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.

HAMNET Report 18 November 2018

Brian Jacobs, ZS6YZ, reports that, on 4 November a combined team comprising members from HAMNET Gauteng North and South and some non-HAMNET members from Pretoria provided communications for the 2nd Tshwane Classic Total Road Closure event in Pretoria.

The Tshwane Classic attracted over 6500 riders on the 60km and 98km routes with additional riders in the 20km and the 5km and 500m kiddies race. The 20km route followed a short section of the 98km route before turning around and ending at the Voortrekker Monument again and the Kiddies races were in and around the Monument grounds.

It was an early start for the team with the briefing session at 04:30 on the Sunday morning.

The race started at 05:45 with the Elite 98km cyclists leaving the Voortrekker Monument travelling South and West through Centurion before turning North on the R511 towards Hartbeespoort Dam. At Pelindaba the route again turned East and the 98km riders joined up with the 60km riders approaching Pelindaba from the East. From here both the 98km and 60km participants followed the same route back to Pretoria, passing through the city centre, over the very steep Tom Jenkins Drive, past the Union Buildings and then back through the city centre before attempting the final steep uphill to the finish at Freedom Park. All that was left was a short downhill back to the Voortrekker Monument.

The team manning the JOC had their hands full to start with, and needed to deploy HAMNET members to help control traffic at the start as the Tshwane Metro Police Department were late in deploying their units to the various positions. As the race progressed the situation improved until the lead riders reached the city centre where the JOC again needed to urgently deploy HAMNET members to provide situation reports at various intersections, so that the JOC could get the TMPD to deploy the necessary units to the hot spots, where the Minibus Taxis provided the greatest challenges. The field units also had their hands full at times, but in the end the cycle event was a great success.

The route along the R511 through the Hennops Valley provided some communications challenges with the Skurweberg mountain screening off the   145.750 MHz repeater in places. The Magalies Radio Amateur Club kindly made their 145.750 MHz repeater available to HAMNET for the event, as it provided the best overall coverage. The Pretoria Amateur Radio Club kindly allowed all the Sunday morning bulletins and programs that normally made use of the 145.750 MHz repeater, to be transmitted over their club repeater.

Brian says a big “thank you” to all 16 operators that participated in the event, and to the local clubs for the use of their club repeaters.

Thank you, Brian, for all the details of a very successful event.

The eyes of the dwellers on the Indian sub-continent are on Cyclone Gaja, which crossed the country from East to West between Thursday and yesterday, with sustained winds in the region of 100 km/h, threatening the safety and shelter of 8.4 million people. The path crossed the provinces of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Writing in The Hindu, S. Prasad notes that ham radio operators from Bengaluru and Kollam in Kerala are in Cuddalore district for transmission of information from base stations to government departments. The district administration has set up the Ham Radio Communication Headquarters on the Collectorate campus.

Four operators from the Bangalore Amateur Radio Club, who arrived on Thursday, are stationed at the Collectorate while another group from Kollam-based Active Hams Amateur Radio Society has been sent to Chidambaram as a precautionary measure. The team from Active Hams Amateur Radio Society recently participated in the Kerala flood rescue operations and transmitted emergency communication during floods.

The team reached Cuddalore on Thursday to handle any emergency communication on the request of the district authorities. According to Govind Girimigi, Secretary of Amateur Radio Society of India, and whose call sign is VU2GGM, “nine ham operators have been stationed in vulnerable areas across the district to report disaster. We take orders from the officials concerned and communicate to the relief camps on VHF 145.000 MHz,” he said.

Ramesh, VU3VRL, another ham operator and treasurer of Bangalore Amateur Radio Club, said that, when secondary levels of communication fail and the authorities were restricted to particular channels in an emergency, ham radios step in to function as an alternative means of communication. “We have the liberty to shift within our own battery set up and communicate until the first line of communication is restored,” he said.

The Cuddalore district administration has launched FM Radio 107.8 MHz to ensure uninterrupted transmission of information, if other modes of communication fail.

Thank you to The Hindu for these notes.

Meanwhile, in California, Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) operators have been assisting in two fire areas. In Butte County, the uncontrolled wildfire destroyed the town of Paradise, covered some 125,000 acres, and resulted in at least 40 deaths.

The ARRL News says that more than 20 ARES members from five ARES groups were supporting the shelters. ARES members were also tasked by Red Cross to shadow Red Cross delivery vehicles to provide communication in the mountain areas to the shelters.

ARES communication at the shelters was carried out using voice, Winlink, and email to pass shelter counts, and tactical messages, between the shelter and the Red Cross Disaster Operations Centre and Cal Office of Emergency Services.

The Red Cross is supporting ARES at the shelters with hot spots and backup radios.

