HAMNET Report 24th September 2023

thenationalnews.com, in a report back about the Libyan storm tragedy, says that attempts to find survivors from the September 11 disaster have all but ended, with almost all of the estimated 4,000 to 15,000 victims thought to have died in the moments after two dams in the mountains above the city collapsed.

The flooded area caused by the collapse of the two dams in Derna City covers approximately 500 ha, with 2,217 buildings affected, 5 bridges destroyed, and 284 educational and 128 health facilities damaged.

On Thursday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said at least 43,059 people had been displaced by the severe floods in north-eastern Libya. The organisation said a lack of clean water supplies appeared to be driving many displaced people out of Derna to municipalities to the east and west of the Mediterranean city.

Anger has risen after a series of experts and local officials said the dams had not been maintained since 1998, while cracks in the structures had been identified.

When communications were interrupted on Tuesday, there was speculation that authorities had cut internet and phone lines to stem growing protests.

The communications problem has slowed recovery efforts in the city, which has been segmented by authorities in an attempt to stop the spread of waterborne disease.

Health authorities have launched a vaccination campaign that initially targeted search and rescue teams and children in Derna and other impacted areas.

General prosecutor Al Sidiq Al Sour has launched an investigation into the collapse of the two dams in Derna. In comments to local TV on Wednesday, he vowed to take “serious measures” to deliver justice for the victims of the floods.

“It’s a great catastrophe, and the casualty toll is significant. Certainly, if measures had been taken at the right time in the past years, a catastrophe with such magnitude wouldn’t happen,” he said.

In something that can surely only have been managed with smoke and mirrors, a space craft called OSIRIS-Rex, that collected a sample of primordial space rock off the asteroid called Bennu in 2020, and which has travelled billion of kilometres over the last 3 years to get back, is going to cruise past Earth today the 24th, and casually release a mini-fridge sized capsule containing the samples of rock for a soft landing!

One can only shake one’s head in amazement at the technology involved! Let’s hope the sample is in the fridge as planned, perhaps together with a few frosties for the NASA engineers to celebrate their success with.

Writing in “The Conversation”, Monica Grady says that the misconception that asteroids are “just lumps of rock” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, given the rich harvest of information about asteroid diversity that has come from studying meteorites. Meteorites have taught us about the origin and evolution of the solar system.

We can measure the ages of meteorites and identify the volatiles—water- and carbon-containing chemicals—that some meteorites contain. Volatiles are important for understanding how the building blocks of life were delivered to Earth.

But there are gaps in our knowledge, so we need to study samples directly taken from asteroids—in part because meteorites are often contaminated with compounds from Earth’s environment. This means we can’t always be sure that the volatiles in meteorites came from the asteroid itself, or from Earth.

We also don’t fully understand the relationship of specific meteorite types to different classes of asteroids. This affects our understanding of how volatiles were distributed in the early solar system and therefore what types of objects could have delivered life’s building blocks to Earth. Hence the need for sample return missions.

Bennu is recognized as a potentially hazardous asteroid, meaning there is a one in 3,000 chance of it hitting us in 150–200 years’ time.

By the time the global community of planetary scientists has analysed all the available material from Bennu, it is unlikely that any aspect of its formation, evolution and orbital history, composition and components will be unknown, allowing an effective “Earth rescue” mission to be launched, should it turn out to be on a collision course with earth in the next few hundred years.

And, by the way, you can watch the parachute landing on NASA TV starting at 10am Eastern Daylight Time in the US, which, until November 4, is 4 hours behind UTC, and therefore 6 hours behind us. So, log in to NASA TV no later than 4pm this afternoon our time.

I’d like to inform you, or remind you, of an enormous Digital Library of Amateur Radio and Communications, which has been set up, and which is free to anybody who may care to search its resources.

Internet Archive’s Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications has grown to more than 90,000 resources related to amateur radio, shortwave listening, amateur television, and related topics. The newest additions to the free online library include ham radio magazines and newsletters from around the world, podcasts, and discussion forums.

Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications is funded by a grant from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) to create a free digital library for the radio community, researchers, educators, and students. DLARC invites radio clubs and individuals to submit material in any format. You can access this treasure trove by pointing your browser to archive.org/details/dlarc.

It being Heritage Day today, I felt we should reflect on the heritage of Amateur radio handed down to us by our South African pioneers, and which we should be striving to pass on to our descendants.

