HAMNET Report 31st October 2021


In an update by GDACS on the Canary Islands Volcano, I learned that a new rupture of the main cone was reported on 27th October and that lava has been flowing westwards over the coast. An increase in Sulphur dioxide (SO2) values has been recorded on the west side of the island as well as seismic activity, with earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.5 at medium and deeper depths of more than 20 km.

According to the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service, 2,183 buildings have been destroyed, 113 damaged and an area of 911 ha affected.

Following the possibility that the northern lava flow could reach the sea, the Maritime Captaincy established a perimeter of exclusion from Puerto Naos to Tazacorte and 0.5 nautical miles off the coast.

So this eruption and seismic disaster is still far from over.

HAMNET Western Cape’s Regional Director, Michael, ZS1MJT, has issued a comprehensive report about a prolonged search for a missing hiker in the Stellenbosch mountain area, which was called off after 4 days of intensive searching.

He says that Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) received a call from Metro on 21st October saying they had reports of a missing 27-year male in the Stellenbosch area. He had gone hiking in the area around his house in Stellenbosch on Wednesday 20th October after lunch, and had not returned home. He was familiar with the mountain area in the vicinity of his house, across the road from the start of the hiking trails.

The Incident Commander and Emergency Medical Services gathered as much information as they could and then called for assistance from the various WSAR teams. HAMNET, Mountain Club of SA (MCSA), K9 and drone teams were initially dispatched. A small ground team was available and activated. Skymed was also authorized and did a thorough search of some areas. No signs or clues as to the hiker’s whereabouts were found.

The search resumed on 22nd October at 08h00 with HAMNET, the K9 team, MCSA and ORRU, and Delta Search and Rescue involved. ORRU did extensive patrols into the Jonkershoek nature reserve and all access roads to Vriesenhof, Blaauwklippen and Stellenrust on Friday and Saturday. The EMS drone searched the lower slopes of Stellenbosch mountains, and a notification of a missing person was posted on neighbourhood watch and trail runner group social media platforms, all being asked to keep a look out for him.

Weather conditions deteriorated and the decision was made to resume the search on Saturday, 23rd October after assessing the weather conditions and cloud cover, safety first being of utmost importance to all parties involved.

More field operatives were requested as the area of the search was extensive and growing. 4×4’s were dispatched to drop off and collect field operatives deeper into the mountains. A communications relay was set up as the search stretched to the other side of the mountain where communications were challenging. Skymed was also assisting again with an aerial search, an opportunity to use the helicopter being grabbed by the IC as the weather had cleared for a brief period. Teams stood down for the day around 20h00 as they awaited the last of the searchers to come off the mountain and report back to the base. The search was set to resume on Sunday 24th from 08h30.

On Sunday morning, a large number of private volunteers and trail runners were also at the search base and dispatched with MCSA team leaders. HAMNET members were there, serving as Incident Commander, and Logistics Field manager, and providing communications and relay services. ORRU and MCSA members were also present and managing the ground teams. HAMNET set up SARTrak tracking software and handed APRS units to the search parties to track their movements. This tracking was exported on to Google maps and the Incident Command could clearly see where they all were and the areas covered. The SARTrak system worked very well indeed.

A decision was taken at about 15h30 to call off the search until more information was available. At this stage, all possible areas and leads had been followed up and resources extended to their limits.

This was a very extensive 4-day search in very rugged mountain terrain, involving a large number of personnel from all facets of the WSAR family as well as involvement from the public. Donations of food, snacks, refreshments and coffee were brought to Metro 4 (the Incident Command vehicle) at the rendezvous point, and distributed to the various teams where possible. Public support, well-wishes and thanks were in endless supply. Communications proved in the end to be a major success and SARTrak was well implemented, to give a great overview of the areas searched. A successful operation in the end, but sadly, the missing person has as of now, still not been found.

His family has thanked all involved in this search. Michael personally thanks all those involved. And thank you, Michael for heading up the HAMNET team, and for the report.

HAMNET in the Western Cape was contacted this week by the organizers of next year’s Two Oceans Marathon, with the news that they are going ahead with plans to run the event over the Easter Weekend, which occurs from 15th to 18th April 2022. As is customary, Hamnet has been asked to provide communications for the sweep vehicles used to ferry drop-out runners back to the finish, and to provide rapid response rover vehicles to respond if needed to logistical or organisational problems along the route. We usually have stationary vehicles at all major cut-off points for the 21km half marathon, and for the 56 km ultra.

The organisers have had to split the short and long races over two days, to allow for Covid restrictions on numbers present per event, so the short race will take place on Saturday the 16th, with about 15000 runners sent off in batches, and the long race on Sunday the 17th, with about 11000 runners, also dispatched in groups.

The organisers understand fully that all plans may be scuppered if the next Covid wave takes place later than December, meaning that there are still too many infected but asymptomatic people in the community by April, to allow the race to take place in safety.

With an air of optimism, HAMNET Western Cape is preparing itself for the 99er cycle tour in early February and the Two Oceans in April. As Alexander Pope said “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”!

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