REPORT of HAMNET WCP’s involvement in two cycle tours February 2017

HAMNET Western Cape was again invited to assist with communications during two cycling events in February.

The first was the el Shaddai 99er Cycle Tour, on 11th February, involving some 4000 riders and 14 mobile radio stations. The race started at the racecourse in Durbanville, and progressed out towards the R44 between Paarl and Wellington, before crossing the countryside along the Philadelphia Road, and then down to the N7 via van Schoorsdrift, before entering Durbanville again up Vissershok, a total distance of just over 100km. A shorter route trimmed off some of the circuit for the less ambitious riders.

The JOC was established at the Racecourse, where Metro EMS’ Disaster Bus and my ancient Autovilla were parked next to each other. The medical contingent for the race plus ambulance dispatch and sweep vehicle dispatch occupied the disaster bus, while Carol, ZS1MOM,  and I occupied the van under a roof for coolth, and ran the radio comms. We communicated with the ambulance and sweep dispatch by means of a handheld VHF radio. Two VHF repeaters in the Cape were isolated from the inked system for our transmissions, a simplex frequency between the rovers was organised in case one of them could not be heard at the JOC and needed a message relayed, and a mobile stand-in APRS digipeater was installed on the top of the Meerendal Hill by Alister ZS1OK, to give better APRS coverage to all the vehicles tracked. All the 14 rovers had trackers in their vehicles, and we installed portable trackers in the 5 rescue ambulances and the three organiser’s race marshal’s vehicles.

The day started cool, but rapidly became very hot, and by lunchtime, the temperature on Vissershok, where the last riders were entering Durbanville was 35 degrees. In fact the medical team pulled the last few riders off the race (in any case the cut-off would have disqualified them) before they finished the climb up Vissershok, because of the heat, and the risk of exhaustion.

There were no major incidents during the race, and the course was declared cleared before 13h00. My thanks to  ZR1FR, and ZS1’s AGP, MUP, JM, BTD, V, PXK, LN and his wife PTT, DAV, JNT, DUG, PVV, PDE, and of course, MOM and OK.

The second race was the Lion’s Journey for Sight and Service, held on the same Sunday as the Dischem ride for Sight in Gauteng, namely the 19th February. This race is usually held on the first full weekend of the New Year down in the extreme Southern Suburbs of the Peninsula. For some reason not clear to me, it was postponed to a week after the 99er, and then held roughly in the same area as the 99er had been! This had a huge effect on the entries and the enthusiasm of the riders, and the Lions are to be pitied for the hard work they put into a race that was never going to be very profitable for the charities usually supported.

The Race started and finished at Killarney Race track North of Milnerton, and the route followed the Contermanskloof Road and then Tiekiedraai over the Durbanville Hills to enter Durbanville up the well known avenue of trees. After circling around the centre of town, the riders left via Wellington Rd, turned on to Fisantekraal, and then out to the four-way stop at the R304, where they turned left and up to the crossing with the Philadelphia Rd at the Silos, left towards Philadelphia, and then left again to come down the Adderley Rd (M58), right on to Malanshoogte, and finally back to Killarney via the Contermanskloof Road again, a distance of 74km. A shorter route clipped off some 20km for the less ambitious.

For this race, we ran the JOC out of my Autovilla at Killarney, situated next to the medical and organiser contingents in a large workshop on the site. Eight rovers manned the route, Alister ZS1OK again installed his mobile APRS digipeater on Meerendal, and I managed the JOC on my own. We equipped two ambulances and the two back markers for the races with APRS trackers, so I could report to the organisers on the state of the race.

However, this was the first race we have managed in Cape Town entirely on UHF repeaters. It being Sunday morning, the usual VHF repeaters were occupied with bulletins, and so we used the 434.625 UHF repeater on Tygerberg, which was pretty central to the course, and HAMNET’s portable UHF repeater at the same site as the
APRS digipeater, on 438.700MHz, to cover any gaps. It turned out that there were almost no gaps, and the route was well covered by the 434.625 repeater.

The entries for this race were far fewer, and there were no important incidents, so the field was back at the finish by about 11h00. HAMNET received grateful acknowledgments from the Lions organisers, and we in turn promised to be back for both races next year. Hopefully, the Lion’s race will be separated both geographically and chronologically from the 99er next year, to allow both races to benefit from the number of riders entering.

During the event, a call from Wilderness Search and Rescue was received for helpers to retrieve the body of a climber who had fallen on Table Mountain the night before. ZS1GS and ZS1OSK were given permission to leave their rover duties early, to be able to proceed to the call-out. Please see the report on that retrieval by ZS1GS on this same website.

