HAMNET Report 10 June 2018

Today the 10th of June sees the famous Comrades Marathon taking place between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. On a very impressive spreadsheet provided by HAMNET KZN, I counted about 33 HAMNET Operators assisting with comms between the two cities.

It has actually been a busy two weeks for HAMNET KZN, as they were managing the Ironman race last weekend as well. I look forward to hearing that both events went well for the backroom boys, and hope we’ll receive a summary of proceedings from Keith and his merry band of men. Good luck for today, folks!

Alister ZS1OK of HAMNET Western Cape is looking for at least four volunteers to assist at a City of Cape Town Disaster Exercise to be held on Wednesday 20 June from 08h00 onwards. Some of the operators will be required to be mobile, and others will operate the HAMNET Comms Room at ZS1DCC in Goodwood. Details will be made known at the first briefing this week. Please contact Alister at zs1ok.alister@gmail.com if you are able to assist.

The Two-Way edition of 4 June, reported on the dramatic scenes in Guatemala the previous day when Mount Fuego, one of Central America’s most active volcanoes, stirred to life again. Mount Fuego spewed ash and lava from its heights, blanketing the lands nearby and leaving at least 69 people dead, according to Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Sciences.

Many people were injured and Guatemalan authorities fear the death toll may rise further as the aftermath from the sudden eruption becomes clear. More than 3,200 people were evacuated from the area.

Guatemala’s national disaster response agency, CONRED, said that the eruption lasted more than 16 hours before finally quieting. The agency described the substance ejected by the volcano as a pyroclastic flow — defined by the U.S. Geological Survey as “a high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas.”

The USGS adds that pyroclastic flows, which resemble avalanches in their overwhelming rush, can reach temperatures of up to 700 degrees Celsius and speeds of more than 80 kph. They can “knock down, shatter, bury or carry away, nearly all objects and structures in their path,” the service notes.

The eruption Sunday was Fuego’s second this year, according to CONRED, though the first incident, in February, left far less of an impact.

We thank Two-Way for  these notes, and hope the situation has stabilised now.

In slightly better news coming from Hawaii, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was able to guide first responders via drone to rescue a Hawaiian man whose home was on the verge of being engulfed by lava from the Kilauea volcano.

The volcano erupted in early May and has resulted in thousands of evacuations and rampant destruction ever since. Last Sunday, the USGS piloted a drone to help an emergency crew navigate the harrowing landscape to save a life.

The USGS provided footage of the entire event as it played out. Its team was able aerially to locate the man trapped on his property and then use the drone to guide a rescue team out of harm’s way.

Additionally, the drone camera’s live stream was able to allow the USGS to direct other residents out of hazardous areas, due to the more informed bird’s-eye view.

Thanks to Marco Margaritoff of TheDrive for this report.

It’s great to see actual deployment of technology like this after months and months of speculation and promises of that which drones can do to make life safer. Up to now, drones have been in the hands of the rich hobbyists, who played with them, and usually irritated the aviation industry by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Finally, we have evidence of practical usage with life-saving outcomes.

NASA’s latest mission to space is the ICON satellite I mentioned a little while ago. The Ionospheric Connection Explorer will be launched this coming Thursday, and science will start coming back to us in August.

The main task assigned to the Explorer is to estimate the ionized winds that prevail at the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere and deduce the effect of atmospheric weather on the ionized winds in the seasonal tropical monsoons.

According to Thomas Immel, the ICON is designed in a way to monitor everything that comes past the boundary of space. He is the lead of the ICON mission and a physicist at the Space Sciences Lab.

The ICON satellite will orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 560 Km but will mainly monitor the area above 90 Km, where the feeble upper atmosphere of the Earth transitions into space, and the temperature is at 200 Kelvin, making it the most frigid region on Earth. However, the Sun continuously warms this area and, as a result of its UV radiation, knocks electrons off oxygen atoms, leading to the creation of ionized gas or plasma.

There are two MIGHT1 telescopes fitted in NASA’s ICON Explorer, and their main goal will be to calculate the velocity of the plasma waves by means of their Doppler shift effect between 90 and 320Km  over the Earth’s surface.

Thank you to Spaceflight News for this information. The week ahead should be fairly interesting.

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

HAMNET Report 3 Jun e 2018

Keith Lowes ZS5WFD, of HAMNET KZN tells me he “has a team of 8 HAMNET members who will be assisting with communications for the Standard Bank Ironman 70.3 Durban Event taking place today the 3rd of June. Race control manned by Keith ZS5WFD will be based at Pirates Lifesaving Club in front of Suncoast Casino/Tshogo Sun Hotel complex.  Around 3000 people have entered, comprising 40 teams.

“The event consists of a 1,9Km swim at uShaka Beach,  two laps of the  bike stage along the M4 Ruth First highway out to Umdloti and back which makes 90.1Km, and finally running 2 laps along the promenade between New Beach and Blue Lagoon covering 21.1Km.

“Communications will be on 145.550 Simplex and 145.625 Highway Amateur Radio Repeater.”

Thanks Keith, and good luck with this one!

