HAMNET Report 27 January 2019

The ARRL Letter for 16 January reports that the Winter Field Day Association (WFDA) sponsors the 2019 running of Winter Field Day, January 26 – 27 (that is, this weekend). WFDA says that the ability to conduct emergency communication in a winter environment is just as important as the preparation and practice that take place each summer, but with some additional unique operational concerns.

“We believe that maintaining your operational skills should not be limited to fair-weather scenarios,” WFDA said in announcing this year’s event. “The addition of Winter Field Day will enhance those already important skills of those who generously volunteer their time and equipment to these organizations. Preparedness is the key to a professional and timely response during any event, and this is what local and state authorities are expecting when they reach out to emergency service groups that offer their services.” The event is open to all radio amateurs.

Members of the Warren County  Radio Club will activate Maxim Memorial Station W1AW during 2019 Winter Field Day. Club members will work a rotating 24-hour operating schedule to ensure the most band/mode coverage.

Grant ZS1GS sent me a piece from the South China Morning Post, reporting on  a giant experimental radio antenna on a piece of land almost five times the size of New York City, according to researchers involved in the highly controversial project.

The Wireless Electromagnetic Method (WEM) project took 13 years to build but researchers said that it was finally ready to emit extremely low frequency radio waves, also known as ELF waves. Those waves have been linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation-affiliated International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Although the project has civilian applications – officially it will be used for earthquake and mineral detection and forms part of China’s 11th five-year plan – it could also play a crucial role in military communications.

Scientists said that its transmissions could be picked up by a submarine lurking hundreds of metres under the sea, thus reducing the vessel’s risk of having to resurface to receive transmissions.

The project follows the construction of China’s first military-grade Super Low Frequency transmission station in 2009.

The next year, a Chinese nuclear submarine successfully communicated with the station from deep water – making China the third country in the world to have established such a submarine communication system, after the United States and Russia.

But the Chinese navy is eager to expand its capacity and has been pouring resources into the more advanced ELF radio technology, which allows submarines to communicate with the command centre from a greater depth and is harder to disrupt.

The Chinese government, however, has played down the importance of the facility, which occupies some 3,700 sq km of land, in information released to the public.

Apart from the need to protect an important strategic asset, some researchers said that the secrecy was to avoid causing public alarm.

The antenna would emit ELF signals with a frequency of between 0.1 and 300 hertz, the researchers said.

The exact site of the facility has not been disclosed, but information available in Chinese research journals suggests it is in the Huazhong region, an area in central China that includes Hubei, Henan and Hunan provinces and is home to more than 230 million people – greater than the population of Brazil.

Project WEM’s main surface structure is a pair of high voltage power supply lines stretching from north to south, and east to west on steel lattice towers, which form a cross that is 60km wide and 80km to 100km long.

At the end of each power line, thick copper wire goes underground through a deep borehole. Two power stations generate strong currents and electrify the ground in slow, repeating pulses, turning the earth underfoot into an active source of electromagnetic radiation.

The radio pulses not only pass through the atmosphere, but travel through the Earth’s crust as well, with a range of up to 3,500km, according to the project scientists.

A sensitive receiver within that range, which is roughly the distance between China and Singapore or Guam, would be able to pick up these signals.

The closer to the power source, the stronger the pulses.

The radar will be difficult for spy satellites to detect because it will appear no different to an ordinary power grid, although a radar expert said it might be possible to detect its emissions and use those to determine the location.

The inland location of the new facility would also make it harder for an enemy to attack, compared with a facility located on the coast.

But the project has caused concern among some academics, who worry about the possible impact on public health.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation, has previously warned that ELF waves are “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

Numerous epidemiological and experimental studies conducted by researchers around the world have linked long-term ELF exposure to an increased risk of childhood leukaemia.

In a 500-page report constantly updated since 2007, the WHO has documented a large number of academic investigations linking ELF radiation to a range of illnesses including delusions, sleep deprivation, stress, depression, breast and brain tumours, miscarriages and suicide.

Though many results remain inconclusive, the WHO said the implementation of precautionary procedures to reduce exposure was “reasonable and warranted”.

China is not the first country doing this. Other countries conducted similar projects long ago.”

In 1968, the US Navy proposed Project Sanguine, a giant ELF antenna that would have covered two-fifths of the state of Wisconsin to enable undersea communications with submarines.

The project was terminated due to massive protest by residents.

The US Navy built a smaller transmitter, the Wisconsin Test Facility, with two 45km power lines in the Clam Lake area, a place with a low population density. The station emitted ELF waves at 76 hertz and was decommissioned over a decade ago.

In the 1980s the Soviet Union constructed Zevs, a considerably more powerful facility on the Kola Peninsula inside the Arctic Circle.

The Zevs antenna was powered by two 60km electric lines and had a main frequency tuned at 82 hertz. The radio waves it produced were believed powerful enough to reach Russian nuclear submarines hidden deep under the Arctic ice cap.

Unfortunately I don’t have a back garden big enough to accommodate an antenna 60km by 60km in size, so I don’t expect to hear these signals at my station!

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

HAMNET Report 20 January 2019

South Africa has won an extraordinary victory in space science with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) being chosen to provide space weather information for the continent, the country’s ministry of science and technology said on Monday.

Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said SA was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to become the designated regional provider of space weather information to the entire aviation sector using African airspace.

“This means that every aircraft flying in the continent’s airspace will rely on SANSA for the space weather information it needs to submit as part of its flight plan.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said: “Space weather, which can influence the performance and reliability of aviation and other technological systems, is caused by the Sun, the nature of the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, and the Earth’s location in the solar system.

“Space weather can lead to reduced signals from global navigation satellite systems, adversely affecting navigation, increased radiation, which can destroy human cells and tissue, especially during long-haul flights, and blackouts of high-frequency radio communications, which are critically important for the aviation and marine sectors.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said SANSA’s designation by the ICAO presents an opportunity to  use further the newly revamped space weather centre at Hermanus in the Western Cape.

The centre’s monitoring of the sun and its activity has been providing the country with vital early warnings and forecasts on space weather conditions, and these benefits will now be extended to the international aviation community.

The upgraded centre was unveiled by Kubayi-Ngubane in April 2018 and processes are currently under way to secure additional funding further to capacitate the centre for the huge task that lies ahead.

