HAMNET Report 24th November 2019

The ARES E-letter reports that twenty-four operators from the Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society (TARS) and the Thomasville Amateur Radio Club (TARC) provided communication support for the Capital City Cyclists (CCC) 35th annual Spaghetti 100 Bicycle Ride on November the 9th. The Spaghetti 100 funds the Kids on Bikes program, which teaches hundreds of elementary school children how to ride a bike and ride it safely in traffic. It also helps to support the Trips for Kids chapter, which takes disadvantaged youth on bike rides on local trails.

The hams used one of the TARS VHF repeaters to provide communications for safety and logistics, as well as for the medical and mechanical teams. The ham radio support was vital for this 100 mile route on the back country roads of northern Florida and southern Georgia where cell phone coverage is very sparse. “When All Else Fails” came to mind when the land line at the location serving as the ride’s headquarters was out for several hours leaving Amateur Radio as the only communications service for some areas. “In addition to the thanks given by most of the bicyclists as they passed by, event sponsors expressed their appreciation for the work of the ham radio volunteers and were impressed with the capabilities of Amateur Radio,” Communications Coordinator Stan Zawrotny, K4SBZ, said.

Thank you to ARES for these notes.

Now from universetoday.com comes a story that is blowing my mind.

On May 20th, 2018, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) launched the Queqiao spacecraft, the vehicle that would deliver the Chang’e-4 mission to the Moon. This vehicle was also responsible for transporting a lesser-known mission to the Moon, known as the Longjiang twin spacecraft. This package consisted of two satellites designed to fly in formation and validate technologies for low-frequency radio astronomy.

While Queqiao flew beyond the Moon to act as a communications relay for the Chang’e-4 lander, the Longjiang satellites were to enter orbit around the moon. On July 31st, 2019, after more than a year in operation, the Longjiang-2 satellite deorbited and crashed on the lunar surface. And thanks to the efforts of spacecraft tracker Daniel Estévez and his colleagues, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was able to photograph the impact site.

Among amateur astronomists and citizen scientists, Daniel Estévez is a well-known figure. In addition to being an amateur radio operator with a PhD in Mathematics and a BSc in Computer Science, Estévez is also an amateur spacecraft tracker. It was he who, in May of 2019, made an official estimate on when the Longjiang-2 satellite would crash on the lunar surface.

Based on his calculations, he determined the impact would take place somewhere within Van Gent crater on July 31st. This small impact crater is located on the far side of the Moon and is situated to the south and southeast of the larger Konstantinov crater. These results were then passed on to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team, who made sure their instrument was trained on the coordinates.

On October 5th, 2019, the LRO passed over the site at an altitude of 122 km and snapped several images of the surface. After carefully comparing them to pre-existing NAC images, the LROC team was able to discern the presence of a new impact crater that was roughly 4 by 5 meters in diameter and about 10 meters in depth.

This places the new crater just 328 metres from Estévez’s estimated crash site. Based on this proximity to the estimated coordinates and the size of the impact crater, the LROC team indicated that they are “fairly confident that this new crater formed as a result of the Longjiang-2 impact.”

On his website, Estévez captured the significance of this event eloquently and was sure to share the credit with those colleagues who helped make it possible:

“This is amazing, as in some way it represents the definitive end of the DSLWP-B mission (besides all the science data we still need to process) and it validates the accuracy of the calculations we did to locate the crash site. I feel that I should give due credit to all the people involved in the location of the impact.”

Moreover, it demonstrates the important role played by amateur astronomers and citizen scientists in the current era of space exploration. Kudos to Estévez and his colleagues! Not bad for an amateur tracker!

May I suggest you point your browser to universetoday.com, and scroll down to the entry dated 19th November, of the discovery of the crash site, to look at two photos, taken 3 months apart, of that crash site, clearly showing the crater formed between the times the two photos were taken?

Just to make the point, this amateur’s estimation was just further than 3 rugby fields out in his calculation of where the failing Chinese satellite was eventually going to hit the moon, about 384400km away, on the far side, which has been seen only in photographs, and without knowing the true topography of the surface in the area! Phenomenal!

Equally phenomenal is the fact that the camera on the orbiter could clearly define an area 4x5m (probably smaller than the room you are sitting in as you listen to this), from a distance of 122km above the moon’s surface!

We end with a good news story from Australia. CityNews reports that, during an Australian bush fire, a lady heard an aging Koala bear wailing in pain, hanging from a tree trunk, very close to the intense heat of the fire, and clearly having already sustained multiple burns on his body.