Readers are reminded of the two HAMNET bulletins you can listen to each week, on Echolink, while HF conditions are so poor. On Sunday mornings, at 07h00, HAMNET KwaZulu Natal transmits its bulletins on VHF frequencies in KZN, using the call sign ZS5DCC and via the Echolink node ZS5PMB-R. The operators are Keith ZS5WFD and Glen ZS5GD. And on Wednesday evenings, at 19h30, HAMNET Western Cape airs its bulletin on VHF frequencies in the Western Cape, using the call sign ZS1DZ, and via the Echolink node ZS1DCC-R, operated by me ZS1DFR. On the first Wednesday of each month, HWC has a members meeting at that time, so we will not be on the air this Wednesday, but definitely all other Wednesdays of the month.

As far as I am aware, HAMNET Gauteng South and Western Cape are the two regions who have made donations so far to the funds needed to make the YOTA week in South Africa in August a success. We will probably be hosting young amateurs from a large number of IARU Region One countries in that week, and any and all donations to the fund will be gratefully received. Please contact the SARL Secretary or President for further details if you wish to offer help.

Those of you interested in Digital Mobile Radio, or DMR, but knowing nothing about it, may care to listen to a podcast entitled “Dummies Guide to DMR“, which has been put together on the ICQPodcast platform. The Podcast is episode 267 on their website, and can be found at www.icqpodcast.com on the left-hand side of their front page. Clicking on that image will give you a chance to listen on the web, or download the podcast for later listening. Thank you to Southgate Amateur Radio News for drawing our attention to that.

And while you’re about it, go and watch episode 21 of TX Factor, an HD webcast from the website all about amateur radio entitled www.txfilms.co.uk/txfactor/. It’s an hour or so of good amateur radio content.

And in a worrying post, SPACEFLIGHT INSIDER reports that China has apparently lost contact with one of its two lunar radio astronomy microsatellites sent into space last week together with a communications relay spacecraft for Chang’e 4 lunar mission.

The two “Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths Pathfinder” satellites, designated DSLWP-A1 and DSLWP-A2, piggybacked on the launch of the Queqiao communication relay satellite that took place on May 20, 2018. The trio lifted off atop a Long March 4C rocket from the  Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China’s Sichuan Province.

Gbtimes.com reports that while Queqiao’s journey to the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrangian Point had passed flawlessly and DSLWP-A2 was successfully inserted into lunar orbit, the DSLWP-A1 microsatellite encountered problems during the flight. The site went on to state that there has been no communication between the ground stations and DSLWP-A1 since May 21, following a trajectory correction manoeuvre after trans-lunar injection.

Amateur radio and satellite tracking enthusiasts are trying to re-establish contact with the lost satellite but all attempts to do so have been so far unsuccessful.

DSLWP-A1 and DSLWP-A2 are two identical micro-satellites manufactured by the Harbin Institute of Technology, weighing approximately 45 kilograms each. They are designed to conduct ultra-long-wave astronomical observations of the sky at frequencies between one megahertz and 30 megahertz from a lunar orbit at an altitude of 200 by 9,000 kilometres. This is at a distance where interference from Earth-based HF signals will be minimised.

Let’s hope for a happy outcome for this ground-breaking mission.

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

HAMNET Report 27th May 2018

HAMNET is very encouraged by the news in this morning’s SARL bulletin that a 100kHz portion of the 5Mhz band will be opened on a shared basis to radio amateurs. For a long time, emergency communicators have needed a gap-filler between 80 metres and 40 metres, to transmit messages when conditions are poor, and now we have one. Once the band-plan has been published, HAMNET Directors must get together and specify an emergency frequency for future use. However, we must note the restriction of 15 watts e.i.r.p. on our signals, because the band is shared.

From the NASA Disaster Response blog, comes news of the work done by them to catalogue what is happening in Hawai, as the volcano continues to erupt.

NASA is tracking lava flows from Hawaii Island’s Kilauea volcano as fissures erupt and lava makes its way to the ocean.

Using data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer, or VIIRS instrument, aboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite, NASA’s Disaster Program has been tracking thermal anomalies, or hot spots, indicative of lava flow. VIIRS is the only instrument from space that can track lava flows through hot spots, making it an important additional source of information for the U.S. Geological Survey as it monitors and informs the public of the ongoing volcanic activity, which has produced everything from earthquakes and giant rock projectiles from eruptions, to blankets of ash clouds and volcanic smog, or vog.

In addition to VIIRS, NASA provides other information on volcanic activity, including aerosol and sulphur dioxide measurements derived from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) aboard NASA’s Aura satellite as well as the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite aboard NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite, and ground deformation and movement with synthetic aperture radar data.

NASA also organized a field mission with airborne radar to provide accurate digital elevation maps that USGS can use to predict lava path flows. Flown on the G-III research aircraft, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN) instrument is detecting changes in Kilauea’s topography associated with the new lava flows, with the goal of measuring the erupted volume as a function of time and ultimately the total volume of the event.

I doubt whether any other volcano has had the benefit of observations from space like this one. And the volcano hasn’t settled down yet.

It would seem that the Dayton Hamvention was a resounding success. Writing in the Xenia Daily Gazette, Anna Bolton noted that Michael Kalter, official spokesperson for Dayton Hamvention, said he thinks the numbers were higher than last year’s 29,296. Kalter said the weekend went smoothly, thanks in part due to the effectiveness of the county, city, township, fair board and all parties working together.

Kathleen Wright, executive director of Greene County Convention & Visitors Bureau, agreed that the travellers seemed to enjoy their time in Greene County.