“The international community has supported South Africa’s ICAO designation, and has demonstrated confidence in SANSA’s ability to provide the services required. The process that SANSA underwent to achieve this designation has already enhanced South Africa’s reputation in the space science and technology field.”

She said since South Africa was the only African country with operational space weather capabilities, it would engage with other countries on the continent on data sharing, infrastructure hosting, training, product development, and research collaboration opportunities.

The country’s space science programme was feeding the knowledge economy and placing the national system of innovation at the centre of South Africa’s developmental agenda.

Thank you to the African News Agency for this report.

From the Jerusalem Post comes a report of a new Emergency Response Vehicle capable of providing fresh water to disaster zones. Watergen, the Rishon Lezion start-up known for its unique technology extracting fresh water directly from the air, has partnered with the Red Cross to develop the vehicle to provide fresh water to disaster zones.

Equipped with the company’s patented GENius-powered atmospheric water generator capable of producing 900 litres of water per day, the ERV will provide access to much-needed potable water supplies for communities far from population centres that are affected by emergencies or natural disasters.

“At a time when, according to international data, about two billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water, Watergen’s technology is a real lifesaver,” said Watergen chairman Michael (Micho) Mirilashvili.

“The new technological development is a breakthrough in enabling the technology to be mobilized and allowing access to clean drinking water so that it is available anywhere in the world immediately and without any installation.”

The vehicle was developed according to American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines. It includes satellite communication capabilities, power sockets for charging communication device batteries, emergency accumulators for the supply of power, and storage for medical equipment.

An external water tank carrying up to 1,500 litres of water, a 500 litre fuel tank for long operations, emergency lighting and WiFi can also be added to the vehicle.

The ERV has already been deployed, providing clean water for emergency services fighting the deadly and destructive November 2018 wildfires in California.

Thanks to the Jerusalem Post for that one.

In that this vehicle is able to condense water out of water vapour in the air, it should be made available in all areas of our country, to be sent to any disaster situation at a moment’s notice. Let’s hope it will!

Due to recent events involving drones interfering with commercial air travel, the US Federal Aviation Administration is developing a strategy to allow wider use of counter-drone technologies across airports. In times of heightened UAV threats, the SPYNEL IR imaging camera provides an innovative approach that guarantees the ability to detect, track, and classify all types of drones.

Writing in Sensors|Online, Mathew Dirjish notes that the SPYNEL thermal imaging technology  makes it impossible for a UAV to go unnoticed. Any object, hot or cold, will be detected by the 360° thermal sensor, day and night.

Driven by unique CYCLOPE intrusion detection software, the panoramic thermal imaging system tracks an unlimited number of targets to ensure that no event is missed over a long-range and wide surrounding area. SPYNEL is thus fully adapted to multi-target airborne threats like UAV swarming.

SPYNEL is a multi-function sensor with a large field of view, enabling real-time surveillance of both airborne and terrestrial threats at the same time. The CYCLOPE automatic detection software provides advanced features to monitor and analyze the 360° high resolution images captured by SPYNEL sensors.

The ADS-B plugin enables aerial target identification and the aircraft ADS-B data can be fused with thermal tracks to differentiate an airplane from a drone. With the forensics analysis offering a timeline, sequence storage and playback possibilities, it is also possible to go back in time to analyze the behaviour of the threat since its first apparition on the CYCLOPE interface. Moreover, the latest CYCLOPE feature makes 3D passive detection by triangulation available, when using several SPYNEL sensors at the same time. The feature consists in analyzing the distance and the altitude of multiple targets, creating a kind of “protective bubble” around the airport.

A key advantage of the SPYNEL detection system for airport applications is that it is a fully passive technology, meaning it will not be a source of disturbance in the electromagnetic environment of the airport. Indeed, a concern often raised by air-safety regulators is that anti-drone systems designed to jam radio communications could interfere with legitimate airport equipment.

I’m sure airports like Gatwick will be quick to install this kind of surveillance system.

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

HAMNET Report 13 January 2019

Here’s something I’ll bet you never thought you would hear about on a HAMNET Bulletin. The Japan News carried a post this week about frogs! Apparently, regularities seen in the calls of frogs can be used to improve radio communications systems, according to the findings of a Japanese scientific team led by Ikkyu Aihara, an assistant professor at the University of Tsukuba.

The findings were published in the British science journal Royal Society Open Science issued on Wednesday. The mechanism of the behaviour is expected to help avoid so-called packet collisions, a data communication failure in smart-phones and other devices, and could eventually contribute to energy savings.

Packet collisions occur when multiple devices simultaneously emit radio waves that interfere with each other, preventing the sending and receiving of data. The reduction of such collisions is key to improving telecommunication technology.

According to the team’s announcement, the scientists recorded and analyzed the sounds of three Japanese tree frogs. They found that a group of frogs delays, or “trolls,” the timing of their calls so as not to interfere with each other, and the group overall regularly switches between calling together and resting together.

Aihara, who specializes in mathematical biology, noticed the state of frogs’ singing can be likened to the transmissions of wireless communication equipment, and re-created the patterns of their trolling in mathematical formulas. The team used a computer to install the formulas into 100 devices and had them correspond with each other in a simulation.

Devices set next to each other began delaying the timing of their transmissions and avoiding packet collisions, just like the frogs’ trolling. Furthermore, the mechanism of calling in chorus, involving the repetition of simultaneous transmissions and rests, was seen among the devices as a whole. The team also found that the mechanism helped reduce power consumption.

“The sudden increase in IoT [internet of things] devices will cause packet collisions and massive power consumption,” said Keio University Prof. Satoshi Kurihara, who specializes in complex network science. “Many of the mechanisms possessed by living creatures are efficient, and can be useful for developing equipment that is inexpensive and has better energy-saving performance.”

I wonder whether this technique could not be employed by hasty users of our repeaters, to prevent doubling!

News from the medical front concerns the World Health Organisation’s drive to eradicate Polio throughout the world. In that Polio only occurs in humans, and can only be spread from human to human, all that has to be done is to isolate the last human case of Polio on earth, prevent any further spread, and the disease will be eradicated. Who’s Director General, Dr TA Ghebreyesus spent 4 days recently in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the last two countries where Polio cases were reported last year, and he highlighted Who’s commitment to its final eradication.

