HAMNET Report 19th January 2020

The International Telecommunications Union has issued its “Guidelines for national emergency telecommunications plan” this week, and notes on pages 80 and 81 that “radio amateurs have supported communications in emergency situations on a voluntary basis since the beginning of radio communications. They are experts in radio communications and have the equipment, skills and necessary frequencies allocated by ITU (2017d) to deploy networks in emergency events quickly and efficiently.

“The support provided by radio amateurs in cases of emergency has the following advantages:
• There is great coverage, due to the large number of amateur radio stations available and operating in all regions and in almost every country in the world.
• The coverage of amateur radio stations becomes a network independent of others.
• There are training programmes and simulation exercises for emergencies developed by national radio amateurs for situations of telecommunications in emergencies.
• They are qualified temporary volunteers who provide skills and experience essential for emergency telecommunications, with the sole purpose of supporting humanitarian aid services.
• They have skill in solving problems related to the use of telecommunications during emergencies with often very limited resources.
• Many amateur radio stations trained to handle emergency telecommunications have alternative power sources, such as battery power, solar power or generator power and can operate during power disruptions.”

Your writer finds it satisfying to note in what good regard the ITU continues to hold amateur radio. Let us endeavour to improve our standing with the authorities even more.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that the ARRL has launched the bi-monthly amateur radio magazine On the Air and has made the premier issue freely available to read on the internet

The magazine’s Editorial Director Becky Schoenfield W1BXY says “Every other month, On the Air will bring you project builds, operating techniques and know-how, definitions to make you fluent in hamspeak, stories from the community, wisdom from experienced hams, and much more.”

The first issue of On the Air January/February 2020, includes:
• A guide to buying your first handheld radio
• Step-by-step instructions for building simple antennas for VHF and HF
• A full-page infographic that explains how the ionosphere makes long-distance radio communication possible
• An “Up Close” Q & A with Jeremy Hong, KD8TUO, who reveals his favourite resources for new hams.
• …and much more!

Read On the Air at the short URL https://tinyurl.com/On-the-Air

Here’s good news of what radio amateurs with a sense of purpose can do for their community.

The Millennium Post reports that a 14-year-old girl was rescued from the clutches of kidnappers, after her grandparents alerted Gangasagar Mela authorities on Tuesday.

Suparna Mondal, a resident of Ghola, Khana in South 24-Parganas, was on her way to Gangasagar Mela along with her grandparents. When they reached Kachuberia Ghat at around 9 am, the crowd increased and she went missing. The grandparents then contacted the additional district magistrate (LR) and narrated the incident. A frantic search for the teenager started and she was traced within five hours.

“We have reunited the girl with her family members after a few hours of search,” said state minister for Fire and Emergency Services Sujit Bose.

“The additional district magistrate (LR) and Dr P Ulaganathan, district magistrate of South 24-Parganas, gave us a special task of tracing the girl. Our ham radio operators in-charge at Kachuberia Ghat – Abhrajit Das and S Sourabh – immediately informed all the team members at different locations across Sagar Island. The girl, along with three youths, was traced at road number five leading to Kapil Muni Temple. When our team members intercepted the youths, they ran away leaving the girl,” said Ambarish Nag Biswas, custodian and secretary of the West Bengal Radio Club (WBRC), an organisation of ham radio enthusiasts.

Well done, people, and thanks to Southgate News again for that insert.

Now, writing in Bloomberg Opinion, Adam Minter reports that smoke and ash erupted on Sunday from the Taal volcano in the Philippines, with the plume rising almost 15 km into the atmosphere and threatening hundreds of thousands of people. The Philippine government mobilized quickly. By Wednesday, more than 38,000 people were staying in evacuation centres, and many thousands more had dispersed to family throughout the country. Meanwhile, the government began to distribute supplies, including 100,000 protective face masks, in and around the eruption zone. There’s little time to waste: Volcanologists are warning that a hazardous eruption could come at any time.

Thanks to their planning, leaders in the Philippines hope that that eruption, if and when it comes, won’t be nearly as catastrophic as it would have been 10 years ago. Back then, the Philippines, like most emerging-market countries, mostly responded to disasters by cleaning up afterwards. Today, preparedness is a national priority, and the Philippines is a model for how emerging-market governments in the world’s most disaster-prone region can be ready for the worst.

Since 1970, 59% of the global death toll from disasters — about 2 million people — occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a United Nations report. Economic losses have also been profound, totalling about US$675 billion annually. The region’s disaster outlook is growing worse because of urbanization in vulnerable areas, degradation of the environment and the influence of a warming climate on extreme weather. In 2018, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for almost half of the world’s 281 natural disasters, and eight of the 10 deadliest. Already in 2020, at least 60 people have died as a result of flooding in Jakarta, and tens of thousands remain in temporary shelters.

Thanks to its location, the Philippines is more vulnerable to disaster than its neighbours. On average, eight or nine tropical cyclones make landfall on its coasts annually, bringing storm surges, flooding and landslides — phenomena that are likely to become more frequent and intensify as the climate warms. The country is perched atop the “Ring of Fire” — a geologically active path along the Pacific Ocean — and is home to 53 active volcanos and fault lines capable of major earthquakes near the country’s biggest cities!

By comparison, South Africa is a very safe haven, when viewed from the point of view of natural disasters. We have much to be grateful for.

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

HAMNET Report 12th January 2020

Anette Jacobs, ZR1D, has sent a very nice summation of activities in which HAMNET Gauteng South participated last year. Some of them were referred to in previous bulletins, but I thought I wouldn’t carve up her report, so here it is:

The cycle races went very well, as usual the guys doing an excellent job. We remember the incident when a motorist attacked Johan ZS6DMX – it was serious but we still had a laugh afterwards. The members acted effectively during the cycle races and where needed, serious cases were dealt with quickly and effectively, thanks to our training. We would like to thank our team in the JOC for responding quickly to the information provided from the field and making sure that every incident was taken care of.

Our meetings every month were all about training. The dedication and effort that Glynn ZS6GLN, Leon ZS6LMG, Johan ZS6DMX and Pieter ZS6PHS put in is highly appreciated. It enables us to enter a situation with insight without negatively affecting ourselves and other people’s lives. Where members could not attend in person, they attended via Discord.

At Hobby-X we received a lot of inquiries about what HAMNET does and what it entails.

The effectiveness of QO-100 was tested with a link from the Wolkberg to Johannesburg, and Leon ZS6LMG and the team also successfully demonstrated being able to provide a video feed via the satellite to the ARCC.