Toni Doherty took off her tee-shirt, caught the koala with it to try to put out its burning fur, and rushed it to a water source, where she was able to douse the flames on the fur of its back legs, cool its burns, and give it life-saving water to drink.

The little guy, since named Lewis, estimated to be elderly in Koala terms, was rushed to an animal welfare hospital, where he was given oxygen via face mask because of singe wounds to his lungs, and found to have partial thickness burns on many parts of his body, including his snout, and more severe burns on his hands and feet. It appears he is slowly starting to recover, and back to eating his staple diet of Eucalyptus leaves!

Lewis seems to have been lucky. The news reports from Southern Australia estimate that up to 350 Koalas may have died already, in the multiple big bush fires currently affecting those parts of the continent.

Altogether now – “Ag man, Shame”!

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

Northern Cape exposure

On Saturday the 16th November the Kathu Village Mall in Kathu had an Emergency Service Day and Hamnet was invited. We set up with two vehicles later 3. There was a radio in the one vehicle but we also had a mast set up. Giepie van Zyl ZS3GP and myself Roy Walsh ZS3RW were there from 08:00 and later joined by Gerhard Coetzee ZS3TG. Carel Reyneke ZS3CA was also involved with a local security company. The day ended at 14:00.

ZS3CA, ZS3GP, ZS3RW, ZS3TG NO 2 ZS3CA taking arial Photos IMG_6785 IMG_6780 IMG_6779 IMG_6778 IMG_6777 IMG_6776 IMG_6773 IMG_6772 IMG_6771 IMG_6770 IMG_6768 Hamnet NC Hamnet NC 2 Emergency Day ZS3CA, ZS3GP, ZS3RW, ZS3TG

HAMNET Report 17th November 2019

The weather in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands has been a strong topic of conversation this week after a tornado ripped through the New Hanover areas of Thokozani and Mpolweni on Tuesday. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso, said several homes and public infrastructure were damaged, and scores of people were hurt.

Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka, said preliminary reports received by the department indicate that a number of people who sustained injuries in the incident are receiving medical attention from surrounding hospitals.

“A number of homes have collapsed, countless trees have been uprooted and the electricity supply in the area has been interrupted. Our teams are working hard to provide support to the affected communities,” said Hlomuka.

He said there are fears of missing people and possible deaths, and urged residents to be vigilant as the risk of heavy rains and severe thunderstorms continue to pose a serious danger to the province.

And on Wednesday, another tornado tried to touch down in the midlands, while heavy rains saturated large parts of central and coastal KZN. Low-lying areas quickly filled up, and gardens and roads were underwater by Wednesday evening.

Further forecasts of very heavy rain for Thursday and Friday fortunately didn’t materialize, as clouds and humidity were driven off the coast by late Thursday, resulting in a cloudless Friday.

The synoptic charts are starting to show the usual Spring and Summer low pressure trough, laying diagonally across the country, from Northern Namibia and Botswana, down to Eastern and Southern KZN, with high pressure cells off the Western and Eastern coasts of our country keeping all cold fronts firmly South of the country.

It would appear that the rainy season in the South West of the country is over, while the unpredictable summer storms start to make their presence felt in North Eastern areas. We trust that there will be enough rainfall to provide the farmers with good harvests.

Alex Schwarz, VE7DXW, has theorized for some time now that his RF-Seismograph, initially aimed at indicating band openings, seemed also to act as a real seismograph of sorts, with effects of earthquakes affecting HF noise levels and actually briefly enhancing HF propagation. Schwarz has some support from Professor Kosuke Heki of Hokkaido University in Japan, who has been researching whether changes occur in the ionosphere as a result of an earthquake.

The work of both citizen scientist Schwarz and space geodesy expert Heki caught the attention of Hackaday, the online publication with a stated goal of promoting “the free and open exchange of ideas and information.” A November 12 Hackaday article, “HF Propagation and Earthquakes”, outlines the observations of both men. According to the article, Heki “knew that changes in the ionosphere can affect GPS and GNSS receivers on the ground, and with Japan’s vast network of receivers to keep track of the smallest of movements of the Earth’s crust, he was able to spot an anomalous build-up of electrons directly above the devastating 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake, that preceded the earthquake by 40 minutes.”