He said: “We must all give our best on this last mile to eradicate polio once and for all. My wish for 2019 is for zero polio transmission. You have full WHO’s support to help reach every child and stop this virus for good.”

Smallpox was declared eradicated in this way in 1980, after the last case was identified and isolated in Somalia in 1977. Like Polio, Smallpox occurs only in humans, and is transmitted from hand to mouth or by droplet infection from an infected person’s exhaled air. Polio immunisation in children is still given, but Smallpox vaccination is no longer required.

If you’d like to ogle stations of other radio amateurs around the world, consider logging in to the Facebook group called “Ham Radio Show and Tell” launched by Kevin Duplantis W4KEV in Tennessee. As you’d expect, it is a site to show off your shack, mobile installation, or anything ham radio that you’re proud of. So let’s see who’s going to be the first South African to feature the station he is proud of.

On Friday evening, the Southern Coast of the Western Cape was suddenly faced with three massive and very fast-moving fires. From videos seen, it even looked as though the intensity of the fire had generated firestorms, intense winds which further fanned the flames. There was a forecast for strong South-Westerly winds, and the fire and the wind seemed to combine to worsen the disaster.

Fires had been burning around the Southern tip of Africa ever since New Year’s eve, and fire-fighters have been fighting and monitoring hotspots ever since. Suddenly, on Friday evening, three fires flared up, and within hours, about 50 houses had been destroyed, countless vehicles burnt out, and entire coastal villages evacuated. Franskraal was badly affected, as well as Betty’s Bay, and suburbs of Hermanus ordered to be evacuated, as the flames neared them.

Grant Southey ZS1GS, Regional Director for HAMNET Western Cape ordered a net to be established amongst available operators in the Peninsula, and along the coast as far as Hermanus, in case help was required. Some areas consumed in the fires had lost power due to damage to wiring, and the possibility of no communications was rearing its head.

Very swiftly, some ten amateurs were to be heard on the 145.600 MHz repeater on Sir Lowry’s Pass, and HF comms were established on 80m. By about 21h00 on Friday evening, the chatter on the repeater had died down, and so had the fires a bit, thanks to some life-saving rain along the coast, which helped to dampen the strength of the fire.

Unfortunately the 145.725MHz  repeater outside Hermanus is not within range of the Peninsula operators, and the UHF link with the 145.600MHz repeater is unserviceable at present, so no contact was directly possible with Hermanus amateurs. Callsigns heard on 80 and 2 metres included ZS1DDK, ZS1SBM, ZS1KP, ZS1PDE, and ZR1FR, and ZS1OR and ZS1TR were also heard on 2 metres. Thank you to you all for being available. Thankfully, you were not needed.

Saturday’s social media were full of pictures and videos of the raging inferno. So far, no lives have been lost and the Overstrand Fire Authorities are reporting that the fires are under control and being monitored.

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

HAMNET Report 6 January 2019

In this, the first edition of the Hamnet Report of 2019, I’m very pleased to quote fully the greetings message from Greg Mossop G0DUB, the Emergency Communications Co-ordinator for the International Amateur Radio Union Region One. He wrote this as 2018 was drawing to a close on the evening of 31 December, and I quote:

“As 2018 ends I would like to thank all of you, and your families, for your support again this year.

“Looking back through the mailing list traffic, it has been quite a busy year, but we have not made a lot of noise about this 🙂

“There were a number of exercises held by you all, some looking at technological disasters like power failures, which have the ability to cause great disruption to the communications networks the public have become dependent on. I lost count of who has had this kind of exercise, but South Africa, Austria and Belgium come immediately to mind.

“Other exercises have had a very international feel with co-operation between the Netherlands, Poland and Germany testing their cross-border links. Others like Spain have had a sequence of exercises around the theme of Net Control which have been supported by the use of media like YouTube to spread training to their operators. We even had ARON in Slovenia streaming a training session live to the web, which set a good example for others to follow.

“We were always ready to respond to events, but there were not too many in our Region, so the focus again is on the countries around the world who are more affected by natural disasters, and the best help we can give is to raise awareness to give them clear frequencies.

“2019 begins with a fresh start as I begin to organise the next meeting of Emergency Communications Co-Ordinators in Friedrichshafen on 21st June. I will also be tidying up the mailing list, updating all the records I have for your countries and, now that there is some interest being shown from other Regions again, also thinking about the next GlobalSET, so we will have a lot to do 🙂

“I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2019.

“73 and Happy New Year,

“Greg, G0DUB.

Thank you, Greg, and your kind greetings are reciprocated from South Africa!

Now, further news of that tsunami I reported on last week comes from the Weather Network.

They report that  authorities around the globe are working on how they can prepare for the kind of freak tsunami that battered coasts west of Jakarta last month.

The Dec. 23 tsunami killed around 430 people along the coastlines of the Sunda Strait, capping a year of earthquakes and tsunamis in the vast archipelago, which straddles the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.

No sirens were heard in those towns and beaches to alert people before the deadly series of waves hit shore.

Seismologists and authorities say a perfect storm of factors caused the tsunami and made early detection near impossible given the equipment in place.

But the disaster should be a wake-up call to step up research on tsunami triggers and preparedness, said several of the experts, some of whom have travelled to the Southeast Asian nation to investigate what happened.

“Indonesia has demonstrated to the rest of the world the huge variety of sources that have the potential to cause tsunamis. More research is needed to understand those less-expected events,” said Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the University of Southampton.

Most tsunamis on record have been triggered by earthquakes. But this time it was an eruption of Anak Krakatau Volcano that caused its crater to partially collapse into the sea at high tide, sending waves up to 5 metres (16 feet) high smashing into densely populated coastal areas on Java and Sumatra islands.

But the eruption didn’t rattle seismic monitors significantly, and the absence of seismic signals normally associated with tsunamis led Indonesia’s geophysics agency (BMKG) initially to tweet there was no tsunami.

Muhamad Sadly, head of geophysics at BMKG, later told Reuters its tidal monitors were not set up to trigger tsunami warnings from non-seismic events.

Scientists have long flagged the collapse of Anak Krakatau, around 155 km (100 miles) west of the capital, as a concern. A 2012 study published by the Geological Society of London deemed it a “tsunami hazard.”

Anak Krakatau had emerged from the Krakatoa volcano, which in 1883 erupted in one of the biggest explosions in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash.

