringent will become our restrictions, and it is expected that we will soon be banned completely from watering our gardens. For all to whom this applies, please do everything in your power to use saved water from washing or kitchen usage over and over again, before watering essential parts of your garden with it. Please let no drop of water disappear down the drain unused.

Some of HAMNET Western Cape’s members attended a “think-tank” afternoon yesterday afternoon, to discuss and solve if possible, some of the division’s problems that were raised during the end of 2016 ten-question-survey issued by Grant ZS1GS, the Regional Director. Grant had sent out a list of the accumulated answers to his ten questions previously, and asked those attending to give the responses some thought with a view to planning the training and meeting format for the coming year. The general consensus of opinion seemed to be that more attention needs to be given to the usage of digital communications in emergency situations than is currently the case, and all forms of training or teaching, whether it be in communications, or straightforward advice over antennas, cabling, reusable power options, and suitable radios to own or use, should be encouraged. Unexpected requests to call in on an Emcomm frequency should also be experimented with, to find out who is able to respond, and how quickly.

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

REPORT 15 January 2017

HAMNET South Africa would like to welcome our new SARL Office Administrator Kelley Heslop to her post, and wish her many happy days of interaction with all us crazy folks, as we go about playing radio, and being of service to the community. We hope we don’t drive you mad, Kelly!

Things are looking up a bit, as far as dam levels around the country are concerned. All provinces have recorded higher dam levels this week compared to last week, except the Eastern Cape which is static, and the Western Cape, whose levels have dropped by 2% since last week. Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Northern Cape dams are all now fuller than this time last year, which is most reassuring.

Sadly, the Western Cape has been battling huge fires this week, with large tracts of land and some properties in the Helderberg and Grabouw area devastated, and around Simonstown, where a huge fire broke out dramatically on Wednesday.  This resulted in road closures, large scale evacuation of suburbs, and even herding of baboon troops away from the fires, while small animals like buck, tortoises and snakes were rescued and released elsewhere. Fifty horses were moved from Glencairn stables. Rumours of arsonists seen starting the fires abound, as the authorities investigate their causes.

Meanwhile, over Europe, Emergency communicators are preparing for bad weather, with very low temperatures, storms, snow and potential floods.

Greg Mossop, G0DUB says that RAYNET groups in the UK have been either active or on standby for the last few days to deal with the effects of flooding on the East coast of the country. He has also seen on Twitter that some ADRASEC groups in France have been ready to respond to the weather conditions and now, through Facebook, a notice that 330 000 homes in France have lost their electricity supplies.

Snow and ice have extended down to Greece, and Adrian YO3HJV says that, in Romania, they had heavy snow and Orange Codes for very low temperatures during the week, but no severe alerts were issued for them (RVSU), so they only had to pass routine type traffic.

In some counties there were Red Codes for snow and freezing weather but fortunately, in big cities, the schools were closed. Also in the Eastern counties of Romania, almost all roads were closed during Orange and Red Codes for severe weather, so there were no significant problems.

They had some warnings issued for potential power failures in some areas from the National Electric Energy Company for the next few days but they are prepared for that. There are also some severe alerts issued for the next week but there is no confirmation yet. They are using this relatively warm weekend to prepare for the worst.

In anticipation, in Bucharest,  they started a Winlink2000 gateway on UHF and a very wide area digipeater, which is heard consistently in Bulgaria and can pass information through LZ digipeaters up to the extreme South West of Romania.

They mainly use Office 365 for routine traffic and have issued some training videos to their members on how to set up and use RMS Express as the tool of choice for Emcomm in RVSU.

Thank you Adrian for that insert.

For a way of dealing with another type of fire, a new smartphone app could help smokers stick to their New Year’s resolutions to quit smoking.

Cigbreak Free works like a regular smartphone game, with players having to complete tasks to progress through levels and gain rewards. However, it also incorporates a combination of 37 behavioural change techniques designed to help smokers quit. Some of the techniques are so subtly embedded in the game, that the player will be unaware of their presence. The app also includes a quit journal where users can calculate how much money they are saving.

