HAMNET Report 29th May 2022

GDACS is warning of an approaching cyclone in the Pacific barreling down on the West coast of Mexico. Named Tropical Cyclone One-E 22, and with winds of up to 148km/h, it is threatening the lower half of Mexico, and 500 000 people are in its expected path. As of yesterday, it had not crossed the coastline of Mexico, so precise details are a bit sketchy. We’ll keep you posted as it develops.

A new APRS digipeater has been installed on du Toit’s Peak in the du Toit’s mountain pass area east of the Peninsula. Working in collaboration with Pierre ZS1HF in Worcester, the Western Cape Repeater Working Group built up a radio and KPC3 TNC system to work as a stand-alone parrot repeater of APRS signals whose range extends from the centre of Cape Town, about 150Km up the N1 in the direction of Touwsriver, as well as giving coverage to the North and South of this axis.

The site is apparently reliant on solar power only, so panels and batteries were installed with the digipeater and antenna. The site is only accessible by helicopter, so the group had to wait until another user of the site was ferrying equipment up, to hitch a ride on the chopper. The APRS system is being hosted free-of-charge up there, and thanks are due to all parties involved in the installation.

Look for callsign ZS0DZ in the path of APRS packets you may see, and for the digipeater’s own beacon on your digital map.

Michael ZS1MJT, our Western Cape Regional Director, has sent me a short report of the Klipdale National Car Rally, at which 5 HAMNET members assisted with radio communications. The rally was held on Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st of May. Eight rally stages were driven on the Friday, and another seven on Saturday. Control on Friday was at the Bredasdorp Park, manned as always by stalwart Davy ZR1FR and Christo, and on Saturday they moved to Ruens College. The 145.675 MHz repeater on Jonaskop near Villiersdorp provided coverage, and both days’ events ran smoothly.

Michael thanks Davy ZR1FR, Corrie ZS1CQ, Johann ZS1JM and Okko, ZS1OKO for their assistance, and as usual, takes none of the credit himself!

The newest version of the Global Radio Guide is out. In this 18th edition, author Gayle Van Horn discusses “familiar players and familiar places” as the radio industry responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Just like these events have brought up once buried feelings, it has also brought what many thought to be “old” technology back to the forefront,” he said. “While internet access is one of the first targets of invading regimes intent on controlling the narrative, the vast reach of shortwave radio transcends borders and other forms of connectivity.

“It is déjà vu with a front row view.”

The guide includes articles about the international broadcasters on the front lines as well as detailed information about the monitoring of utilities on the shortwave bands, including military communications.

The 18th edition also includes its usual 24-hour station/frequency guide with schedules for selected AM band, longwave, and shortwave radio stations. Plus, listings of DX radio programs and Internet website addresses for many of the stations included.

“Whether you monitor shortwave radio broadcasts, mediumwave, amateur radio operators, or aeronautical, maritime, government, or military communications in the HF radio spectrum, this book has the information you need to help you to hear it all.”

The current edition of the Global Radio Guide is available on the Teak Publishing website and via Amazon. Thank you to the Southgate Amateur Radio News for reporting on this publication.

A disaster which happens underneath our noses, every day of the week, and which should be of more than a passing interest to radio enthusiasts is the copper cable theft disaster.

MyBroadband.co.za reported on Friday that South Africa needs to prohibit the trade of scrap for cash to curb copper cable theft in the country, according to Metal Recyclers Association trade adviser Donald Mackay.

He also said specialised training should be provided for members of the police force to help them identify stolen copper and problematic scrap yards.

“There are a couple of low hanging fruit that we should immediately go after that could make a big difference quite quickly,” Mackay said in an interview with Radio 702.

“One of them is to prohibit the trade in scrap for cash. The moment you trade anything for cash, traceability becomes a challenge.”

“That’s something that’s relatively easy to do quite quickly,” he added.

He also explained that South Africa currently doesn’t have a specialised police force to tackle the problem. Non-specialists don’t always understand the difference between legitimately traded metals and stolen goods.

As a result, the stolen goods enter the regular trading stream.

“There used to be specialised people within the police. For example, in Cape Town, the metro police had “copper heads”, which were a specialised team looking at copper theft particularly,”

“The South African police, in fact, had an arrangement to have people specially trained to identify stolen scrap and taught how to inspect a yard to identify problematic dealers.”

Mackay explained that the South African Police Service no longer seems to do this, adding that the Metal Recyclers Association is reinitiating conversations with the police to get it back on track.

It would also be necessary for police to investigate foundries, as a significant proportion of stolen copper ends up in melted form.

“If we have a look at where the stolen copper ends up, we do see, for example, that some of it ends up in some kind of melted form before it is exported,” Mackay said.

“So presumably, a significant portion of the stolen copper is ending up at local foundries who are then converting the stolen copper into a melted form.”

This makes it much harder to trace, and Mackay said it could then be resold, exported, or used for illegal electricity connections.

