HAMNET Report 23rd January 2022


The undersea volcanic eruption about 40 miles away from the main Island of Tonga last Saturday turns out to have been a much bigger event than one might have expected. The explosion caused by the shifting of many cubic kilometers of tectonic material against the slopes of the known undersea volcano threw a column of ash steam and magma about 20 Km into the air, and created a tsunami wave that totally washed all the structures on Mango Island away, considerably damaged the main island, and probably many of the tiny islands comprising the 177 pieces of the nation of Tonga. The tsunami was measured as far afield as Peru, Japan, Morocco, the coast of Mediterranean France, and Malta.

The sound of the blast was heard 2300 Km away, and British radio amateurs, who had set up a little seismic recording station in Leicestershire some time before, picked up the seismic jolt or pressure wave, 16000 km away, about 10 hours later. The shock wave was said to have travelled at roughly 1150 Km/h to arrive in England when it did.

All communications with all the little islands were lost, and the only undersea fibre-optic cable to the islands was severed in at least one place, and may take several weeks to restore, so the death toll on the little atolls and islands has not been established. Most homes along the coast were swept away completely by the tsunami, and residents have lost all their possessions.

The first contactless aid flights arrived in Tonga on Thursday, as the almost coronavirus-free Pacific island nation took precautions to keep the virus out of its borders in the wake of the devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Flights from Australia and New Zealand carrying humanitarian aid and disaster relief landed at Fua’amotu International Airport in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, after the runway was cleared of volcanic ash and debris following Saturday’s violent eruption of the volcano called  Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai.

Tonga has registered only one COVID-19 case to date, and any assistance from Australia or New Zealand is highly likely to introduce the Omicron virus, which will complicate matters in a country with no innate immunity to the virus. However, two New Zealand Naval vessels were due to arrive at Tonga with disaster relief supplies on Friday the 21st. The delivery of the aid will be contactless, so they will attempt to prevent further cases from happening. There are about 100000 people living on the Tonga islands.

I’m sure you have seen the amazing satellite pictures taken at exactly the right time, showing the shockwave under the sea, before the mix of magma, steam and ash reached the surface and exploded into the air.

Meanwhile, closer to home, GDACS reports that, since the 17th January, heavy rainfall and thunderstorms have been affecting Analamanga Region of Madagascar, particularly the capital Antananarivo, causing floods, triggering landslides and resulting in casualties and damage.

According to media reports, ten people have died, two others have been injured and approximately 500 have been displaced. In addition, widespread damage has been reported in the capital and surrounding areas, including collapsed houses and bridges. The city of Antananarivo has been placed on red alert against “imminent danger” by the city’s flood monitoring system. The Urban Commune of Antananarivo (CUA) has activated its contingency plan and has evacuated 3,000 people, helped by the national disaster management authorities (BNGRC).

Moderate rain with thunderstorms was forecast over most parts of Madagascar, particularly the central and whole eastern part of the country for Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Kwa-Zulu Natal has also had its fair share of damage with Ladysmith totally inundated by floods since the beginning of this week. GDACS reports that heavy rainfall has been reported across central and eastern South Africa, causing floods and overflowing rivers, and resulting in casualties.

According to media, at least one person has been confirmed dead and dozens of people have been evacuated and relocated to evacuation centres in Ladysmith. Floodwaters have caused damage to houses and infrastructure across KwaZulu-Natal.

Evacuation operations have started for a number of people as water has been released from the Bloemhof and Vaal Dam, after the water levels of the Vaal River increased. As of 20th January, both the Bloemhof Dam and the Vaal Dam were at 111% capacity, as reported by the Water and Sanitation Department of South Africa.

And, at the Western edge of the country, heatwaves have been experienced over this weekend, with the Western Cape due to register the highest temperatures in the world yesterday and today. This forecast and weather warning was issued on Friday.

Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that climate change is not real!