Some experts believe there was enough time for at least a partial detection of last week’s tsunami in the 24 minutes it took waves to hit land after the landslide on Anak Krakatau.

“The tsunami was very much a worst-case scenario for any hope of a clear tsunami warning: a lack of an obvious earthquake to trigger a warning, shallow water, rough seabed, and the close proximity to nearby coastlines,” said seismologist Hicks.

Thank you to theweathernetwork.com for these extracts.

With the start of the New Year, comes the need to round up volunteers for the early sporting events of the year that HAMNET supports. In the Western Cape, our first event is the 99er Cycle Tour around Durbanville, in the direction of Wellington, westward through Philadelphia, and via the N7 back to Durbanville. This event is organized by the el Shaddai Christian School in Durbanville, and takes place on Saturday morning the 9th of February this year.

HAMNET Western Cape is thus looking for the “Usual Suspects” to volunteer their services, and make contact with me in the next two weeks, so I can develop the Operations Plan. We usually have about 14 volunteers so please don’t be shy in stepping forward. We also welcome brand new amateurs, who may, if they wish, ride with an experienced operator to get the feel for these things, with a view to themselves becoming a rover in future years.

I’ll have more details of this in Wednesday the 9th’s HAMNET Western Cape Bulletin, which will be transmitted on  the 145.750MHz repeater at 19h30 Bravo that evening. Please feel free to call in during the bulletin to indicate your presence.

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

HAMNET Report 30 December 2018

Reporting on Christmas Eve, ARRL News said that radio amateurs in Indonesia’s Banten Province were in position to support any necessary emergency communications in the wake of a “stealth tsunami” on December 22, that struck without warning. Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency concluded that a volcanic eruption triggered a landslide underwater at Anak Krakatau.

The tsunami struck in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra, which connects the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean. Rescue and relief activities are under way. The death toll was expected to top 400, and many people were reported to be still missing. Fatalities occurred in the Pandeglang, South Lampung, and Serang regions of Indonesia. Some 1,500 people were reported injured.

IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Coordinator Dani Hidayat YB2TJV, said ORARI, Indonesia’s IARU member-society, would use 7.110 MHz for any relief and recovery communication. An ORARI CORE emergency team used a VHF repeater for regional communication.

ORARI reported that the LAPAN A2 satellite (IO-86) was being pressed into service for emergency communication purposes during the relief and recovery effort. IO-86 should not be used at this time for non-emergency traffic.

“ORARI Daerah Banten, immediately deployed the CORE ORARI Banten team to Cilegon and Serang where the disaster occurred to help the existing volunteer team,” said a report on the ORARI website.

“The disaster management agency warned that the death toll is likely to rise further,” Hidayat said. Some believe that high seas resulting from the full moon may have contributed to the force  of the waves. The disaster management agency said hundreds of buildings were damaged. Thousands of people were left homeless when the waves smashed homes on coastal areas of western Java and southern Sumatra.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the death toll had climbed to 429 on Tuesday with more than 1500 injured, and at least 128 still missing. Military troops, government personnel and volunteers were searching along debris-strewn beaches. Where victims were found, body bags were laid out, and weeping relatives identified the dead.

Express.co.uk says that a potential complete collapse of the Anak Krakatau volcano could trigger an unprecedented tsunami “at any moment” amid growing panic in Indonesia, which is still reeling from the first tsunami which killed more than 400 people last Saturday.

The threat level in Indonesia has been raised to its second highest, mandating a three-mile wide no-fly zone over the volcano.

Air traffic control AirNav said in a statement: “All flights are rerouted due to Krakatoa volcano ash on red alert.”

Scientists are concerned that the Anak Krakatau volcano could completely collapse – unleashing an unprecedented tsunami “without any notice”. Rosemarie North, from the Red Cross, told NBC News: “If the volcano collapses, you will not get much warning at all.”

The disaster last Saturday also took place without any earthquake activity beforehand. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters due to its location on what is called the Ring of Fire. The volatile region sits along plate tectonics underwater, causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Phys.org reports that the Indonesian volcano lost more than two-thirds of its height following the eruption which triggered the killer waves.

A section of Anak Krakatau’s crater collapsed after an eruption and slid into the ocean, generating the tsunami last Saturday night.

A visual analysis by the Indonesian volcanology agency found the volcano has lost more than two-thirds of its height, an official said Saturday.

Anak Krakatau which used to stand 338 metres high was now just 110 metres tall.

The agency estimated the volcano lost between 150 and 180 million cubic metres of material as massive amounts of rock and ash have been slowly sliding into the sea following a series of eruptions.

“Anak Krakatau is now much shorter, usually you can see the peak from the observatory post, now you can’t,” Wawan Irawan, a senior official at the agency, told AFP.

Before and after satellite images taken by Japan’s space agency showed that a two square kilometre chunk of the volcanic island had collapsed into the water.

The volcano, whose name means Child of Krakatoa, was a new island that emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, whose massive 1883 eruption killed at least 36,000 people.

Exactly a week later, that is yesterday, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck off the coast of the Southern end of Philippines, not far from last week’s undersea landslide and tsunami, and at a depth of 60 km. A tsunami warning was immediately announced, but by midday, the warning had been lifted. Only about 20,000 people live within 100km of the epicentre, so quake damage will be little. We hope there will not be a lot of major aftershocks.

Now, in an indirect way, I read of some good news this week. A Vancouver Canada company called  Indro Corp has developed a $70,000 handheld radio frequency pulse rifle designed to immobilize drones.

The Chief Technology Officer for the company, Philip Reece (unfortunately no relation of mine), says that the Drone chaos at Gatwick airport last week emphasises the need for a regulated defence strategy.

He says the main stumbling block to widespread use of the jammer is regulatory. He notes that Industry Standards regulate who is allowed to use the devices, which would make a huge difference if deployed around an airport like Gatwick.

Gatwick was closed between 19 and 21 December due to numerous drone sightings in the area, affecting 140,000 passengers and delaying over 1000 flights.

Thank you to Jane Stephenson writing in the Toronto Sun for this article.

Let’s hope it won’t take long to sort out regulations in all countries, and that our little airports can also be protected against such stupid behaviour.

Once again, it is my pleasure, on behalf of HAMNET South Africa to wish all our readers and listeners a very happy and prosperous 2019, with good health and success in all you endeavour! May all your signals always be 5 and 9!