Anette Jacobs and her band of merry historians are slowly compiling a history of Amateur Radio in our country so far be it from me to attempt correctly to place the pioneers in chronological order. But we have about 100 years of history to reflect on in this country, and should be encouraging young people to investigate and pioneer new technology to allow competent modes of communication to be developed.

This is nowhere more true than in Emergency Communications, where a competent mode of message handling is always necessary, to ensure that any important information is correctly conveyed.

As new digital technology spreads its wings, we have more and more effective ways to transmit messages, files, data, pictures and even video, which make our purpose to serve our fellow countrymen and women even more relevant.

In this country we are lucky not to have the kinds of major disasters we read about in the tropics and the Pacific Rim of Fire, but I remember with admiration the work of the solitary Ozzie Carstens ZS1DZ, providing all of the communications out of Laingsburg for nearly 3 weeks, after the flood ravaged the town in 1981. The Western Cape Division of HAMNET uses Ozzie’s callsign, ZS1DZ, with his family’s permission, as our primary call sign, to honour him and remember him for his devotion to emcomms, and the scouting movement in South Africa.

So, too, the assistance of radio amateurs in January/February 1984, when Tropical Cyclone Domoina smashed across Madagascar, dropping about 160mm of rain, before crossing into the Mozambique Channel. From there is touched down twice over Mozambique, eventually dropping 430mm of rain in the town of Goba over 5 days.

In South Africa, Domoina shed 950mm of rain between Richards Bay and Sodwana Bay. An area of 107000 square kilometres received at least 370mm of rain. 80000 people were left stranded near the border with the then Swaziland, the properties of 500000 people were damaged, and 60 deaths were recorded.

And South African radio amateurs were there to assist. We record with pride the volunteerism shown by those early HAMNET members, who dropped everything and travelled to assist.

This is Dave Reece, ZS1DFR, wishing you a happy weekend of reflection, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 17th September 2023

Morocco’s magnitude 6.8 earthquake of the 8th of September, at a depth of 18.5km turned out to have devastating consequences for the local population, with the United Nations saying that, as of 12th September, at least 2900 people had died (most of them are recorded in the Al Haouz and Taroudant Provinces) while more than 5500 others had been injured. In addition, extensive damage to buildings was reported, families were still trapped under the rubble, and others were displaced.

UNICEF reported at least 100,000 impacted children, and thousands of destroyed houses that resulted in a huge number of displaced families. In addition schools, hospitals and other medical and educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed across the affected area.

It has also been reported that the Civil Protection service in Morocco is ‘militarised’ and from media reports it looks like all resources in the country are being mobilised to respond to this disaster.

Offers of help from various IARU Region One countries offering to send rescue teams with radio comms to Morocco have apparently been politely declined. The number of amateurs in Morocco interested in Emcomms is small, and as a result, the Moroccan government is apparently not aware of the important role such IARU teams might be able to play.

It has therefore been suggested that It is probably too early for great links to have been made between Amateur Radio and the local authorities before the disaster, and during a disaster it is of course too late.

But Morocco’s earthquake was overshadowed by the flooding in the region of the town of Derna, Libya, after Storm Daniel crossed the Mediterranean from Greece, Turkiye and Bulgaria, where it caused the loss of 26 lives in flooding there, and struck the eastern part of Libya, and particularly this town of Derna. Libya’s National Centre of Meteorology reported that more than 400mm of rain fell in the nearby city of Al Bayda within a 24-hour period up to Sunday.

Time’s website reported on Friday that at least 11,300 people had died, and more than 10,000 were believedmissing after the storm broke through two dams that protected Libya’s eastern coastal city of Derna from flooding. Experts estimate that the floods unleashed approximately 30 million cubic metres of water onto the city—the hardest hit part of Libya—washing away entire neighbourhoods

Other eastern cities, including Libya’s second biggest city Benghazi, were also hit by the storm, which displaced at least 63000 people. Tamer Ramadan, head of a delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the death toll would be “huge”.

Now the ARRL Newsletter for Thursday the 14th says that Tropical Cyclone LEE is expected to impact portions of New England in the north eastern United States and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada.

The storm has had the full attention of forecasters and the volunteer organizations that coordinate Amateur Radio response to hurricanes.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) groups are in an elevated state of readiness and alert ahead of the storm.

ARRL Sections in the areas forecast to be impacted are preparing for activation. Section Manager of the ARRL Maine Section Phil Duggan, N1EP, sent an email to members in the section on Thursday encouraging them to ready their stations and homes. “Because of all the rain we have been getting, the likelihood of trees toppling is increased and most likely power outages [also],” he wrote. Duggan said the Washington County ARES group would be on the air starting Friday.