“There is a second-hand goods act which regulates what you are meant to do, but of course, this is not well enforced,” he noted.

We all know that this has become a disaster of huge proportions in the electricity, rail and telephone industries, so the sooner the thieves and syndicates are brought to book, the better.

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

HAMNET Report 22nd May 2022

A follow-up report from KwaZulu Natal this week, in expectation of a severe cold front due to strike the Eastern parts of the country this weekend, says that 88 persons are still missing after last month’s devastating rains and flooding.

eNCA news said on Friday that disaster teams in KwaZulu-Natal had been placed on high alert this weekend as the province received a severe weather warning.

KZN premier Sihle Zikalala appealed to residents to exercise caution.

“The provincial government has received a severe weather warning notice from the South African Weather Services. We are advised that if KZN receives an additional 20 millimetres of rain, there is a potential for flooding as the ground may still be saturated following the recent heavy rain,” Zikalala said.

“We have been advised to expect snowfall and freezing temperatures. We urge our fellow citizens to be aware, especially those who may be in flood-prone areas.”

This is the result of a cold front that struck the Western Cape on Wednesday. Rainfall wasn’t particularly heavy, but the cold Antarctic air coming up from the south behind the front has caused night-time temperatures to fall to single figures here in the Western Cape, and will no doubt be responsible for the snow which we can expect on high ground this weekend. So be careful, folks, and prepare for severe weather wherever you are.

I like it when existing infrastructure turns out to have other unexpected valuable uses. A team of researchers with the National Physical Laboratory and the University of Edinburgh, Google and Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica developed a way to use existing undersea fibre cables to detect seismic events. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their test project involving a cable spanning the Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists have known that cables can be used to detect seismic activity—work was done as far back as the 1960s to find out if they could be used to detect submarines or undersea earthquakes.

More recently, scientists have looked into the possibility of using distributed acoustic sensing as a way to detect seismic activity. Light pulses are sent across a cable and sensors listen for any bounced back due to tremors. Three years ago, a team installed a cable in Monterey Bay in California to test the idea. And another team from Caltech working with Google demonstrated the use of polarization in regular undersea telecommunications cables. In this new effort, the researchers extended the idea of using undersea cables by taking advantage of a feature of the repeaters used on such cables.

Repeaters are used to send signals great distances across the ocean floor—they listen to the signal, amplify it and pass it along. To assist with maintaining operations, repeaters have hardware to send signals in reverse. This helps to isolate problems. The researchers in this new effort used this feature to test using existing cables as underwater seismic sensors. They sent light through a cable that connects the U.K. to Canada and then studied the signals sent back by the repeaters. They found that they were not only able to see seismic activity, but they were also able to locate it to points between repeaters. The researchers were able to detect a small earthquake with an origin near Peru and another near Indonesia. They found the cable so sensitive that they were even able to make out noise from moving ocean currents.

And so, based on such serendipitous discoveries, science in general, and seismology in particular, can be enhanced.

Thanks to techxplore.com for that report.

Universetoday.com notes that growing food in space using in-situ resources is [going to be] vital if astronauts are to survive on both the Moon and Mars for the long-term. Growing plants in space using Earth soil is nothing new, as this research is currently ongoing on board the International Space Station (ISS). But recent research carried out on Earth has taken crucial steps in being able to grow food in space using extra-terrestrial material that we took from the Moon over 50 years ago.

In a recent study published in Communications Biology, researchers have made a remarkable first step in helping future astronauts on the Moon grow their own food using lunar regolith instead of Earth soil. This is an extraordinary discovery as this could help future astronauts on the Moon and Mars grow their own food using in-situ resources as opposed to relying on resupplies from Earth to help them survive. What makes this research even more amazing is it was accomplished using lunar regolith that was returned from the Moon over 50 years ago by samples from Apollo 11, 12, and 17.

“This research is critical to NASA’s long-term human exploration goals as we’ll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This fundamental plant growth research is also a key example of how NASA is working to unlock agricultural innovations that could help us understand how plants might overcome stressful conditions in food-scarce areas here on Earth.”

“Here we are, 50 years later, completing experiments that were started back in the Apollo labs,” said Robert Ferl, a professor in the Horticultural Sciences department at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and a co-author on the study. “We first asked the question of whether plants can grow in regolith. And second, how might that one day help humans have an extended stay on the Moon.”

For the study, the team grew the well-studied Arabidopsis thaliana, which is native to Eurasia and Africa, and is a relative of mustard greens and other cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts.

[All the seeds germinated, but] it was only after day six that the research team realized the plants growing in the regolith were not as robust as the control group plants growing in volcanic ash. To make matters worse, the regolith plants were growing differently depending on which type of sample they were in. They grew more slowly and had stunted roots; additionally, some had stunted leaves and sported reddish pigmentation.