“So many are already beginning the countdown for next year’s event. I simply cannot say enough nice things about the people from all over the world who participate in this world class event. With over 600 volunteers led by Dayton Amateur Radio Association members, this event proves to be highly organized. We look forward to hosting this event for many years to come,” she said.

It is a pity that events like this are so inaccessible to us, isn’t it? New equipment, masses of accessories, and lots of lectures inside the venue, as well as an enormous fleamarket outside to curb everybody’s appetite. Sounds too good to be true!

On the 17th of May, the ARRL News reported on findings during the Solar Eclipse QSO Party last year in August.

The first science results from the Solar Eclipse QSO Party last August 21 have been published in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters. In the paper, “Modelling Amateur Radio Soundings of the Ionospheric Response to the 2017 Great American Eclipse,” Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, and team, present Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) observations of the SEQP and compare them with ray tracings through an eclipsed version of the physics-based ionospheric model SAMI3. Frissell, a New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) research professor, explains that ray tracing is a method of calculating where a radio wave will go based on electron density — essentially the same as calculating how a light ray passes through a lens. HamSCI, the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation organization, sponsored the event.

“From a ham radio perspective, this paper very clearly shows the effect of the eclipse on not just a few, but a very large number of contacts,” Frissell told ARRL. “You can see from the charts that activity drops off steeply on 20 meters during eclipse totality, while 80 and 160 meters open up. On 40 meters, you can see how the contact distance increases in step with the eclipse.”

Frissell said another key aspect of the paper is that the researchers were able to use ray tracing to compare the observations to a physics-based numerical model of the eclipsed ionosphere. “We did this by ray tracing hundreds of thousands of ray paths on the NJIT supercomputer,” Frissell explained. “The development of this method of comparison also gives us a new tool for comparing datasets like the RBN, to actual models.”

On 14 MHz (20 metres), eclipse effects were observed as a drop off in communications for an hour before and an hour after eclipse maximum. On 7 MHz (40 metres), typical path lengths extended from about 500 km to 1,000 km for 45 minutes before and after eclipse maximum. On 1.8 MHz (160 metres) and 3.5 MHz (80 metres), eclipse effects were observed as band openings 20 to 45 minutes around eclipse maximum.

By using ray tracing to compare these observations with the SAMI3 model, it was found that the majority of 14 MHz signals refracted off the ionosphere at heights less than 125 km in the E region. On the lower bands, 1.8, 3.5, and 7 MHz, it was found that signals likely refracted off heights greater than 125 km in the F region.

These observations suggest an eclipse-induced weakening of the ionosphere, and are consistent with numerous prior HF radio eclipse ionospheric studies. Congratulations to Nathaniel and his team on this ground-breaking research.

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

HAMNET Report 20th May 2018

I’d like to add HAMNET’s collective voice to the messages of sympathy to the family of Mike Bosch, ZS2FM, and to the radio amateurs of division two, on the devastating loss of such a giant amongst us. Mike’s advice and writings have been gold-standards in this country’s experience on the VHF, UHF and SHF bands, and we are going to be lost without him. He has inspired so many of us not to forget to use these bands, and, indirectly, contributed so much to emergency Communications in this country, because Emcomms predominantly run on VHF frequencies and higher. Rest in Peace, Mike, you will be sorely missed.

PAUSE

Greg Mossop G0DUB of the IARU Region One Emergency Communications division has announced the itinerary for the Friday afternoon meetings, to be held on 1st June, at Friedrichshafen.

He will start at 12h00 with his Co-ordinator’s report, and will be followed by a report of Polish-Emcomm activities by Michal SP9XYM, and Chris SP7WME. Next will come a report on the Austrian Exercise “Solar Flare”, followed by Alberto IK0YLO, talking on portable linked DMR repeaters. An open forum of about 45 minutes will end with a discussion of plans for next year’s meetings at Friedrichshafen. The meeting will wrap up at about 15h30, and, so far, has the blessing of the European Emcom agencies.

Meanwhile, The ARES e-Letter reported that, at the ARRL Member Forum at the 2018 Hamvention, outside Dayton, Ohio, Great Lakes Division Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK, chairman of the ARRL Public Service Enhancement Working Group, talked about the dramatic changes that are occurring among agencies serving in the emergency and disaster response sector yesterday afternoon. He shared an update on planning for proposed new guidelines for participants in the ARES program, including plans for a new volunteer management software system, called ARES Connect. Upgrades to ARES training and resources will ensure the service continues to be a valuable partner for its served agencies into the future. The ARRL Member Forum was scheduled for noon on Saturday, May 19. A complete guide to ARRL activities, exhibits, and presentations at 2018 Hamvention is available at www.arrl.org/expo.

And don’t say you didn’t hear it here first! Watch for the Yaesu FTDX101D, still in prototype form, and the Kenwood TS-890S, after the Hamvention weekend, both of them hot off the press! So far, I’m not aware of a new ICOM rig announced at the convention.

The ARRL Letter for 17th May, reporting further on the volcanic activity on Hawai’s Big Island, says that the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports active venting of lava and hazardous fumes continues, with no end in sight. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed after roads and trails were damaged. The Observatory this week increased the Aviation Colour Code to RED, due to increased ash emission.