Games creation processes lecturer Hope Caton, who was involved in the design of the app, said: “The good thing about a smartphone gaming app is that you can play it anywhere. Craving is a short-term thing, so if you get a craving at 11am, you can play the game in the warm until it passes, rather than going out into the cold for a cigarette. You’ve also got something to do with your hands other than smoke.”

The app will be coming to Android and iPhone platforms.

HAMNET in the Western Cape is looking forward to a busy first quarter of the year, with several sporting events up ahead. The first is the el Shaddai sponsored 99er Cycle Tour which happens on the 11th February outside the Durbanville area. We will be providing 18 operators for that event, including APRS tracking of rovers and ambulances. A week later, we will assist at the Lions Journey for Sight and Service on 19th February, also a cycle tour, and also requiring APRS tracking and about 7 operators.

Then, in March, we always assist at what used to be called the Cape Argus cycle tour, and now called the Cape Town Cycle Tour. We are not the primary communications organisation here, but usually assist Delta Search and Rescue by providing radio operators. And finally, over the Easter weekend, we support the medical division of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon on 15th April. Here we provide 16 operators, but use the City of Cape Town’s Tetra radio system, and a proprietary cell-tracking system, used in all the vehicles on the course. The organisation and planning of all four of these races is at an advanced stage, and all HAMNET members in the Western Cape are invited to volunteer their services for one or all of these events, by contacting me at zs1dfr@telkomsa.net.

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

REPORT 8 January 2017

In a report from the website https://phys.org, it has been revealed that natural disasters including storms and earthquakes caused $175 billion of damage in 2016, the highest level since 2012, according to German reinsurance giant Munich Re.

While the year saw a two-thirds increase in the financial impact of catastrophes around the world, casualties from natural disasters were far lower in 2016 than the previous year, at 8,700 deaths compared with 25,400.

Munich Re pointed to two earthquakes on the Japanese island of Kyushu in April and floods in China in June and July as the most devastating natural events, inflicting costs of $31 billion in Japan and $20 billion in China.

North America suffered its largest number of disasters since 1980, at 160 events.

October’s Hurricane Matthew was the worst in the region, causing 550 deaths in Haiti alone as well as $10.2 billion of damage.

Meanwhile Canada battled wildfires in May after spring heat-waves and droughts, costing around $4 billion, while summer brought serious flooding in the southern US to the tune of $10 billion.

And a series of storms across Europe in late May and early June brought flood damage costing a total of $6 billion, with flooding hitting Germany especially badly as well as the French capital Paris.

The April earthquakes on the Japanese island of Kyushu were the most devastating natural events of 2016, inflicting costs of $31 billion in Japan, according to Munich Re

Overall, floods accounted for 34 percent of losses—an “exceptional” figure compared with the average of 21 percent in the last 10 years, Munich Re pointed out.

“A look at the weather-related catastrophes of 2016 shows the potential effects of unchecked climate change,” said Peter Hoeppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit.

But he noted that “individual events themselves can never be attributed directly to climate change.”

An example of the disasters quoted in the above report is the huge multi-fronted fire across Sir Lowry’s pass towards Grabouw in the Cape that has been raging since Tuesday. It is highly suspicious that 106 separate fires started in that 24 hours, and the likelihood of a natural cause for all of them is exceedingly slim.

A City of Cape Town report said that most were extinguished or contained before they could cause much damage, but a devastating mountain fire above Somerset West was still not fully under control, said JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security.

More than 120 firefighters, 12 fire engines and 10 water tankers battled the mountain vegetation fire on Tuesday and worked through the night on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, in a strong southeasterly wind.

“The fire is not yet completely under control. Aerial and ground crew operations are still under way in high-risk areas of the Helderberg basin,” Smith said.

The fire forced the closure of the N2 and Sir Lowry’s Pass in both directions between Grabouw and Sir Lowry’s Pass Road.

“The N2 to Grabouw has since been reopened, while the entrance into Sir Lowry’s Pass Village on the N2 is closed intermittently depending on smoky conditions.”