While the plants ultimately did not turn out as was hoped, this research nonetheless opens the door not only to growing plants in habitats on the Moon, but it also opens the door for additional studies as well.

In the meantime, it sounds as though we’re going to need a lot of tomato or soya sauce to make the stuff edible.

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

HAMNET Report 15th May 2022

Our National HAMNET Director, Grant ZS6GS has sent out a message he received from the IARU Region 1 inviting stations of Emergency Communications Groups in Region 1 to participate in a Simulated Emergency Test on Saturday 21st May, 2022 from 14.00 – 16.00 UTC

The operation will take place on and near the emergency Centre-of-Activity (CoA) frequencies on 40 and 17 metres (+/-QRM ).

This is a short notice event to test how well emergency communications groups can set up networks from home or temporary locations. Messages will be passed in both directions so please keep notes of who you can work as you may be asked to relay outgoing messages to their destination.

The objectives of the test are;

To increase the common interest in emergency communications, to test how usable the CoA frequencies are in IARU Region 1, to create practices for international emergency communication and to practice the relaying of messages using SSB and CW.

Each participating station will send messages to the Control station formatted using the IARU HF International Emergency Operating Procedure. Stations should relay messages received towards the Control station for that band or mode. To comply with licence regulations, all messages should be addressed to a licensed radio amateur taking part in the exercise.

Messages sent should be shorter than 25 words, and contain nothing which would be considered as a real emergency message by accidental listeners who don’t understand that this is an exercise. A weather report at the station location, the number of operators available and interesting facts about the station would all be acceptable messages.

There is no limit to the number of messages to be sent but each one must have a unique message number. To create a more realistic situation, operators are asked to limit their transmitting power during the exercise to 100 Watts. The organisers are especially interested in stations operating mobile/portable and/or on emergency power.

All HAMNET members will have seen this email, and will have the URL’s to download formatted message sheets, and to log contacts. These logs, but not the messages themselves, should be sent to Greg at g0dub@iaru-r1.org

Thanks to all who participate in the exercise.

Western Cape HAMNET members were invited to participate in an EMS emergency training session this week, when maritime and aeronautical agencies, together with the EMS services, dealt with a man-overboard in Table Bay in 12 degree water on Thursday morning, followed by an oil spill off Greenpoint washed by the prevailing current on to Milnerton beach, before drifting northwards and towards Robben Island, on Thursday afternoon and Friday.

A variety of rescue agencies dealt with the man over-board, who was rescued by helicopter, while oil-control agencies dealt with the spill, and environmental people managed the damage to the ocean and land environment from the oil.

Communications around the harbour and Table Bay were managed on an EMS radio channel, assisted by a temporary repeater installed for EMS by a HAMNET member on Signal Hill, and relays of messages from the waterfront to the training arena in Durbanville were attempted from the Disaster Management station ZS1DCC via the 145.700MHz repeater. Some voice messages were also monitored in Durbanville on a Zello relay from ZS1DCC, there being no line of sight reception of the EMS repeater channel there.

The two operators at ZS1DCC had air-band privileges, so kept a listening contact with the helicopter, and reconnaissance Cessna light aircraft, as well as using Marine channels 10 and 69 to keep an ear out for marine communications.

An X-50 antenna was installed on the roof of the conference centre in Durbanville, where the training for large numbers of personnel from each agency took place, based on the events as they unfolded. Three HAMNET members monitored the VHF messages intercepted at Durbanville.

Sybrand, ZS1SJ, our Deputy Regional Director, thanks the operators who assisted him, namely ZS1MTF, ZS1OSK, ZS1JFK, ZS1ABT and ZS1DFR.

Communications for future exercises and training procedures of this sort will function more effectively, if the training centre can be positioned to hear all radio traffic as the exercise plays itself out, and not have to rely on second hand news relayed by intervening stations, because it is topographically not exposed to the rescue scenario.

Reporting on Astronomy, Liz Kruezi and Emily Conover report that Astronomers announced on May the 12th that they have finally assembled an image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

“This image shows a bright ring surrounding the darkness, the tell-tale sign of the shadow of the black hole,” astrophysicist Feryal Özel of the University of Arizona in Tucson said at a news conference announcing the result.

The black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, (Sgr A*), appears as a faint silhouette amidst the glowing material that surrounds it. The image reveals the turbulent, twisting region immediately surrounding the black hole in new detail. The findings were also published May 12 in 6 studies in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

A planet-spanning network of radio telescopes, known as the Event Horizon Telescope, worked together to create this much-anticipated look at the Milky Way’s giant. Three years ago, the same team released the first-ever image of a supermassive black hole. That object sits at the centre of the galaxy M87, about 55 million light-years from Earth.

But Sagittarius A* is “humanity’s black hole,” says astrophysicist Sera Markoff of the University of Amsterdam, and a member of the EHT collaboration.