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

HAMNET Report 23 December 2018

In depressing news of Humanitarian disaster, Aljazeera reports that The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has named the countries most at risk of being hit by humanitarian catastrophe next year, with Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan topping the top 10 list.

As wars, famines and other disasters loom over several countries, 2019 is set to be another arduous year for millions of people around the world.

The next 7 at-risk countries identified by the IRC’s emergency response experts are Afghanistan, Venezuela,  the  Central African Republic, Syria, Nigeria,  Ethiopia and Somalia.

The risks are human (from armed conflicts or economic collapse) as well as natural (from droughts, floods and other climate-related events).

Internal or external displacement is the defining trend in the IRC list. Around 40 million people have been displaced across the world, with the top 10 countries accounting for over half – or nearly 22 million – of those displacements.

The 10 countries also account for at least 13 million refugees, 65 percent of the global total, plus an additional 3 million people who have fled Venezuela.

According to the United Nations, nearly 132 million people in 42 countries around the world will need humanitarian assistance, including protection, in 2019.

Certainly food for thought, and it makes us realise that there are many people around the world far worse off than we are.

Now, from I4U News posted on 16 December, comes news that, on November 11, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first close approach to the sun. The spacecraft came as close as 15 million miles to the sun’s surface during that phase. This is far closer than any spacecraft has gone before. Now, Parker Solar Probe has returned first science data from this closest-ever solar encounter, which may help resolve decades-old questions about the inner workings of our nearest star.

“Heliophysicists have been waiting more than 60 years for a mission like this to be possible. The solar mysteries we want to solve are waiting in the corona,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA. Heliophysics is the study of the Sun and how it affects space near Earth, around other worlds and throughout the solar system.

Launched in August, Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the sun. The small car-sized spacecraft will make 24 close approaches to the sun during the seven-year mission. With each flyby, it will get closer and closer to the sun, reaching within 3.9 million miles of the sun’s surface at closest approach. While zooming toward the sun, Parker probe will withstand extreme radiation and heat, thanks to its revolutionary heat shield, and allow scientists to explore the sun in a way never possible before.

The probe will study the sun’s outer atmosphere or corona in unprecedented detail. The corona is about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface. The atmosphere around the sun is not only unusual but also releases powerful plasma and energetic particles in all directions. The primary objective of the mission is to explore what accelerates these energetic particles as well as solar wind. The constant outpouring from the sun can create hazardous space weather events that impact life on Earth, disrupt radio communications and even interfere with power grids. This is the first time that researchers are studying the corona up close and personal. The resulting data could improve predictions of when major eruptions on the sun occur and how they affect the space environment.

“Parker Solar Probe is providing us with the measurements essential to understanding solar phenomena that have been puzzling us for decades,” said Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University. “To close the link, local sampling of the solar corona and the young solar wind is needed and Parker Solar Probe is doing just that.” End quote.

As this bulletin was being compiled yesterday, news came through of a Magnitude 5.5 Earthquake, which struck at 05h37 UTC in the North-Western regions of Mozambique, not far from the Zimbabwe border. The epicentre was 7.62km below the surface in an area with 930000 people living within 100km of it. The village of Chipinge in Eastern Zimbabwe felt the tremor badly, and vulnerable buildings were toppled by the instability.

Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Services Department said: “Most of the earthquakes that occur in this region are due to natural plate tectonics and this is attributed to the East African Rift System which extends into Mozambique.

“Manicaland in Zimbabwe is a seismically active region, evidenced by the many moderate to large earthquakes occurring each year.”

By the time we went to press last night, no news of casualties had been reported.

And, from the ARRL Letter for 20 December, comes news of a Christmas event.

As he’s done in years past, Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, of Forest, Virginia, will commemorate what may have been the first radio broadcast to include speech and music by experimenter Reginald Fessenden on Christmas Eve 1906. Justin will fire up his vintage-style transmitter operating on 486 kHz under Experimental license WI2XLQ to mark the 112th anniversary of Fessenden’s accomplishment. Justin will begin his transmission on December 24 at 1700 UTC and continue until December 26 at 1659 UTC.

Historic accounts say Fessenden played the violin — or a recording of violin music — and read a brief Bible verse, astounding radio experimenters and shipboard operators who heard the broadcast. For his transmitter in 1906, Fessenden used an ac alternator modulated by placing carbon microphones in series with the antenna feed line.

Justin’s homebuilt station is slightly more modern, based on a 1921 vacuum-tube master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) design, using a UV-202 tube. The transmitter employs Heising AM modulation, developed by Raymond Heising during World War I.

Send listener reports directly to Brian Justin, WA1ZMS.

HAMNET South Africa wishes all its listeners and readers a Merry Christmas, where appropriate, and a safe, healthy and happy 2019. Oh, and please leave your radios on, monitoring the emergency frequencies in your area, to be available to help the people of this beautiful land if they need your assistance. Thank you!

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

HAMNET Report 16 December 2018

What do solar cycles, comets, and band aids all have in common? Well, they’re all in this bulletin!

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, have come up with a path-breaking prediction for solar cycles, which affect numerous things in our daily lives, including space missions, global temperatures, radio communications, and more.

Writing in the Science section of ThePRINT this Friday, Sandhya Ramesh reports that Prantika Bhowmik, a PhD student at the Centre of Excellence in Space Sciences India (CESSI), and Dibyendu Nandi, her professor and co-author of the new paper, have devised a mathematical technique that predicts the next solar cycle ten years in advance. Their study was published in the journal Nature Communications last Thursday.

Sun spots have been observed and recorded for over four centuries, and it was found in the late 19th century that solar activity peaks and lulls approximately every 11 years. The cycles were reconstructed by combing through history, all the way back to 1745. The cycle that commenced that year and ended in 1766 is numbered ‘1’.

The cycles, however, are not exactly 11 years long; they vary between 9 years and 14 years, although 11 seems the average length. The next one, Cycle 25, is set to begin whenever Cycle 24 ends, possibly in early 2020, when all the sunspots start reflecting a reversed magnetic orientation.