FEMA reports that some 360 evacuees are staying in emergency shelters. Some 2,000 residents have been evacuated in all. “Twenty fissure vents have formed in and around the Leilani estates subdivision,” the agency said in its May 17 report. “Air quality in the southeast area of Lanipuna Gardens has been rated ‘condition red’ (that is: ‘immediate danger to health’) for high levels of sulphur dioxide. Volcanic-tectonic seismicity continues.”

The US Geodetic Survey has warned that new lava outbreaks could happen “at any time,” as well as “more energetic ash emissions.”

As we develop more and more powerful tools to peer beyond our solar system, we learn more about the seemingly endless sea of faraway stars and their curious casts of orbiting planets. But there’s only one star we can travel to directly and observe up close—and that’s our own: the Sun.

Phys.Org reports that two upcoming missions will soon take us closer to the Sun than we’ve ever been before, providing our best chance yet at uncovering the complexities of solar activity in our own solar system and shedding light on the very nature of space and stars throughout the universe.

Together, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and ESA’s (the European Space Agency) Solar Orbiter may resolve decades-old questions about the inner workings of our nearest star. Their comprehensive, up-close study of the Sun has important implications for how we live and explore: Energy from the Sun powers life on Earth, but it also triggers space weather events that can pose hazard to technology we increasingly depend upon. Such space weather can disrupt radio communications, affect satellites and human spaceflight, and—at its worst—interfere with power grids. A better understanding of the fundamental processes at the Sun driving these events could improve predictions of when they’ll occur and how their effects may be felt on Earth.

“Our goal is to understand how the Sun works and how it affects the space environment to the point of predictability,” said Chris St. Cyr, Solar Orbiter project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is really a curiosity-driven science.”

Parker Solar Probe is slated to launch in the summer of 2018, and Solar Orbiter is scheduled to follow in 2020. These missions were developed independently, but their coordinated science objectives are no coincidence: Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter are natural teammates.

A new water-based battery could provide a cheap way to store wind or solar energy for later, researchers say.

The battery stores energy generated when the sun is shining and wind is blowing, so it can be fed back into the electric grid and redistributed when demand is high.

The prototype manganese-hydrogen battery, reported in Nature Energy, stands just three inches tall and generates a mere 20 milliwatt-hours of electricity, which is on par with the energy levels of LED flashlights that hang on a key ring.

Despite the prototype’s diminutive output, the researchers are confident they can scale up this table-top technology to an industrial-grade system that could charge and recharge up to 10,000 times, creating a grid-scale battery with a useful lifespan well in excess of a decade.

This technology is still in its infancy, but looks very promising, and may provide a very cheap and reusable technology we’ll all be using in the next ten years, so watch that space!

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

HAMNET Report 13 May 2018

Bad news out of the Democratic Republic of Congo this week is the announcement of a new outbreak of Ebola. Of 32 potential cases reported, 2 are confirmed, 18 are probable and 12 are suspected cases. Eighteen of these people have died, though not all of them are confirmed to have had Ebola. All cases were reported from a single health facility, and 17 of them were shown to have had good contact with each other – in other words cases were not spontaneous and unrelated.

This is the eighth outbreak of Ebola in the last 40 years in DRC. The Ministry of Health has deployed rapid response teams to investigate cases, one million dollars has been mobilized by the World Health Organisation’s contingency fund for emergencies, and risk communications materials have been distributed in all the local languages.

To date, the outbreak seems to be geographically limited, but the population density makes the risks in the area high, and the lack of epidemiological and demographic information hampers an estimation of the magnitude of the epidemic.

I asked Dave Higgs ZS2DH, the organiser of last week’s blackout exercise, to send me an informal report about the 24 hour exercise held over the weekend. He writes:

“It is very easy to put together a bunch of messages and then expect a bunch of other people to give up their time, drag their equipment out of the shack and spend a long (and at times cold) 24 hours sending these messages around the country. Well I did the easy part. A bunch of very willing people gave up valuable family time to undertake training and for that a big thank you is due to them and their families. Clearly not everyone needed training, but the old hands were there showing the ropes and that was also appreciated.

Comments made after the event point to everyone having fun and noting the professionalism of the other teams. In spite of some pressure periods, everyone maintained a polite, courteous, and professional air about them. Another common comment in the various emails is that a lot was learned – and that was ultimately the goal.

What stood out for me was the participation and enthusiasm with which the event took place. 11 teams from around the country took part – each with both a VHF and an HF team!

Digital modes were given a try and perhaps warrant more attention as part of our “out of the box” emergency field stations.”

Thank you, Dave, and to you also for the huge amount of work you put into organising the event.

From our perspective, we in the Cape received messages by electronic means at our VHF station, which required us either to send, or request, information from stations elsewhere in the country. Our VHF station then contacted our HF station by VHF, UHF, or even digital means, with a message to send, or information to request, from other stations via HF means. Being so far from the rest of the country, we were at a disadvantage, and suffered from poor propagation at various times during the event. There was a lot of fading on the bands, and 40 and later 80 metres was all we could use. I’m sure the other divisions had similar problems, but were often able to relay on our behalf because of their relative proximity to each other. During the lulls, our HF and VHF stations tested out various digital modes between each other, which proved to be useful experience. So all was not lost in Cape Town. ZS2 and ZS4 stations seemed to be heard the best here, though fade often prevented us from completing the message transfer.

I look forward to another exercise like this, but hope Dave Higgs can get the ionosphere working properly before then!

