HAMNET Report 16th August 2020

Aljazeera has provided a concise report about the fuel spilling from a Japanese bulk carrier that ran aground on a reef in Mauritius two weeks ago, creating an ecological disaster, endangering corals, fish and other marine life around the Indian Ocean island, according to officials and environmentalists.

The MV Wakashio, owned by the Nagashiki Shipping Company, struck the reef on Mauritius’s southeast coast on July 25th.

Last Thursday, the government said fuel was leaking from a crack in the vessel’s hull, and Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency, pleading for international help.

Environmental group Greenpeace said the spill was likely to be one of the worst ecological crises Mauritius has ever seen.

“Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’s economy, food security and health,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

France was sending specialist teams and equipment to help Mauritius deal with the spill, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

Nagashiki Shipping Company said it had tried to free the tanker, but the effort was hampered by persistent bad weather.

The tanker is grounded in what the environment ministry has described as a sensitive zone, with the leaking fuel endangering the diverse marine life that attracts tourists from around the world.

Mauritius, famous for its pristine beaches, is popular with tourists who last year contributed 63 billion Mauritius rupees ($1.6bn) to the economy.

And the Japanese company that owns the ship has apologised for the incident, and has also sent a team of oil-spill specialists to assist. Oil on board ship is being loaded into portable tanks and airlifted off the tanker by helicopter. The New York Times website said on Friday that almost all the remaining oil has been pumped from the ship, so the spillage should not get worse over the weekend.

Forbes.com says that the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation has 40 conservation programs operating to support various endangered species. Here, there are 15 of the most iconic species and habitats that have been directly impacted by the oil spill, and which the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and other local environmental groups are fighting to save.

Now ARRL.org reports another step in ARRL’s increased focus on strengthening its emergency communications capabilities and long-standing working relationships with federal and state agencies and private emergency response organizations, in hiring Paul Z. Gilbert, KE5ZW, of Cedar Park, Texas, as its first Director of Emergency Management.

Gilbert brings more than 30 years of experience in public service in both his professional and amateur radio endeavours. Beginning with his appointment as Emergency Coordinator in 1987, he has held multiple positions in the ARRL Field Organization. Currently in his second term as South Texas Section Manager, he has also served for more than a decade as the West Gulf Division’s Assistant Director for Public Service, acting as liaison between Division leadership and local, state, and federal emergency management organizations.

Professionally, Gilbert most recently was Radio Officer, HQ Staff, for the Texas State Guard, where for the past 6 years he has been responsible for the planning and implementation of the organization’s communications capabilities. Previously he was a Public Safety Radio Coordinator for a Texas agency, charged with overseeing that organization’s large-scale disaster communications response and identifying and eliminating in-state interoperability issues.

In his new role, Gilbert will manage a team responsible for supporting ARRL Emergency Communications (EmComm) programs and services, including the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) and National Traffic System (NTS), as well as leading the continued modernization of those programs in consonance with the future emergency communications needs of the public and ARRL’s key partners.

This week’s ARRL letter reports that an auxiliary cable that helps to support a metal platform above the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope’s reflector dish in Puerto Rico snapped in the early morning hours of August 10th, causing a 100-foot gash in the reflector dish. Operations at the world-famous observatory, which is managed by the University of Central Florida (UCF), have been halted until repairs can be made. When the heavy 10 cm cable fell, it also damaged about a half-dozen panels in the Gregorian dome above the dish and twisted the platform used to access the dome. The cause of the cable break is not yet clear.

“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” Observatory Director Francisco Cordova said. “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.”

UCF manages the National Science Foundation (NSF) facility under a cooperative agreement with Universidad Ana G. Méndez and Yang Enterprises Inc. Home to one of the most powerful telescopes on the planet, the facility is used by scientists around the world to conduct research in the areas of atmospheric sciences, planetary sciences, radio astronomy, and radar astronomy. Arecibo is also home to a team that runs the Planetary Radar Project supported by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program in NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office, through a grant awarded to UCF.

The facility has endured many hurricanes, tropical storms, and earthquakes since it was built 50 years ago. Repairs from Hurricane Maria in 2017 are still ongoing. Through it all, the facility has continued to contribute to significant breakthroughs in space research in the area of gravitational waves, asteroid characterization, planetary exploration, and more.

The largest single-dish radio telescope in the world for decades, Arecibo was bumped into second place in 2016 by the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China.

The Arecibo Observatory Radio Club operates KP4AO at the site, mostly on special occasions.

Finally, a strange phenomenon has been noted in patients with Covid-19, who need admission to ICU and oxygen of some sort or other. Observations have revealed that those seriously ill patients who have a headache when they are admitted to ICU do better than those who don’t have a headache. There is no obvious reason why this should be so. Headache is such a universal symptom of fever and infection that one might have expected the statistics to be the other way round.

Nobody said that the coronavirus infection was not novel!

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