At 27,000 light-years away, the behemoth is the closest giant black hole to Earth. That proximity means that Sgr A* is the most-studied supermassive black hole in the universe. Yet Sgr A* and others like it remain some of the most mysterious objects ever found.

That’s because, like all black holes, Sgr A* is an object so dense that its gravitational pull won’t let light escape. Black holes are “natural keepers of their own secrets,” says physicist Lena Murchikova of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who is not part of the EHT team. Their gravity traps light that falls within a border called the event horizon. EHT’s images of Sgr A* and the M87 black hole skirt up to that inescapable edge.

Sgr A* feeds on hot material pushed off of massive stars at the galactic centre. That gas, drawn toward Sgr A* by its gravitational pull, flows into a surrounding disk of glowing material, called an accretion disk. That accretion disk is where the action is — as the gas moves within immensely strong magnetic fields — so astronomers want to know more about how the disk works.

And I want to know if that is where all my unmatched socks have gone to. They’re certainly nowhere here at home!

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

HAMNET Report 8th May 2022

In reports on the Ukrainian conflict, the European Commission says that they are coordinating the delivery of assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to Ukraine, from all 27 Member States and two participating states. Over 26,500 tonnes of non-military assistance from these countries and items from the rescEU medical stockpile have been delivered to Ukrainian civilians via the UCPM logistic hubs in Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

And for the war-ravaged country of Afghanistan, the horror continues. Flooding and storms in 12 provinces have resulted in 22 deaths and 40 injured citizens, according to Hassibullah Shekhani, head of communications and information at Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.

The Taliban government, struggling to cope with the disaster that has affected more than a third of its provinces, will approach international relief organisations for help, officials said.

The rain and flooding was particularly severe in the western provinces of Badghis and Faryab and the northern province of Baghlan. Afghanistan has been suffering from drought in recent years, made worse by climate change, with low crop yields raising fears of serious food shortages.

Shekhani said 500 houses were destroyed, 2,000 damaged, 300 head of livestock killed and some 3,000 acres of crops damaged. He said the International Committee of the Red Cross was helping and officials would approach other international organisations for help.

Thank you to dawn.com for this insert.

Danie, ZS1OSS, has added another feather to the bow (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor) of relays of Western Cape repeaters outside the Western Cape, by installing an OpenWebRx receiver at his home, with links to 4 possible VHF and UHF spectra on the internet. You can choose VHF digital channels, VHF analogue audio channels, UHF digital channels or UHF analogue audio channels. You will then be presented with a waterfall on your browser, showing the relevant segment of the spectrum with frequencies marked, and favourites highlighted. This will allow you to click on a frequency in the waterfall, and receive the signal on that frequency.

He also notes that, by watching this reception on the internet, while you are transmitting on RF, you can easily gauge the quality of your signal and audio.

This is available 24 hours a day, and can be accessed by entering https://openwebrx.gadgeteerza.co.za/ in your browser. All the HAMNET and club bulletins are available via this portal. Thank you to Danie, ZS1OSS, and his knowledge of matters digital, for making this available to us all.

The ITU Radiocommunication Bureau’s Nick Sinanis SV3SJ/F5VIH/HB9DSR writes about amateur radio and notes that basic equipment like a handheld radio is affordable and sufficient to make local contacts, while more expensive, larger antennas enable more distant communications. Still, tinkering with a rooftop long wire connected to a software-defined radio module can deliver the joy of a long-distance call at a reasonable cost

Another hallmark of amateur radio is its unique combination of knowledge in telecommunications, electronic engineering, physics and tinkering of all sorts. This magic mix can help one recognize a radio ham even in a data centre! Moreover, radio science plays an important role in scientific and technological innovation.

Above all, amateur radio is a social hobby that still attracts the interest of the young, through social networking apps, or challenges, like copying high-speed Morse code.

The passion of radio amateurs and their community have also provided crucial assistance in the form of emergency communications.

Thanks to Southgate Amateur Radio News for highlighting that passion for us.

With nothing in common with the thriller movie of almost the same name directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the spacecraft PSYCHE has arrived at Kennedy Space Centre, to be prepared over the next three months for a launch on 1st August this year.

SciTechDaily tells us that it will use solar-electric propulsion to travel approximately 2.4 billion kilometres to rendezvous with its namesake asteroid PSYCHE in 2026. This will make it the first spacecraft to use Hall-effect thrusters beyond the orbit of the Moon. This thruster technology traps electrons in a magnetic field and uses them to ionize on-board propellant, expending much less propellant than equivalent chemical rockets. PSYCHE also carries three scientific instruments: an imager, a magnetometer, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer

The unique, metal-rich PSYCHE asteroid may be part of the core of a planetesimal, a building block of rocky planets in our solar system. Learning more about the asteroid could tell us more about how our own planet formed and help answer fundamental questions about Earth’s own metal core and the formation of our solar system.