Now, a quick summary of the status of the James Webb Space Telescope, as of the beginning of the weekend. It was 4 weeks yesterday since the launch on Christmas day, and the telescope has been drifting ever closer to its stopping point at the L2 Lagrange point. After speeding away from the Earth after launch, it has slowed down considerably, simply braked by the Sun and Earth’s gravity, and is now drifting at 0.2 km/second, roughly 96% of the way to its destination. It has only 60000 km still to travel and will then go into a circular orbit, perpendicular to its line of sight with the Earth and Sun, so that its solar panels are not continuously blocked by a self-induced eclipse of the Sun by the Earth. Its heat shield, a five layered structure the size of a tennis court is keeping the telescope side at a comfortable -207 degrees Celsius, though the plan is to cool it down to within about 7 degrees of absolute zero by means of a Helium freezer unit.

Its hot side, facing the Earth and the Sun is measuring a maximum temperature of up to 60 degrees Celsius, so it shows how efficient the heat shield truly is. The Helium refrigeration hasn’t been switched on yet.

Insertion into its orbit at the L2 Lagrange point will occur on day 30 of its journey, in other words, tomorrow the 24th January.

All of the single point failure stages that should have been executed so far have been, flawlessly, and so far, the mission is a success. In that no extra fuel was required for any course corrections after launch, it is estimated that the JWST will be able to deliver science and data for at least 20 years, a truly remarkable endeavour.

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

HAMNET Report 16th January 2022

Nicole Taylor, ZS1NCT, the daughter of our HAMNET Regional Director, Michael, ZS1MJT, has a Masters in Mechatronic Engineering, and is writing a blog from her position now, on board SA Agulhas ll, doing research into stresses the ship experiences as it plows through the ice down at Antarctica. She has written a description this week of the tricks the ship uses to break free, or break a channel through the ice. She says:

”It helps to know that the SA Agulhas II is an ice-going vessel with a strengthened hull that makes her really great at taking on ice head-on. She does this by pushing ice cakes aside with her bow or, when the ice cakes are very big (so they have formed an ice floe or sheet), sliding on top of the ice as she goes forward and breaking the ice below her belly with her weight. She ends up cracking through the ice below her and then nudging the broken ice aside as she trudges on forward.

“At times, however, the snow gets really thick, which weakens her ice-sliding, -nudging and -cracking superpower. The snow acts like glue and holds her tight, which requires extra effort from the crew to get free from its grip. First up is Plan A.

“Plan A: Try the propulsion system. I.e. Try to reverse out and push forward using the propellers to see if the snow-grip can be overcome by the engines. If this does not work, try Plan B too.

“Plan B: Pump water between port (left of ship if you are on the ship and looking towards her front) and starboard (right of the ship) side ballast tanks, which are massive water tanks. This helps shift the ship’s weight between left and right, slowly trying to loosen the snow-grip. If this does not work, the big guns start coming out in Plan C.

“Plan C: Rotate the front crane arm, rated at 35 tons – so it’s a big one – between port and starboard side. This is similar to Plan B, with more weight being shifted around. This is usually done in conjunction with Plan A and B, if they alone do not work, to shift more weight around while trying to move out of the ice.

“And if this does not work, a jacked up Plan C becomes Plan D: Rotate the front crane arm between port and starboard side while holding a 20 ton container.  This is also usually done in conjunction with Plan A and B.

“Then, at play behind the scenes is always Plan E: Get help from the ever-changing environmental conditions that help loosen the ice, or melt the snow, etc. This can mean waiting for warmer weather (anything in the positive degrees C range would be great) to help melt snow and ice, or changes in tides and strong winds that blow the sea ice away or loosen it. Sometimes a good night’s rest on board while the ship rests in the ice offers just the right amount of time for Plan E to do its thing to let Plan A work first thing in the morning.

“The ice in Antarctica this summer season sure offered the SA Agulhas II a fantastic platform to showcase her ice-breaking ability. Although it sometimes appears as though her favourite game to play is “stuck in the ice”, the SA Agulhas II, piloted and manoeuvred by her experienced crew, always has a good few plans up her sleeve and does a great deal to break through the ice we encounter – what an experience to have front row seats to all this!”

You can follow Nicole’s blog by typing this and only this into your search engine:


Thanks very much for this and permission to publish, Nicole! What a very clear description from a competent young lady, who, by the way, is also a member of HAMNET.