A solar cycle functions in ‘maxima’ and ‘minima’. The start of a cycle is at minimal solar activity. This slowly picks up till it peaks mid-cycle in a ‘maximum’, where there can be up to 200 sun spots a day, travelling across the surface of the sun as it rotates. Then solar activity starts coming down again in a ‘minimum’ towards the end of the cycle. At present, the activity is at a minimum between Cycles 24 and 25.

Two big teams of scientists attempted to predict Cycle 24. Both teams used the same data but arrived at opposite conclusions: One claimed the cycle will be low while the other said it would be harsher. Furthermore, all models of prediction could only predict the maximum of a cycle when the minimum had already begun.

So Bhowmik and Nandi set about refining it. The advent of machine learning and complex algorithmic modelling meant they could do much more than what had been done for Cycle 24.

Their model is driven by observed data.

First, they observed the sun spots and noted down parameters such as timings, frequency, and ‘tilt angle’.

They feed this information about these spots into the first part of the algorithm which maps the polar flux on the sun’s surface, using magnetic field evolution models. Once that is mapped, it is used as input to the next part of the algorithm, which uses a dynamo model to predict what happens inside of the sun.

The algorithm then spits out the final prediction which combines the predictions for the upcoming minimum and the following maximum. Once the maximum is predicted, the decline is easy to predict.

Bhowmik and Nandi’s methods have been retro-tested for the data from the previous 100 years, and managed to accurately predict past cycles. They increase the prediction window to nearly 10 years, a historic high.

The model finds that there is not a lot of difference between the current and next solar cycle. In fact, Cycle 25 could even be slightly harsher than 24, with more sun spots. This becomes pertinent once again, especially since more and more nations are sending up satellites and other missions, including the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which has a whole host of launches lined up.

“Cycle 25 is expected to peak around 2024, so if ISRO is planning any interplanetary or trans-lunar missions, it would be safe for them to launch at least a couple of years before or after the peak,” said Bhowmik.

The study was supported by India’s ministry of human resource development, the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research, and NASA.

Thank you to ThePRINT for that news.

Then, a reminder that today, the 16th of December, marks the closest approach to Earth of the Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which will be visible this evening, clouds permitting, in the Northern sky, between the red star Aldebaran, part of the constellation Taurus, to the left of Orion’s famous belt, and the Pleiades cluster, also called the “Seven Sisters”. So, go outside tonight at about 10pm, let your eyes get accustomed to the gloom, see if you can recognise Orion standing on his head, and look slightly to the left and higher up than Orion for the reddish Aldebaran, and then a little further West. Between Aldebaran and the “Seven Sisters”, you might see a greenish glow, slightly bigger than the customary size of the moon, that is the dust cloud around comet 46P/Wirtanen. A pair of binoculars of magnification 7 to 10 times, will make the comet more visible. After about Tuesday, the Moon will be in the evening sky, and block out your vision of the comet. So now’s your chance. Good luck!

Now, for all the cowards out there, pulling off a Band-Aid may soon get a lot less painful!

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Xi’an Jiaotong University in China have developed a new type of adhesive that can strongly adhere wet materials—such as hydrogel and living tissue—and be easily detached with a specific frequency of light.

The adhesives could be used to attach and painlessly detach wound dressings, transdermal drug delivery devices, and wearable robotics.

The paper is published in Advanced Materials.

“Strong adhesion usually requires covalent bonds, physical interactions, or a combination of both,” said Yang Gao, first author of the paper and researcher at Xi’an Jiaotong University. “Adhesion through covalent bonds is hard to remove, and adhesion through physical interactions usually requires solvents, which can be time-consuming and environmentally harmful. Our method of using light to trigger detachment is non-invasive and painless.”

The adhesive uses an aqueous solution of polymer chains spread between two, non-sticky materials—like jam between two slices of bread. On their own, the two materials adhere poorly together but the polymer chains act as a molecular suture, stitching the two materials together by forming a network with the two pre-existing polymer networks. This process is known as topological entanglement.

These two hydrogels, adhered with an aqueous solution of polymer chains, come apart easily In the presence of UV light. Without UV light, the hydrogels are adhered strongly to one another and don’t come apart easily. When exposed to ultra-violet light, the network of stitches dissolves, separating the two materials.

There is, at last, hope for all of us who don’t enjoy having plasters ripped off our skin!

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

HAMNET Report 9 December 2018

In the absence of much EmComm news this week, we look to the skies for interesting snippets of information.

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft completed its 2 billion-kilometre  journey to arrive at the asteroid Bennu on Monday. The spacecraft executed a manoeuvre that transitioned it from flying towards Bennu to operating around the asteroid.

Now, at about 19 kilometres from Bennu’s Sun-facing surface, OSIRIS-REx will begin a preliminary survey of the asteroid. The spacecraft will commence flyovers of Bennu’s north pole, equatorial region, and south pole, getting as close as nearly 7 kilometres above Bennu during each flyover.

OSIRIS-REx’s mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. Asteroids are remnants of the building blocks that formed the planets and enabled life. Those like Bennu contain natural resources, such as water, organics and metals. Future space exploration and economic development may rely on asteroids for these materials.

The mission’s navigation team will use the preliminary survey of Bennu to practice the delicate task of navigating around the asteroid. The spacecraft will enter orbit around Bennu on Dec. 31 — thus making Bennu, which is only about  500 meters across — or about the length of five football fields — the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft. It’s a critical step in OSIRIS-REx’s years-long quest to collect and eventually deliver at least 60 grams of regolith — dirt and rocks — from Bennu to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx mission marks many firsts in space exploration. It will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth, and the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era. It’s the first to study a primitive B-type asteroid, which is an asteroid that’s rich in carbon and organic molecules that make up life on Earth. It is also the first mission to study a potentially hazardous asteroid and try to determine the factors that alter their courses to bring them close to Earth.

When OSIRIS-REx begins to orbit Bennu at the end of this month, it will come close to approximately 1.25 kilometres from its surface. In February 2019, the spacecraft begins efforts to globally map Bennu to determine the best site for sample collection. After the collection site is selected, the spacecraft will briefly touch the surface of Bennu to retrieve a sample. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return the sample to Earth in September 2023.

Thank you to the Southgate Amateur Radio Club news report for these extracts. What an amazing accomplishment it will be if the mission is successful!

Here’s more astronomical news for you science boffins.