Techxplore.com reports this week on a spiralling helical compressible antenna that looks like two strands of DNA, developed by a group of mechanical engineering students at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

As the space industry evolves its focus from large satellites to smaller ones with the same functionality, there is a growing need for the hardware on board to shrink as well. Current satellite antenna hardware is fully deployed upon launch. Those systems can be large and not aligned with the industry’s goal for smaller hardware.

The team’s prototype is a deployable helical antenna that starts as a compressed coiled spring.

The students designed their antenna to deploy once it is in space—activated by an on-board computer. This would trigger the device’s antenna component to extend four times its compressed height from 6cm to nearly 50cm for full functionality.

The team accomplished this by designing the antenna with the properties of a mechanical spring, which is an idea the industry has rarely attempted to build before. The students explained that optimizing the prototype to be both a spring and an antenna was difficult to do.

They had to take geometry, material and frequency bandwidth all into consideration. The students used spring calculators and high frequency structure simulator software to build an antenna that could stow and deploy with the properties of a mechanical spring.

The students have completed antenna functionality, deployment, and mechanical shock and vibration tests on their prototype. The radiofrequency testing was done at First RF, a company specializing in antennas and radiofrequency systems, while the vibration testing happened at Lockheed Martin. The antenna size is scalable to be resonant on a variety of frequencies.

Finally, may I take the opportunity to wish all our Mothers out there a very meaningful Mother’s Day. And if you aren’t a Mother, you definitely do have one. If she is still with you, tell her how much you appreciate all she ever did for you, and, if she isn’t, remember her on this day with fondness.

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

HAMNET Report 1st May 2022

By Tuesday this week, the Global Disaster Alert Coordination System was starting to report on the newly formed Tropical Storm JASMINE which was moving eastwards over the Mozambique Channel, towards the south-western coast of Madagascar. On 26 April at 4.00 UTC, its centre was located about 240 km east of Toliara City, with maximum sustained winds of 116 km/h.

JASMINE was forecast to make landfall in the afternoon of 26 April in an area close to Toliara, with maximum sustained winds up to 105 km/h. After the landfall it was expected to weaken, dissipating on 27 April over Atsimo-Andrefana Region.

According to the Madagascar National Bureau of Disaster Risk Management (BNGRC)’s latest provisional damage report of April 27th, three people had died, 7 people were missing, 197 people had been affected in 56 households, and 88 people were displaced in an accommodation site. Some 57 houses had been totally or partially destroyed.

Relief efforts for those affected by the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal are continuing, with the Social Protection, Community and Human Development Cluster especially giving thanks to the community groups that have volunteered and donated in assistance.

In a media briefing led by the Minister of Health, and including Ministers of Basic Education, and Social Development, the departments provided an update on the relief efforts.

The ministers in the cluster have at various times this week visited different parts of the provinces in the affected areas to assess the damage caused and to seek ways of assisting those in need.

The priority, they said, was placed on providing immediate support to women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities.

Providing a run-down of the numbers, Dr Joe Phaahla reported that there are 98 shelters where over 8 400 people are being housed in community halls, religious facilities, and other temporary structures within communities.

The majority of the people housed in shelters are women, 4700 in fact, 1 700 are children under 10 years of age, 1 000 are older persons and there are 217 people with disabilities.

“Working with the province and local municipalities, where shelters are identified, the DSD teams have been providing cooked meals, blankets and dignity packs, working with NPOs, churches, corporates and committee members, to displaced individuals. Our Community Nutrition and Development Centres (CNDCs) have also been providing this support on a daily basis. Specific focus has been on children who have been displaced from schools and those who have lost family members or belongings,” Dr Phaahla said.

He added that the teams have also been providing much needed psychosocial support and debriefings with families and individuals in affected communities. Social Workers have reached over 15 983 people in this regard, and these services are ongoing. Sassa has provided Social Distress Relief (SDR) to more than 3 000 people to the tune of almost R5 million, and purchased uniforms for learners to the value of R372 000, targeting flood victims in eThekwini and iLembe Districts.

Human activity and behaviour is contributing to an increasing number of disasters across the world, putting millions of lives in danger, together with a wide range of social and economic gains over recent decades, a new UN report published on Tuesday warns.

The Global Assessment Report (GAR2022), released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) ahead of next month’s Global Platform on reducing risk, reveals that between 350 and 500 medium to large-scale disasters took place every year over the past two decades.

The number of disaster events is projected to reach 560 a year – or 1.5 each day, statistically speaking – by 2030.

The GAR2022 blames these disasters on a broken perception of risk based on “optimism, underestimation and invincibility,” which leads to policy, finance and development decisions that exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and put people in danger.

“The world needs to do more to incorporate disaster risk in how we live, build and invest, which is setting humanity on a spiral of self-destruction,” said Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, who presented the report at the UN headquarters in New York.

“We must turn our collective complacency to action. Together we can slow the rate of preventable disasters as we work to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for everyone, everywhere.”