A highlight was when Brian ZS6YZ and Leon ZS6LMG represented the IARU at the ATU Workshop in Maputo early in December. Brian and Leon presented 2 papers during the workshop that were so effective that they resulted in several African States making inquiries about Amateur Radio Member Societies in their own countries, with the intention of getting amateurs involved in their emergency communications plans. Gary Immelman ZS6YI, the only living founder member of HAMNET, and several HAMNET Gauteng South members welcomed them back at OR Tambo.

Sadly, Deon ZS6DAB was shot when he was caught in the middle of a cash-in-transit heist. Again thanks to training, Deon was in hospital in record time and HAMNET members assisted the SAPS to cordon off the scene to enable them to do their work. HAMNET also prepared a helicopter landing zone so that another victim could be airlifted to hospital. Fortunately everything went well and Deon and the other victim are in full recovery. Thank you Leon, for arranging for Chaplains to comfort the victims and their loved ones.

The other sad incident was on the Sunday when 3 youngsters went for a swim in the Blesbok Spruit and got into difficulties. Two of them were saved but the third person unfortunately drowned and was recovered the following day. Again, HAMNET members, through their training, were able to assist and arrange Chaplains and provide waterproof radios for the SAPS divers to use.

When the children of Henri ZS6IIX’s vehicle broke down when returning from the coast, all it took was a phone call to Keith Lowes ZS5WFD from HAMNET KZN, and Koos de Kock ZS5KDK responded to assist them and get them on their way again. This is the type of camaraderie that exists between the HAMNET members.

And lastly to close the year off, a number of the operators responded today to the incident where the Transnet fuel line had caught fire in Alberton, and assisted the fire department, by providing them with handheld radios that they could use effectively to coordinate their firefighting efforts.

Thanks, Anette, for the very nice description of your Division’s efforts in 2019.

Now here’s some useful news for all you fellows that don’t know what to do with your stockpiles of used Uranium!

The website Phys.org reports that chemists have found a new use for the waste product of nuclear power—transforming an unused stockpile into a versatile compound which could be used to create valuable commodity chemicals as well as new energy sources.

Depleted uranium (DU) is a radioactive by-product from the process used to create nuclear energy. With many fearing the health risks from DU, it is either stored in expensive facilities or used to manufacture controversial armour-piercing missiles.

But, in a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Professor Geoff Cloke, Professor Richard Layfield and Dr. Nikolaos Tsoureas, all at the University of Sussex, have revealed that DU could, in fact, be more useful than we might think.

By using a catalyst which contains depleted uranium, the researchers have managed to convert ethylene (which is defined as an alkene used to make plastic) into ethane (which is an alkane used to produce a number of other compounds including ethanol).

Their work is a breakthrough that could help reduce the heavy burden of large-scale storage of DU, and lead to the transformation of more complicated alkenes.

Prof Layfield said: “The ability to convert alkenes into alkanes is an important chemical reaction that means we may be able to take simple molecules and upgrade them into valuable commodity chemicals, like hydrogenated oils and petrochemicals which can be used as an energy source.

“The fact that we can use depleted uranium to do this provides proof that we don’t need to be afraid of it, as it might actually be very useful for us.”

Working in collaboration with researchers at Université de Toulouse and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Sussex team discovered that an organometallic molecule based on depleted uranium could catalyse the addition of a molecule of hydrogen to the carbon-carbon double bond in ethylene—the simplest member of the alkene family—to create ethane.

Prof. Cloke said: “Nobody has thought to use DU in this way before. While converting ethylene into ethane is nothing new, the use of uranium is a key milestone.”

So maybe those buried concrete silos of used Uranium won’t be necessary anymore.

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

HAMNET Report 5th January 2020

HAMNET REPORT 5TH JANUARY 2020

The huge bushfires ravaging large parts of Australia this week occupy centre stage in our first HAMNET report for the new year.

Greg Kelly VK2GPK, President of the Wireless Institute of Australia, reported on 31 December that the WIA has received advice that there are major outages of telecommunications in areas impacted by the bushfires either currently or expected to occur overnight. This disruption advice currently applies to areas of NSW and VIC.

The scope and range of these impacts is unknown at this stage but are predicted to cover all internet and phone (fixed and mobile) and other commercial radio services.

The WIA kindly asks Radio Amateurs to monitor the EMCOM HF frequencies (as per IARU-R3 EMCOM bandplan on the WIA or IARU-R3 website) whenever feasible over the next 24 to 48 hours.

VHF and UHF Repeaters should also be monitored wherever possible.

Amateurs seeking to establish emergency communication should use these EMCOMM frequencies in the first instance, or repeaters if available. Radio Amateurs who are volunteers for WICEN, CREST, etc. should keep themselves updated from the respective websites of these organisations. Emergency Communication is one of the three main reasons Radio Amateurs have access to RF Spectrum. Please assist if and when you can.

As an IARU member society, the WIA has adopted these recommended frequencies. “Centre of Activity” frequencies are not spot frequencies or net frequencies. They are recommended as starting points for emergency traffic which may extend 5 kHz above or below the designated centre frequency.

3.600 MHz.
7.110 MHz.
14.300 MHz.
18.160 MHz.
21.360 MHz.

And, reporting in Amateir Radio Newsline, Graham Kemp VK4BB says that, as bushfires fires consumed more than 4 thousand square miles in New South Wales alone, officials in Australia were bracing for the latest rash of blazes that they said could lead to the most dangerous bushfire week in the nation’s history. New South Wales called a state of emergency and additional fires flared in Western Australia and Queensland. Members of the Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network, or WICEN, were called to harness their radio skills in the face of an overwhelming catastrophe. Edwin Lowe VK2VEL, a Facebook administrator for WICEN New South Wales, told Newsline that hams were deployed to provide logistical support for the Rural Fire Service along with community evacuation and welfare support.

WICEN NSW’s publicity officer Julian Sortland VK2YKS said that hams sent to the Rural Fire Service Command Centre in northern VK2 had begun rotations operating the RFS’ own radio system. Julian said members of WICEN’s parent body, the Volunteer Rescue Association, were staffing the Bush Fire Information Line in Sydney, likely alongside WICEN members.

Edwin said that hams were also functioning as scribes for firefighting Incident Management Teams. He noted, however that it was not so much amateur radio itself playing a critical role here but [quote] “the adaptability and skills of the amateur radio operators who are members of WICEN NSW” [unquote]

In Queensland the VK4RAT VHF and UHF Amateur Radio Repeaters, the VK4RTL 10m 6m and 23cm beacons, the TAC08 CH8 UHF CB Repeater and the SES CH01 Repeater are all off air due to damage done by bushfires that swept through the summit on Sunday evening 10th November.

