REPORT 4 September 2016

Dave Holliday ZS5HN has sent us a report of this year’s iSimangaliso Mountain Bike Tour which went off with great success. HAMNET KZN played a vital role by providing the Radio Communications for this event once again. The event saw 234 Mountain Bike Riders riding from Lake St Lucia past Lake Sabaya, through Phinda Game Reserve and on into Mkuze Game Reserve. Both of these Reserves have the Big 5.

Communications were established on VHF Simplex on 145,550 MHz with 145,225 MHz as a backup when 145,550 got busy. The Ops Control ZS5MB situated on a high point was in contact with ZS5HN in the JOC, ZS5J as Rover, ZS5LT as Sweep 1, ZS5CD as Sweep 2 and ZR5GB as Sweep 3. There were some challenges, from S2 Mush on VHF from the Computer Systems at the JOC, to strong winds and lightning at the high site.

Judging from an accompanying thank you newsletter from the organisers, the race organisation was not without its share of panic, as several plans had to be changed at the last moment due to bad weather, but, in the end, all went well.

All the HAMNET members deployed are looking forward to next year’s event. Thank you to HAMNET KZN for keeping the flag flying high again.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (or GDACS) newsletters of this week have reported on scores of earthquakes in the Pacific rim of fire since Wednesday. By yesterday afternoon, the number of earthquakes of magnitude greater than 4.5 in the Japan, New Zealand, and Western Pacific area stood at 70, with the worst quake scoring 7.1 in magnitude happening at 19km depth, just East of New Zealand’s North Island on Thursday. Fortunately, it was under the ocean, and very few people live anywhere near, so no major damage or injury has been reported. But it does go to show how unstable the tectonic plates in the Pacific are, and the fear of a very big one has to be prominent. As I write this a magnitude 5.6 earthquake has just struck in central Oklahoma. No further news is available yet. We in South Africa watch with concern, and are grateful that we live in a less vulnerable area.

And as Hurricane season gets under way in the North Americas, Category 1 Hurricane Hermine crossed the Florida Peninsula with wind-speeds up to 120kph, and entered the Bay of Mexico. An estimated total of 400,000 people were affected by the storm as it crossed Florida, but no reports of major damage have been seen yet. The National Hurricane Centre in Florida has managed the communications in the area, and is forecasting the hurricane will turn North-East, gain in strength and move up the East coast, lashing coastal areas as far north as Connecticut and Rhode Island. In Florida, 325,000 people were without power, while another 107,000 were without power in neighbouring Georgia.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Lester is threatening the Big Island of Hawai, and all four ARES districts on the island remain in active status. Tropical Storm Madelaine passed well South of the Big Island, dumping a lot of rain on the island. Public schools have been closed, and residents urged to take steps to protect themselves

HAMNET Western Cape was involved in a mountain rescue this last Tuesday night. A rescue team was assembled to access three people stuck on a hiking route on Table Mountain, Johann Marais, ZS1JM, Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) representative said. Six technically-skilled volunteers, a paramedic and at least three climbers from Hottentots Holland made their way to the Blinkwater Ravine. ZS1JM said, “This was a semi technical route to access the stuck persons from Theresa Avenue, on the Camps Bay side of the mountain.  Mountain-able volunteers got together to do a rescue. A small but technically competent group walked up from Theresa Avenue. They took three or four 50-metre ropes and climbing gear to be able to negotiate the upper technical sections, which they anticipated they might have to climb.”   Johann Marais continued, “The first team departed at 20h40 from Theresa Avenue. Two additional teams were deployed, of which the last left at 22h10. At 22h45, the first team made voice contact with the stuck persons. A total of 14 volunteers were in the field together with four persons in control doing the rescue. The field team, after they reached the stricken three, resolved that it would be safer to take them up the mountain and then rendezvous with vehicles on the back of Table Mountain.  There is a small and difficult track from Constantia Neck, which allows one to drive up. This our volunteer 4×4 members did in the night in howling wind and thick mist. They transported all safely down and the operation was completed around 01h00 on Wednesday morning.”

With the onset of Spring, Cape Town HAMNET members can expect a lot more of these sorts of rescues, as inexperienced walkers underestimate their own capabilities, their timing, or the weather. Wilderness Search and Rescue has rescue managers on duty 24 hours a day, throughout the year, to assemble an adequate rescue team for the nature of the rescue, including HAMNET operators to coordinate the rescuers, all of whom are volunteers. We get plenty of chance down here to practise our communications protocols.

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