The report entitled, Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future, found that the implementation of disaster risk reduction strategies, as called for in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction agreed in 2015, had reduced both the number of people impacted, and killed by disasters, in the last decade.

However, the scale and intensity of disasters are increasing, with more people killed or affected, in the last five years, than in the previous five.

And disasters disproportionately impact developing countries, which lose an average of one percent of GDP a year to disasters, compared to less than 0.3 per cent in developed countries.

Thank you to moderndiplomacy for these notes.

After all this doom and gloom, allow me some latitude to attempt to put some humour into the bulletin.

If you haven’t been disconnected from all forms of news in the last 10 weeks or so, you’ll know of the major conflict playing itself out in Eastern Europe. We watch with horror, and listen to many reports of all sorts of military horror taking place there.

Now, my role is not to be political, so I will say nothing about that, but one has to wonder at all the military and technical cleverness happening in the air and on the ground. I certainly don’t support war, and I’m sure you don’t either, so any attempt on either side to make life difficult for the other faction has to be lauded, because it retards the violent actions of the opposition.

I also recognize that the kind of reporting we hear is biased, and one-sided, and the opposing nations can probably describe stories of all sorts of cruelty and demoralising activities on the part of A against B, and of course, B against A.

But in the face of it all, and in the presence of all the tanks, artillery, troop carriers, aircraft, drones and what-not, built of high quality steel, I find it ironic and darkly humorous, that the one side is trying to jam the other side’s radio transmissions with music described as “heavy metal”..

Quite appropriate, don’t you think?

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

HAMNET Report 24th April 2022

KwaZulu Natal is still counting the cost of damage from the worst storms recorded just on 2 weeks ago. Damage in monetary value will go on rising as the work of repairing infrastructure and trying to rebuild businesses and housing continues, but loss of life remains the most significant tragedy.

Curiously, the death toll after the storms was reduced by about 10 souls this week, as some bodies recovered showed that the persons had succumbed to natural causes, or murder, and not directly smothering. So I believe the death toll is currently in the late 430’s. However, there are still about 250 people unaccounted for, and perhaps they never will be found, as huge amounts of mud and silt, and washed-away earth will surely have committed them to silent and unknown burials. Our condolences and sympathy continues to be extended to all families on their losses.

Easter Weekend came and went, and the Western Cape certainly benefitted from wonderful weather. These were calm, balmy days, with little wind, little cloud, and a sun far enough North in our sky to reduce maximum temperatures to the mid 20’s.

Just as well, because the Cape Peninsula witnessed the two Two Oceans Marathon races on Easter Saturday and Sunday. I told you last week about Saturday’s race, which was uneventful.

Roughly five thousand runners ran the 56km ultra-marathon on Easter Sunday, again in delightful weather, and HAMNET was there to support them again. The race started on Main Road in Newlands, and ran along the shores of False Bay and the Indian Ocean all the way to Fish Hoek, before turning West, and heading through Noordhoek and on to Chapman’s Peak Drive, to follow the Atlantic coastline Northwards through Hout Bay, via Constantia Neck to Rhodes Drive past Kirstenbosch before ending at UCT sports fields.

HAMNET members manned 6 sweep vehicles, there to patrol the route, look for stragglers or runners in difficulty, and offer them a ride, on to the next bus or back to UCT, if they decided to withdraw from the race. We also had a motorbike rover, free to react quickly to any drama or route difficulties, and then there were two of us in the Joint Ops Centre at Tygerberg Hospital’s Provincial Emergency Management Centre (PEMC).

Because the weather was so sublime, runners didn’t have to battle a strong headwind or tailwind, did not freeze to death in driving rain, or become dehydrated in the heat, and so again there were no important injuries or health problems along the route. A lot of runners did decide to withdraw, but weren’t in any major distress, and our stock of blankets in the sweep vehicles were hardly needed, unlike previous years. Furthermore we did not run out of water.

So, partly due to the smaller number of runners, and also to the weather on the day, there were no major calamities during the race. The sweeps managed their work easily, there were more than enough buses to bring runners cut off at 42.2Km by the time limit there, in to the race finish, and our work at the JOC did not run us off our feet.

I’m extremely grateful to the operators who gave up their chocolate-eating duties over the Easter Weekend to assist at both races, and thank their families too for allowing them to help make the races the safe ones they were.

Meanwhile the sun was in explosive mood this week, with a major X-class solar flare on Wednesday morning early, our time, the first of this magnitude during solar cycle 25. The flare was not aimed directly at Earth, but there were apparently some moments of radio blackout in the Australia and Indonesia areas. The coronal mass ejection which always follows the solar flare, arrived some days later, and would have contributed to auroral sightings in both hemispheres at high latitudes, but not really affected communications much.

And with sunspot numbers higher than they’ve been for a long time, the solar flux index also in the mid hundreds, and low planetary K indices, HF bands have been wide open lately. This is good for us, to be able to practice our skills at communicating with strangers, which in emergency communications we will always need to do, when it is necessary to relay messages of importance relating to disaster of one sort or another, rather than chat to our buddy three streets away on VHF.