The road to Bezweni Lodge, which is below the affected mountain slope, remained closed.

There were also fires on the slopes of Table Mountain above Victoria Road in Llandudno, a fire on De Waal Drive in Zonnebloem, and a fire near Big Bay Boulevard on the West Coast Road.

These destroyed large areas of vegetation but did not endanger lives or property. Smith said the Somerset West fire appeared to have destroyed three buildings, including the upper section of the lodge.

Theo Layne, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Spokesperson said, “Continuous assessment is being done to determine if we need more crew or if the crew that we have is sufficient and we just have to rotate them, in order to make sure that they don’t become dehydrated.”

“….. also the workload that is put on them is tremendous because it is a mountainous area, and they are travelling quite a bit up and down the mountain.”

Voluntary evacuations are under way, as the flames on the mountain reach residential areas.

Exhausted firefighters have worked 24 hour shifts containing the fires on all fronts, and the community have responded by delivering large quantities of drinking water and more interesting foodstuffs for the firefighters than the rations they are issued with, to keep their morale up.

Numbers of horses were evacuated from farms along the road to Sir Lowry’s Pass, with owners and helpers arriving uninvited with horse boxes to move the frightened animals. Some horses had to be walked out, because the general commotion made them too skittish to be boxed and transported.

And HAMNET was there. From early on Tuesday evening, HAMNET members joined the convoy of vehicles ready to start evacuating people whose houses were threatened on the pass.

It seems that by Wednesday evening, the fires were largely contained. But HAMNET was already busy on Table Mountain again, assisting with logistic management of tourist rescues. Landing zones had to be established for the AMS helicopters, some of the rescue teams had HAMNET members amongst them climbing to assist in rescues, and occasionally,  a second group had to be despatched to approach the mountain from a different direction, to gain access to the threatened parties.

Table Mountain and surrounds broke the record for rescues in 2016, with Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) being involved in 170 rescues during 2016. WSAR consists of volunteers from the Mountain Club of SA, the Off Road Rescue Unit, HAMNET and Delta Search and Rescue, amongst many others. We assist the Emergency Medical Services in the Western Cape wherever and whenever they need us, and have a duty logistics manager on duty 24/7 to accept requests for help from HAMNET.

Fighting fires uses water, and local dams were severely depleted by the helicopters scooping up water in buckets to dump on the fires. The water levels in the Western Cape dams have dropped by an average of 4% this last week, while all other provinces are the same as last week.

However, the Karee Dam, which supplies Calvinia in the Northern Cape is absolutely dry, and only limited water is available from bore holes in the area. Our thoughts go out to the people in that area, who are parched by their very hot climate at the best of times.

This is Dave Reece reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

REPORT 1 January 2017

Greg Mossop G0DUB has sent us a summary of the Super Typhoon situation in the Philippines, provided by Jim Linton VK3PC, and I quote:

‘Six people have been killed and more than 380,000 evacuated as Super Typhoon Nock-Ten (locally called Nina) cut a path through the Philippines, with the Ham Radio Emergency (HERO) net activated in advance. The Christmas Day disaster cut power to five provinces, downed trees, caused widespread damage, and dimmed the festive occasion in Asia’s largest Catholic nation.

‘The slow moving typhoon made landfall seven times from Sunday evening until noon on Monday. Jojo Vicencio DU1VHY says: “A truly commendable job was done by many radio amateurs who not only gave up their traditional Christmas activities, but had on occasion to stop transmissions because they were in the storm path.”

‘In the Catanduanes were Sider DU4SLT of ARCC, Dexter DU4DXT and Joseph DV4PGS, Joseph of ISLACOM, with other groups in Bicol and Samar-Leyte. All were on HF, and VHF communications were also active.

‘Jojo DU1VHY says that, as the typhoon first made landfall some network stations were off air, with weather reports for Catanduanes of sustained winds in excess of the 200kph mark. Then gradually stations came back giving reports of the terrible damage that had occurred in their areas. As the typhoon swept along the Southern Tagalong areas it made landfall several times. Mannduque was badly hit too, as reported by HERO.