And summarizing the situation on the 1st of January, 7news.com.au said that

18 people have been killed across this bushfire season – sadly, that number is likely to rise.

More than one-thousand homes have been lost.

Thousands of Australians have been stranded.

The military has been deployed.

Australia is facing a humanitarian crisis.

About 150 fires continued to burn in NSW and Victoria on Thursday.

And all of this happens as NSW braces for a catastrophic weekend of horror weather.

Tens of thousands are also without power after transmission lines were damaged in NSW. Police asked for patience as utility providers attempted to restore power and telecom services.

“We have to make sure that when we restart the power, we do that with safety and confidence, that it will remain on,” NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said.

Residents in Victoria are also still suffering – phones remain cut across much of the region. Tourists on the NSW south coast, a popular holiday region are now being urged to leave as locals and authorities brace for severe and extreme fire danger on Saturday, December 4th .

“Where roads can be accessed, we will be encouraging tourists, especially, to move out of those areas whilst it’s safe to do so,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday, January 1.

Victorian residents were likely to be evacuated by air and sea as the Defence Force began relief operations in the area following a request from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Aircraft, including Black Hawk helicopters, were expected to commence work late on Wednesday, with other aircraft and naval vessels due in the coming days.

The town was hit by fire on Tuesday as 4000 people sheltered on a beach amid apocalyptic scenes.

“The next few days are going to be a lot of hard work and the next few months will be a very long and steady process of helping these communities to rebuild,” Mr Andrews said.

Writing in Echo Net Daily on Thursday, Paul Bibby said that Disaster recovery assistance had already been extended to those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed by fires in the Bega Valley, Greater Hume, Snowy Monaro, Snowy Valleys and Upper Lachlan Local Government Areas.

‘This will help people whose homes or belongings have been badly damaged,’ Federal Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said.

‘Practical assistance is also available to support ongoing firefighting operations and clean-up efforts.

‘Bushfires have been burning for weeks and pose a threat to lives, properties and communities.

‘We are monitoring the situation closely and will provide further assistance to communities as needed.’

Over 2,200 firefighters, incident management teams and more than 100 firefighting aircraft have been deployed to NSW over the past weeks.

Curiously, and almost simultaneously with all these reports, several sources amongst emergency communications groups around the world have pondered why radio amateurs who are involved in these kind of disaster relief activities, are so shy in drawing attention, with the right kind of publicity, to the work they are doing. Amateur radio emergency communication plays a huge role in ensuring stable communications as wired services are damaged, but nobody bothers to blow their own trumpet.

Is it not time that we all start creating more publicity around the important role we can play?

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

HAMNET Report 29th December 2019

For all you post-Christmas couch-potatoes out there, I have bad news for you. Writing in Medical X-press, the American Cancer Society provides fairly hard evidence that recommended levels of physical activity can lower your risk of 7 different types of cancer.

A pooled analysis of nine prospective studies involving more than 750 000 adults finds that recommended amounts of leisure-time physical activity were linked to a lower risk for seven cancers. The study was led by investigators at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

While it’s long been known that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of several cancers, less clear has been the shape of the relationship and whether recommended amounts of physical activity are associated with lower risk. Updated guidelines for activity now state that people should aim for 2.5 to 5 hours/week of moderate-intensity activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours/week of vigorous activity.

The investigators found engaging in recommended amounts of activity was associated with a statistically significant lower risk of seven of the 15 cancer types studied, with the reduction increasing with more exercise hours. Physical activity was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in men, breast cancer and  endometrial cancer in women, kidney cancer, myeloma, liver cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (particularly in women).

The analysis had some limitations. However, the authors conclude: “These findings provide direct quantitative support for the levels of activity recommended for cancer prevention and provide actionable evidence for ongoing and future cancer prevention efforts.”

“Physical activity guidelines have largely been based on their impact on chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said Alpa Patel, Ph.D., senior scientific director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society. “These data provide strong support that these recommended levels are important to cancer prevention, as well.”

So, folks, it’s time to put the remote down, put on your exercise outfit, and take your beloved dog out for a run. Both of you need it!

Phys.Org notes that sky watchers from Saudi Arabia and Oman to India and Singapore were treated to a rare “ring of fire” solar eclipse on Thursday (Boxing Day).

Annular eclipses occur when the Moon is not close enough to the Earth to completely obscure the Sun, leaving a thin ring of the solar disc visible.

While these types of eclipses occur every year or two, they are only visible from a narrow band of Earth each time and it can be decades before the same pattern is repeated.

Depending on weather conditions, this year’s astronomical phenomenon was set to be visible from the Middle East across southern India and Southeast Asia before ending over the northern Pacific.

Hundreds of amateur astronomers and photographers set up by Singapore’s harbour for what some described as a “once in a lifetime” event.

“The next one will happen in about 40 years I think,” said Jason Teng, 37, who took the day off work to photograph the eclipse.

In southern India, people gathered on the beaches in Tamil Nadu to watch the event.

The eclipse even affected cricket, with play delayed by two hours in a first-class match between Mumbai and Rajkot.

The eastern state of Odisha declared a public holiday, with all government offices, courts, schools and colleges closed.

The next annular eclipse in June 2020 will be visible to a narrow band from Africa to northern Asia, and the following one in June 2021 will only be seen in the Arctic and parts of Canada, Greenland and the remote far-east of Russia.

Writing in Science News, Christopher Crockett reports that a new satellite devoted to gazing at planets orbiting other stars has just launched into space.

At 3:54 a.m. Eastern time on December 18, the European Space Agency’s CHEOPS satellite lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana. CHEOPS — an abbreviation of “Characterizing Exoplanet Satellite” — is the first ESA-led mission dedicated solely to the study of planets outside the solar system. The launch was originally scheduled for December 17 but was called off shortly before take-off due to a glitch with the rocket.

Unlike many other exoplanet missions, CHEOPS is not setting out to look for new planets. Rather, it will gather data on exoplanets already found, helping researchers figure out how these worlds were built.

While orbiting Earth, CHEOPS will spend 3½ years looking beyond our solar system for exoplanetary transits: subtle dips in starlight that occur when a planet crosses in front of its sun. The bigger the planet, the more starlight it blocks. By measuring how much the star darkens, researchers will be able to deduce the planet’s girth.