An answer may be on the horizon now, as to how to predict which moderately ill COVID patients will go on to develop a cytokine storm which overwhelms their immune system, and results in intensive care admission, intubation, ventilation, or death.

Dr Emanuela Sozio and her colleagues at an infectious diseases clinic in Italy did a study of patients with moderate to severe COVID who were admitted to intensive care facilities, compared with those who didn’t need such admission, and have identified a series of cytokines and other biomarkers, that were always present at high levels in the blood in the severest cases.

“It is not always possible to determine which COVID-19 patients have the worst prognosis, especially early on. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that the earlier we treat excessive inflammation, the more likely we are to turn it off quickly and definitively and so avoid irreversible organ damage.

“Our work may help select patients with worse prognoses and who need to be admitted to high dependency units, as well as potentially help personalize their treatment,” she said.

This will be wonderful news if the research stands the test of time, because it will be possible to send sick patients home, who are at no great risk, once their biomarker status has been documented. Until now, all moderate to severe patients have been kept in hospital because there has been no way of predicting who will get better and who will get worse.

Thanks to medicalxpress.com for these notes.

Finally the HAMNET Report congratulates Roy Walsh ZS3RW on winning the Hamnet Shield for 2021, for his services as Divisional Director for HAMNET in the Northern Cape, as announced in yesterday’s SARL AGM. His wife Esme ZS3EW is also to be congratulated on walking away with two trophies in the awards ceremony! Be carefully there, Roy, you are about to be overtaken by your very competent wife!

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

HAMNET Report 10th April 2022

The internet is great, but the internet goes down. Disasters, government interference, and simple technical difficulties often fell the most powerful communication tool ever made. One man wants to change that and is building what he calls the “prepper version of the internet.” It’s called the Reticulum Network Stack and it’s designed to exist alongside or on top of the traditional internet.

Reticulum is meant to be a streamlined communications tool that can be quickly deployed in the case of systemic telecom failure, with minimal lift and a heavy focus on encryption and privacy. All of it is built on the back of an entirely new protocol that aims to be more resilient than IP, or Internet Protocol, which is a set of software rules that govern the flow of information on the internet.

“A lot of fragmented solutions and limited tools exist, but in reality, what was really missing was a complete communications stack designed for use by normal people without centralized coordination of any kind,” Reticulum’s designer, who goes by “unsignedmark” explained in the Reddit thread announcing the project. “[It is] a system that would allow anyone easily to build secure and resilient long-range networks with simple, available tools. [These are] systems that would work and allow secure and private comms even when the po-po hits the fan.”

unsignedmark is Mark Qvist, a computer engineer who has spent his life building and managing computer networks. “I ran a small-scale rural ISP at one point, providing high-speed Internet service to one of the many areas that had been completely neglected by larger service providers,” he told the publication Motherboard. “While it was definitely not the most profitable thing in the world, and was pretty hard work, it was also very rewarding and an incredibly fun learning experience.”

Reticulum can run on just about anything, including the teensy Raspberry Pi Zero. According to Qvist, people with minimal telecom and computer knowledge could put together a long-range messaging system for their community in about an hour using Reticulum, communicating over any number of available channels to network peers.

“Want to extend it to the next town over VHF radio?” Qvist asked on Reddit. “If you already have a modem and a radio, that’s 5 minutes to set up. I really tried to make this as flexible as possible while still being very easy to use if you have a bit of computer and radio experience.”

It certainly looks promising, and hopefully will be picked up by, and developed in many countries. Thanks to vice.com for the article, written by Matthew Gault.

Various news reports from the Otago area in New Zealand at the beginning of this week reported on a search for a 49 year old father and his 14 year old son, who had been missing for three days since going into the Rowallan Forest in Fiordland on a hunting trip.

Not being suitably equipped for overnight stays in the bush, and without adequate food and water, the pair was deemed very vulnerable, Ground and air searches with thermal sensing cameras on Sunday afternoon and night were unsuccessful, but luckily the two came walking out of the bush near Lilliburn Valley Road on Monday. Police Search and Rescue personnel, LandSAR, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (AREC) personnel, and search dogs had been sent to the search area.

Thanks to the Otago Daily Times and Southgate Amateur Radio News for the details.

After the events that took place 10 days ago, when Cape Town HAMNET members spent a couple of days searching for an emergency transmission emanating from a small aircraft in a hangar near Cape Town Airport, some interest has been generated amongst members in formal “foxhunting”, not necessarily to be confused with the radio sporting event the term is usually known for.