My thanks go to ZS1’s LN and his wife PTT, PXK, EEE, PDE, YT, OSK, GS, BTD, and OK at the digipeater site. Without ZS1OK, neither of these races would have been as successfully marshaled as they were.

Incident – Platteklip Gorge – 19 February 2017

At around 08:30 a call came through for a missing hiker that was located on Platteklip Gorge. There were no operators able to respond and HAMNET WC was assisting on the Lions Journey for Sight & Service Cycle race. After checking with control Grant (ZS1GS) was released from his function to respond to the call.

It appears that the patient, an Icelandic visitor, along with two friends had been hiking the previous day and separated, with the patient choosing to walk down on his own. The friends had offered to walk down with him and after a discussion they had decided to meet up at the bottom of the mountain. When the friends reached the bottom of the mountain the patient was no where to be seen. There was also a running event on the mountain and so it was believed that the patient had sought transport to visit one of the other tourist attractions. Sadly the patient was discovered deceased on Sunday morning.

A team of 5 rescue personnel ascended the mountain to assess the situation. Due to the high winds Skymed was not able to fly and the cable cars were also unable to run. After the assessment of the paramedic who confirmed that the patient was deceased it was decided that the patient should be carried down the path. A similar carry out, a few years ago, took almost 30 field operators around 8 hours.

On arrival Grant requested a sitrep and took over the control of Metro1. As more carriers arrived they were dispatched up the mountain to assist with the daunting task of carrying the patient down. Only around 15 carriers responded but the task went quicker than expectded.

Ian (ZS1OSK) was also released from his duties at the J4SnS race and joined the operation. Ian was tasked to be positioned at the junction of the contour path and the Platteklip Gorge path so that he could dissuade hikers from using the path up the mountain. The wind was bad and along with the rescue it was not advisable for the public to be on the mountain.

At around 13:35 the patient was brought to Metro1,  the family where the patient had been staying and the forensic pathology vehicle gathered shortly afterwards. The patient was handed over to forensic pathology for further investigation. A debrief was held and all responding parties stood down.

REPORT 19 February 2017

Cyclone Dineo in the Mozambique Channel has been dominating our news.

In a report from the International Business Times, Cyclone Dineo killed seven people in Mozambique this week, injured dozens and levelled 20,000 homes along the African coast. Cyclone Dineo, which has since been downgraded to a tropical depression, continued to flood South Africa on Friday with eight crop-threatening inches of rain as the countries in the storm’s wake attempted to recover, the Herald Live reported.

“We are again appealing to residents to stay close to their radios as disaster management teams will also be keeping a close eye on the vulnerabilities of different areas,” meteorologist Lulama Menze told the Citizen. “We want to reiterate that the effects of the storm will still be felt, despite it having weakened.”

Dineo, a hurricane that produced winds up to 100 mph, made landfall on Mozambique’s coast Wednesday night, bringing with it rough sea conditions and several thunderstorms. Though areas like the Gaza province didn’t suffer much from the bad weather, the Mopani district in the Limpopo province was forced to cancel school and the Inhambane province of Mozambique saw more than 100,000 people impacted by the storm, according to Herald Live. NASA spotted Dineo from space!

As the weekend got underway, parts of the storm were expected to move into Botswana, the South African Weather Service wrote in a news release.

“The vortex of ex-Dineo is becoming more indistinct as the system weakens,” the service wrote. “Notwithstanding this weakening trend, the system will still pose a great risk for the next 36 to 48 hours, particularly in terms of further exceptionally heavy rainfall and resultant flooding. By Saturday, patches of heavy rain occurrence could even persist over the northern parts of Namibia and Botswana.”

Brian Jones ZS6BV, Regional Director for HAMNET Limpopo Province says “Reports I have from farmers and from CCTV visuals in the area north of the Soutpansberg are of normal rains and wind is a fresh breeze. The effect of Dineo was less than was forecast.” End quote.

Hamnet Free State/Vaal says it will be monitoring emergency frequencies as from 08h00 Friday 17-02-2017 SAST.

“This will be to see what band conditions will be, if we are needed for comms with the Tropical Cyclone, and will also be a nice exercise for all,” said Rickus de Lange ZS4A, Regional Director of HAMNET Free State.