The focus will be to measure precisely the sizes of roughly 500 planets orbiting relatively bright stars. By combining the sizes with measurements of mass — obtained by ground-based telescopes that record how fast a host star gets whipped around by a planet’s gravity — astronomers will be able to calculate each planet’s density, a key metric for figuring out what these planets are made of. Astronomers will also look for hints of atmospheres by tracking how quickly the starlight dims just before and after a transit.

And there’s always the chance that some unexpected planets will wander in front of their stars while CHEOPS is watching.

Transit-hunting is the same technique used by the now-defunct Kepler spacecraft, and the ongoing TESS mission, though CHEOPS has the advantage of knowing exactly when to look for a transit. While the worlds found by Kepler orbit stars that are too faint for CHEOPS to follow up, many planets discovered by TESS are just right, and the two teams are partnering up.

Finally, this is the season to be merry, but it is also the season to do silly things, and so the pleasure resorts, safe bathing beaches, hiking routes, and mountains to be climbed are full to overflowing with holidaymakers. Most of the people holidaying don’t know the areas they are in very well, and accidents abound, waiting to happen. The country is full of volunteer rescuers, from lifeguards, to search and rescue teams, to sea rescue institute crews, as well as all the governmental agencies, who are rushed off their feet at this time of year, saving people from themselves.

HAMNET heartily encourages you, Mr Man or Woman-in-the-street, to volunteer your help in responding to local needs, becoming part of the solution, and not part of the problem. And if you can’t find a cause to support, create one yourself, by cleaning out the local vlei, or trimming vegetation along your road that obstructs vision, or making contact with your local animal rescue agency, and offering to walk the dogs, or brush the cats, or asking at your local supermarket for scrap cardboard or newsprint which can be used to line the kennels of the sick animals. Above all, have a meaningful and productive 2020.

From all of us in HAMNET, this is Dave Reece ZS1DFR wishing you a happy and healthy New Year.

HAMNET Report 22nd December 2019

We start with two rather dramatic HAMNET reports from HAMNET Gauteng South, and via Anette Jacobs, ZR6D. She tells me that, at 18:12 on the evening of 13th December 2019, a call went out on the HAMNET Gauteng South Emergency Telegram group that Deon ZS6DAB had been shot close to the East Rand Branch highsite in Brakpan. Deon ZS6DAB, Leon ZS6LMG and Neil ZS6CKC had been working at the highsite sorting out a problem with the repeater. Deon having left the high site on his way home was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and landed in the middle of a cash-in-transit heist on Springs Road, close to the intersection with Ergo Road. Deon managed to turn his car around to escape, but one of the robbers managed to empty an AK-47 magazine in Deon’s direction. Deon realised that he had been shot and managed to drive back to the ERB highsite where Leon ZS6LMG and Neil ZS6CKC were still closing up the site. Leon and Neil immediately rushed Deon to the closest hospital with shrapnel in his lower back.

A number of the HAMNET Gauteng South members assisted on scene to close off the roads for the SAPS and preserve the scene. Some members who had been trained in helicopter operations assisted with preparing a landing zone for a Netcare helicopter to land and to airlift another unfortunate person also at the wrong place at the wrong time with a bullet in the chest to the Union Hospital in Alberton.

We are pleased to be able to report that Deon is now making a full recovery at home and that the other victim of this senseless crime is also expected to make a full recovery.

Thanks to the HAMNET members, who through their training were able to respond fast and effectively and prevented the loss of lives with this incident.

Deon, we sincerely hope you are already in a good state of health.

In the other report received on Friday, I read that, at around 16:00 on 16th December a report was received that there were two boys in difficulty in the Blesbok Spruit on the outskirts of Springs. Three HAMNET members Neels ZS6NR, Diederich ZS6DVL and Theo ZS6JFW, who is also qualified as a Basic Ambulance Assistant, responded.  They assisted the SAPS getting ropes ready while waiting for the SAPS Dive Unit to arrive. The SAPS Dive Unit succeeded in rescuing the two young men who were holding onto the reeds to keep them being swept away by the current. They could however not find a third missing person. HAMNET also assisted in contacting Chaplains to provide counselling to the friends who were also present at the scene. The search was called off due to fading light and continued the next morning where Neels ZS6NR and Leon ZS6LMG assisted the SAPS divers by providing them with waterproof radios to use on the water. A K9 dog quickly identified the spot where the divers recovered the body of the missing swimmer. Thanks to the Hamnet members who assisted with this incident and our condolences go out to the family and friends of the drowned swimmer.

Certainly high drama in HAMNET Gauteng South! Thanks for the reports, Anette.

And while the Overberg area in the Western Cape seems finally to have gained control of the huge bushfire, which  started in the Greyton Nature Reserve last weekend, Australia continues to fight equivalent fires, but in temperatures which have been quoted to break national records for two days in a row. The Bureau of Meteorology released figures there on Friday showing the hottest day recorded from 700 weather stations across the country being Wednesday, at 41.9C, up from the previous day’s record of 40.9C. Now remember to get an average of 41.9, you need some stations measuring higher than that, say 45 or 46, and others lower than that, say 37 or 38, to get your average of nearly 42, for the whole country! Astonishing stuff!

Here’s good news from the world of Ebola. The first Ebola vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a single-dose injection called Ervebo. The vaccine from Merck & Co. is approved to protect against the Zaire ebolavirus in people ages 18 years and older.

In the United States, Ebola infections are rare. Confirmed cases have involved people in other countries who became infected and then travelled to the United States or health care workers who were infected while treating Ebola patients, according to the FDA.

“While the risk of Ebola virus disease in the U.S. remains low, the U.S. government remains deeply committed to fighting devastating Ebola outbreaks in Africa, including the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Anna Abram, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy, legislation, and international affairs, said in a statement. “Today’s approval is an important step in our continuing efforts to fight Ebola in close coordination with our partners across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as our international partners, such as the World Health Organization.”

The world’s second-largest Ebola outbreak is ongoing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The largest outbreak occurred from 2014 to 2016 in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. More than 28,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 died. The FDA said Ervebo’s approval is supported by a study done in Guinea during that outbreak, as well as studies in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Canada, Spain, and the United States. Ervebo was shown to be highly effective in preventing infection in people exposed to the virus there. Thanks to Medical Xpress for this report.

Writing on the IARU-Region 1 website, Monty OE3VVU, and Lisa PA2LS, tell us that last week, 12-15 December, Winter YOTA with the theme “Let’s go PA” took place. The 4th sub-regional Youngsters On The Air event of 2019. 35 Youngsters from 10 different countries took part in the event, held in Oosterhout, The Netherlands. In 3 days, the youngsters learned a lot about the amateur radio hobby. Many of them discovered new things to delve into, like satellite communications. Many had the opportunity to have their first QSO’s on HF, VHF or via QO-100 using the special event callsign PA6YOTA. This week was also about learning activities and skills which the youngsters can take home to their countries and use to get more youngsters fascinated by the hobby. Combining amateur radio with fun activities with like-minded youngsters is the key to spreading the hobby amongst young people.