‘Jojo DU1VHY says: “It created a large swath of destruction and debris – uprooted and fallen trees and posts, landslides, impassable roads and other damage. Even our own HERO’s were not spared.”

‘The reports were quickly gathered by the network and relayed to authorities, some tuned in to the HERO net themselves.

‘ “The HEROs persistence in getting back on air, primarily to update the network of hams is truly admirable,” he said.

‘Jojo DU1VHY says: “It has now become a reality that our emergency calling frequency is the most listened to during disasters. Government operators listened in, and some even revealed their presence.

‘ “Armed Forces station Peacemaker in Catarman, for example, broke into the frequency looking for a counterpart station also in Northern Samar.

‘ “A National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) volunteer operator made his presence known saying they were also monitoring.”

‘The Office of Civil Defence (OCD) has two stations that constantly visited the HERO net. From Leyte to Quezon the HERO communications on 7.095 MHz never faltered.

‘Jojo DU1VHY says: “Thank you to all those who willingly gave up their Christmas time to be of service to others. We all must continue to hone our communications skills to meet and be prepared for the future.”

‘About 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, with emergency communications to the community and other agencies provided by the HERO network.’ End quote.

Good news issued by the World Health Organisation this week reveals that an experimental Ebola vaccine was highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial, according to results published in The Lancet last week. The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens, and the findings add weight to early trial results published last year. The vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, was studied in a trial involving 11841 people in Guinea during 2015.

“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenceless,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director General for Health Systems and Innovation, and the study’s lead author. Good news indeed. We await with eager anticipation the announcement of a similar vaccine for the AIDS virus!

As usual, the Dam report for South Africa for the week just finished makes depressing reading. The Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Lesotho, North West and Northern Cape dams all show no change on last week’s levels, but are on average between 10 and 12% lower than the same week last year. Limpopo province has shown a 3% increase over last week, now at 49%, compared to 66 last year, Mpumulanga has gained 2% on last week to 56%, but still less than last year’s 63%, and only North West shows a 10% higher figure than last year, now at 57% full.

Apparently, there have been some quite good rains here and there, but not enough to make appreciable differences to the province’s averages. The Western Cape is in its dry season, and there will have to be a significant wet winter season to get their dams into a state capable of supplying water for the next summer at the end of 2017. To a greater extent, the other provinces rely on Summer rainfall to provide their potable water, and we watch with concern the patchy nature of the rainfall so far.

On a more optimistic note, may I take the opportunity to wish all my listeners and readers a happy healthy and prosperous New Year, full of useful amateur radio activities, showing a keen spirit of volunteerism, and getting involved in helping our fellow citizens when called to help. That’s what we do so well!

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

REPORT 25 December 2016

We have news of involvement by HAMNET members in four emergency situations in the last 2 weeks.

From Andrew Gray ZS2G we hear that 12 HAMNET and PEARS members assisted in fighting the bush fire in the Theescombe area that advanced across the Heatherbank Hill towards the Lorraine area on the 6th December. Local inhabitants were helped to evacuate their belongings away from the threat. Luckily the wind died down that evening, and the fire was brought under control when it reached the grassy areas of Heatherbank.

Over the weekend of the 17th December the same members assisted in the search for a 65 year old lady who had left her home in Lorraine at about 9am that morning. The bushy areas of Lorraine and Kamma Park were scoured without success, and the search was called off at 10 that evening. Next morning early, it was reported that she had returned home unaided at 5.30am, before the search could be resumed. Thank you to the Division Two operators who assisted in the search.

And in Cape Town, we heard this week of two searches occurring simultaneously on Thursday night the 22nd December. Grant Southey ZS1GS, reports that he responded to assist at a search for a 20 year-old female, who had got separated from her family in Newlands Forest and not rendezvoused at 20h30 that evening.