The ARRL’s letter also notes that, on September 9, 2023, the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club (BARC) in northern Utah provided amateur radio communications support during LoToJa, the longest 1-day USA Cycling (USAC)-sanctioned bicycle race in America. The LoToJa course consists of 320 km of rough, mountainous terrain. BARC was prepared for the challenge and had been training and working on their communications plans for more than 3 decades.

The club’s involvement with LoToJa began in 1991, when the race had 200 riders and 14 amateur radio operators. This year’s event had 1,700 riders and 120 amateur radio operators, including 35 cars with amateur radio operators along for the ride. Amateur radio was engaged in every aspect of the race from start to finish thanks to assistance from operators from Ogden, Davis County, and Salt Lake City, as well as Idaho, Wyoming, and Maryland.

Section Manager of the ARRL Utah Section Pat Malan, N7PAT, said that BARC members evaluate their operating skills and equipment, which is the best form of preparation for emergency communications. “It’s a tremendous effort and dedication from everyone,” Malan said.

Here’s one for the dog-lovers amongst you. Conservationists have found that a terrier named Dory is better at finding sea turtle eggs in nests than humans. For their study, reported in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, Rebekah Lindborg, Pepe Peruyero and Blair Witherington used the dog to monitor sea turtle nests along a five-mile stretch of Vero Beach in Florida.

Prior research has shown that many species of sea turtles’ survival are at risk due to a variety of causes, one of which is loss of land for nest-building. Sea turtles dig holes in the sand by the seashore to build nests into which they lay their eggs. The turtles that hatch in the nests must then make their way to the sea and overcome a myriad of hurdles to survive.

Over the past several years, conservationists around the globe have been working to protect sea-turtle nests, hoping to improve their odds of survival. Conservationists must first find the eggs in their nests, which can be difficult. The usual method is to follow the tracks of the turtle that made the nest as it crawled out of the sea and then back to the ocean.

The dog, a stray, had been found along a highway in Florida. It was believed to be a mix of terrier breeds, which are known for tracking creatures that make nests in holes in the ground. After several months of training at a test site, Dory was deemed ready to help find real turtle eggs in real nests. She was pitted against human nest seekers, with the humans searching some days and the dog other days, along the same stretch of beach.

At the conclusion of the competition, Dory was found to have discovered 560 nests while the humans found only 256, though the researchers acknowledge that Dory worked more days. Still, they suggest, she was a better finder. She was much better, they note, at choosing where to dig to look for a nest, which reduced the workload.

And I ask myself, why am I not surprised?

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

HAMNET Report 10th September 2023


I cannot start this bulletin off without a brief tribute to Pierre Tromp ZS1HF, whose key went silent this week at a relatively young age after a chronic illness. Pierre was roped in to resuscitate and head the HAMNET division in the Western Cape by Bud Voortman, ZS1B, then Chairman of the Cape Town Radio club, in the late 90’s.

Pierre had a lot of experience with communications, both on VHF and HF, and developed the new HAMNET Manual which we used to train all prospective members here. He rapidly built a membership, and organized training events which solidified the Western Cape’s division into a dependable organization.

His military experience, his links with part-time military signalers, and his experience gained by doing long stays on Marion and Gough Islands, increased his knowledge of HF band conditions and expectations of successful propagation, which he put to use in advising HAMNET members thereafter.

He moved to Worcester, where he did his bit to keep a group of active hams enthusiastic about Emcomms, as well as contributing to the upkeep of repeaters in his area, in association with the Western Cape Repeater Working Group. In Worcester, he built up a communications business, supplying and advising on radios, antennas, coaxial cables and guying mechanisms.

He leaves his wife, Louise, ZS1ONI, and his children from his first marriage. Our deepest sympathies are conveyed to his surviving family.

GDACS is very busy this week, reporting on 4 mini-cyclones, and one flood, not to mention many earthquakes of magnitude less than 5, and one big one in Morocco. The big Cyclones we referred to last week have mostly dissipated, but Green alerts are out for Tropical Cyclones LEE and MARGOT in the Atlantic, presumably in the region of the Caribbean, but threatening no-one at the moment, and JOVA in the Eastern Pacific, also nowhere near land yet. Tropical Cyclone YUN-YEUNG, however, is in the northwest Pacific and is currently aimed at Japan. Watch this space.