And on that encouraging note, may I take this opportunity on behalf of all of HAMNET, to wish you all a happy and safe holiday. This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 15th December 2019

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, of Gift of the Givers, writing in the Maverick Citizen, says that they are receiving cries of desperation, long early-morning queues, and frantic calls from communities in the Eastern Cape. Communities are at a loss what to do as dam after dam, river after river and borehole after borehole shuts down. Added to that comes load shedding.

Small town economies dependent on festive season tourists are at their wits’ end as water is simply not available to service paying guests. This challenging scenario is about to become a nightmare as thousands of economically active citizens return home to the Eastern Cape in the coming holidays. Water demands are going to increase exponentially, amplifying the expanding crisis.

Gift of the Givers’ rapid response teams are battling to keep up with the demands. Frantically drilling more boreholes, adding a third water tanker (Isuzu gave them three water tankers and three bakkies), more tankers from AECI are expected, increasing the number of JoJo tanks to store water overnight (JoJo Tank company gave them 200 JoJo tanks), more pumps to be installed in the coming days in Adelaide, Bedford, Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg as all their lab tests for water come back “suitable for consumption”. Butterworth, Queenstown, Bolotwa, Cala, Willowvale are all crying out for immediate intervention. Government funding is no more a priority; it is way beyond the urgency and emergency phase.

Water is not the only requirement. There is a huge need for fodder, and food parcels for farm workers and farmers. Communities have banded together to produce woollen and ceramic items, bake cookies and distribute to markets nationwide. There is an intense urgency, a heart-rending desperation that needs collective united action to save both the Northern and Eastern Cape and their agricultural, labour-intensive economy.

As HAMNET readers, please attempt to assist where you can.

And while the Eastern Cape is getting no rain, KZN is getting too much!

Reporting in IOL on Wednesday the 11th, Mercury Reporters said that Disaster Management Teams have been placed on standby in the wake of yet another alert of heavy rains scheduled for KwaZulu-Natal this week.

The South African Weather Service has issued a warning of heavy rains that can lead to localised flooding and reduced visibility over parts of Ilembe and the northern parts of eThekwini on Wednesday.

Acting KZN Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni, has urged residents to be cautious as inclement weather conditions continue to pose a serious threat.

“We have placed our teams on alert and they are monitoring areas and routes that are prone to localised flooding so that they can provide adequate support to residents,” said Nkonyeni.

The department is appealing to residents who reside in low lying areas to exercise caution as the risk of localised flooding is real. So far no incidents have been reported as a result of the continuing heavy rains.

The South African Weather Service said there is a 60% chance of rain in the early morning and afternoon for much of the week.

ReliefWeb says that the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), led by the World Food Programme (WFP), carried out swift assessments in Cyclone Idai’s wake this year, and set up communications services for humanitarians and looked for ways to enable the affected population to access information. Amid the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, the cruciality of radio in daily Mozambican life was evident and the ETC identified six community stations needing urgent rehabilitation. Now, with new communications towers, antennas and electronic equipment initiated by the ETC, community radio transmissions are active again.

In Mozambique, community radio stations play an essential role as amplifiers of public service information and they are also instrumental in reaching the most vulnerable groups including women, children and people with disabilities.

Radio messages can be broadcast about how to prepare for future cyclones, alert the population of an impending storm, spread knowledge about how to avoid cholera and malaria in the aftermath of a cyclone, and be used to locate loved ones.

The quick response of the ETC is to be applauded.

Southgate Amateur Radio News advises you musical amateurs to look for German special event station, DL250BTHVN, to be active between December 16th, 2019 and December 17th, 2020.

This monster call sign celebrates the Beethoven anniversary year and will take place under the auspices of the German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The aims of this anniversary are to convey Beethoven’s work, to strengthen and promote innovative projects, and to increase Bonn’s reputation as a Beethoven city. Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December 1770 in Bonn and lived there for the first 22 years.

Actually, thinking about it, I realise that he was the instigator of the whole Morse code thing with his letter V – dit dit dit dah. Perhaps the entire Morse alphabet is buried in his 5th Symphony, and we don’t have Samuel Morse to thank, after all!

Now for the Anti-Vaxxers in our midst, you’ll be concerned to hear that health authorities have sounded a warning over rising numbers of measles cases, with new data showing more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018.

New estimates published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) this week show that in 2018, there were 9,769,400 estimated measles cases and 142,300 related deaths around the world that year, up from 7,585,900 estimated cases and 124,000 estimated deaths in 2017.

The data show Sub-Saharan Africa, where many children have persistently missed out on vaccination, was the region worst affected. The most affected countries were Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine, which together accounted for almost half of all measles cases worldwide. The United States also reported its highest number of cases in 25 years. Four countries in Europe – Albania, Czechia, Greece and the United Kingdom – lost their measles elimination status in 2018 following protracted outbreaks of the disease.

“This latest data show that we are unfortunately backsliding in our progress against an easily-preventable disease: measles,” said Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “But we can turn the tide against these outbreaks through collective action.”

“Ah”, I hear you say, “The asserted but untrue risk of autism from measles vaccine is far worse than the risk of dying from measles!”

Thank you to Univadis Medical News for those statistics.

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

HAMNET Report 8th December 2019

Climate-fuelled disasters are forcing 20 million people to flee their homes each year, which is equivalent to one person every two seconds, a new report finds. The analysis found that floods, cyclones and wildfires are more likely to displace humans when compared to geophysical disasters or conflict.

While no one is immune to a changing world, the report discovered it is poor countries that are most at risk – even though they contribute the least amount to global carbon pollution.

The shocking report was released on Monday by Oxfam International, a charitable organization that focuses on the alleviation of global poverty.

The document, called ‘Forced from Home’, highlights statistics of climate related weather disasters that are pushing people out of their homes, which have increased five-fold over the last decade.

The group is now calling for ‘more urgent and ambitious emissions reductions to minimize the impact of the crisis on people’s lives, and the establishment of a new ‘Loss and Damage’ finance facility to help communities recover and rebuild.’

The report notes that people are seven times more likely to be displaced by cyclones, floods and wildfires than they are by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and three times more likely than by conflict.

