HAMNET Report 18th April 2021

In a message to the Emergency Communications groups around IARU Region 1, on Monday the 12th, Greg Mossop conveyed his thanks to everyone who took part in Sunday’s exercise on JS8call. There had only been a few countries interested when it was discussed on the last conference call, so getting 17 countries listed to take part and putting 40+ stations into 2.5kHz of spectrum was a good show of interest and certainly challenged the mode for performance.

If it had gone perfectly there would have been no point in doing it so Greg was expecting comments from all. He said he would be interested in how many stations we were able to send short messages to and how many formal messages were sent if possible as well as for any messages received.

He is not intending to review all logs as this was intended as an enthusiasm and awareness raising test rather than a formal exercise with control stations etc. but some numbers will help to see if there is an improvement in future.

He already has some observations on message handling and the organisation of the event as well as the good comments about timing of exercises which we will talk about at our next teleconference in May.

In other reports from regional EmCor chiefs, Jul 6W1QL in Senegal, who had not formally registered to take part, found 40m challenging because of interference, but had more success on 20m, in spite of Senegal’s inexperience with the mode.

Jan, PA0NON in the Netherlands, reported many many contacts, but found the band too crowded, and suggested future exercises take place on another 40m frequency to avoid QRM from regular users of the mode.

From Stan OM8ST in the Slovak Republic, we learnt that few amateurs in that country took part, mainly because they were finding the technology difficult to master, and he reports that Slovak amateurs are not very interested in digital modes. He personally learned a lot from the exercise, so his eyes were opened to the mode.

John EI7IG in Ireland found auto responses by some stations he was trying to message blocked attempts to get the messages through, and felt a more structured approach to message passing was probably necessary. John struggled to separate stations taking part in the exercise from regular stations just using the frequency, and basically agreed with Jan’s observation that a different frequency should be used for exercises in future.

Grant ZS1GS in South Africa, reported that band conditions prevented our involvement in DX messaging on 40m, but noted that signals were easily decoded from most parts of South Africa on 40m, between 2 and 5pm, but that DX only opened up after 5pm, after the exercise was over, and then only on 20m. However, he thanked all South African participants for doing their best to be heard in other parts of IARU Region one.

Now, for some real disaster comms, we hear from Donald de Riggs, J88CD on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, who says that on April 13, the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 eruption of the La Soufrière volcano, island residents were awakened to another column of volcanic ash creating a thick blanket obscuring part of the eastern sky as the volcano continues to erupt violently.

“Almost all residents in the Red Zone have been evacuated, save for a few diehards who will not move, for reasons unknown,” he said.

Since the effusive eruption began last December, local hams have been in a state of readiness via 2-meter networks and regional networks via HF. A 24-hour regional HF network and vigil has been active since violent eruptions resumed earlier this month to provide communication support should [the] telephone service be disrupted by the volcanic hazard. This includes a twice-daily link-up on HF with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). There is also a 2-meter gateway via EchoLink on the J88AZ node. The other active VHF repeater is the main resource for domestic communications.

The Grenada repeater, which is linked to St. Lucia and Barbados, is also accessible by hams in Tobago, Trinidad, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Frequencies being used for disaster-related communications may include 3.815, 7.188, or 7.162 MHz. Volcanic ash is also falling in Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, and Grenada.

The La Soufrière volcano on St. Vincent began its most recent series of explosive eruptions on April 9, sending clouds of hot ash some 20,000 feet into the air, blanketing much of the island in ash and causing water and power outages. The volcano is “a constant threat,” according to CDEMA.

A 5-year, $9.3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will allow the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Geophysical Institute to establish a new research observatory at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). A former military facility, HAARP is now operated by UAF and is home to HAARP Amateur Radio Club’s KL7ERP. The new Subauroral Geophysical Observatory for Space Physics and Radio Science will be dedicated to exploring Earth’s upper atmosphere and geospace environment. The facility’s 33-acre Ionospheric Research Instrument will be the centrepiece of the observatory.

“This NSF support will provide the scientific community increased access to the instruments at the observatory and, hopefully, grow the scientific community,” said Geophysical Institute Director Robert McCoy, the project’s principal investigator.

A second NSF-funded project will add a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) instrument at the site, which will allow the study of other regions of the upper atmosphere. UAF hopes to add additional instruments over time at the Gakona, Alaska, research site.

The research grant will allow scientists to investigate how the sun affects Earth’s ionosphere and magnetosphere to produce changes in space weather. Their work will help fill gaps in knowledge about the region, which is important because ionospheric disturbances, if severe enough, can disrupt communication systems and damage the power grid.

Research at the observatory is initially expected to include the study of various types of aurora and other occurrences in the ionosphere..

“Amateur radio will clearly benefit with an improved understanding of ionospheric propagation and space weather physics, and providing improved HF propagation prediction modelling data,” HAARP Research Station Chief Engineer and ARRL Life Member Steve Floyd, W4YHD, told ARRL. He said, “Radio science experiments will also provide a valuable data set to encourage development of new radio technologies and modulation methods.”

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