HAMNET Report 28th June 2020

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that the Radio Amateur Society of Australia is pleased to announce the release of a new E-magazine for Amateur Radio in Australia.

The magazine, QTC, named after the Q-code “I have a message for you” will be published every two months.

In this first issue of QTC, they have news and updates about regulations, and information on their 60m submission in response to the ACMA’s Consultation paper. There’s a “Getting started” regular column, with this issue covering HF DX-ing.

There’s also a regular column on how you can deal with QRM and RFI in your shack. This month they have a feature technical article on 3-Phase Power Converters.

QTC may be downloaded from https://vkradioamateurs.org/qtc-e-magazine/

In passing, this first issue is free to download, and there is a link in the editorial to ask to be added to the distribution list. I have done so and await confirmation.

Here is news of some interesting benevolence in this troubled world. Business Insider says that Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder and the eighth-richest person, has a secret disaster-response team, according to The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast’s investigation found Brin was the sole donor to a disaster charity called Global Support and Development (GSD). The Daily Beast identified Brin as the company’s sole donor through a California court filing.

The company’s staff, almost half of whom are ex-military, are deployed to disaster areas to clear debris and use high-tech solutions to assist victims. GSD is headed up by Grant Dawson, an ex-naval lieutenant who was on Brin’s personal security detail for years.

The idea for GSD was apparently sparked in 2015 when captain of Brin’s superyacht “Dragonfly” was sailing past Vanuatu, which had just been hit by Cyclone Pam. The captain contacted Brin to ask if anything could be done to help and Brin then got in touch with Dawson.

Dawson said in a speech in 2019 about GSD: “So I grabbed a number of Air Force para-rescue guys I’d been affiliated with from the security world, and a couple of corpsmen out of the Seal teams … We raided every Home Depot and pharmacy we could find and on about 18 hours’ notice, we launched.”

The Daily Beast reported that GSD now has 20 full-time staffers, plus about 100 contractors working for it.

The Daily Beast said that, like at Google, GSD’s employees enjoy perks, including strawberry ice cream and fresh laundry aboard a superyacht while working in disaster areas. In addition to military-trained staff, the charity has access to sophisticated technology including drones and sonar mapping.

Since 2015, GSD has assisted during several disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. Now the company says it is lending a hand during the coronavirus pandemic by helping set up testing in California.

Philanthropy of this nature is always gratifying to hear of. May it long continue!

Bloomberg is reporting that Japan natural disaster evacuation plans need an overhaul as the country heads into its rainy season, experts warned, saying crowded conditions could spark coronavirus clusters that grow into another wave of infections.

The period of heavy precipitation, which typically triggers floods and landslides — often forcing hundreds of people to take shelter together in gymnasiums — has already settled in in some parts of Japan. Failure to prepare, risks reigniting the disease, just as cases decline across most of the country and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to remove more restrictions and help the ailing economy.

“If a lot of people gather in a small evacuation centre and somebody is infected, a cluster will occur and the infection will spread,” said Ichiro Matsuo, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo centre for integrated disaster information research.

Matsuo compared conditions in shelters to those aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, where the virus quickly spread to more than a quarter of the crew. Singapore’s foreign worker dormitories have posed a similar problem, representing more than 90% of the Southeast Asian city-state’s confirmed coronavirus cases.

Japan was the country most affected by extreme weather events in 2018, according to Germanwatch, a non-profit organization that tracks global climate risks. The rainy season, which generally ends in mid-July, is followed by typhoons, which have become more damaging and unpredictable as the climate changes. Earthquake evacuees often need to shelter away from home for long periods, worsening the health risks.

Of course, Japan isn’t the only country experiencing severe rainy weather. GDACS reported Friday on flooding, in Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, European Georgia, Norway, Poland, Republic of Serbia, Romania, and India, and a magnitude 7.4 earthquake in southern Oaxaca State in Mexico. All these countries have reported some casualties in their flood reports.