Francois Botha ZS6BUU reported to me that Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Provincial Director for HAMNET KZN and Glenham Duffey ZS5GD indicated that they also had networks in operation. The 40 M band frequency of 7,110 MHz became a hive of activity with members reporting in from all over and exchanging signal reports. The 80 metre frequency of 3,760 MHz was in excellent condition on Thursday evening.

And a final note on Cyclone Dineo yesterday was the mention from Francois ZS6BUU that the cyclone is no more, and the satellite photo posted by Tim Hewitt ZS1TGH on the HAMNET Facebook page showing a tatty cyclonic cloud distribution over the far North of the Northern Cape and perhaps Southern Botswana. Let’s hope patchy rain is falling in these areas.

And now a message from Leon Lessing ZS6LMG of HAMNET Gauteng South:

“HAMNET Gauteng South now has an emergency number:  087 550 2482.

We are currently trying to draw up an operational plan for manning it, so any ideas would be appreciated. We have tested this at the value logistics cycle race and it performed perfectly on 4G and LTE data. With Sunday’s Ride for Sight race this will be the primary emergency contact number for race related incidents.

The idea is to punch this through to our local microwave network, but that is a long term capital intensive plan.” End quote.

The invasion of the Fall Armyworm should be declared a national disaster so that emergency funds can be made available to affected provinces before it reaches “catastrophic levels” said Political Parties on Monday.

South Africa meets all the requirements to declare the crop infestation a national disaster according to section 23(6) of the National Disaster Management Act. The Act allows for a disaster to be declared nationally if more than one province is affected.

“The worm could also compromise food security, pushing the price of food up, affecting the ability of millions of South Africans to put food on the table for their families,” it has been stated.

The worm, which is, of course, a caterpillar, likes maize, sorghum, soybeans, groundnuts and potatoes.

The department of agriculture has asked chemical suppliers urgently to register products that can be used to control it.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen has been called on to declare the ‘invasion’ of the pest a national disaster, so that it can trigger the release of much-needed funding to assist maize farmers who are currently struggling to fight this plague.

The department was warned in October 2016 by the International Association for the Plan Protection Sciences (IAPPS) which, at the time, confirmed the outbreak of the pest in Nigeria. The IAPPS warned at the time that the pest could spread rapidly.

According to the latest reports, the pest has spread to Limpopo, North West, Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape.

The Department of Water and Sanitation reports this week that all provincial averages for dam levels are slightly better than last week, except for the poor Western Cape, with no prospect for rain in the next 2 months, and dams at 35%, compared to 42% this time last year. I wonder if Cyclone Dineo could be persuaded to put on an encore here in the Western Cape for our benefit.

Cycle and road-running races abound today in the provinces, and we wish all HAMNET operators good comms in their duties shepherding the competitors on their routes. If you’re out driving, and come across some runners or riders, please give them the benefit of a safe journey.

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

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.

Rescue – 2 February 2017

At 11:24 a call went out for Noordhoek Peak, with no additional information at the time as to the nature of the incident. Jason (ZS1ZW) was activated, with the initial RV indicated as East Fort on Chapman’s Peak. Upon arrival (11:55) this was amended to Silvermine parking, so final arrival there was 12:32. Between Jason and the Metro Rescue vehicle we were able to load gear and personnel for an initial team and drive them up to the peak. Updates to the call came through that there was a fallen climber in a party, at a minimum Red.

We arrived at Blackburn turnoff at 12:50 and hasty team of 7 deployed at 12:54. Jason, Michael Letegan (Delta S&R) and Tim  relocated up towards Eagles Nest to relay for comms into the gorge, and encountered a portion of the party who had been with the climber. They indicated that there seemed to be some confusion regarding the location, as it was NOT reported as Blackburn Gorge, but rather one over below the Eagle lookout. They were able to indicate the path to the location. We recalled the initial hasty team, although they were also returning, having made contact with a further member of the party who had advised the correct location.

Brian (ZS1BTD) arrived at RV during this time, and ran control at the parking area. Additionally we had to utilise Ewart (MCSA) as a second relay for comms into the Team 1 in the gorge.

Skymed became available after completing a patient transfer but they were unable to assist as the winds in the area were too string for them. The first team reached the patient who sadly declared the patient status “blue”. They requested additional climbing equipment and stretcher to remove the patient. Additional teams arrived as well as a team from forensics department. The patient was retrieved and handed to the forensics people for transportation.

All teams returned to the staging area and held a debrief after which they were all stood down at 17:30.

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.