Heki’s theory is along these lines: Chemical bonds in the rock — specifically peroxy bonds between two oxygen atoms — are broken by microfractures, leaving one side of the peroxy bond with excess electrons and the other with a positive hole. “These holes tend to migrate from high stress to unstressed areas of the rock, which leads them to eventually reach the surface, leaving it with a net positive charge,” the Hackaday piece says. “As stress in the rock below increases, the number of positive holes reaching the surface rapidly multiplies, drawing electrons from the atmosphere to balance the charge. The moving charges generate an enormous electromagnetic field that can reach all the way up to the ionosphere, creating just the kind of anomalies that Professor Heki observed.”

This week, Schwarz reported that the US Geological Survey recorded nine “significant earthquakes” on November 11, eight of which also were recorded by his RF-Seismograph. According to Schwarz, several small quakes early in the morning “opened the 40-meter band slightly, but the precursor of the quake [in Neiafu, Tonga] created a disturbance starting 4 hours prior to the quake and a total radio blackout between 03h30 UTC and 05h50 UTC. The quakes in late morning did not have a great effect on the local propagation. The one from Vanuatu created 80-meter propagation for 10 minutes only. At 23h40 UTC, another quake from Indonesia opened the 30-meter band again,” Schwarz said.

The Hackaday article concludes, “Clearly, the RF-Seismograph is not yet ready to claim to have a solid predictive ability for earthquakes. For that matter, Dr. Heki’s space-based observations aren’t ready to stake that claim either. But it certainly looks like ionospheric changes can be correlated to earthquakes, both in time and space…”

And lest you think the earth’s mantle is a settled place, may I report that 46 earthquakes around the globe, with a magnitude of more than 4.5 on the Richter scale, were reported in Friday’s global disaster news! Our planet is indeed restless.

The ARRL Letter notes that December 11 marks the 98th anniversary of the success of ARRL’s Transatlantic Tests in 1921, organized to see if low-power amateur radio stations could be heard across the Atlantic using shortwave frequencies (i.e., above 200 meters). On that day, a message transmitted by a group of Radio Club of America members at 1BCG in Greenwich, Connecticut, was copied by Paul Godley, 2ZE, in Scotland.

While the first two-way contact would not take place until 1923, the 1921 transatlantic success marked the beginning of what would become routine communication between US radio amateurs and those in other parts of the world — the birth of DX.

To commemorate this amateur radio milestone, Maxim Memorial Station W1AW will be on the air through the day on December 11 with volunteer operators. The goal is to encourage contacts between radio amateurs in the US and Europe while showcasing the significance of the transmissions that pioneered global communication and laid the groundwork for technology widely used today.

The event will run from 13h00 until 00h00 UTC. Some details are still being worked out, but operation will focus on 40 and 20 meters SSB.

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

HAMNET Report 10th November 2019

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, he of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal fame, has written me a disturbing report of the Amashovashova Cycle race held last month. He writes:

“Justin ZS5JW and I attended the de-briefing of the event on Wednesday 6th November.  Justin worked in the main Durban JOC on race day.

“Weather predictions for Sunday 20th October had been reported to be favourable with the possibility of light rain in the afternoon. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.  From early in the morning you could feel the humidity building and by 08h00 it was already at very uncomfortable levels.  This resulted in numerous medical cases being treated for heat exhaustion.  Water shortages were also being reported from refreshment tables, although they had plenty of other soft drinks available.

“Unfortunately the event resulted in one casualty suffering a suspected heart attack and being attended by our Roving Patrol crewed by Deon ZS5DD and Dawie ZS5DDB  (Incidentally Dawie had only written the RAE on the Saturday preceding the race).  Deon reports as follows:

‘At approximately 12:35 pm whilst travelling Eastbound on the M13 approximately 100 meters before exit 28, we came across a cyclist that was lying on the ground.

‘He was being assisted by a bystander who had arrived in a vehicle that was parked next to the road.

‘We stopped to investigate and it soon became apparent that the cyclist was in serious need of medical assistance. We then requested medical assistance from Justin ZS5JW at Durban JOC.

‘We started assisting the bystander who had control of the scene, and who confirmed that the cyclist was breathing although his pulse was weak.

‘We assisted the bystander and after 5 minutes he pointed out that the cyclists pulse had stopped and that we should initiate CPR. We confirmed that there was no pulse and assisted with CPR, ZS5DDB, ZS5DD and the bystander taking turns.

‘Shortly after starting CPR a cyclist arrived (race number 2302) who clearly had medical training. He took over the scene and we continued with CPR under his direction.