Our Western Cape HAMNET bulletin relay on a Wednesday night at 19h30 CAT has been augmented by a link, off the Echolink relay, on to DMR Brandmeister Talk Group 6558, done by James ZS1RBT, using his personal DMR ID. So if you have that DMR capability, join us on Wednesday evenings for some news and views. The relay is one-way, because it is taken off Echolink, and not controlled by the bulletin reader.

In Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) is planning to use satellite technology to improve communication systems in the face of disasters, said its Deputy Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin.

He said this improvement was to prevent telecommunication network disruptions during disasters, such as the situation experienced during the massive floods that hit the country last month.

He said the use of satellite technology, including 5G network satellites, could help to manage natural disaster situations such as sending early warnings to the public.

He said during flooding, communications were disrupted as calls could not be made due to power failures affecting telecommunication towers.

“The solution we need, is (to use) satellites…the government will discuss with countries that have (satellite technology) including 5G satellites. This is KKMM’s plan“, he said, adding the cost of using satellite technology was lower and the time to implement it was also shorter.

Thank you to TheSunDaily for this insert.

In ARRL News, this week, we learn that the TEVEL mission, which consists of eight satellites carrying amateur radio FM transponders, was set to launch on January 13 at 1525 UTC on the SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter-3 mission, which also carries AMSAT-Spain’s (AMSAT-EA) EASAT-2 and HADES satellites. The TEVEL satellites were developed by the Herzliya Science Centre in Israel.

All eight satellites will use the same frequencies, as long as their footprints overlap, and only one FM transponder will be activated at a time. Beacon transmissions will be on 436.400 MHz (9,600 bps BPSK). The uplink frequency of the FM transponders is 145.970 MHz, and the downlink frequency is 436.400 MHz. The satellites were built by eight schools in different parts of Israel.

In fact, this SpaceX rocket was part of the rideshare programme, and launched a total of 105 satellites mostly in the Nano class, for a wide variety of agencies!

This reminds me rather of the vehicles of a very well-known South African online shopping experience, who’s drivers set off each morning from their despatch, with at least 100 small packages for delivery in their surrounds. Like SpaceX, their responsibility ends once the package (read satellite) is delivered to its destination.

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

HAMNET Report 9th January 2022

During a disaster, many people turn to social media seeking information. But communicating during disasters is challenging, especially using an interactive environment like social media where misinformation can spread easily.

Now, University of Georgia researchers have developed a social media tool better to help local emergency managers disperse information to community members during a disaster.

Led by recent graduate Dionne Mitcham, a team from the Institute for Disaster Management at UGA’s College of Public Health has developed a communication framework that local emergency managers could adopt to support crisis communications.

The proposed framework is a spoke-and-wheel design that utilizes community-based public information officers (PIO), emergency management professionals, and/or trained volunteers to communicate information from the operations team and command and control team to the public, traditional media and other stakeholders.

The framework aims to aid local emergency management agencies that lack access to resources state and federal emergency management organizations typically have, such as risk communicators, social media strategists and full-time PIOs.

“There is a lack of both communication frameworks and guidance on the use of social media as a crisis communication tool that was tailored specifically for use on the local level,” said Mitcham. “The framework uniquely leverages local emergency management agencies’ close relationships with stakeholders to help amplify the distribution of uniform disaster-related messaging via social media.”

Incorporating social media into a local emergency management department’s communication plan allows emergency managers and PIOs directly to engage in quick information sharing with the public. This improves the efficiency of information dispersal and prevents potential misrepresentation of information due to the information being posted directly from the source, said the authors.

Local emergency management departments have a unique opportunity to establish and nurture relationships within a community before disaster strikes. These relationships help to reach the whole community when a disaster happens.

“By collaborating with diverse community organizations, the hub framework assists local governments in understanding and meeting the actual needs of the whole community in real time. Formalizing these partnerships prior to a disaster ensures that all members of the community will receive urgent information,” said co-author Morgan Taylor, a doctoral student in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics and research assistant with the Institute for Disaster Management.