And, in the Woolsey fire, that swept through the westernmost portion of Los Angeles County, including Malibu, and the easternmost area of Ventura County in the ARRL Santa Barbara Section, the evacuation of more than 200,000 Los Angeles County residents was ordered. Evacuees included several celebrities, several of whom lost homes in the fire. Nearly 50 people have died in all fires.

“Nevertheless, governmental radio systems used by fire and sheriff held up well, even though cell phone and internet service went out in many fire areas because of burned utility poles,” Los Angeles Section Manager Diana Feinberg, AI6DF, said.

Our thoughts go out to the many who have lost all their possessions.

Thank you to the ARRL News for these extracts from their report.

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

HAMNET Report 11 November 2018

Today, I would like to share with you a sobering report of the stupidity of mankind.

Writing in New Times, Al Fonzi says:

A hundred years ago today, November 11, the cataclysmic “Great War” (the “war to end all wars,” aka, The First World War or World War I) came to a close as the warring powers signed an armistice at 5 a.m. However, the armistice would not take effect until 11 a.m., which meant life or death for thousands of soldiers. (A formal peace treaty, the Treaty of Versaille, would not be signed until June 28, 1919.)

Until another even greater war occurred barely 20 years later, the First World War was likely the bloodiest war in human history. The slaughter took place on an industrial scale never before experienced by humanity. Unfortunately, many generals were tied to the past and failed to recognize the revolutionary effect technology was to play during war in the 20th century.

WWI introduced not just the field telephone but wireless radio communications that outpaced the ability of any “runner” or military aide’s ability to send or receive messages from a commander to subordinates. It also introduced not only the airplane, but its use as “flying artillery” capable of bombing or strafing enemy positions far to the rear of front lines. It also introduced the use of poison gas, tanks, and the submarine. Most importantly for war on land, it introduced the machine gun, which was, next to rapid-firing artillery, the greatest innovation for killing on the battlefield. When integrated into defensive or offensive operations, the effect of these weapons was decisive on the battlefield.

World War I began in the first week of August 1914 and, by the end of October 1914, more than 325,000 combatants from all sides had been killed in action with three times that number wounded. Instead of a war of manoeuvring, vast armies with hundreds of divisions of troops (an average division consists of 10,000 to 15,000 men) had been mobilized, bogged down in a 600-mile-long trench system across western and central Europe and fed into a grinder that crushed men’s souls. The generals failed to learn and insisted that old tactics need not change, just urge the men forward. Disaster upon disaster became names associated with needless loss of life, such as Gallipoli, the 1915 amphibious invasion of the Dardanelle’s (300,000 casualties); the Somme in July 1916, where the British Army lost 60,000 men in a single morning between 8 and 11 a.m.; and Verdun in 1916, where virtually every French division served at one time or another and the souls of more than 600,000 French and German soldiers were lost. On the Russian front, casualties mounted into the millions as the Russian Czar’s generals herded Russian peasants into murderous machine-gun fire without regard for common sense, let alone strategy. On the southern front, Italian generals employed brutal discipline against their own troops, who were fighting Austrian troops in the Alps, hauling disassembled cannons up sheer mountain cliffs to create avalanches to bury their Austrian counterparts.

The war was truly global, with 200,000 Vietnamese troops providing battalions to the French on the Western Front and colonial troops fighting on behalf of their colonial masters in East Africa and the Arabian Desert. A Vietnamese soldier of note with the French on the Western Front was the future Ho Chi Minh, who led his people to drive out the French from his homeland in Indochina and would later wage a 10-year war against America and South Vietnam.

America mobilized for war in 1917, but also fought a hidden enemy in the form of the 1918 influenza epidemic, a pandemic that eventually killed more than 200 million people worldwide. American troops were especially susceptible. Of the 116,000 American fatalities in WWI, 53,513 were battle deaths but 63,195 succumbed to disease, mostly influenza. It was so virulent that a soldier could show symptoms at 6 p.m. and be dead before 6 a.m. the next morning. At Fort Devens in Massachusetts, soldiers in training died at the rate of 100 per day during the pandemic’s peak. The German Army was also affected; their March 1918 offensive ground to a halt when they exhausted their reserve divisions, which had been decimated by influenza, allowing the Allies to regain the initiative and launch a counter-offensive.

Although the armistice was signed at 5 a.m. on Nov. 11, no order was given to cease combat operations before it was to take effect at 11 a.m. As a result, for the next six hours, every gun on the Western Front continued to fire, (literally millions of rounds) as hundreds of thousands of soldiers continued to fight and “go over the top” in last-minute offensives ordered by the military high command.

Remember the sacrifices made by those soldiers of the Great War and all the ones that followed, this Remembrance Day, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, at the many memorials throughout the country.

On a much happier note, HAMNET Western Cape has already been approached to assist at the 2019 edition of the 99er Cycle Tour out of Durbanville on February the 9th. Arrangements are already in an advanced state amongst the organisers, and HAMNET will be drawn into the meetings in January 2019.

