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.

HAMNET Report 8 April 2018


I’m very pleased to tell you that Greg Mossop G0DUB of Region One of the IARU has picked up on the notes I sent last week of the HAMNET Blackout Exercise Dave Higgs and his merry men of the Eastern Cape Division are organising for the beginning of May.

After quoting the announcement Dave put out, and mentioning the team booklet that is already available for the event, Greg makes a good point when he says: “While the exercise is only for South Africa, the exercise booklet may give some of you ideas for your own exercise”. We monitor the IARU Region One news as it is issued for news and ideas on how to improve our efforts in this country, and it is good to know that the other member countries monitor our news too. So well done Dave ZS2DH for striking the right sort of chords!

How many of you relative old-timers in amateur radio cut your electronic’s teeth on the circuits and ideas in that wonderful monthly publication of the 50’s to 70’s, called “Popular Electronics“? I know I did, though I didn’t have access to the periodical every month.

Well John ZS1JNT has drawn my attention to a website which has catalogued and copied them all, in PDF format, to the web. I looked at a few and was instantly transported back to my pre-teens, when I could only dream about the projects and test-kits on offer! They are to be found at http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Popular-Electronics-Guide.htm. Thanks for that information, John.

I have mentioned the next subject before on this platform, and here are further notes on the use of drones in emergencies.

Law enforcement and emergency responders have been using drones to give them an eye in the sky for years. But the unmanned aerial vehicles may soon provide ears as well. Two of the United States’ largest mobile phone companies are exploring using drones as flying mobile hot spots to provide phone and other services when cell towers are down or in areas where service does not exist.

“After Hurricane Sandy, we lost cell service countywide for several days,” said Martin Pagliughi, the director of the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management in New Jersey.

So on a raw day last month, several of Cape May’s emergency responders gathered at a municipal airport in Woodbine to watch Verizon launch a 200-pound drone into the sky. When it reached an altitude of 3,000 feet, a hot spot on board started transmitting a wireless signal. On the ground, members of the Cape May Police Department noted the strength of the service on the Verizon-issued phones they were carrying.

“They were testing texting, they were testing voice, they had full coverage in the radius,” Mr. Pagliughi said.

And, in 2017, AT&T won a $7 billion federal government contract to construct a nationwide disaster readiness network called FirstNet. Parts of the programme will include technology to provide cell service from the sky. When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, AT&T relied on mobile hot spots driven to sites and raised onto masts to provide cell-phone service. The company also can launch a remote four-rotor hovering drone known as a “Cell on Wings”, which is tethered to ground cables for data exchange and power.

“A vast majority of the time” the combination of a truck and a mast will solve the communications problem, said Chris Sambar, a senior vice president at AT&T. “But there are times where what’s needed is a drone.”

In addition to providing phone and other data services for emergency responders, Verizon is pursuing other possible uses for drones.

“We envision the ability for the aircraft to have a camera onboard to collect the photographic data and beam it to the ground,” Christopher Desmond said, providing situational awareness at the scene and also at a command centre. That, he said, would enable better collaboration between those inside and outside a disaster zone.

The pilotless airplane with its 17-foot wingspan is much larger than a hobbyist’s drone. It does not hover and it does not run on batteries. Instead its petrol engine supports flights that can be as long as 16 hours, while producing 400 watts of power — enough to control the airplane and feed the electrical needs of a communications hot spot, camera and other onboard equipment.

“It’s a unique vehicle, a unique way of carrying sensors with a persistence you can’t get from manned aircraft,’’ said David Yoel, the founder and chief executive of American Aerospace, the company that owns the drone and operates it for Verizon.

Before Verizon started testing its aerial hot spot, Cape May had conducted its own tests using a drone from American Aerospace equipped with radio, cell and satellite transmitters. Mr. Pagliughi said he wanted to see how effective the various options might be and that the county would work with any company that could expand the range of airborne service for emergency responders.

Thank you to the New York Times for these notes.

Next weekend, the SARL will be holding its Annual General Meeting, which I hope to attend. I have previously mentioned the importance of having a quorum of votes at the meetings to allow them to continue. To this end, you, the “Ham-in-the-street”, can ensure the meetings occur, even if you cannot attend yourself, by providing a person of your choice with your proxy. So this is my final plea to all of you HAMNET members to send a proxy to a person in your region, who you believe can carry your wishes to the meetings. If you have particular feelings about any of the AGM motions, tell your proxy-holder so, but please don’t let apathy prevent your feelings from being made known, or stop the meetings from happening because a quorum wasn’t present.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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

HAMNET Report 1 April 2018

The indefatigable Dave Higgs ZS2DH of HAMNET Eastern Cape has spearheaded a HAMNET exercise in South Africa, to be called the “HAMNET Blackout Exercise 2018”. He writes:

“Hamnet are pleased to announce the 2018 exercise – a 24 hour blackout – off grid, on radio!