The female and her family were visiting from Gauteng and she had spent the afternoon hiking alone in the area. She was in cellular contact with her mom and had sent her an image of her location but did not arrive back at the expected time. While a search manager was interviewing the mother of the patient, a second call for a male lost on the Hout Bay side came through. This meant that the teams that had gathered were split and some sent to Hout Bay while some remained at Newlands forest to search for the missing lady.

The Hout Bay call was on Kabonkelberg and the patient had comms via cell phone with the incident commander. He was advised to reserve the battery life for when help was closer so that he could be located more easily. Phil Van Den Bossche (ZS1VCC) and Jason Codd (ZS1ZW) were deployed as logistic operators to assist with that rescue.

In the meantime 5 teams of around three people each were sent through the forest to try to locate the missing lady in Newlands. From the image that was sent to her mother it appeared that she was at the contour path 2 hours before her last contact with her mom. Further information from a trail runner showed that she was higher than expected and a team was rerouted to the area and ultimately found her shaken and injured, but  still able to walk herself out most of the way home. However, she was piggy-backed on the last stretch, via Tafelberg Road.  She was transported back to Newlands Forest where she was reunited with her family.

At around the same time the patient on Kabonkelberg was reached and he too was in a exhausted condition and required the assistance of technical rescuers to get him to safety. He was brought down from the mountain and all parties stood down around 05:00 the next morning.

Both these incidents could have turned out tragically, as the weather was deteriorating, and during the night, some rain was experienced.

Grant thanks all those who assisted in the searches.

We congratulate a very active radio club in KwaZulu Natal, the Highway Amateur Radio Club, on its successful display at the Watercrest Mall recently, and reported on in the Highway Mail of 21 December. Members of the HARC are staunch supporters of HAMNET, and many assist with the communications at all the important sporting events in KZN, such as the Comrades Marathon. The display at the Watercrest Mall had the purpose of interacting with the general public, to make known the purpose of the club and to dispel any incorrect preconceived ideas they may have about our hobby. Interested parties may visit their website at www.harc.org.za.

Although the earth’s crust continues to fidget, there have been no severe earthquakes this week. Instead we are watching with concern two tropical storms that are threatening to make landfall soon.

The Philippines are again being threatened by a storm, this one tropical Cyclone NOCK-TEN-16, which is barrelling along from South-East to North-West, across the Northern aspects of the Philippines and towards the Chinese mainland. Maximum wind speeds so far have been measured at 194kph! The estimated population affected by Category 1 (120kph) wind speeds or higher is 12.6 million.

And on a smaller scale, North-Western Australia is being approached by Tropical Cyclone Yvette-16, which may broach the coast in the next day or two. However, wind speeds have not been measured at higher than 83kph yet, so the threat is currently not very great.

But spare a thought for Northern and Eastern Mongolia, currently experiencing vicious winter weather. Mongolia’s livestock and herders are at huge risk. Nothing we experience in South Africa can ever compare with this area’s weather, where temperatures are currently minus 56 degrees Celsius! Mongolia’s traditional nomads are facing a natural disaster known as ‘dzud’, where frigid temperatures and heavy snow cause widespread livestock deaths, threatening herders’ livelihoods. The region is now under 40 centimeters of snow, four times the usual level. The dzud of 2009-2010, one of the most severe in history, saw a total of 9.7 million livestock deaths. As many as 1.1 million head of livestock died last winter, and this winter doesn’t look any better.

On that chilly note, may I take this opportunity, on behalf of all HAMNET members, to wish you all a very happy and safe holiday, wherever you may be. Travel safely, remain vigilant, and above all, remain radio-active!

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

REPORT 18 December 2016

A fire has been raging just outside Plettenberg Bay in the last 2 weeks, with some 30 000 hectares of park land in the Garden Route National Park razed, evidence of the danger created by drought conditions.

The fire, mostly affecting the areas close to The Craggs (about 20kms outside the coastal town of Plettenberg Bay) was declared a fire disaster area. The fire which started on private land on Monday 5 December, jumped to the National Park and had an 11km long active fire line.

