HAMNET Report 25th June 2023

Disasters in the news this week are of the maritime or watery type. The world’s news agencies have been kept very busy following the chasing of clues as to what happened to the mini-submarine that was trying to get 4km down to the wreck of the Titanic. As we now know, the sad news is a field of debris found on the bottom of the ocean in the area compatible with a mini-sub that imploded, with the loss of all 5 people on board, including a teenage boy. One can only hope that the end was very swift, because the thought of a slow death as their oxygen ran out, is too terrible to contemplate.

Meanwhile, and of far greater import, we were basically ignoring the capsizing of a migrant boat in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Greece, but actually on its way to Italy, carrying possibly 750 people of Pakistani, Syrian and Egyptian origin. The boat had set sail from Libya with refugees seeking a safer life in Europe. It appears that the Greek Coast Guard had been observing the boat for several hours before it sank, but no-one intervened to try to guarantee the safety of so many people in the fishing trawler until much later, by which time the boat was sinking, and all the coast guard could do was to assist in pulling survivors out of the water.

By Thursday the 22nd, close to 100 bodies had been recovered, and 104 survivors rescued, but that leaves more than 500 people still unaccounted for, and who will perhaps never be accounted for. By comparison, 5 people paying exorbitant prices to ride in a mini-sub seeking to view the Titanic pales into insignificance, doesn’t it! The unnecessary loss of life is tragic, no matter how or where it happens, so we do stand together in conveying our sympathies to all families shattered by disaster.

And spare a thought for the roughly 700 000 people who are facing water shortages in the area usually supplied by the Kakhovka Dam, which was breached during the Ukraine-Russian conflict 2 weeks ago, and whose water supply has been polluted by sewage contamination, or destroyed by the floodwaters which raced down the river below the dam. Flood waters have subsided, but this kind of disaster doesn’t fix itself in a few days or weeks.

On a happier note, I have received reports from Keith Lowes ZS5WFD, Regional Director of HAMNET for KwaZulu Natal, regarding the two consecutive busy weekends he and his team experienced earlier this month.

Regarding the Isuzu Ironman event on the 4th June, he writes: “It was a lovely cool day, which saw 8 Hamnet KZN members deployed on the 90Km Bike Course between Suncoast Casino and the Umdloti/M4 Freeway intersection. A total of 1291 athletes and 26 Teams entered for the event.

“Race control was situated opposite the old Natal Command HQ and manned by Provincial Director Keith Lowes ZS5WFD. Operators were situated at Penalty Tents and turnaround points. Communications were all on 145.550 MHz. I was using a 3-element dual band satellite antenna produced by AMSAT-SA, which was mounted on a telescopic mast. I am pleased to report that no serious incidents occurred”.

Keith thanks those members that assisted on the day.

The next Sunday, the 11th of June, saw the team assisting with the Comrades Marathon. Again, Keith writes:

“Hamnet KZN was contacted two weeks before the event to assist with the provision of radio operators at key refreshment tables on the almost 90Km route.  We had not been involved with the race last year, but the Event Safety Officer, Mr. John Gutridge, was concerned about possible loss of cell-phone coverage along the route due to ongoing load-shedding.  A number of agencies rely on PTT radio and apps like Zello and WhatsApp that are solely reliant on the cellular backbone. As it turned out no load-shedding was experienced but it was a lesson learned, ‘Always have a back-up plan’ and ‘When all else Fails – Amateur Radio’.

“A total of 17,901 entries were received and it was anticipated that at least 16,000 would start the race.

“I am happy to report that we were able to supply a total of 22 operators covering the areas between Cato Ridge and Westville which were of most concern to the organisers.

Willem ZS5WA was positioned at the Start Control in Pietermaritzburg whilst Provincial Director Keith Lowes ZS5WFD was at Race Control at Kingsmead Cricket Stadium in Durban.

“A special thank you goes to Midlands and Highway Amateur Radio Clubs for the use of their repeaters on race day.  The Midlands UHF repeater at Alverstone which is linked to their 145.750 repeater gave good coverage in the Inchanga/Drummond area where normal VHF repeater coverage is poor.

“Communications at the Durban Joint Operations Centre (JOC) were on Highway’s 145.625 repeater by way of a cross-band link situated at the stadium entrance.  The JOC was about 300 metres away and located on the 2nd floor.

“The Safety Officer and Race Director Mr. Rowyn James expressed his sincere thanks to HAMNET KZN for assisting at such short notice.

“I am pleased to report that no runners suffered any serious injury, but 2 pedestrians were involved in separate accidents with motor vehicles requiring their transport to hospital.”

Keith offers his sincere thanks to all members that pulled together to achieve the successful outcome of the event.  

Thank you to you for all the organising, Keith, and for the reports.

And if you found the HF bands fairly busy this weekend, remember it was Field Day in the Northern Americas. So far, the Planetary K index has been low, so propagation on 80, 40 and 20 should have been good, especially at night. I hope you were able to make a few contacts yesterday and today.

I’ll try to develop a summary of the successes or otherwise of the weekend before next week’s bulletin, as the post mortems start to roll in.

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