John AE5X, writing in his blogspot, says that he has modified the magnetic base of his mobile antenna to accept radials.

Previously, whenever activating from the car, he either used no radials at all (10-20m) or connected one radial to the [radio’s] rear panel ground lug (when on 30/40m).

But ideally, radials should be at the base of the antenna.

The “mod” simply involved drilling a hole in the plastic base of the magnetic antenna. He did this from the bottom of the mount, up through the metal plate to which the coax shield is internally connected.

A 6mm bolt then extends through the hole, allowing him to secure a spade lug to which radials can be attached, along with a [tunable base coil such as] Wolf River coil (for 40m).

Two of the radials, each a 1/4-wave long on 40m, are now part of the mobile set-up.

Spots into Europe on 40m several hours before his sunset seem to suggest it works well enough, as do the faster autotune times of the tuner.

Of course, the other bands benefit as well from the more substantial RF ground than his small car chassis offers.

Thank you, John, for the useful tip. This may make a lot of difference to HF mobile in an emergency situation.

In its September 5 newsletter, the NSRI is proud to announce that, since the NSRI launched its Pink Rescue Buoy programme in 2017, more than 1600 highly visible, bright Pink Rescue Buoys have been strategically placed on signs at selected inland rivers, dams and beaches across the country, facilitating 157 recorded rescues by both trained rescue crew and members of the public.

One of the first of its kind in the world, this pioneering project has since been adopted in New Zealand, which identified a need for public rescue equipment and signage earlier this year after a father tragically drowned while attempting to rescue his daughter, who survived. Had he had access to a Pink Rescue Buoy, they may both have survived.

It’s for this reason that the NSRI celebrates the recent reports of a dramatic rescue involving two teenagers at Marine Parade beachfront in Hawks Bay, Napier, New Zealand.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 26 July, reports came in to rescue services, of two 19-year-old teenagers, a young man and a woman, who had got into difficulty in the water less than 200 metres from the viewing platform on the beach. The man managed to reach the shore, while the woman was attended to by two police officers – one a lifeguard – who used a flotation device (Pink Buoy) kept at the beach to keep her afloat while awaiting the arrival of the helicopter to lift her from the sea.

The fully clothed young woman was eventually winched from the sea by a rescue helicopter, and both she and the young man were taken to hospital. Thankfully, they were both discharged later the same day.

This is great news, and I hope that the Pink Buoy concept will rapidly spread around the world.

Finally, I want to tell you about a big DXpedition currently taking place. At least 33 operators from South Africa are currently in Europe, and will be operating intermittently over the next 2 months, attempting to impress the contest judges, with activities which can be followed on many digital platforms, both visually and by audio.

It appears there will be many other national operators in French-speaking Europe, all attempting to win the DX contest for the highest points scored during their respective DX interactions. Luckily, most of the activity takes place at night, when conditions are good, so both participants and reviewers will benefit from the convenience of the evening sessions.

These DXpeditions tend to generate a fair amount of national fervour, and we hope our operators will not disappoint our observers. Expect a fair amount of QRM from people who may be at the venue viewing during the DX contest.

Let’s be grateful to Marconi and Tesla for their development of RF technology which allows us to view this 8 week spectacle about 120 years later.

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

HAMNET Report 3rd September 2023

This is a weekend when I have to report an entire rash of Tropical Cyclones breaking out all over the show, like the measles! The GDACS report almost can’t keep up.

In chronological order, Tropical Cyclone (or Hurricane) Franklin was probably the first on our list, present since about the 20th of August, still threatening the central Caribbean Islands now, but not having caused a tremendous amount of damage so far. I did report on some damage to the Dominican Republic last Sunday.

Next to make its presence felt was Cyclone SAOLA, active in the north west Pacific since 23rd of August, threatening about 32 million people in all, in the Philippines and on the Chinese mainland with winds of up to 120km/h. Maximum wind speeds were forecast to reach 250km/h.

A very sudden storm called IDALIA sprang up to the east of the Florida panhandle about a week ago, and gained a kind of notoriety by becoming the first hurricane to cross three US states consecutively, while still holding hurricane status. This has apparently never happened before. It started east of Florida, crossed over the “handle” of the pan, so to speak, struck South Carolina and South Georgia, before losing its status. By Friday just past, it was still making life uncomfortable for about half a million people in Georgia with winds blowing at 120km/h.

theguardian.com notes that Hurricane IDALIA could become the costliest climate disaster to hit the US this year, with massive implications for the insurance and risk management industries. The category 3 storm has a preliminary price tag between $9.36bn, based on early estimates, from risk analysts at UBS, and $18bn-$20bn calculated by AccuWeather.