‘We followed up with the JOC on the ambulance that arrived approximately 15 minutes later, and whose staff took control of the scene. The paramedics from ER24 defibrillated the patient and loaded him into the ambulance as it was extremely hot outside.’

“Unfortunately we learned later that the patient was declared deceased at hospital.  We extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

“The race Safety Officer, in conjunction with Ethekwini Disaster Management, made the decision to cut the race off at 12H00 outside Kearsney College in Botha’s Hill, and arrangements were made to supply buses to transport those competitors through to the finish at Suncoast Casino.

“Some of the resolutions taken at the debriefing:

  1. As a result of problems encountered on the 160Km route, this will be discontinued for next year, as the logistics required to manage this part are not sustainable for the number of participants that entered.
  2. Water table managers will be appointed by the organiser and not the water table sponsors, to ensure that sufficient supplies are on hand, as it is extremely difficult to move supplies between points once the race is underway”.

Keith thanks the operators that worked under extremely hot and uncomfortable conditions and in particular Willem ZS5WA, and Justin ZS5JW assisted by Kimmy ZS5KIM, who were put under extreme pressure, handling all of the requests, and who updated on incidents being reported through to the respective Pietermaritzburg and Durban controls.

The date for next year’s event has been confirmed as 18th October 2020.

Thank you for the full update, Keith.

Jim Wilson, K5ND, writing in the soon-to-be issued December QST Journal, reports on the 24th World Scout Jamboree, attended by 42000 scouts, both female and male, from 152 countries.

The theme was “Unlock a New World”, which was easy to do at the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve in West Virginia. Among many other activities offered by the reserve, the Jamboree program activities covered a wide range of options, from exploring cultural differences, to working with robotics and technology, to examining sustainability programmes.

Amateur Radio has been a part of the World Scout Jamboree experience since 1947 in France with F9CQ/JAM. For 2019, the call sign NA1WJ was selected to demonstrate that this was a World Jamboree hosted by a North American team. The operation was hugely successful. Thirty-three staff members from Australia, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Japan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zimbabwe came together to mesh different cultures and approaches to Scouting and Amateur Radio.

As a result, we introduced Amateur Radio to over 3,000 of the Scouts from around the world and completed over 4,000 two way contacts that covered 86 DXCC countries.

Scouts were given a brief overview of Amateur Radio and guided to an operating position, where a control operator took over to describe the equipment and the contact procedures. At that time, many stations in the ham community were standing by to provide the other side of the contact. Each Scout was able to get on the microphone, fill out a logbook card with the details, and receive a commemorative NA1WJ coin provided by Icom America on the way out of the tent.

We used the Icom IC-7300 for our HF stations, with their small footprint and easily viewed spectrum scope. We had separate stations for 40, 30, 20, and 17 meters. We also used Icom ID-5100A’s for 2 metres and 70 centimetres, working repeaters with Echolink and D-STAR. The IC-9700 was put into play for frequent satellite contacts.

Antennas included a rotatable 40-meter dipole, C3S triband Yagi, and a special 20/17- meter dual-band Yagi. In addition, we used dipoles for 30 and 80 meters as well as a 6-meter Yagi.

During the Jamboree, amateur radio direction finding, or foxhunting, activities were run, four pico-balloons with amateur radio payloads were flown, and a contact with astronaut Drew Morgan, KI5AAA, on board the ISS, was made.

The Scouts came away with a superb hands-on introduction to Amateur Radio. We hope that we planted seeds that will encourage them to investigate further the science, technology, fun, and magic of Amateur Radio when they get home.

Thanks to Jim, QST and the ARRL for this report.

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

HAMNET Report 3rd November 2019

Brian Jacobs, ZS6YZ reports that the Carnival City Macsteel Cycle Race took place over the weekend of 26th and 27th October 2019.

HAMNET Gauteng South was tasked with handling the communications for the event.

On Saturday 26th October, the Mountain Bike Race was run, starting and finishing at Carnival City. The Mountain Bike Race normally does not require too many resources and the team that handled the race consisted of Pieter ZS6PHS, Diederich ZS6DVL, Ettienne ZS6ET, Channette ZS6CAC, Neil ZS6NBX, Neil ZS6CKC, Henry ZS6IIX who ran the JOC, and Leon ZS6LMG. Even though it rained during the event, the day was successfully completed with no major mishaps.