Dirk Smith, spokesperson for the Southern Cape FPA, said the western and eastern flank as well as the head of the fire were major concerns. “We had 180 firefighters on the fire line, including three tankers, as well as close to 20 management staff in control of this fire. The fire burnt mainly fynbos areas where there are no structures,” said Smith.

So far 30 000 Hectares of land have been burnt out, and parts of the burn remain very inaccessible in the mountains. Flares-up continue, in spite of some success with back-burns being used to prevent spread in certain directions.

Chris Warren, in his “Off-Grid Ham” blog says that, after careful consideration, he has realised that the random end-fed long wire is the best portable HF antenna for emergency conditions, that is easily erectable, and gives good result. After deciding that, he then looked at various versions of the end-fed long wire, and realised there are three possibilities, all based on simple premises. They should be of stranded wire for strength, at least 17 metres long, or greater than a halfwave length of the lowest frequency you plan to use, and all need an antenna tuner.

Your choices are:

1) Connect your long wire to the centre hole in the SO-239 of the tuner, and earth your tuner to a ground rod. Beware of hot spots along the wire or cable to ground rod where RF burns are possible. This antenna is easy but not very efficient.

2)This one is the same as the first, but you connect the earth connector of your tuner to another long wire, and lay it out on the ground below the antenna, to act as a counterpoise. This type will satisfy your tuner far better than the first.

3) In this construction, you connect coax to your tuner, and at the far end of the coax, install an “UNUN” balun, and connect both the long wire and the counterpoise to that. An UNUN is a simple transformer that matches an UNbalanced antenna to an UNbalanced feed line. This is not the same as a BALUN, which matches a BALanced antenna to an UNbalanced feed line. The UNUN is necessary if your operating position is some way away from where the antenna is sited.

Chris says this last setup is his favourite. The second choice might be ideal for a RaDAR field event, if you need to operate on several frequencies. If you are going to be active on one frequency only, a horizontal dipole cut for the frequency of choice is still the best.

Thanks to Chris Warren and his Blog for the contents of that insert.

And as I write this, news of a magnitude 7.9 earthquake has come through, at 9.51pm local time, Saturday evening, about 45 km east of Papua New Guinea’s New Ireland island, and not very far from last week’s quake near the Solomon Islands, slightly South-east of Papua New Guinea. A tsunami watch has been instituted, but luckily nothing has been reported yet, possibly because the earthquake struck at a depth of 73.4km.

In a message from Francois Botha, ZS6BUU, he says “The thought crossed my mind – the 40m band is dead currently. I would suggest that members – where possible – monitor their respective HAMNET Emergency Frequencies on both 2M and 70 cm links for possible traffic.

I am going to monitor 7.110 MHz, anyway but currently, it is of no use to man or amateur.”

He is about to move to Bloemfontein, and notes that, once there, he will become more active on the 2m and 70 cm links from there. For the rest he is going to try and erect some hidden antennas in his ceiling for 40/20 & 15 M either phone or digital communication.

We wish you well in your move, Francois, and hope you will settle in quickly!

If you are planning to travel over the next two weeks, and can operate VHF or HF from your vehicle, please monitor 7110kHz on HF, or a suitable VHF frequency for the Province or area you are in, and put out calls frequently to announce your presence, and to make it clear to others that you are listening. Please drive very defensively, and always presume the other driver is going to do something unexpected.

May I take this opportunity to wish all the listeners and readers a happy holiday, and a Merry Christmas where appropriate.

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

REPORT 11 December 2016

Between Tuesday and Friday this week, the Earth’s mantle continued to demonstrate its discomfort by producing no less that 55 earthquakes of magnitude 4.5 or higher. Most of them were around the Pacific Rim of Fire as usual, with a magnitude 6.4 shock starting us off on Wednesday the 7th at 00h03 our time just off the coast of Aceh Province in Indonesia. Jim Linton VK3PC of IARU region 3 has been reporting on this, and says Hams are operating emergency communications on 7110kHz there. In his third report on Thursday, Jim says:

“The death toll from the earthquake in Aceh (Indonesia) on Wednesday has reached 100, with nearly 300 injured, and hams providing emergency communications to help with the response. The earthquake struck at 5am local time on Wednesday and the toll could have been much worse with the collapse of school mosques, which were not occupied at the time. IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee’s Dani Hidayat YB2TJV reports that it took two hours for the Ham Radio Group from Orari Aceh Region to reach the earthquake damage zone. An ORARI  Aceh province team (wearing ORARI uniform) lead by Abdullah Ali YB6AA (President), and Ismul Huda YB6AG (Secretary) and other friends supported the emergency communications in the field at Pidie Jaya. They soon received news that Zainal Abidin YC6FZ was injured when his house collapsed but his family were safe. Ismul YB6AG took Zainal YC6FZ to the Banda Aceh Hospital for treatment. Dani YB2TJV reports that 7.110 MHz is being used for emergency traffic, and the activation of hams was notified on the Whatsapp Group of National CORE that handles resources. There were flattened houses and buildings, infrastructure damage and large cracks in roads, in the worst-affected districts of Pidie Jaya and Pidie. As search and rescue teams continued to check the rubble of at least 125 homes, 105 shops and 14 mosques, many hundreds sheltered in a make-shift refugee camp.” End quote.

Slightly East of all this, India is being threatened by Tropical Cyclone VARDAH – 16 as it barrels down on the South-East coast of the country. Wind-speeds of up to 154kph have been measured, and the storm hasn’t formally crossed the coastline yet, lying 840km South-SouthEast of Vishakhapatnam as I write this.

And near the Solomon Islands, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck at a depth of 10Km under the sea, generating a tsunami of up to 3 metres high, on Thursday the 8th, at 19h38 our time. Luckily, there have been no reports of major damage or loss of life. About 35500 people live within 100km of the quake’s epicentre.

In his final message to HAMNET Western Cape for 2016, at our end-of-year function, Grant Southey ZS1GS, Regional HAMNET Director, took the opportunity to thank those in attendance for their support and efforts throughout the year. He noted that not everyone could attend the event, so took the opportunity to thank everyone who had assisted. To everyone that responded to rescues under the auspices of WSAR, Mr Neville van Rensburg asked him to thank them all on his behalf. WSAR acknowledge our contributions and vital input to help save people when they require our services.

Grant continued: “Under the banner of Hamnet, we had an eventful year with the Journey for Sight & Service, The 99er Cycle race, The Two Oceans and the Transkaroo Cycle race.  We also had a few members assist at other WSAR affiliated organizations’ events such as Matroosberg and Cedarberg. The regular Wildrunner events, being Silvermine, Jonkershoek, Helderberg and Marloth Mountain Challenges, also provided ample opportunities for us to put into practice our knowledge and expertise. To all the operators that assisted on these events – THANK YOU! I would also like to make a special thank you to Matt Feinstein, Herlu Mare and Peter Dekker for arranging these events. It is always tough doing the arranging and your efforts do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

”2017 is only a few days away and I do not see it as a repeat of the previous year, but rather as a year of opportunities where, as the leaders of the organisation, we are able to achieve more and better. I already have a planning session on the cards with a few members to help me forge the path forward and I know that we are up to the challenges that are laid before us.

“Remember that opportunities to help our fellow beings in times of need and disaster, take no holidays, so I ask that you remain vigilant and prepared to assist in whatever way you can, monitoring the designated frequencies and remaining “radio- active”. In closing I would like to wish you and your loved ones a peaceful and blessed festive season and I look forward to serving with you again next year.” End quote.

As a member of HAMNET Western Cape, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Grant for providing a shining example of what a Regional Director ought to be. Grant leads by example, and sets a high standard for us all to aspire to!

While I’m at it, let me thank Paul van Spronsen, our National Director, and Francois Botha, our custodian of the FaceBook pages, for continuing to steer the ship so faithfully and carefully, ensuring that we remain the facet of amateur radio that all provincial disaster managements know they can rely on, for communications in times when regular systems don’t work. Let’s keep it that way, shall we?!

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