In a mail from Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Regional Director of HAMNET KZN, we have been informed that “In an effort to improve local co-ordination of members living on the lower South Coast who are not in range of our local 2M repeaters, Sid Tyler ZS5AYC, has kindly agreed to take on the role of, and I have accordingly appointed him as, an Assistant Provincial Director in KZN.  My thanks to Sid in also putting a team together that participated in the recent Blackout exercise.”

Congratulations, Sid, I can’t think of a better candidate! What Sid doesn’t know about radio operations off the grid and in the wild could be written on the back of a postage stamp!

Keith also mentions that he has discovered that only a third of his members were reachable by the email addresses he had on the portal. The rest of the messages all bounced back with error strings. He asks all KZN members to update their details on the portal, and volunteers his services in getting everyone connected again.

Good luck in getting that fixed quickly, Keith!

And in a deliciously sad story from Poland, The New York Times reports that a horse and trailer overturned on a highway, spilling tons of hot liquid chocolate over six lanes on the N2 motorway, blocking traffic in both directions!

Rescue officials said the chocolate was solidifying as it cooled, and would require large amounts of hot water to clear away! I reckon they should have declared a school holiday in the country and sent all the kids there with spoons. The mess would have been cleared up in no time at all! Why don’t we get disasters like that in our country?!

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

HWC Awards Evening

During the gala dinner held in Pretoria in mid April, a number of Hamnet Western Cape members were awarded the Jack Twine Award. Unfortunately not all of them were able to attend the dinner.In place of a regular members meeting, HWC held an awards evening to present these to the members.

Jack Twine

Recipients of the Jack Twine Award:(L-R) Douglas Defty ZS1DUG, Ian Stanbridge ZS1OSK, Peter Dekker ZS1PDE, Grant Southey (ZS1GS), Jason Codd ZS1ZW, Michael Taylor ZS1MJT, Alister Van Tonder ZS1OK, Dave Le Roux ZS1DAV

The same opportunity was used to present certificates to attending members for their efforts in assisting HWC with events etc held during 2017. The certificates are a HWC initiative to recognise members for their efforts and showing them that their contributions do not go un-noticed or unappreciated.

Certificates

Certificates: (L-R) Dave Le Roux ZS1DAV, Elizabeth Southey ZS1XS, Ian Stanbridge ZS1OSK, Douglas Defty ZS1DUG, Peter Dekker ZS1PDE, Michelle Taylor ZS1MCT, Jason Codd ZS1ZW, Michael Taylor ZS1MJT, Alister Van Tonder ZS1OK, Grant Southey ZS1GS, Paul Kennedy ZS1PXK, Matt Feinstein ZS1MTF, Dave Reece ZS1DFR, Hendrik Visagie ZS1EEE, Brian Dutlow ZS1BTD, Sean White ZS1BSD

Congratulations to all recipients and thank you for your assistance through out the recent years.

 

HAMNET Report 6 May 2018

For those of you wondering whether last week’s heavy rain made any difference to our dam levels, I can tell you that the state of the Western Cape dams, and the Cape Town System dams, both rose by about one percentage point, compared to the previous week. Pictures of the dams show very little difference, but every drop helps. It remains to be seen how wet May is.

At the members meeting of HAMNET Western Cape, held at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg Hospital on Wednesday evening, Grant ZS1GS, Regional Director, awarded the Jack Twine Awards and HAMNET pens to those amateurs who were unable to attend the SARL Awards Dinner held two weeks ago. The awards were received with acclaim, and photographs were taken to ensure a memory of these awards for posterity. Well done, Fellows!

I found an interesting article in RadioZS of May 1973, by Doug Brook, ZS1AE, reporting on the enthusiasm of earlier amateurs for the principles of HAMNET.

Doug writes:

“The wonderful response from Amateurs throughout South Africa has more than justified the combined efforts of the Civil Defence Authorities and the SARL Sub-Committee to launch a network to provide radio communications in times of Emergency.

“Many good names were submitted for the network and had it not been deemed necessary for the name to be as near usable in English and Afrikaans as possible, expressive of the participation of Radio Amateurs, and as brief as possible, the final choice would have been an extremely difficult one.

“However, one of the names which appeared consistently among the questionnaires was the simple and eye-catching title of ‘HAMNET’ which your subcommittee has since discussed with your Council and also with the Civil Defence Liaison team and all have agreed that this will become the official name of the Network of Radio Amateurs who have volunteered to assist with the provision of radio communications should the necessity ever arise.

“No attempt is being made to define the meaning of the word ‘Emergency’, as it is felt that such an attempt will not only be inadequate but may also tend to be misleading.

“Torrential rains causing serious flooding and in some instances threats of dams bursting have been occurring far more regularly than one likes to believe possible in these modern and enlightened days.

“The disasters mentioned above are typical of natural occurrences which result in a partial or even complete breakdown in normal communications. With the approvals which have been secured from the authorities, it is now possible for the Radio Amateur  to step into the picture and provide vital communication links which may otherwise take hours or even days to set up on an official basis.

“Once the Authorities have regained control of a situation, the Radio Amateur will have fulfilled his obligations.

“A number of Amateurs, who feel that they may possibly be officially engaged during an emergency, have offered their equipment to HAMNET. These offers are greatly appreciated and have been carefully noted.