Finally, another cyclone, this one called HAIKUI arose before 28th August in the northwest Pacific, and is barreling down on mainland China with maximum wind speeds of 194km/h, and threatening 19 million people with category one winds of at least 120km/h. GDACS’ forecast says it will cross the Chinese coastline on Tuesday the 4th.

Life certainly is a bit blustery at this time of year, if you happen to live in the Tropical Cyclone zone!

Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ, Deputy National HAMNET Director, has pointed out to me a long article arising in the Canadian news media bemoaning the inability of the local population to derive information concerning the Canadian wildfires, and instructions to communities to evacuate, from social media, particularly Meta, which has announced a formal news block of all Canadian news after Canada’s Online News Act was passed in June, which may require large social media platforms (like Meta) to enter into revenue-sharing agreements with Canadian news publishers.

Locals are reinforcing the idea that good old steam radio, in the form of AM or FM broadcasts, should be encouraged, and citizens encouraged to listen to their radios for information that has, in the last decade or so, progressively been disseminated more on social media.

In that social media platforms rely on a working internet, and the internet is not guaranteed during natural disasters like fires, floods or earthquakes, it certainly makes more sense for Joe Public to have his portable FM/AM radio with him, running happily on replaceable batteries that don’t have to be recharged every day, like his cell phone does, such that he can monitor the status quo, and respond correctly to developments.

So, in general, we should not let our reliance on social media engulf the channels of communication still available by radio in general, and, in our case, amateur radio in particular. A ban on local news by social media serves as a reminder of the enduring value of free-to-air radio, even in the digital age.

Thank you to theconversation.com for the substance of this insert, and to Brian for drawing my attention to it.

Airlineratings.com is the first to have, in a long article, covered the report published on Friday by three eminent scientists including our own Dr Hannes Coetzee, ZS6BZP, on the use of WSPR disturbances to track the final course of Malaysian flight MH370.

British aerospace engineer Richard Godfrey and academics Hannes Coetzee and Prof. Simon Maskell used Weak Signal Propagation Reporter (WSPR) to detect and track MH370 while it was still in the air.

As an aircraft flies through a WSPR amateur radio signal, it disturbs the signal, and that signal and its disturbances are stored in a huge database of information collected since WSPR came into existence in 2009.

Airline Ratings reveals that the method has tracked the aircraft to a new location at 1,560km (or 842nmi) west (that is, 277 degrees) of Perth – slightly north of that previously thought. The aircraft is believed to be resting at a depth of up to 4,000m.

WSPR technology has been refined over the past three years and the results represent credible new evidence in the search for MH370 and could finally bring closure to the families of the 239 people on-board.

From the last known radar position, the report presents 67 positions for MH370 over 6 hours and 27 minutes of flight, as detected by a total of 125 anomalous WSPR links.

The results of this case study align with the analyses by Boeing and Inmarsat and the drift analysis by the University of Western Australia of the MH370 floating debris that has been recovered from around the Indian Ocean.

Dr Robert Westphal, an expert in passive radar systems, first proposed the idea of using WSPR transmissions to detect and track MH370 in July 2020. Dr. Westphal presented his ideas in a paper titled “Geocaching in the Ionosphere” at the HamSCI conference in 2021.

Dr Westphal had previously written a paper in 2015 proposing the use of GPS satellite signals as a passive radar system and he holds several related patents.

A crash location of around 29.0°S and 99.5°E, about 1560km east of Perth, provides a search area of 130km by 74km, according to the researchers, who note that about 46% of this area has previously been searched.

It has therefore been suggested that a further search be made east of the previous search area, where the other 54% of the potential crash area is situated.

Let’s hope that the research is accurate and does bring closure to those families. I personally comprehend how a steady stream of RF (like WSPR signals) could be interfered with by a metallic object passing through their path, though I don’t understand it.

However, Dave Casler, KE3OG, who has a Masters in Electrical Engineering, and is a regular contributor to the ARRL publication QST, and also a popular YouTuber, has previously said that he regards the suppositions as imprecise, and unlikely to be accurate enough to pinpoint MH370’s watery grave.

Let us hope ZS6BZP and his fellow researchers are right, and KE3OG is wrong!

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