Value Logistics Fast One Cycle race 2017

Written By Riaan Greeff (ZS4PR)

HAMNET Gauteng South and HAMNET Vaal collaboration report

Members involved:

Gauteng South




Basic report timeline:

Early January 2017 the Gauteng South team invited the Vaal team to join in the operation for this event.  After initial arrangements, ZS6GLN, ZS6LMG, ZS6PAJ and ZS4PR met with the organisers of the event, as well as the Midvaal traffic and fire departments.   The function and capabilities of HAMNET was highlighted and the logistic arrangements were set.

The afternoon of 28 January was where the two HAMNET teams first came together.  The first initial planning arrangements were to set up the JOC, the two UHF repeaters, testing the VHF repeater ZS6VTB, and assist the organisers with WIFI and internet access.  In this regard it was clear from the go that the Vaal and the Gauteng South teams clicked extremely well and immediately worked together in a most efficient way.

The lead vehicles of the race organisers arrived on time and the APRS tracking units were also installed.  Having these many capable radio amateurs on hand to get the communications set up is proof of professionalism and respect towards the greater amateur radio directives of HAMNET.

By nightfall every task set out was completed and the APRS trackers were reporting positively.

The Vaal team decided to ensure that the fellowship and tummies will receive good support.  Saturday evening the braai allowed the teams to get to know each other even better, and Glynn made use of the opportunity to brief all on the task that lay ahead for the next day.

At 3 am Sunday morning the Vaal team was up and started preparing fresh hotdogs for everyone as breakfast.  4:30 everyone was up and busy with preparation of handhelds and radio equipment.  The ambulances of St. John Ambulance and ER24 were also equipped with radios and APRS trackers.  By 5 am the organisers had their briefing and by 5:20 the HAMNET team had theirs.

Everyone was ready to do their part.  Vaal saw the opportunity to learn from the Gauteng guys, and again the interaction between all the members was notably positive.

The race started on time and during the day the communications was well handled.  When an accident or incident occurred the message was clear and to the point effectively relayed to the JOC.  In the JOC there was represented an organiser, HAMNET, both ambulance services, traffic and fire department personnel.

Some areas had lack of coverage, but this was corrected fast by the re arrangement of operators at various points.  Managing over 3600 cyclists, the roving and lead and sweep vehicles were done in a positive and effective way.

By 1 pm the last of the cyclists arrived back at the raceway.  These allowed HAMNET to takedown and collect the hardware and equipment.

For lunch the Vaal team prepared scrumptious boerewors rolls with special sauce.  The HAMNET team were fed and then the project was closed.

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.

Riaan Greeff (ZS4PR)

Hamnet Eastern Cape activity report

ZS2HC doing a signal check during Ironman 70.3 in East London

ZS2HC doing a signal check during Ironman 70.3 in East London

According to Hennie Coetze, ZS2HC, the Hamnet members, with the assistance of the Border Radio Club, once again supplied communications for the IronMan 70.3 in East London. Sunday 29th January saw the 10th edition of this race and a bumper field of athletes.

Anthony ZS2BQ and Ivan ZS2ILN operated the VOC with the assistance of Alistair ZS2AB, Andrew ZS2EL, Hennie ZS2HC, Nick ZS2NB, and Phil ZS2NP. Garth ZS2AAR manned the cross band repeater providing coverage for those not in reach of the town repeater. Adequate coverage of the event was made possible by the team who handled both logistical and emergency traffic for the event. A big thank you to all involved.

The East Londoners are not resting though – they are already preparing for the Surfers Marathon on the 18th February where they will once again be out flying the flag of amateur radio.

In Port Elizabeth, things have been happening as well. On Sunday 29th January, Andrew Gray was on the beach at Sardinia bay when there was a report of a possible drowning. Andrew contacted the Hamnet group and several members arrived to assist with the search. The Hamnet members offered spotters with communication between themselves on the emergency simplex frequency of 145.225. NSRI, Coastal water rescue, and paramedics were also on the scene.

The body was later spotted by helicopter and the search called off. Thank you to those who responded.

PEARS and Hamnet Eastern Cape are also getting ready for a bumper season with the Herald Mountain bike race on the 19th February followed a week later by the road race.

A new event on the horizon for these outdoor enthusiasts is the Addo Extreme 100 MILE (160Km) trail run. The event takes place over the weekend of 10-12 March in the mountains around Addo and Kirkwood. The terrain poses significant challenges – not only to competitors, but to the radio hams too. Not only as far as communications are concerned, but simply “getting there” will also be a challenge. The radio hams will need to set-up camps in some very remote areas – but this is why they do what they do!

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, < >. 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