Now HAMNET Regions 3 and 4 are the organisers of this year’s HAMNET Winter Exercise, to take place over the weekend of 29th and 30th August. This is not a contest, and there will be no winner. The organiser’s booklet has been released, and the idea is that, within the confines of the COVID-19 lockdown protocols current at the time, each HAMNET region should have at least one participating team, consisting of a VHF station located in an urban setting, and an HF team, in contact with them, but situated out of town, where QRM is less likely to interfere with communications. No list of teams or their coordinates will be issued, and the idea is that each team waste no time in finding out who is out there, and what frequencies they are capable of. Then the Exercise Director will start sending emails at various times to the VHF teams with specific tasks that will need to be executed, and the results relayed to another region by HF, to be logged back on to the internet by the receiving VHF station.

And to make it more interesting, there may be no use of the electricity grid for any of the tasks, on the internet, in town, or out of town. Not even to cook, or provide lighting. Battery, solar, vehicular or generator power is permitted however.

Slap bang in the middle of winter, it should be an interesting weekend!

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

HAMNET YouTube Channel

Recently we launched a YouTube channel to assist members and anyone else who is interested in learning about emergency communications, with a video portal to learn or refresh themselves with skills required to be competent radio operators. 

The channel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCnZW9Eu74ygPCFXen2AAEg

The videos are intended to be around 5 minutes each so that you do not need to spend long periods of time looking through videos to obtain information. We hope to do a number of these and if you are wanting a video on a specific subject feel free to ask for it, and we will see what we can do. 

We hope to also do a series of interviews with interesting people within the ham fraternity and especially HAMNET members. If you know of someone that you may want to know more about feel free to suggest that we interview them. Further, if you are any good at making videos why not assist us in getting a few more videos online. 

HAMNET Report 21st June 2020

Firstly may I greet all the fathers out there, especially those who volunteer their time and expertise to help their communities with emergency or community events? Have a great Father’s Day, and be grateful for your wonderful families!

Wilderness Search and Rescue in the Western Cape reports that, at 12h47 on Sunday the 14th of June 2020 they were activated after a caller requested assistance for a hiker who had suffered a medical emergency while hiking in the central section of the Table Mountain National Park above Hout Bay.

Due to the nature of the incident, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) were dispatched to insert a Metro Emergency Medical Rescue Technician as well as a Rescue Climber at the location of the patient. On arrival, it was found that the 58 year old local male who was in a small party of hikers, may have experienced heart complications. While the person was receiving treatment from the rescuers, an emergency Landing Zone (LZ) was secured by WSAR members and other services including HAMNET at a nearby location.

After the patient was stabilised, he was placed in a stretcher and hoisted to the helicopter which delivered him to the LZ. He was then transferred to a road ambulance and taken to a medical facility for further treatment.

We would like to thank the NSRI who assisted WSAR in securing the emergency LZ for the operation. WSAR wishes the gentleman a speedy recovery.

From UniverseToday, we learn that, over the years, scientific estimates of potential intelligent life in our galaxy have ranged widely. Some estimates say just one (only us Earthlings) to just a handful, to possibly thousands or even millions. A new study attempts to quantify the number of other worlds we could potentially talk to by estimating the number of intelligent civilizations within the Milky Way that are actively communicating.

That number is 36, plus or minus a few dozen, depending on various assumptions. And the research team says this number is a lower limit, based on the assumption of how life arose and how long radio communications have been used here on Earth.

To make their estimates, the research team from the University of Nottingham said they take into account various factors like star formation histories, the distribution of metal-rich stars (like the Sun) and the likelihood of stars hosting Earth-like planets in their habitable zones.

They call their assumptions the “Astrobiological Copernican Limit” and the limit is either weak or strong based on when intelligent life arises on the planet.

But even if we do have a large number of talkative neighbours, there are a few caveats that make two-way communication seem unlikely. Other worlds are likely so far away – the Nottingham team estimates the average distance to these radio-active civilizations would be 17,000 light-years away – that detection and communication would be extremely difficult and unlikely, given our current technology.

The researchers also estimate the likelihood is extremely small that the host stars for communicating intelligent life are solar-type stars, and most would have to be M-class dwarfs, which may not be stable enough to host life over long timescales.

It is also possible that we are the only civilization within our Galaxy unless the survival times of civilizations like our own are long.

But like most theoretical research, the team says, it’s the journey, not the destination that counts.

By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life — even if we find nothing — we are discovering our own future and fate.

Thank you to UniverseToday for these excerpts from their newsletter.