Sunday 27th October saw a much larger team converging on Carnival City around 04:00 in the morning to set up the JOC and attend the briefing session at 05:15. The team was now Leon ZS6LMG, Linda ZS6LML, Johan ZS6DMX, Pieter ZS6PHS, Diederich ZS6DVL, Hannes ZS6EMS, Ettienne ZS6ET, Channette ZS6CAC, Neil ZS6CKC, Eugene ZS6ECJ, Brian ZS6YZ Don ZS6SSR, and Henry ZS6IIX.

Linda, Channette and Henry were responsible for handling all communications at the JOC, while the rest of the team manned the four water points, the 4 way stop on the Heidelberg road where the long and short routes split and later joined again, and the various roaming duties, such as following the lead cyclists, and responding to incidents along the route. Radio communications proved challenging at times including interference on the UHF repeater and keyed microphones being sat on. Despite these challenges the day was successfully completed with the HAMNET team sweeping the route and ensuring that even the last cyclist safely made it back to the finish.

Brian thanks all who participated and helped to make the event a success.

Now, here’s an unusual service that Amateur Radio can provide. News10 reports that local amateur radio operators will be staked out at bridges and overpasses over the Thruway across the Capital Region of New York State this Halloween.

The volunteers are trying to deter kids and young adults from throwing pumpkins on to traffic. Several cars and trucks have been hit in the past, causing injuries and car wrecks.

Hundreds of ham radio operators throughout the region are working with Troop T of the New York State Police to patrol those areas.

Episode 24 of TX Factor is a Hamfest 2019 special, reporting on some of the eye-catching products and services on display at this year’s event in Newark, says Southgate Amateur Radio News.

The videoblog investigates the current state of HF propagation, and celebrates 50 years of Nevada Radio, while Mike G1IAR tries out a few solder stations, and Bob G0FGX goes all soft over the Vintage Military Amateur Radio Society’s vintage AM radios.

And to cap it all, there’s a demonstration of the latest rig from Yaesu.

Google TX Factor, or search for it on YouTube, to view the programme.

MyBroadBand reports that South African car thieves are using sophisticated hardware and techniques to bypass vehicle security systems and steal cars in minutes.

A recent report from IOL detailed how a criminal syndicate in Durban used diagnostic key readers to steal cars that use transponder or chip keys.

After a spate of car thefts in the last few weeks, the police and the Amanzimtoti Community Crime Prevention Organisation (CPPO) arrested four men they suspected were behind the incidents.

The police also seized a load of car theft tools, which included 15 computer boxes, 35 ignition switches, and a walkie-talkie capable of scanning police radio frequencies.

Since the 1990s, many cars have used transponder or chip keys linked to their on-board diagnostics computers.

These keys contain a computer chip which is used for authentication. Once plugged into the ignition, the Engine Control Unit (ECU) transmits a code to the key.

A key with the correct code will respond with a message to the ECU that allows the car to start.

To program these keys, a number of diagnostic devices have been developed, which can be used to extract data from the vehicle’s computer box.

Variations of the devices are used by locksmiths to copy keys for customers who need to replace a lost key or remote.

It is worrying to note, however, that these devices can easily be purchased online.

A security company based in Gauteng told MyBroadband that car thieves in the province have been caught using similar techniques.

One of these techniques involves using old on-board diagnostic computer boxes.

The thieves pull these boxes from old vehicles in scrap yards or grab them from cars stolen in an earlier incident.

They then use the diagnostic key reader to extract data from the computer box and use this information to recode a stolen or purchased programmable key to link with the particular box.

When the criminals head out to find potential targets, they take the reprogrammed key and linked computer box with them.

Once they break into a car, they quickly switch out the installed computer box with their reprogrammed hardware.

After this is done, the reprogrammed key can be used to start the ignition, lock or unlock doors, and control the alarms.

If the criminals struggle to replace the computer box, they also often have a set of different ignition switches on hand.

Replacing the car’s ignition switch with their own simply allows them to use a key that already fits into the switch.

The security company added that police often find illegally-acquired hand-held radios in the possession of car thieves..

Certain versions of these devices are capable of receiving transmissions on radio frequency bands dedicated to emergency services like the police.

Purchasing one of these radios usually requires an amateur radio licence, but the security company noted that these could easily be bought illegally from several shops.

The report also has pictures of a collection of keys, computer boxes, ignition switches and hand-helds that were seized in Amanzimtoti.

Finally, HAMNET South Africa would like to congratulate the South African rugby team on winning the Rugby World Cup yesterday. It was a hard-fought final, and a fine end to a very entertaining rugby competition.

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