“Still other amateurs have offered to buy special equipment for the Emergency Network, but your Sub-Committee has decided that this will be an unnecessary imposition on the pocket and the good will of the Amateurs concerned and accordingly make it known that Amateurs are not expected to purchase any special equipment for ‘HAMNET’.

“The Civil Defence Authorities have made it quite clear that amateurs are being requested to provide emergency communications on an exclusively voluntary basis, and to this end, do not wish to impose any discipline of a military nature upon those willing amateurs.

“Likewise, the authorities will not at this stage give any consideration to the provision of any radio equipment whatsoever.

“The authorities are however keen to encourage the amateur in all other respects, and your Sub-Committee has welcomed the offer by the Authorities to permit and to participate in large scale exercises of simulated emergencies.”

The report then goes on to mention the keeping of good logs, and encourages the appointment of regional representatives of HAMNET, to allow good co-operation between the HAMNET Sub-Committee on the SARL Council, and the Branches of the SARL, as they were then constituted.

Doug concludes by saying: “In the meantime, you are thanked for your generous support and for your patience while the various developments have taken place”.

Thank you to the RadioZS archives for the article by Doug Brook ZS1AE.

HAMNET has been occupying itself this weekend in a communications exercise of the type mentioned in Doug Brook’s article. The style of the exercise has been kept most secretive, and, as I write this, I know neither what the exercise will consist of, nor the times during which it will run. This is exactly as one might expect an emergency to take place, as there should be no chance to practise the skills needed during the exercise, nor any advance notice of what to expect. It is known that teams have been activated in all the divisions to act on the instructions of the organisers from Division Two, and we wait with interest to see what happens.

I’m sure we’ll have more news of the event next week.

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

HAMNET Report 29 April 2018

In some notes given to me at the SARL annual general meeting, I found references to the first time that an emergency communications organisation within the SARL was mentioned.

Firstly, I must say that those early days saw an organisation with almost paramilitary tendencies being created. It is important to say at the outset now that HAMNET has no military leanings anymore, so please do not read right- or left-wing leanings into my reporting now. I merely report on what I read!

It appears that individuals in the SARL were asked in early 1971 to take part in “certain services” whatever they may have been. RadioZS notes the creation of a subcommittee in May 1972, consisting of DE Brook ZS1AE (chairman), HM Wilson ZS1BF (member) and P Schmitt ZS1GE (member), which committee had a meeting in July 1972, with prominent members of the Dept of Civil Defence under the chairmanship of a Brigadier. The President and Council of the SARL attended the meeting at the Castle.

A questionnaire was drawn up by the subcommittee, which was approved by Defence HQ, and then circulated to all licensed radio amateurs, as a sort of membership application form. Responses by the end of November 1972 were 1000, which shows that, from the beginning, radio amateurs felt that their capabilities were worthy of being used in all sorts of emergencies.

By May 1973, members were being canvassed for a good name for the organisation, and the name “HAMNET” was offered by many, receiving good support, and subsequently being accepted. In September 1974’s RadioZS, a membership of 2000 was quoted, and 11 areas had headquarters stations, as well as 2 signal regiments involved.

The November 1974 RadioZS mentions that several stations had become involved as regional and national coordinators. In no order, they were David Viljoen ZS4Z, Tinus Lange ZS6TL, Roelf Kloppers ZS6ATK, Gert Terblanche ZS6BIK, Bert Johnson ZS6WY, Paul Moulang ZS6YS, Bill Ingleson ZS6KO and Brian Corlett ZS6BLZ.

I think we can therefore safely assume that the principles of HAMNET emergency communications were established in the SARL by the end of 1974. Thank you to the ZS6 stations who supplied me with these notes.

Exceedingly good news from the Western Cape surrounds heavy rainfall, which fell over the night of Wednesday/Thursday morning this week, as the result of the arrival of a cut-off low over the Western Cape. Extremely heavy rain, of the order of 240mm/hour if it had continued, resulted in a total of at least 60mm of rain being experienced in all parts of the Peninsula, and we understand even more in the mountains surrounding our dams. This station measured 58mm between 04h00 and 10h00 on Thursday morning, and I am sure I was not alone in the Cape! The skies cleared up by midday Thursday, and very little more is forecast for the holiday weekend. The dam report is issued every Monday, so we look forward to seeing what has happened to our dams this week.

Here is another call to encourage you budding HAMNET communicators to get your team in two halves together for the HAMNET BLACKOUT EXERCISE to be held this coming weekend around the country. Each team must be led by a HAMNET member, but the rest of the team do not need to be members. Your team will be split in to a VHF/UHF base station, given instructions by the organisers to pass some sort of communication to your mobile HF station out in the field, and running on emergency power only, for transmission to another HF team somewhere else in the country, and thence to their VHF/UHF base station. Each task will be different, and may include mapping, GPS capabilities, or use of other communications methods, all in an attempt to get your team macGyvering a plan to get a signal through. This is not a contest, merely a test of your emergency capabilities, mobile power sources, and solar or generator capabilities, all with the aim of improving your abilities.

Rikus ZS4A tells me his division has three teams up and ready to go already, so please be challenged, the rest of you, to put teams together, and see what you can achieve. Contact your regional director if you’d like to see what you can do, but don’t have a team to belong to. The exercise starts on 5 May and ends on 6 May 2018.