Approximately 95 percent of people were forced to move due to tropical cyclones and storms from 2008 through 2018.  While no one is immune, people in poor countries are most at risk, the report warns,

‘People in low and lower-middle income countries such as India, Nigeria and Bolivia are over four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than people in rich countries such as the United States,’ reads the document.

Chema Vera, Acting Executive Director of Oxfam International said:

‘Our governments are fuelling a crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes and the poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price.’

The report notes that wealthy countries are burdening the poor ones with the cost of these disasters. The Oxfam analysis shows that economic losses from extreme weather disasters over the last decade were, on average, equivalent to two percent of affected countries’ national income.

Thank you to MailOnLine for this excerpt from their report.

Since Tuesday of this week, the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) has been reporting daily on the progress of Tropical Cyclone Kammuri-19 from East to West across the central parts of the Philippines. Wind speeds of 120 kph were expected to affect 4.7 million people, since the path of the cyclone was more predictable.

Greg Mossop G0DUB reported that he had been informed on Tuesday by Dani YB2TJV that the frequencies of 7090, 7095 and 7110 kHz were being used for emergency communications there. Dani requested all regions to be aware of these uses, and please to steer clear of the frequencies.

By Friday, Dani had informed Greg that Kammuri had crossed the Philippines, leaving behind severe flooding in the northernmost parts of Luzon (call area DU2), and that only 7095 kHz was being monitored by the HERO Net. Presumably, reports of damage and destruction will start coming in over this weekend.

Upon the request of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), the IARU tasked Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ and Leon Lessing ZS6LMG to attend the African Telecoms/ ICT Day 2019 commemorative workshop in Maputo, Mozambique from 5 to 7 December 2019.

The theme of the workshop was “Using Technology to Save Lives: Emergency Communications for Disaster Risk Reductions and Management”.

The aim of the workshop was to identify ways technology can be used to mitigate future disasters like Cyclone Idai and Kenneth,  that struck Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi earlier in the year. Some of these countries were without communications of any sort for up to 10 days, which is a major catastrophe.

Brian and Leon provided two presentations at the workshop that were prepared under the leadership of Don Beattie G3BJ the IARU Region 1 President and Hans Welens-Vrijdaghs ON6WQ the Region 1 STARS Working Group Chairman.

The first presentation presented by Brian discussed what amateur radio is, the role and value of amateur radio in an emergency, and where all other communications systems have failed.

This presentation was so well received, that the Mozambiquan regulator overnight initiated contact with the Mozambique Amateur Radio Society that had stopped functioning, and will now assist them to get on their feet again and to be in a position to assist the Republic of Mozambique with emergency communications.

Leon introduced the IARU STARS program to assist the ATU member states in re-initiating amateur radio or establishing amateur radio within their respective countries. Again this was very well received and after this presentation the Ugandan delegation requested information about their member society so that they could make contact with them and ensure that amateur radio takes its rightful place in the Ugandan emergency communications plans.

The Member of Parliament leading the delegation from Sierre Leone also requested information about their amateur radio society as they saw the value that amateur radio offers the country in times of emergency.

The workshop resulted in a strategy document with definite goals, outcomes and time lines for the ATU and Member States to develop cooperative and harmonised communications solutions encompassing all forms of telecommunications across all the African Regions.

These include the following technical areas:

  • Disaster and emergency telecommunications capacity and strengthening.
  • Radio Spectrum Management (emergency/universal) frequency harmonisation for Public Protection Disaster Response (PPDR), including free of cost allocation for the foregoing.
  • Regional equipment type specification and approval and licensing.
  • Cross-border customs and immigration arrangements and protocols for disaster personnel and emergency equipment.
  • A Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).
  • Regional Early Warning Systems (EWS).
  • A National Emergency Telecommunications Plan (NETP).
  • The Tampere Convention, including ATU Member States ratification, and the application of the relevant parts of the agreement.

The contribution from the IARU/SARL/HAMNET team was very well received and gave the ATU Member States a new positive perspective on amateur radio and their role in emergency communications/ ICT.

Thanks Brian for this comprehensive report.

Finally, here is an advance warning of Tropical Cyclone BELNA-19, tracking South West down the Western shores of Madagascar, and due to hit land tomorrow (Monday). If you hear any emergency traffic on 40 or 80, please respond if appropriate, or keep the frequencies clear. Thanks very much.

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

HAMNET Report 1st December 2019

HAMNET REPORT 1ST DECEMBER 2019

Let me start the bulletin this week, by congratulating Grant Southey ZS1GS on his recent appointment as temporary National Director of HAMNET, after the retirement by Glynn Chamberlain due to pressure of work. Grant is a worthy successor to Glynn, and we hope he fits in so well, that his appointment becomes permanent.

At the same time, may I welcome Michael Taylor ZS1MJT as newly appointed Regional Director for HAMNET in the Western Cape? Michael comes with a lot of experience in organizational skills, particularly in motor sports events, and also a very practical approach to all situations. His skills in “making a plan” are phenomenal, so we trust he will guide HAMNET WCP to greater heights, as we respond to the requests for assistance in the Western Cape.

Now for some bad news. I’m sorry to have to tell you that Lewis, the Koala, badly burned in an Australian bush fire, did not recover from his burns. He had been taken to an animal hospital last week after a woman plucked him from a tree in burning bushland in New South Wales.

Video of the rescue, which shows Toni Doherty using her shirt to wrap up the koala, was viewed globally. Vets said the marsupial was sadly put down because his burns were not improving.

“[Our] number one goal is animal welfare, so it was on those grounds that this decision was made,” said Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

The 14-year-old Koala had significant burns to its chest, feet and other parts of its body, vets said.

The hospital has treated dozens of koalas injured from the bushfires which have burnt through more than a million hectares in New South Wales alone.

Our respects go to Lewis, and to the vets who tried their best to save him.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) has reported a red alert for a Tropical Cyclone, named KAMMURI-19, about 2 days due East of the central parts of the Philippines, expected to hit the East Coast at about 02h00 our time on Tuesday. There is a fairly wide range of uncertainty over precisely where it will hit the mainland, but some 28 million people are within that trajectory of the 120 kph wind zone. The path calls for it to cross directly from East to West across the Central parts of the country, hopefully losing strength as it crosses the land.

Please be mindful of emergency comms traffic on 20, 40 and 80 metres, if you are working these frequencies.

ScienceNews reports that Ultima Thule is no more. The remote solar system body visited in January by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft now has a proper name: Arrokoth.

The word means “sky” in the language of the Powhatan people, a Native American tribe indigenous to Maryland. The state is home to New Horizons mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

NASA announced the name change on November 12, with the consent of Powhatan tribal elders and the International Astronomical Union, the organization of astronomers who, in part, oversee celestial naming conventions.