There are pitfalls when it comes to using social media. Platforms are not designed to support emergency response and crisis communication: Messages containing critical information can get lost in the influx of messages. False information can spread quickly. Sometimes different community stakeholders can have conflicting messages.

“My co-authors and I hope local emergency managers and their teams use this article as a starting point for considering how to get stakeholders involved in the distribution of crisis communications. In addition, we want to show that uniform distribution of communication messages via social media can be utilized at any level of emergency management—from local to federal,” said Mitcham.

Similarly, the Star Newspaper in Malaysia reported on Thursday that the government will set up a task force to improve the existing communication system and create a faster and effective early warning system for disasters for the benefit of the people.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa said the matter would be discussed in detail by the Communications Ministry secretary-general and the relevant agencies, including the Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID).

“The Cabinet is of the opinion that the communication system and information delivery to the people need to be improved.

“That is why we strive to have a better system including by adopting the concept of SMS blasting so that we can send early warnings quickly and accurately to the people in disaster-affected areas,” he told a press conference after delivering the 2022 New Year’s message for the Communications Ministry at Angkasapuri here on Thursday the 6th of January.

In the message, Annuar also acknowledged that there were some weaknesses in the existing methods of information delivery during disasters.

Your writer likes the term “SMS blasting”, and wonders whether we in South Africa could ever set up a system to allow wide-spread emergency notifications. In Malaysia, of course, the tsunami of 2004 must have got the government thinking long and hard about how to warn the masses of impending disaster.

An organised system in South Africa for example, to warn all the people living on the West Coast of the Cape to avoid the sea because of Red Tide, or the people living near Kruger Park of a rogue lion on the loose, or the people living in Durban North of a swollen Umzinduzi upstream about to cause the Umgeni to burst its banks, would clearly be of benefit. I wonder if our telecommunications agencies would be able to put a plan like this into action. No harm in dreaming is there!

Our friends at Southgate Amateur Radio News tell us that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant of nearly $50,000 to Nathaniel Frissell, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and electrical engineering at The University of Scranton.

The grant will support “The Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) 2022 Workshop,” which will take place on March 18 and 19 at The U.S. Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama. The conference, which will take place in-person, also has a virtual format option.

The Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) is a collective of professional researchers and licensed amateur radio operators (a.k.a. hams) with the objective to foster collaborations between the amateur and professional communities for the purposes of advancing scientific research and understanding, encouraging the development of new technologies to support this research, and of providing educational opportunities for the amateur radio community and the general public.

The workshop will serve as a team meeting for the HamSCI Personal Space Weather Station project, which is a $1.3 million NSF funded project previously awarded to Dr. Frissell. The project seeks to harness the power of a network of licensed amateur radio operators better to understand and measure the effects of weather in the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere.

The theme for the two-day HamSCI workshop is “The Weather Connection.” The fifth annual workshop will feature prominent leaders in space weather, atmospheric weather and the connection between them. And this workshop is open to everyone, and is free.

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


HAMNET Report 2nd January 2022

Welcome to the world of HAMNET in this new year. These new dates will sure take a bit of getting used to! Those of you wondering why I don’t write much about local emergency communications should note that very little happens in South Africa for us to communicate about.

We certainly don’t have the devastating weather that so many other areas of the world experience, we don’t have many earthquakes around here, and even the large brushfires so typical of California and Australia can’t be matched by anything in South Africa.

We are singularly good at killing ourselves off on our roads, but we do that in dribs and drabs, and Ham Radio Emcomms is very seldom needed to manage those. What we do have a fair amount of, usually, are sporting events like marathons, bicycle tours, long distance swims, and triathlons. These sporting events have been struggling under the impact of the Coronavirus, so a good 50% of them have been cancelled in the last 2 years. HAMNET is usually very good at providing logistical support for these events, but has been starved of practice since February 2020. Let’s hope 2022 and the Omicron version of the plague returns us to half a semblance of normality, such that we can start playing radio again in the way we enjoy most.