Gela Tolken, ZS1GT, of HAMNET and the Mountain Club of South Africa, tells me that she is organising the communications aspects of the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge this year, a cross-country off-road running race around Jonkershoek, on 19 May 2018. She says she needs 2 base operatives in one vehicle, stationed close to the finish, and in cooperation with Finish Time, which is a race timing agency. The base station will be there to monitor the top ten runners, and a head count of the runners passing check-points. Then she also needs two HAMNET rovers, in 4×4 vehicles preferably, situated at important checkpoints, monitoring the runners and guaranteeing safety. If you have access to a 4×4, or can run a base station on VHF, UHF and HF mobile, please contact Gela on gela@angela.co.za to offer your assistance.

And in a stretch 28 years back in time, this week marked the anniversary of the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble was going to gather data and images from the far reaches of the universe. NASA had invested $1.5 billion in the telescope, but when the mirror segments were unfurled, the images were blurred. The data was unusable. It took a 1.3mm spacing error in the instrument responsible for guiding the final, fine grinding of the 2.4m primary mirror, to make the mirror’s curvature a few micrometers flatter than it should have been, by a distance less than the width of human hair, to blur the light of distant galaxies.

NASA took three years to build a contraption consisting of five pairs of adjustable mirrors to help refocus the light from the primary mirror before it reached the scope’s science instruments. The crew of STS-61 spent 35 hours doing spacewalks to install the corrective optics, but the results have proved their worth. Twenty five years later, Hubble is still giving us immensely useful data, and will no doubt continue to do so.

Thank you to Kiona N Smith at www.forbes.com for this last insert.

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

HAMNET Report 22 April 2018

It was a great pleasure to meet and mix with the HAMNET leaders and members of Gauteng, particularly Gauteng South, at last week’s AGM weekend. Gauteng South is to be congratulated on their professional style and appearance, and we congratulate Glynn Chamberlain on being elected to the SARL Council. His representation on Council should protect and provide for HAMNET’s needs in the future.

And the interactions with my fellow news broadcasters, as well as seeing a stable Council being elected/re-elected, was most reassuring. By the end of the meetings and the dinner, I felt that the SARL is in good hands, in spite of what the doomsayers maintain.

Thank you to the Pretoria Amateur Radio Club for a weekend well managed!

“Girls Can Do ICT!” is the theme of International Girls in Information and Telecommunication Technologies (ICT) Day on April 26. An initiative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), International Girls in ICT Day aims to “create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing ICT field,” the ITU said.

International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of April. To date, more than 300,000 girls and young women have taken part in some 9,000 celebrations of International Girls in ICT Day in 166 countries.

“Girls in ICT Day will provide a much-needed boost to female participation in the ICT sector,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré. “With many countries now forecasting a shortage of skilled ICT professionals within the next 10 years, it is vital that we attract young women into technology if we are to sustain healthy growth rates for the industry overall.”

Girls in ICT Day encourages girls to let personal interests and talent, not stereotypes, define their career paths. “It promotes an interest in technology, computer science, new communication media, and engineering,” ITU said.

The 26th April is this coming Thursday.

Here’s news from the ARRL News Letter, in case you thought radio operators were all under-achievers. Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, in Virginia, saved the lowest band for last. On April 11, he completed a CW contact on the new 2200-meter band with K3MF in Pennsylvania, wrapping up a sweep of completed contacts on all 29 Amateur Radio bands. Justin is a bit of an old school guy — he worked K3MF on CW, and now he’s awaiting a QSL card. A paper QSL card.

“Wow!” Justin told ARRL. “Not an easy QSO. Had to use TMO reporting, but we did it as if it was an Earth-Moon-Earth QSO.” In TMO reporting, T = Signal just detectable; M = Portions of call copied, and O = Complete call set has been received. Justin used his Icom IC-7300 for his receiver. “I needed the AGC on to keep the static crashes from blowing my ears off,” he recounted. His antenna for both receiving and transmitting was a 160-meter dipole fed as a Marconi T antenna against ground. “A 2.5 mH variometer built on a 5-gallon bucket is used to tune the antenna to resonance,” he explained. “Ground impedance at 136 kHz is around 40 Ω, so most of the RF is lost as heat in the Earth.” Justin said it took several hundred dollars’ worth of ground rods and copper wire to attain the 40-Ω ground impedance, given soil conditions at his location.

“I started with 100 W,” Justin said. “K3MF had trouble hearing me — his QRM was 20 dB over S-9. So we set up a new sked. I added the kW amp on my end, and as soon as I hit 600 W, all of the smoke detectors in the house went off from the RF.” He said he had to stay at 500 W for the contact. Reception was a challenge as well. “All light dimmers need to be off, so I can hear anything,” he said. Input to the antenna system is one thing on 136 kHz. Effective radiated power (ERP) is another. Justin’s ERP was 500 mW, just 3 dB below the FCC limit for the band.

To consider it a valid contact, Justin said he used the New England Weak Signal Group  guideline of at least a 1-kilometer distance on each band. “While at first this seems very easy, very few hams have even had a QSO across a benchtop on bands like 134 GHz, much less over 1 kilometre,” he said.

When 630 and 2200 meters became official last year, Justin had his work cut out for him. As one of the ARRL WD2XSH Experimental stations, he made quick work of 630 meters, working NO3M on SSB the day after the band opened for Amateur Radio work. His CW QSO on 2200 meters came last week — about 250 kilometres. He’s hoping to see the QSL card this week.