Arrokoth (pronounced AR-uh-koth), a flattened two-lobed body in the Kuiper Belt of icy worlds beyond Neptune, has been through a couple of names already. Up until now, its official designation had been 2014 MU69. In March 2018, the team landed on the nickname Ultima Thule, a Latin phrase that signifies a place beyond the known world.

“[Ultima Thule] was, as we said, always a placeholder we would discard once we did the flyby,” Stern says. The New Horizons spacecraft — originally sent to check out Pluto and its retinue of moons — is still transmitting data from its January 1 flyby of Arrokoth and will continue to do so for at least another year, Stern says. By then, the team will have begun hunting for a possible third target, a search they can’t start until Earth gets to the other side of the sun next summer and New Horizons once again becomes visible at night to telescopes.

ScienceNews also notes that, for the first time, a chemical potentially responsible for widespread vaping-related lung injuries and deaths in the United States has been found in lung fluid from patients.

Researchers detected vitamin E acetate, widely used as a dietary supplement, in every sample of lung fluid collected from 29 patients suffering from the severe illness, health officials announced in a news briefing and a report. Vitamin E acetate is also an ingredient in some skin care products but could be toxic when inhaled.

“We are in a better place than we were two weeks ago, in terms of having one very strong culprit of concern,” said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “We still have more to learn.”

CDC researchers obtained broncho-alveolar lavage fluid, a sample that contains fluid from the lining of the lungs, from health care workers caring for patients with the injuries, called e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury, or EVALI. Twenty-nine patients from 10 states provided the specimens. Vitamin E acetate was the only chemical detected in all of the fluid samples, CDC researchers reported online November 8 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vitamin E acetate was previously identified by health officials in some vaping products used by patients

Vitamin E acetate is used as a diluting and thickening ingredient in vaping products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Most EVALI patients have reported using vaping products containing THC; some also used nicotine-containing products. Although vitamin E acetate is considered safe when used in skin creams and as a dietary supplement, research indicates that it could be harmful when inhaled.

The researchers also tested for, but did not detect, other chemical additives that are used as diluting ingredients, such as plant and mineral oils.

Schuchat called the findings a “breakthrough,” but said that more work needs to be done to understand how vitamin E acetate is harming the lungs. And it’s still possible that more than one ingredient could be responsible, she said.

By the 5th November, 2,051 patients with EVALI had been reported in all states except Alaska, and 39 people had died.

Thanks to ScienceNews for these reports.

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

HAMNET Report 24th November 2019

The ARES E-letter reports that twenty-four operators from the Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society (TARS) and the Thomasville Amateur Radio Club (TARC) provided communication support for the Capital City Cyclists (CCC) 35th annual Spaghetti 100 Bicycle Ride on November the 9th. The Spaghetti 100 funds the Kids on Bikes program, which teaches hundreds of elementary school children how to ride a bike and ride it safely in traffic. It also helps to support the Trips for Kids chapter, which takes disadvantaged youth on bike rides on local trails.

The hams used one of the TARS VHF repeaters to provide communications for safety and logistics, as well as for the medical and mechanical teams. The ham radio support was vital for this 100 mile route on the back country roads of northern Florida and southern Georgia where cell phone coverage is very sparse. “When All Else Fails” came to mind when the land line at the location serving as the ride’s headquarters was out for several hours leaving Amateur Radio as the only communications service for some areas. “In addition to the thanks given by most of the bicyclists as they passed by, event sponsors expressed their appreciation for the work of the ham radio volunteers and were impressed with the capabilities of Amateur Radio,” Communications Coordinator Stan Zawrotny, K4SBZ, said.

Thank you to ARES for these notes.

Now from universetoday.com comes a story that is blowing my mind.

On May 20th, 2018, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) launched the Queqiao spacecraft, the vehicle that would deliver the Chang’e-4 mission to the Moon. This vehicle was also responsible for transporting a lesser-known mission to the Moon, known as the Longjiang twin spacecraft. This package consisted of two satellites designed to fly in formation and validate technologies for low-frequency radio astronomy.

While Queqiao flew beyond the Moon to act as a communications relay for the Chang’e-4 lander, the Longjiang satellites were to enter orbit around the moon. On July 31st, 2019, after more than a year in operation, the Longjiang-2 satellite deorbited and crashed on the lunar surface. And thanks to the efforts of spacecraft tracker Daniel Estévez and his colleagues, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was able to photograph the impact site.

Among amateur astronomists and citizen scientists, Daniel Estévez is a well-known figure. In addition to being an amateur radio operator with a PhD in Mathematics and a BSc in Computer Science, Estévez is also an amateur spacecraft tracker. It was he who, in May of 2019, made an official estimate on when the Longjiang-2 satellite would crash on the lunar surface.

Based on his calculations, he determined the impact would take place somewhere within Van Gent crater on July 31st. This small impact crater is located on the far side of the Moon and is situated to the south and southeast of the larger Konstantinov crater. These results were then passed on to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team, who made sure their instrument was trained on the coordinates.

On October 5th, 2019, the LRO passed over the site at an altitude of 122 km and snapped several images of the surface. After carefully comparing them to pre-existing NAC images, the LROC team was able to discern the presence of a new impact crater that was roughly 4 by 5 meters in diameter and about 10 meters in depth.

This places the new crater just 328 metres from Estévez’s estimated crash site. Based on this proximity to the estimated coordinates and the size of the impact crater, the LROC team indicated that they are “fairly confident that this new crater formed as a result of the Longjiang-2 impact.”

On his website, Estévez captured the significance of this event eloquently and was sure to share the credit with those colleagues who helped make it possible:

“This is amazing, as in some way it represents the definitive end of the DSLWP-B mission (besides all the science data we still need to process) and it validates the accuracy of the calculations we did to locate the crash site. I feel that I should give due credit to all the people involved in the location of the impact.”

Moreover, it demonstrates the important role played by amateur astronomers and citizen scientists in the current era of space exploration. Kudos to Estévez and his colleagues! Not bad for an amateur tracker!

May I suggest you point your browser to universetoday.com, and scroll down to the entry dated 19th November, of the discovery of the crash site, to look at two photos, taken 3 months apart, of that crash site, clearly showing the crater formed between the times the two photos were taken?

Just to make the point, this amateur’s estimation was just further than 3 rugby fields out in his calculation of where the failing Chinese satellite was eventually going to hit the moon, about 384400km away, on the far side, which has been seen only in photographs, and without knowing the true topography of the surface in the area! Phenomenal!