In the meantime, I continue to search the news outlets for items of interest to electronic, scientific, biological and cosmological enthusiasts, to keep all our grey matter just ticking over slowly. Please join me in what I hope remains an interesting wander through the natural sciences this year.

Those of you with dyslexia will be struggling to remember whether it was JWST or WSJT that got launched on Christmas Day! It’s signals will become very weak, true, through no effort of Joe Taylor, but the ESA and NASA will have no difficulty picking up the science that the James Webb Space Telescope sends, once it gets to le Grange point 2, from a mere 1.5 million kilometers away, using the Deep Space Network of tracking dishes scattered around the globe.

So far, all is going to plan, and by today (Sunday) the JWST may just have reached the half way point to its destination. In fact, it successfully unfurled its insulation shields yesterday. Its forward momentum will clearly slow down, because it’s going to take the rest of a month to get there, having taken a week to get halfway! I don’t think many of the 433 discrete actions that have to take place to unfurl the telescope and get it started up have taken place yet, so this is like a never-ending hurdle race which the autonomous telescope more or less has to negotiate on its own before it becomes a usable instrument. I think there will be a lot more grey hairs amongst the controllers before the commissioning is over. Here’s hoping all goes according to plan..

Southgate Amateur Radio News notes that, as the pandemic  speeds up once again and people are advised to limit their in-person social interactions, a small group of people are reaching out across the airwaves from Barrie to connect with others in a much different way.

The Barrie Amateur Radio Club has been one of the few organisations that has thrived during the now two-year COVID crisis.

Formed in the 1960s, its current band of roughly 60 like-minded members is armed with dependable radio technology that has been in use for over a hundred years. And they use the equipment not just for its social aspects, but also to fulfil a need if called upon in there city when disaster strikes.

Part of the club’s mission statement is to “maintain radio systems suitable for providing communications for the benefit of the community and, when requested, to assist civil authorities.”

Prior to the pandemic, the club held monthly meetings with police and fire services to discuss training scenarios and what the club’s role could be in helping during an emergency.

Ed Murray, the club’s public information officer, says that his favourite part of being a member is “helping the community, and also the camaraderie with the 60 different members that have a wide range of talents and experiences to share.”

“During the early days of the pandemic, during isolation in 2020, I spent a lot of time down here in my radio shack, talking. We had a wellness check where people would get on their radios at 1:30 every afternoon and we would all take our turns to say what is going on and how we were doing,” Murray says.

“Clubs would reach out to other clubs as well. We’ve been able to take the situation and turn it around and put it into a positive light,” he adds.

Thanks to SARN for this adaptation of their report.

Mark, ZS6MDX has reminded me of further developments in the efforts of German Hams to develop radio bridges and high-performance Wi-Fi networks over radio to allow communications amongst disaster agencies in Germany.

Market Research Telecast says that the German radio amateurs who have joined forces in the non-profit German Amateur Radio Club (DARC) have developed a new emergency radio concept. During the flood disaster in the Ahr valley, they hardly got a chance, because the rescue workers had a powerful communication infrastructure with new digital radios for authorities and the radio bridges that amateurs could build could hardly be integrated.

According to its own information, the Emergency and Disaster Radio Department at DARC has been analysing for a long time how the requirements for emergency radio have changed as a result of technical change. In the future, German radio amateurs in disaster areas will no longer just record and forward messages as before, but rather set up high-performance Wi-Fi networks that allow those affected to access the Internet and send messages and retrieve information themselves via smartphone or notebook.

The non-profit association is currently procuring a first prototype for such a system, that can be transported in a vehicle trailer and works independently of the power grid. If the concept proves its worth, such emergency systems will in future be available throughout Germany, so that the voluntary helpers of the association can bring them to the site quickly if necessary. The systems not only include the WLAN components, but also, for example, a network-independent power supply and charging stations for the population to charge mobile devices. Starting in April, the association wants to demonstrate in practice how powerful such an emergency radio solution can be with the prototype.

Thanks to Market Research Telecast for these notes.

I’d like to end by strongly encouraging all of you who read this or listen to it, to do your best to be of service to your community in 2022, assisting where help is needed, and keeping amateur radio’s flag flying high.

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