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.