“The event will take place on the weekend of Saturday 5 to Sunday 6 May 2018.  Teams should be between 4 and 8 members in size, may include non Hamnet members, but must be led by a Hamnet member.  Teams comprise a VHF/UHF unit and an HF unit.  Teams will be tasked with relaying messages and completing simple tasks – such as working with GPS coordinates.

“To find out more, download the team booklet from https://www.eyedeal.co.za/blackout/  Register and join the fun!”

Thank you for the effort, Dave – hopefully all divisions in HAMNET will field some teams.

Now a good news story from the TWO OCEANS run yesterday. A 32-year old man from Rustenburg, Ipeleng Khunou, is the first ever runner to finish the Two Oceans half-marathon on crutches.

Born with a rare brain deformity called septo-optic dysplasia, which affects balance and his eyesight, Khunou cannot walk without crutches.

Known to his friends as ‘Crazy Legs’, Khunou never let that hold him back, however. He told Business Insider SA that his crutches are as much part of him as the rest of his body.

He grew up playing soccer at school and took part in school athletics. He can still run the 100 meters in under 16 seconds.

He took up jogging a year ago when his weight hit 120 kilograms. Khunou says that he was initially embarrassed, and would leave his home at 4am to avoid being seen by people on the road.

Within three months, he had lost 30 kilograms, and went on to complete the Om Die Dam, Wally Hayward and Soweto half-marathons. He ran the Two Oceans, which took place on 31 March in Cape Town, to raise disability awareness and raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

Khunou aimed to finish the half-marathon under the cut-off time of three hours. His strategy is usually to run by himself and keep away from other runners. This is because he fears that his four-legged gait will trip up other participants. He also must watch out for patches where the road is wet, like water stops, as his crutches tend to slip.

Well done, Ipeleng, you are a shining example to all!

For the rest, I can report that the Two Oceans Marathon went off well, with all organisation and service functions running smoothly. The weather was just right, with not too much heat or too much wind. Maximum temperature measured was about 24 degrees, and humidity not more than about 70%.

Unfortunately, there were a few nasty casualties, and I have to report a death on the field of a runner on the short race just short of Rhodes Drive.

The deceased was a 43-year-old half-marathon runner.

According to race organisers, the runner experienced difficulties on Southern Cross Drive and collapsed.

“Despite prompt and prolonged medical attention, the runner could not be resuscitated,” read a Two Oceans statement.

Carol Vosloo, general manager of the Two Oceans Marathon, also commented: “We would like to extend our sincerest condolences to her loved ones, and also thank her fellow club members who gave up their own finish time to remain with, and assist her.”

Another resuscitation in the same area was successful, and some nasty falls and a runner suffering an epileptic fit added to the drama. It was also noted that there was an inordinately large number of runners dropping out, though a reason for this was not immediately obvious.

About 40 runners didn’t make the cut for the 21km race, and about 100 the long race, so there was a fair amount of fetching and carting for the sweep vehicles and bailer buses to do, over and above those who withdrew of their own accord, and needed retrieving.

HAMNET Western Cape salutes the operators who volunteered their time and capabilities to make the race safer for the nearly 28000 runners. We’ll be doing it again next year – our twentieth consecutive race!

Poor old Papua New Guinea has been struck again by a major earthquake, this one a magnitude 6.9 shock on Thursday at 21h25 UTC.

The strong earthquake shook Papua New Guinea on Friday their time, a month after a more powerful quake killed at least 125 people in the Pacific island nation. Damage and casualties were not immediately reported.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii said the quake may have caused small changes in the sea locally but the danger had passed within about an hour or so. There was no tsunami risk to Australia or the wider Pacific, according to the PTWC and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.9 with a depth of 35 kilometres about 162 kilometres southwest of Rabaul in a remote area of East New Britain province. Fortunately its epicentre was sparsely populated, but 8700 people were exposed to risk to their lives.

And so has Tajikistan, an hour later at 22h54 UTC on Thursday evening, by a magnitude 5.6 quake, exposing a population of 1.64 million people within 100km of its epicentre to risk. Again, fortunately, we haven’t received any reports of major loss of life. Let’s hope the news hasn’t just been hidden.

Clearly, the earth’s mantle is a very unstable thing, and we in South Africa are lucky not to be on any of its major faults.

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