I’m sure you’ll agree that must have taken a lot of doing!

A little bit of good news on the drought situation in the Western Cape is that we’ve already had about twice the amount of rain in April than in all previous months this year. Only about 15mm, mind you, but better than nothing. More rain forecast for this week. Here’s hoping.

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

HAMNET Report 15 April 2018

We are grateful to the ARRL Letter of this week for the following two reports.

ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, used the occasion of National Volunteer Week, April 15 – 21, to express gratitude to “the thousands of Amateur Radio operators who have given, and who continue to give, of their time and expertise” to serve as vital communication links during emergencies, disasters, and community events. Throughout the past year, President Roderick recounted, ham radio operators have volunteered during hurricanes, wildfires, and severe weather to support communication for emergency evacuation shelters, pass health-and-welfare traffic to anxious families, and partner with the National Weather Service as SKYWARN volunteers to report local weather conditions. Hams also volunteered during the solar eclipse last August, working with scientists to record its impact on radio propagation, he pointed out.

“Amateur Radio volunteers have a long history of providing service and support to their communities and our served agencies,” Roderick said. “As this avocation continues to evolve, alongside the technological advances in telecommunications, we are proud that, as hams, public service to our communities will continue to be at the core of who we are.”

Echoing President Roderick’s remarks, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, cited Amateur Radio’s volunteer spirit as one of its most admirable aspects.

“Radio amateurs have taken their passion for radio, communication, science, and technology and given back service in so many ways,” Corey said. “Radio amateurs teach, inspire, offer insights to the world that others cannot, assist during times of emergency and disaster, and report to assist during such community events as marathons and festivals,” he said.

 “Volunteerism has always been at the heart of Amateur Radio, and it is through the work of volunteers that Amateur Radio will be there for future generations to enjoy”.

National Volunteer Week is sponsored by Points of Light, an ARRL partner through National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). Points of Light called the week-long observance “an opportunity to celebrate the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to come together to tackle tough challenges and build stronger, more resilient communities.”

“Each year, we shine a light on the people and causes that inspire us to serve, recognizing and thanking volunteers who lend their time, talent, and voice to make a difference in their communities,” the organization said.

Secondly, Wednesday, April 18, is World Amateur Radio Day (WARD), this year marking the 93rd anniversary of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), founded in Paris in 1925. Each year, WARD celebrates Amateur Radio’s contribution to society.

“World Amateur Radio Day is an opportunity for our member-societies to show our capabilities and promote the use of Amateur Radio, both on the air and through social media,” IARU President Tim Ellam, VE6SH/G4HUA, said. “It is a celebration of what the Amateur Radio Service has brought to the public over the years, and of our ability to provide communication to assist others in times of crisis.”

Amateur Radio experimenters were the first to discover that the shortwave spectrum — far from being the wasteland “experts” of the time considered it to be — could support worldwide propagation. In the rush to use these shorter wavelengths, Amateur Radio was “in grave danger of being pushed aside,” the IARU’s history has noted. Amateur Radio pioneers met in Paris in 1925 and created the IARU to support Amateur Radio around the globe.

Two years later, at the International Radiotelegraph Conference, Amateur Radio gained the allocations still recognized today — 160, 80, 40, 20, and 10 meters. The IARU has been working to defend and expand Amateur Radio frequency allocations ever since.

“I wish all amateurs a fantastic day of celebration of Amateur Radio, encourage everyone to get involved, and, most of all, to have fun!” IARU President Ellam said.From the 25 countries that formed the IARU in 1925, the IARU has grown to include 160 member-societies in three regions. IARU Region 1 includes Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Asia. Region 2 covers the Americas, and Region 3 is comprised of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific island nations, and most of Asia. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has recognized the IARU as representing the interests of Amateur Radio.

Groups should promote their WARD activity on social media by using the hashtag #WorldAmateurRadioDay on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Finally, HAMNET South Africa has received due recognition at the SARL Awards dinner held last night of the sterling work its members continue to do, confirming the fact that amateur radio is a SERVICE hobby, and that our primary purpose is to be of help to our community.

Chris Gryffenberg ZS6COG has rightly been awarded the Willie Wilson Gold Badge for his service to his fellow members, and to the community in his division. Congratulations, Sir, and may your efforts go from strength to strength!

Then the Hamnet Shield rewards an individual or group for excellent service in a particular area to the community, the authorities and to Hamnet in particular. Criteria include cooperation with disaster relief organisations and enthusiastic provision of emergency communications. This year’s award has been well presented to Roy Walsh ZS3RW, whose work and services extend above and beyond his dedication to Hamnet! Well done, Roy!

Then 62 members from all 6 divisions have been recognised by being awarded Jack Twine Awards, redressing a deficiency in the last few years, when the fellows provided their services but were not sufficiently thanked for them. HAMNET honours these members, and thanks them for their hard work. Wear your badges with pride, folks, you deserve them!

And 11 members will receive inscribed HAMNET pens, further honouring them for the work they continue to do.

We can justifiably be proud of the ethic amongst our members that maintains that the gift of the frequencies by communications authorities around the world be respected and honoured with our willingness to help provide communications where radio does it best!

A good way to start the new week. Well done girls and boys!

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