Equally phenomenal is the fact that the camera on the orbiter could clearly define an area 4x5m (probably smaller than the room you are sitting in as you listen to this), from a distance of 122km above the moon’s surface!

We end with a good news story from Australia. CityNews reports that, during an Australian bush fire, a lady heard an aging Koala bear wailing in pain, hanging from a tree trunk, very close to the intense heat of the fire, and clearly having already sustained multiple burns on his body.

Toni Doherty took off her tee-shirt, caught the koala with it to try to put out its burning fur, and rushed it to a water source, where she was able to douse the flames on the fur of its back legs, cool its burns, and give it life-saving water to drink.

The little guy, since named Lewis, estimated to be elderly in Koala terms, was rushed to an animal welfare hospital, where he was given oxygen via face mask because of singe wounds to his lungs, and found to have partial thickness burns on many parts of his body, including his snout, and more severe burns on his hands and feet. It appears he is slowly starting to recover, and back to eating his staple diet of Eucalyptus leaves!

Lewis seems to have been lucky. The news reports from Southern Australia estimate that up to 350 Koalas may have died already, in the multiple big bush fires currently affecting those parts of the continent.

Altogether now – “Ag man, Shame”!

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

HAMNET Report 17th November 2019

The weather in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands has been a strong topic of conversation this week after a tornado ripped through the New Hanover areas of Thokozani and Mpolweni on Tuesday. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso, said several homes and public infrastructure were damaged, and scores of people were hurt.

Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka, said preliminary reports received by the department indicate that a number of people who sustained injuries in the incident are receiving medical attention from surrounding hospitals.

“A number of homes have collapsed, countless trees have been uprooted and the electricity supply in the area has been interrupted. Our teams are working hard to provide support to the affected communities,” said Hlomuka.

He said there are fears of missing people and possible deaths, and urged residents to be vigilant as the risk of heavy rains and severe thunderstorms continue to pose a serious danger to the province.

And on Wednesday, another tornado tried to touch down in the midlands, while heavy rains saturated large parts of central and coastal KZN. Low-lying areas quickly filled up, and gardens and roads were underwater by Wednesday evening.

Further forecasts of very heavy rain for Thursday and Friday fortunately didn’t materialize, as clouds and humidity were driven off the coast by late Thursday, resulting in a cloudless Friday.

The synoptic charts are starting to show the usual Spring and Summer low pressure trough, laying diagonally across the country, from Northern Namibia and Botswana, down to Eastern and Southern KZN, with high pressure cells off the Western and Eastern coasts of our country keeping all cold fronts firmly South of the country.

It would appear that the rainy season in the South West of the country is over, while the unpredictable summer storms start to make their presence felt in North Eastern areas. We trust that there will be enough rainfall to provide the farmers with good harvests.

Alex Schwarz, VE7DXW, has theorized for some time now that his RF-Seismograph, initially aimed at indicating band openings, seemed also to act as a real seismograph of sorts, with effects of earthquakes affecting HF noise levels and actually briefly enhancing HF propagation. Schwarz has some support from Professor Kosuke Heki of Hokkaido University in Japan, who has been researching whether changes occur in the ionosphere as a result of an earthquake.

The work of both citizen scientist Schwarz and space geodesy expert Heki caught the attention of Hackaday, the online publication with a stated goal of promoting “the free and open exchange of ideas and information.” A November 12 Hackaday article, “HF Propagation and Earthquakes”, outlines the observations of both men. According to the article, Heki “knew that changes in the ionosphere can affect GPS and GNSS receivers on the ground, and with Japan’s vast network of receivers to keep track of the smallest of movements of the Earth’s crust, he was able to spot an anomalous build-up of electrons directly above the devastating 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake, that preceded the earthquake by 40 minutes.”

Heki’s theory is along these lines: Chemical bonds in the rock — specifically peroxy bonds between two oxygen atoms — are broken by microfractures, leaving one side of the peroxy bond with excess electrons and the other with a positive hole. “These holes tend to migrate from high stress to unstressed areas of the rock, which leads them to eventually reach the surface, leaving it with a net positive charge,” the Hackaday piece says. “As stress in the rock below increases, the number of positive holes reaching the surface rapidly multiplies, drawing electrons from the atmosphere to balance the charge. The moving charges generate an enormous electromagnetic field that can reach all the way up to the ionosphere, creating just the kind of anomalies that Professor Heki observed.”

This week, Schwarz reported that the US Geological Survey recorded nine “significant earthquakes” on November 11, eight of which also were recorded by his RF-Seismograph. According to Schwarz, several small quakes early in the morning “opened the 40-meter band slightly, but the precursor of the quake [in Neiafu, Tonga] created a disturbance starting 4 hours prior to the quake and a total radio blackout between 03h30 UTC and 05h50 UTC. The quakes in late morning did not have a great effect on the local propagation. The one from Vanuatu created 80-meter propagation for 10 minutes only. At 23h40 UTC, another quake from Indonesia opened the 30-meter band again,” Schwarz said.

The Hackaday article concludes, “Clearly, the RF-Seismograph is not yet ready to claim to have a solid predictive ability for earthquakes. For that matter, Dr. Heki’s space-based observations aren’t ready to stake that claim either. But it certainly looks like ionospheric changes can be correlated to earthquakes, both in time and space…”

And lest you think the earth’s mantle is a settled place, may I report that 46 earthquakes around the globe, with a magnitude of more than 4.5 on the Richter scale, were reported in Friday’s global disaster news! Our planet is indeed restless.

The ARRL Letter notes that December 11 marks the 98th anniversary of the success of ARRL’s Transatlantic Tests in 1921, organized to see if low-power amateur radio stations could be heard across the Atlantic using shortwave frequencies (i.e., above 200 meters). On that day, a message transmitted by a group of Radio Club of America members at 1BCG in Greenwich, Connecticut, was copied by Paul Godley, 2ZE, in Scotland.

While the first two-way contact would not take place until 1923, the 1921 transatlantic success marked the beginning of what would become routine communication between US radio amateurs and those in other parts of the world — the birth of DX.

To commemorate this amateur radio milestone, Maxim Memorial Station W1AW will be on the air through the day on December 11 with volunteer operators. The goal is to encourage contacts between radio amateurs in the US and Europe while showcasing the significance of the transmissions that pioneered global communication and laid the groundwork for technology widely used today.

The event will run from 13h00 until 00h00 UTC. Some details are still being worked out, but operation will focus on 40 and 20 meters SSB.

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