Discovered on January 17, 1948 by American Astronomer Carl Wirtanen at the Lick Observatory near San Jose in the state of California, Comet 46P/Wirtanen is one of ten comets to have made very close approaches to the Earth in modern history. Only a handful of these ten comets, including 46P/Wirtanen, were bright enough to be seen with naked eyes.

Some astronomers have predicted that 46P/Wirtanen may be visible without any viewing aids in the weeks around December 16, 2018, when it makes its closest approach to the Earth in 70 years. This is just 4 days after the comet reaches its perihelion—the closest point to the Sun on its orbit—on Dec 12, 2018.

In early December, the comet will move through constellations Eridanus and Cetus. It will reach Taurus around December 12 and pass very close to the Pleiades star cluster around December 16.

To find Taurus, and Comet Wirtanen, look high up in the sky after the end of civil twilight in the evening and before it gets light in the morning.

Don’t say you haven’t been notified! Get out your pair of binoculars, lie on your back in the garden in a dark site, and look more or less straight up for Taurus and the Pleiades cluster. Thank you to timeanddate.com for these details.

Here’s another report from the World Health Organisation’s weekly newsletter.

The Global status report on road safety 2018, launched by WHO in December 2018, highlights the fact that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million. Road traffic injuries are now the leading killers of people aged 5-29 years. The burden is disproportionately borne by pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, in particular those living in developing countries. The report suggests that the price paid for mobility is too high, especially because proven measures exist. These include strategies to address speed and drinking and driving, among other behaviours; safer infrastructure like dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists; improved vehicle standards such as those that mandate electronic stability control; and enhanced post-crash care. Drastic action is needed to put these measures in place to meet any future global target that might be set and save lives.

Finally, the Western Cape Division of HAMNET South Africa held its end of year function yesterday afternoon at a beautiful high site on the slopes of the mountain above Gordon’s Bay, at the home of Deputy Regional Director, Peter Dekker, ZS1PDE.

Peter had graciously offered his home as a venue and saw to the salads and light refreshments at the bring-and-braai, which took place as the afternoon progressed.

The meeting was attended by most of the regular volunteers, and good fellowship was enjoyed by all.

Our Regional Director, Grant Southey ZS1GS, made a short speech of thanks to all members for their contributions to the field of EmComms in the Western Cape during the year, and presented them with certificates of appreciation.

HAMNET Western Cape bulletins on a Wednesday evening at 19h30 will end for the year after this coming Wednesday the 12th of December, and will resume after the festive season on 9th January 2019.

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

HAMNET Report 2 December 2018

Greg Mossop says he has received further information on the NATO Exercise Vigorous Warrior in Romania next year from Adrian YO3HJV.

The exercise is co-ordinated by the NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine (NATO MILMED COE) and the general framework of the exercise is the intervention of military forces in a disaster scenario, assisted by civil resources.

The scenarios for Amateur Radio involvement are still being developed, but will exercise communications inside the exercise area and possibly externally.
This is where it is hoped other countries can be included.

One possible scenario could be that there are interruptions in communications between national command centers and their teams participating in the exercise.  We could help by transmitting information via HF to the organizations involved, using WINLINK, PACTOR, or another suitable digimode.

Following some experience from the Malta/EU exercises, there will need to be some preparation before the exercise, so that the radio amateurs who will operating in both the exercise area and the national command centres are accredited in advance, and given any appropriate contact details, so that the messages can get to the destination with some trust.

A list of other European country organizations who have indicated their interest in  taking part, includes

The Dutch Amateur Radio Emergency Service (Secretary Jan Rozema PA7O); the Radio Amateur Association of Greece/Emergency Service (Board member Sotirios Vanikiotis SV1HER); Belgian Emergency Radio Service (Secretary Karel Cornelis ON7TA); EMCOM Spain (Jose Antonio Mendez EA9CD); and Slovenia (Tilen Cestnik S56CT)

Greg G0DUB thanks these countries who have thus far shown interest.

Between 19h29 our time on Friday evening, and 07h30 on Saturday morning, the South coast of Alaska near Anchorage was struck by 9 earthquakes, of magnitude 4.5 or greater, all between 20 and 40km below the ground, and threatening about 400 000 people living within 100 km of the epicentre. The first shock had magnitude 7,  and  ripped across the Anchorage area on Friday at 19h29. Buildings wobbled, roads cracked and thousands lost power during the morning commute.

After peaking above 50,000, the number of customers without power dropped to about 25,000 in Anchorage and neighbouring areas by Friday evening, Anchorage officials said at a news conference. The public radio station fielded multiple calls about the cleanliness of the water supply, with some residents reporting reddish-brown water coming from their taps. Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility reported more than two dozen mainline water breaks and the city advised residents to boil their tap water as a precaution.

The Federal Aviation Administration declared a ground stop at the airport after the earthquake. At 11:30 a.m. Anchorage time, the FAA said it had begun letting flights depart from the airport, but the ground stop was kept in place for arrivals.

The National Weather Service in Anchorage briefly suspended operations on their Friday morning after a tsunami warning was issued. All of the office’s duties were handed over to the Fairbanks office, and the meteorologists and staff evacuated. Operations resumed at the Anchorage office after the warning was cancelled.

Friday’s quake occurred on a fault line between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, the USGS said. The rupture between the faults occurred in an area where the Pacific plate is moving underneath Alaska. Anchorage was severely damaged in March 1964 by the Great Alaska Earthquake, a 9.2-magnitude quake with its epicentre about 75 miles east of the city. That quake, which lasted for about 4½ minutes, was the most powerful earthquake recorded in U.S. history. It destroyed a major part of downtown Anchorage and caused a tsunami that ravaged towns on the Gulf of Alaska and beyond.

Thank you to the Washington Post for the majority of this report.

Now, doffing my HAMNET hat and donning my MEDICAL one, I wish to tell you that reported measles cases spiked in 2017, as multiple countries experienced severe and protracted outbreaks of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

Because of gaps in vaccination coverage, measles outbreaks occurred in all regions, while there were an estimated 110 000 deaths related to the disease.

Using updated disease modelling data, the report provides the most comprehensive estimates of measles trends over the last 17 years. It shows that since 2000, over 21 million lives have been saved through measles immunizations. However, reported cases increased by more than 30 percent worldwide from 2016 to 2018.

The Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean Region, and Europe experienced the greatest upsurges in cases in 2017, with the Western Pacific the only World Health Organization (WHO) region where measles incidence fell.