Then the most beautiful marathon in all the world, the Two Oceans Marathon takes place over Easter Weekend next year, and the race date is Saturday the 20th April. The organisation for that one starts before the previous race has been run, so you can rest assured that everything has already been taken into account for that one.

HAMNET Western Cape has also been approached to assist with the monitoring and reporting of those “magnificent men in their flying machines”, who take part in the President’s Trophy Air Race next year, near Saldanha Airfield between the 2nd and 4th of May.

There will be ten turn points along the 300 nautical mile route, some of which will need to be manned on the 3rd and 4th of May. Duties of the HAMNET ground observers include recording of the times as the aircraft pass the turn points, with directions and approximate heights, and reports back to the control station  over ham frequencies.

About ten operators will be needed to assist, and the organisers are already in communication with HAMNET Western Cape.

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

HAMNET Report 4 November 2018

Super Typhoon Yutu, which I mentioned last week having battered the Northern Mariana Islands, reached the Philippines this week, and Greg G0DUB mentions that he had been advised on last Monday by Dani YB2TJV that, to prepare for the effects of Typhoon YUTU in the Philippines, 7.095MHz is now in use by ‘Ham Emergency Radio Operators’ in the Philippines. The changing path of the typhoon had not pinned down the impact area but definitely the Northern and central part of Luzon would be affected. The strength of the wind had abated a bit to 130km/h, but at least 10 million people were threatened by that type of wind, as it crossed the Northern tip of the Philippines, and then veered to North-East along the coast of China. It is due to be between Taiwan and China today

Greg also mentions in another communique that Tilen S56CT reported that ARON in Slovenia were in a state of preparedness because of the bad weather last weekend. Flooding is now striking parts of NE Slovenia along the river Drava and high winds are also expected to cause problems in the Western part of the country.

ARON teams are QRV on DMR network TG 293112, VHF/UHF net-Echolink conference *SLOVENIA*, local repeaters and simplex channels and of course Winlink system. S50ARO monitors 3605 kHz voice as well. The channels are being kept active by sending a few radiograms on the 80 and 60 m band in MFSK32 mode with the content being weather forecasts with warnings.

Meanwhile in Greece nearly 50 earthquakes have struck the country since the 25th of October, with a magnitude just under 5.0 which is where property damage can occur. In Italy we also have flooding affecting Venice, with high water in the centre of town at 1.52m, but also in other parts of Italy, especially in Liguria with a sort of tsunami, and up to 12 people dead. Civil Protection is involved locally and at national level, and the critical situations were flood damage and electricity outages. France had snow and also suffered high winds and rain from Storm Adrian.

Europe has taken a battering, and Winter has hardly started there!

Wilderness Search and Rescue in the Western Cape has noted that Working On Fire (WOF) and other agencies are currently engaged in the containment of the raging wildfire in the mountains between George and Wilderness, and that the area has been closed off for a number of reasons:-

  1. It is very unsafe for members of the public to be in the area. The obvious fire and smoke hazard can be life threatening to any recreational outdoor user.
  2. The area must be clear of all civilians to allow the firefighters to concentrate on their job, which also includes starting secondary fires for the purpose of back burning. Being caught between two or more fire fronts will be a serious concern for the Wildfire Incident Commanders.
  3. The roads have to be free for the emergency vehicles to  use.
  4. It may happen that burning or burnt trees will be falling across roads.
  5. Firefighting aircraft are operating in the area as well.

The area mostly affected is the Outaniqua mountain range above George which is managed by Cape Nature (a signatory of Wilderness Search And Rescue).

WSAR asks the public to please be aware that this area is closed for the following activities until further notice:-

  • hiking
  • trail running
  • mountain biking
  • driving
  • and guest accommodation which may also be affected

Thank you to WSAR for these notes.

Meanwhile, Johan Terblanche, ZS1I, in Mossel Bay, has reported on the intense heat wave and gale-force winds in that part of the Western Cape, which have resulted in the devastating runaway fires, threatening the towns of George and Karatara in the Southern Cape area since October 24. An Amateur Radio Joint Operational Centre (JOC) was established on October 29, and radio amateurs were put on standby when parts of George experienced telephone and power outages in the Knysna area. Several new fires were also reported due to lightning.

At one point, those living in the affected areas were ordered to prepare for evacuation, although that order was later rescinded.

Radio amateurs in the Southern Cape have been asked to make their stations available to support emergency communication, should commercial systems fail. Johan Terblanche, ZS1I, in Mossel Bay, who administers the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN), reports that the Amateur Radio JOC is currently active on the AREDN Mossel Bay Mesh Network, Echolink, AllStar, Twitter, and Zello. The Amateur Radio JOC will remain active until all fires are brought under control. The death toll as a result of fires in the Southern Cape area now stands at 8, and more than 800 have been evacuated. Disaster relief operations continue. 

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