Now here’s a feel-good story from capetownetc.com, about a touching rescue on Table Mountain this week that showed the love between a man and his best friend, as a young dog was saved after falling in a ravine, and returned to his owner.

At 2.52pm on Tuesday June 16, 2020 Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) was again activated after a caller reported that his dog had fallen down the steep Slangolie Ravine while he was out hiking at the southern end of the Pipe Track. This ravine is in the northern section of the Table Mountain National Park overlooking the suburb of Bakoven.

Rescuers made their way towards the location of the incident. On arrival they found a six month old dog quite low down in the very overgrown ravine, which would require a team of Rescue Climbers to retrieve.

In order to aid the operation, rope and pulley systems were attached to the rock above the Pipe Track as well as hauling equipment anchored to old disused water pipes and other metal structures.

Just after nightfall, the dog was safely returned to his owner at the Pipe Track. From there, all rescuers and members of the public were walked off the mountain via a nearby jeep track.

There’s a lovely picture attached to the report of the dog and his owner enjoying a relieved cuddle after the rescue. Thank you to all the volunteers who spent their public holiday rescuing a puppy.

Now, writing in Paediatric Pulmonology, a group, investigating reports from 38 different studies of 1117 children infected with Covid-19, note that clinical manifestations of children with COVID-19 differ widely from adult cases and say fever and respiratory symptoms should not be considered a hallmark of the disease in children.

In these studies, roughly 14 per cent were asymptomatic, 36 per cent were mild, 46 per cent were moderate, 2 per cent were severe, and 1 per cent was critical. This review found that the most prevalent symptoms in children were fever (47.5%), followed by cough (41.5%), nasal symptoms (11.2%), diarrhoea (8.1%), and nausea/vomiting (7.1%).

CT abnormalities were reported in 63.0 per cent of cases. The most prevalent abnormalities reported were ground-glass opacities, patchy shadows and consolidations in the lungs. Wonderfully, only one death was reported!

And a study of screened cases in a random grouping of adults tested in Geneva Switzerland, and reported on this last Monday, says that it can be concluded that for every confirmed case of Covid-19, there were about 11.6 infections in the community. This is of course in a first world country. I wouldn’t know how to extrapolate those figures to the population in South Africa. We are clearly not testing everybody, so are probably missing many, many mild cases here.

This pandemic is not over yet – we still have a long, long way to go!

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

HAMNET Report 14th June 2020

Writing in NCAR news, Laura Snider reports that Solar scientists have taken a mathematical technique used by Earth scientists to analyse cyclic phenomena, such as the ebb and flow of ocean tides, and applied it to the confounding irregularity of cycles on the Sun. The result is an elegant “Sun clock” that shows that solar activity starts and stops on a much more precise schedule than could be discerned when looking at observations of the Sun in the traditional way – plotted linearly over time.

The new research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was led by the University of Warwick in England and involved researchers from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and NASA.

The sun clock could be used as a planning tool to help keep space- and ground-based infrastructure safe.

The clock was created using a technique known as the Hilbert transform to convert the linear observations of past solar cycles onto a circle, stretching and shrinking the cycles as necessary to a standard 11 years. As the cycles were overlaid on top of each other on the clock’s face, distinct “times” on the clock face when solar activity is flipped on and off came into focus.

“Scientists spend their lives trying to read the book of nature,” said Sandra Chapman, a professor at the University of Warwick who led the study. “Sometimes we create a new way to transform the data, and what appeared to be messy and complicated is suddenly beautifully simple. In this instance, our Sun clock method showed clear switch on and switch off times demarcating quiet and active intervals for space weather for the first time.”

The idea of applying a Hilbert transform to sunspot data was born out of a chance meeting at a conference in 2018, when Chapman, a plasma physicist, suggested that co-author Robert Leamon, a NASA scientist, apply the transform to help make sense of another project he was working on that involved the cyclic nature of El Niño.

“The Hilbert transform is a really powerful technique across all of science,” said Leamon, also of the University of Maryland. “When we applied it to sunspots, we saw it tied to the sharp switch-on of activity that we’d seen elsewhere. Further analysis of the geomagnetic data revealed the switch off as well.”

