HAMNET Report 1st August 2021

Extreme weather continues to batter this troubled planet. The two Tropical Cyclones I mentioned last week have been followed by a third, Cyclone NEPARTAK, which made landfall on the 27th, and brought heavy rainfall over central and northern Hinshu, and southern Hokkaido Island. The Weather Bureau there issued a red warning for heavy rain, flooding and landslides over coastal Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures and over eastern Fukushima Prefecture. Luckily, wind speeds were never very high, and the cyclone’s strength dissipated as it crossed over land.

Meanwhile, the entire Pacific rim of fire has experienced Earthquakes, from high up near Alaska in the Bering Straits area, Mexico, Chile, Peru, the Solomon Islands, Tonga Islands, Vanuata, Australia, the Kermadec region, Japan and Indonesia.

But heavy rains and flooding seem to be even more widespread than the quakes, affecting, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines, the Japanese Islands as mentioned above, as well as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Italy.

And where it isn’t flooding or shaking, it’s burning. With severe hot weather, wildfires are reported in Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, the Italian Island of Sardinia, Spain and Greece.

South Africans can count themselves lucky that they are not often exposed to any of these types of severe natural disaster!

The disastrous flooding which struck parts of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany last week claiming over 200 lives and with around 150 people still missing, will have long-lasting effects on the region’s population and infrastructure with roads, railways and homes severely impacted.

Dailysportscar.com reports that, for now, the major efforts [in the countries] lie in immediate recovery and support for the local populace.

And it’s in that regard that the Nürburgring has been at the centre of the efforts of the emergency services and regional authorities, the circuit facilities now serving as a hub for all the required services and as a centre too for the collection, sorting and distribution of emergency aid and charitable donations of food, clothing and more or less everything else to be distributed by road and air.

A huge effort was underway to sort the vast array of donations very rapidly at the circuit, with distribution to those in need well underway.

With the Nürburgring facilities in rather more urgent use than that required for motorsport, a number of programmed events have been cancelled or postponed including the ADAC GT Masters event due on 7-8th  August.

Porsche meanwhile has donated a million Euros to the effort. The money is being used to provide emergency aid for flood victims and to help fund the work of the various rescue organisations in the affected regions with further efforts asking its employees for private donations.

“The images from the flood-hit areas have left me shaken. Our thoughts go out to all those who have lost family or friends in this catastrophe or who have lost their homes,” said Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board at Porsche AG. “It is amazing to see how people have come together in these extraordinary circumstances. Relief organisations are playing a key role in the response to the disaster. We are supporting these efforts so that additional support can reach people on the ground as quickly as possible.” Close quote.

Stephen G7VFY brought to the attention of Southgate Amateur Radio News an article written by Evgeny UA3AHM/OH5HM and Dieter DL1DBY, which notes:

“When going to an outdoor camping trip, we will find that in many parts of the world there is no cell phone service available in the back country. To make matters worse, in these areas there is almost never a VHF/UHF ham radio repeater in range when we need wide-area coverage. Apart from strictly local communications using VHF/UHF simplex radio, how do we send messages to friends and family over great distances? How do we call for help? A similar problem can even arise in an urban environment if a major disaster strikes like the break-down of the power grid.

“In activities like back country trips in areas without cell phone coverage or in a widespread emergency with the loss of our normal means of communication, we can use satellite phones, but this technology is very expensive, requires subscriptions and there is no guarantee that the complex infrastructure of satellite communications will work under all circumstances. The obvious solution for Ham Radio operators will be to switch to shortwave communication using battery operated radios and often NVIS modes of operation. NVIS stands for Near Vertical Incidence Skywave, which means transmitting with special antennas straight up to communicate with other stations 30 km to 300 km away with low power – which would be the most useful communications distance if help is needed. We could use SSB voice communications, but this requires that the person we want to reach is sitting constantly at his or her radio to be able to receive the message. This can be a problem: In a real emergency we probably won’t have time for this. We could instead use capable digital modes with automatic message handling capabilities like JS8Call, but these require notebook computers or other complicated setups in the field which consume a lot of energy and can be difficult to recharge off-grid on a reliable basis.

“Evgeny UA3AHM/OH5HM and Sergej UA9OV have developed another mode of digital shortwave communications, which aims to be easy to use, capable and – most importantly – friendly to the operator’s resources. Apart from a low power battery operated transceiver and a small digital interface, only an Android smartphone is needed, which can be recharged with cheap and readily available consumer-grade solar chargers. Evgeny and Sergej have created an app called “HFpager” which allows one to use the smartphone’s sound chip to encode and decode audio signals in the SSB audio passband of the transceiver – similar to PC based modes like FT8 and JS8Call. It uses rates of transmission of 1.46, 5.86, 23.44 and 46.88 Baud. Modulation is 18-tone Incremental Frequency Shift Keying (IFSK) with forward error correcting Reed-Solomon code RS(15,7) and a superblock by 4 RS blocks with interleaving.” End quote.

This last bit is Greek to me, I’m afraid, but I gather your Android phone will send tones to your HF rig via some sort of small interface, by means of which you can effectively use digital modes on a non-digital radio and without a PC of any sort. And the message can be stored and forwarded at the receiving end for later attention. Not too shabby, Nige?!

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