HAMNET Report 7th July 2024

Last Saturday the 29th of June, messages started arriving of the first big Tropical Cyclone of the season in the Caribbean rearing its head. Named BERYL, it was travelling virtually due West and threatening Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and eventually Mexico with winds of up to 270km/h. The alert level was classified RED.

By Wednesday, the Hurricane Watch Net had been activated at the National Hurricane Centre, to watch BERYL, now classified as a Category 4 storm, saying that it was expected to make landfall in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico by Friday. WX4NHC was monitoring 14.325MHz and 7.268MHz as its primary frequencies.

2.3 million persons were in its expected path. Jamaica declared a 7 day state of disaster from Wednesday to cover the expected duration of severe weather over the island and imposed an island-wide curfew between 06h00 and 18h00 local time on Wednesday to reduce the likelihood of unnecessary injuries during the severity of the storm.

By Friday, GDACS had tallied up seven fatalities, five persons missing and 500 evacuated to shelters in Jamaica.

Greg Mossop G0DUB of IARU Region One issued a long list of emergency HF frequencies being used by amateurs in most of the Caribbean Islands, too long a list to quote here. He asks for IARU Region One stations to exercise restraint, and listen carefully on 80, 40 and 20 metres for any stations low down in the noise before using these bands. You may be interfering with emergency communications.

BERYL weakened as it moved towards Mexico, where it was classified as a Category Two hurricane. Still bad enough!

And in Cape Town, Michael ZS1MJT, our Regional Director has announced that Disaster Risk Management has asked HAMNET members to be on standby this weekend, as Level Six warnings were issued for severe weather today Sunday in the peninsula and along the Southern Cape coast. We ran an hourly net on 7110 kHz from yesterday afternoon the 6th July, starting at 15h00 and interfering with the rugby until 19h00!

Ahead of this weather, the previous cold front brought icy conditions with it, likely to bring snowfalls over the mountainous regions of the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, and extending into parts of the Northern Cape and Free State. Definitely time to unpack your long-johns for later use.

In another of his very comprehensive reports about the Scottburgh to Brighton Surf Ski Marathon, Keith Lowes ZS5WFD, Regional Director for HAMNET KZN says that they could not have wished for better weather conditions last Sunday the 30th. There was a light South Westerly blowing, and surf conditions were less than 1 metre.

Race Control was managed by Deputy Provincial Director Duncan ZS5DGR and Jitesh ZS5JM situated in Athlone Park Amanzimtoti at the QTH of Steve ZS5SH.

A team of 17 Hamnet-KZN operators were deployed to manage the safety of the event over the 46Km route.  Roeloff ZS5RPC reported that twelve single ski’s started at “Scottburgh” at 06H30 followed by fourteen doubles at 07H00.

It was compulsory for all competitors to have the App “SafeTrx” active on their cellular phones secured in a waterproof pouch.  This was monitored by the NSRI for any emergency activation.  I am pleased to report that NO activations were received. Eight inflatable rescue boats (IRB’s) and two Jet Ski’s monitored the competitors from a safe distance to minimise the risk of exhaust fumes impacting the paddlers.  The IRB’s were in contact with each other with newly purchased vhf commercial radios.

Next stop was “Green Point” which was under the watchful eye of Assistant Provincial Director Sid ZS5AYC and his team of Louis ZS5LS and Craig ZS6CHT. “Umkomaas” was covered by Mark ZS5JE and Paul ZS5PAH; “Winkelspruit” saw Geoff ZS5AGM and Val ZS5VAL positioned on the upper level of the Surf Lifesaving Club, giving them a great vantage point to view the race. A compulsory check-in at “Amanzimtoti” was monitored by Ben ZS5BN with race numbers being relayed to him from a rescue boat off-shore at a marker buoy.

Two single and two doubles started the short course (23Km) from Amanzimtoti at 08H00. “Windy Corner” in Athlone Park was covered by Wayne ZS5WAY. “Dakota Beach” Isipingo saw Shaun ZS5SM and Kathy ZS5OL keeping a good look-out.

It is safe to say that the busiest position was that of Rob ZS5ROB at the Bluff “V Cutting” who had his hands full reporting descriptions of ski’s passing his position to the Finish at “Brighton Beach” which was under the control of Provincial Director Keith ZS5WFD and Deon ZS5DD.

All communications were on 2 metres, using 145.550 Simplex with operators making use of portable masts with either directional or vertical antennas.

The winner of the Long Race – Double Ski – finished in 3 Hr 38 minutes whilst the first Single Ski finished in 4 Hr 09 minutes.

The race officials extended a sincere vote of thanks to HAMNET KZN for our valuable assistance in once again ensuring the successful running of the event.

Thank you Keith for ensuring that HAMNET KZN’s flag continues to fly high!

Indy100.com reports this week that scientists have just identified mysterious shapes flying above the Earth but, they say, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that aliens are about to strike.

Using an imaging instrument called the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD), the experts uncovered strange X and C shapes, which have been cropping up in surprising places at surprising times.

The researchers found the structures dancing around the ionosphere – the area where Earth’s atmosphere meets space – and say that the discovery could help improve radio communications and space weather forecasts.

The ionosphere – which sits roughly 80 to 644 kilometres above the planet’s surface – becomes electrically charged as sunlight strikes it over the course of the day. This creates plasma bands of charged particles that are further influenced by Earth’s magnetic field, as Science Alert notes. And it is these bubbles of plasma that form the X and C shapes that have been observed.

This study and the GOLD data serve as further proof of how innovations in scientific research and technology are helping us to discover more about Earth and the Universe as a whole.

Astrophysicist Jeffrey Klenzing from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, who wasn’t directly involved in the study, pointed out: “The fact that we have very different shapes of bubbles this close together tells us that the dynamics of the atmosphere are more complex than we expected.”

With apologies for my gravelly voice, this is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.