The creation of the solar clock is part of a larger body of research that makes a case that the Sun’s cycles are far more predictable and regular than scientists realize. For example, Leamon and study co-author Scott McIntosh, NCAR deputy director, have identified “terminator” events on the Sun, which they say offer observational evidence of the start and stop of solar cycles, something that has been estimated in the past.

“The Sun is not nearly as irregular as we thought,” McIntosh said. “But we’ve been looking in the wrong places. Once you realize that the Sun is actually adhering to a larger cycle, and that the appearance and disappearance of sunspots are just a symptom of that cycle, not the cycle itself, you see a beautiful order in the chaos. The striking regularity we find in this new sun clock is evidence of that.”

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that the Hindustan Times reports 9 amateur radio operators came to the aid of district officials during Cyclone Nisarga last week.

As all modes of communication collapsed in less than half-an-hour after severe cyclone Nisarga made landfall over Raigad district last Wednesday, a group of nine independent ham radio operators using wireless communication became the eyes and ears for the district administration. Their centres? A station without a roof in Shrivardhan, the district headquarters in Alibag and vehicles in Mahabaleshwar.

The entire exercise from the afternoon of June 2nd  to the evening of June the 5th (when mobile network availability returned in some areas), saw continuous relays of information about deaths, injuries, evacuations, the scale of the damage (tree losses, falling power lines, and damaged network towers), and relief and rehabilitation requirements across low-lying areas in Shrivardhan, Mhasala, Dighi, Murud, Revdanda, Nagaon, Revas, and Alibag areas in Raigad, from the police, local authorities and citizens, to radio operators who in turn relayed them to the authorities across different areas.

Here’s another feel-good story from Southgate Amateur Radio News about a West Virginia paramedic who kept the watch of a mine disaster survivor for 10 years and who was reunited with his patient for the first time last week.

Whitesville Paramedic Terry Vermillion was able to return the watch he removed from then mine-electrician James Woods while starting an IV line, after meeting with him last week, the Coal Valley News reported.

“I can’t really put into words how good it feels to be here right now,” Vermillion told the Coal Valley News. “Finally, these items are back where they belong.”

Woods’ family agreed to meet with Vermillion, a 36-year EMS veteran, after seeing an interview Vermillion gave to the newspaper last month expressing his desire to return the watch.

Woods, an Army veteran, was among two injured miners who survived the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster on April 5, 2010, that killed 29 mine workers. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that affects his memory, according to his wife Teresa Woods, who serves as his caregiver. Teresa Woods said her family has stayed private after the disaster due to the pain of talking about it, but that they wanted to thank Vermillion because keeping the watch for 10 years in the hopes of returning it showed how much he cared about his patient.

And that, of course, is how it should be!

Finally, my coronavirus message of the week is to ask you all to recognise the fact that, not only are you less likely to give your Covid-19 to someone else, by wearing a mask, but you are nearly 5 times less likely to get the disease from someone else if you wear a mask! Recent research from the UK shows that you have a 14% chance of becoming infected if exposed, if you don’t wear a mask, and only a 3% chance of becoming infected if you do wear a mask. And please remember, that also applies if you wear the mask over your mouth, but have your nose exposed. You might then as well not be wearing the darn thing. PLEASE don’t be inconsiderate to your friends and loved ones, or negligent enough to allow yourself to become infected because you didn’t wear your mask correctly.

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

HAMNET Report 7th June 2020

Severe weather is being experienced around the world. India and Pakistan were struck by Tropical Cyclone NISARGA this week, with wind-speeds up to 120 km/h. Houses were damaged, families were evacuated and a few deaths were reported. Further heavy rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the current weekend.

Tropical storm CHRISTOBAL has made landfall in Eastern Mexico with wind-speeds in the 75 to 100 km/h range. Houses and hospitals were damaged, and about 600 people needed to be evacuated from areas of high risk. Heavy rain and thunderstorms are also expected there this weekend, with spread into neighbouring Guatemala

Tropical Storm AMANDA struck El Salvador last weekend, 150000 people being affected, about 12000 needing evacuation to places of safety, floods and landslides being reported, houses and bridges destroyed, and interruption of water and electricity supplies. Humanitarian assistance is proving difficult in the middle of challenges posed by the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile, Chile was struck by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in its North-East area on 3rd June, blocking roads and threatening some 12000 people, and a quake of strength 5.5 struck Southern California on 4th June. No serious damage to structures or infrastructure has been reported.