“The resurgence of measles is of serious concern, with extended outbreaks occurring across regions, and particularly in countries that had achieved, or were close to achieving, measles elimination,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General for Programmes at WHO. “Without urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage and identify populations with unacceptable levels of under-, or unimmunized children, we risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities against this devastating, but entirely preventable disease.”

Measles is a serious and highly contagious disease. It can cause debilitating or fatal complications, including encephalitis (an infection that leads to swelling of the brain), severe diarrhoea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear infections and permanent visual loss. Babies and young children with malnutrition and weak immune systems are particularly vulnerable to complications and death.

The disease is preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccine. For several years, however, global coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine has stalled at 85 percent. This is far short of the 95 percent needed to prevent outbreaks, and leaves many people, in many communities, susceptible to the disease.

“The increase in measles cases is deeply concerning, but not surprising,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Complacency about the disease and the spread of falsehoods about the vaccine in Europe, a collapsing health system in Venezuela and pockets of fragility and low immunization coverage in Africa are combining to bring about a global resurgence of measles after years of progress. Existing strategies need to change: more effort needs to go into increasing routine immunization coverage and strengthening health systems.”

The agencies also call for actions to build broad-based public support for immunizations, while tackling misinformation and hesitancy around vaccines where these exist.

The misinformation referred to, is a illogical claim that measles vaccines have a chance of causing Autism Spectrum Disorder in children. This is a totally disproved  rumour based on false evidence debunked about 40 years ago.

PLEASE immunise your child against measles. He or she will not get Autism Spectrum Disorder, but he or she may well die of measles if not immunised!

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

HAMNET Report 25 November 2018

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) announced a red alert yesterday for Tropical Cyclone USAGI-18, crossing the Southern coast of Vietnam, with winds in the region of 130 km/h, and heading North-West. 1.3 million people are in the direct path of the storm, and 31.6 million are within range of the tropical depression. By Monday the 26th, the storm will have entered the bottom left corner of Cambodia, and hopefully crossed the coast out to sea West of Cambodia.

Now, from spaceweather.com comes news of an exciting event this week.

For the first time ever, cubesats are approaching Mars. Their mission: To experience “7 minutes of terror”. If all goes as planned, on Monday the two tiny spacecraft will watch NASA’s InSight lander touchdown on the Red Planet, relaying updates to Earth in near-real time.

InSight is the latest NASA probe to land on Mars–or disintegrate in the attempt. On Nov. 26th, it will tear through the planet’s atmosphere in a fireball, shedding more than 12,000 mph of velocity in just under 7 minutes (during which time NASA will be unable to receive signals from it! These are the “7 minutes of terror”.). NASA hopes InSight will touch down gently on the plains of Elysium Planitia where it can drill into Mars, using seismometers, heat flow sensors, and radios to study the planet’s interior.

Officially the two cubesats are known as MarCO-A and MarCO-B, but JPL engineers have nicknamed them “WALL-E” and “Eva.” They were launched alongside the lander on May 5, 2018. Mission controllers weren’t even sure the tiny spacecraft would survive the journey across interplanetary space–but they did. Now they will act as radio relay stations. Instead of waiting several hours for InSight to report back to Earth, WALL-E and Eva will relay entry, descent and landing data much sooner. This is the first time cubesats have travelled beyond Earth orbit, so it will be a significant achievement if they succeed.

NASA will broadcast the landing on NASA TV starting at 2 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 26th. That is 9pm, our time, so do go to NASA TV and watch.

And for an entertaining description of InSight’s mission to Mars, go to TheOatmeal.com, choose “Comics”, and watch “A mole will land on Mars”.

Carly Zervis, reporting in the Citrus County Chronicle, has reported on Fred Moore, who is a longtime amateur radio operator, and who, earlier this month, played a role in getting medical assistance to a crew member suffering chest pains aboard a sailboat in the Atlantic.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a kid,” Fred said. “I first got licensed as an amateur radio operator when I was about 13 or 14 years old.” He liked it so much he made it a career as chief engineer at several radio stations in the Philadelphia area and in the Merchant Marine as a radio officer.

Now, retired and a member of the Maritime Mobile Service Network (MMSN), Moore volunteers his time and years of experience to help radio operators aboard anything afloat and equipped with a radio to communicate with anybody they need to talk to on land. On Nov. 9, a crew member on the Maria Elena needed help.

“There was a vessel off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, who had on board a crew member who had began to suffer chest pains,” Moore said Monday. “He had training himself, as an emergency medical person, so he knew kind of what was happening to him, and he said ‘I’ve got to get off this boat, or I’m not gonna see tomorrow, maybe.’”

But given the boat’s location — 300 miles east of Bermuda — calling 911 wasn’t an option, so the captain got on the radio.

“He came up on a frequency on which the MMSN operates and explained what was going on. He was talking to somebody up in Wisconsin, but the signal began to fade, and I happened to have the radio turned on and on the right frequency, and I said ‘I’ve got to help this guy,’” Moore continued. “So I called him. It happens I had talked to the captain of that boat previously, in previous years. He explained to me what was going on, and said, ‘could you get us some help?’”

Moore patched the captain through to the U.S. Coast Guard, allowing them to communicate directly via his home radio station, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

“We decided it might be a good idea to establish a schedule to maintain contact over the next several hours, to see how the patient was doing and how the Coast Guard was progressing in getting a facility available to offload this guy. So that’s what I did,” he said. “It started around midday and went into the evening hours, and by 9 or 10 the following morning the Coast Guard managed to have a rescue vessel come alongside. They moved him to the rescue vessel, and then he was offloaded from the rescue vessel to a helicopter and taken to a medical facility.”

“The assistance we received from the ham radio operator[s] was crucial in helping us communicate with the vessel’s crew,” U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Unser said in a press release after the crew member was evacuated. Unser was the search-and-rescue coordinator for the incident.

As for Moore’s role in the man’s rescue, it wasn’t the first time he’s provided aid via radio. As a volunteer with both the MMSN and the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), he’s assisted with calls for help as well as larger disasters, including after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

According to an article by the American Radio Relay League, Moore was one of three amateur radio operators who assisted significantly with the communications effort after the earthquake.

Fred is definitely an asset to Amateur Radio and Emergency Communications..

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