And Yemen, Somalia, Finland, European Georgia, Italy, Norway and Sweden are all being threatened by heavy rain and flooding.

The Western Cape is also facing extreme weather this coming week, with about 50mm of rain predicted for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We can do with the rain, and wait with eager anticipation to see if the forecast is correct.

And, on the first day of Lockdown Level 3, a climber went up Table Mountain, slipped, and fell to his death. Wilderness Search and Rescue, which includes HAMNET, was mobilized to aid in his retrieval, which eventually took place on Tuesday. HAMNET records its sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that HamSCI (www.hamsci.org) is looking for amateur radio operators in the eastern hemisphere to help collect propagation data during the June 21st solar eclipse. Data collection requires an HF radio connected to a computer.

There will be two data collection exercises: a control day, held on June 14, followed by the event from June 20-22, which encompasses the annular solar eclipse across eastern Africa and Asia on June 21.

If you wish to receive further details of the experiment, they are available at

Interested operators may contact Kristina Collins at kd8oxt@case.edu.

My piece of Coronavirus news for you this week concerns the no-yes-no confusion regarding whether Hydroxychloroquine will make any difference to your becoming infected with, or recovering from, COVID-19.

In March this year, a large summary of many studies which included Hydroxychloroquine in their treatment programmes, with or without other medication in combination, seemed to suggest that this old and much used Malaria drug DID NOT reduce the severity of COVID-19, or even prevent its occurrence. As a result of this news, further trials of the drug to find out how effective it might be, were stopped.

A while later, doubt as to the veracity of this evidence was raised, because some of the data supplied by a company whose job was specifically just to collate information, turned out to be suspect. I don’t understand it fully, but the company in question could not guarantee the quality of its data. As a result, Hydroxychloroquine became a hot subject again, and the World Health Organisation directed that the research into its effects be restarted.

But, in another backflip, leaders of a large study in the United Kingdom that is rigorously testing the malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine and other medicines for hospitalized COVID-19 patients say they will stop putting people on the drug because it’s clear it isn’t helping.

Results released Friday from 1,542 patients showed the drug did not reduce deaths, time in the hospital or other factors. After 28 days, 25.7% on Hydroxychloroquine had died versus 23.5% given usual care—a difference so small it could have occurred by chance.

The results “convincingly rule out any meaningful mortality benefit,” study leaders at the University of Oxford said in a statement.

This flies in the face of what the WHO still recommends, and presumably it will take some time before everybody starts to agree with everyone once more. However, I think we can abandon the idea that Hydroxychloroquine reduces the presence or severity of the disease. This is a pity, because it is cheap and well-tested, and dosages and side-effects are well understood. Stick to your Vitamin D3 – that still seems to be the best thing you can do.

The United Kingdom is testing an app on your smartphone that you use every day to send in your state of health, good or bad. 2.5 million people are submitting their presence or absence of symptoms, and then reporting on Coronavirus tests if they are done. A loss of smell and taste may be one of the clearest indicators of whether someone has COVID-19, this new study system suggests.

Some of the app users also reported results of PCR diagnostic tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Nearly 65 percent of roughly 6,400 U.K. residents who tested positive for the virus described a loss of taste and smell as a symptom, researchers report May 11th in Nature Medicine. And just over 67 percent of the 726 U.S. participants with a positive test also reported losing those senses. Only about 20 percent of all people who tested negative had diminished smell and taste.

Using data from the app, a team of scientists led by clinical researchers Claire Steves and Tim Spector, both of King’s College London, devised a formula for determining which symptoms best predict COVID-19. A combination of loss of taste and smell, extreme fatigue, cough and loss of appetite was the best predictor of having a positive result from the PCR test, the team found. Based on those symptoms, the researchers estimate that more than 140,000 of the more than 800,000 app users who reported symptoms probably have COVID-19.

The World Health Organization lists loss of taste and smell as a less common COVID-19 symptom, and again, seems not to be keeping up with the game. The new findings suggest that it should be added to the list of top symptoms used to screen people for the disease, the researchers say.

Thank you to ScienceNews for this last report.

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