Michael ZS1MJT, our Regional Director has quickly made a 3 element tape-measure Yagi on a pvc pipe boom that is resonant on 121.5MHz, for use in finding a beacon or a downed aircraft, as circumstances dictate. Other amateurs are working with Michael to build a Doppler receiver, wideband enough to be used for any kind of pin-point activity where a search for an errant transmission is on the go. The Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre did a project build of something like this about 20 years ago, with a pair of antennas mounted to a boom that could be rotated by hand, and which nulled out the signal if your antenna was tangential to that signal. It appears that the original PIC processor used is virtually unobtainable now, so research is underway to find an alternative.

An inexpensive active antenna system is the preferred option, so that many or all HAMNET members can have at their disposal such a system in case direction finding is necessary at their location.

A WhatsApp Group has been set up for all members interested in helping to find such a transmission in the Western Cape, so that a quick response can be generated and as many bearings of a signal heard can be taken as possible, to narrow a search area down.

Finally, here is a summary of disaster relief efforts ongoing as we speak in Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities called on the residents of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk regions to evacuate while it is still possible, warning that further enemy bombardments could cut off the evacuation corridors.

Evacuations through several humanitarian corridors were successfully carried out on 5 – 6 April. Among them, over 15,400 people from Kramatorsk, Slovyansk, Lozova and Pokrovsk. Over 5,000 people were evacuated from Mariupol and Berdyansk and over 1,200 people from four cities in the Luhansk Oblast. 11 buses sent to evacuate people from the cities of Melitopol and Tokmak are currently en route to Zaporizhzhia.

On 5 April, a fourth UN inter-agency humanitarian convoy successfully reached some 17,000 people through the delivery of 8 trucks of critical supplies in Sievierodonestsk, Eastern Ukraine, in collaboration with EU humanitarian partners. The convoy brought food rations, flour, plastic sheeting, blankets and four hospital electricity generators.

The European Commission is also coordinating the delivery of assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to Ukraine, from all 27 Member States and two Participating States. Almost 14,000 tonnes of assistance from these countries and items from the rescEU medical stockpile have been delivered to Ukraine, via the UCPM logistic hubs in Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

However, on 6 April, enemy troops blocked the work of a humanitarian centre in occupied Berdiansk, detaining workers and volunteers.

And so the world watches, in trepidation…

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

HAMNET Report 3rd April 2022

Riaan Greeff, ZS4PR, Deputy Regional Director for HAMNET in the Free State, has sent me a very interesting summary of events that have taken place in the Vaal Triangle, supported by 3 HAMNET divisions.

He says that members of the Vaal HAMNET team joined forces with the Gauteng HAMNET teams to assist the ARCC,  in partnership with many other SASAR affiliated entities, including SARZA, K9SAR,  Airwing, HAMNET and many more, in a mock exercise dubbed “Exercise Phoenix” on the 12th of Feb 2022.  This simulated an aeroplane crash scenario.

The following weekend the Vaal team joined with Gauteng to support the communications during the Johannesburg 94.7 Ride for Sight on the 20th of February.

Next it was the Northwest province HAMNET members that joined in the fun with Vaal and Gauteng to be the communications and support for the 27th Sasolburg Marathon on 26 March 2022. 

This allowed HAMNET to shine and be at the forefront of communications support for an event that hosts the main national finals of the 10km races, and is one of the last qualifying marathons in preparation for the Comrades marathon in a few weeks.

The organisers, Sasolburg Athletics Club, having made all the necessary arrangements with the Sasolburg traffic department weeks before the event, realised 10 minutes before the starting gun at 6am, that the traffic department was nowhere to be seen.  Without the arranged lead vehicles, the marathon would be called off, and 2000 registered athletes would not run.

HAMNET Vaal was prepared, and within 5 minutes they had their lead vehicles ready to lead the pack, much to the relief of the organisers!

The experience brought by the Gauteng HAMNET members to Sasolburg, and the quick thinking of the Vaal HAMNET leadership, ensured a smooth start on time, and a safe marathon to be enjoyed by all.

The Sasolburg radio club, ZS4SRK have technical members to be very proud of.  The town is now equipped with a DMR repeater, and this allows voice and GPS and messaging to be implemented around the circuit of the Sasolburg Marathon.

Tests done in terms of signal strength were so successful, that the Vaal HAMNET team decided to use DMR radios only at the marathon.  An internal talk group provided localised communication.

In total 20 DMR radios were activated for the event and these provided clear communications.   HAMNET Vaal does recommend the use of DMR in future events – the technology provides several advantages over the use of the normal VHF repeater in Sasolburg.

Initially the plan for the event called for a UHF repeater to be set up to allow a second channel of communications for the day.  However, a serious technical failure prevented the Vaal leadership from using this repeater and as a result DMR was made more active, and really provided excellent service.

This shows that planning beforehand, and having redundancy in the plan, will pay off in the case of serious deviations from the normal event plan.

Riaan further notes that the ideal tracking device used by radio amateurs should be primarily on ham frequencies.  The Vaal Tracker is this type of device.  To prove the capability, a number of these devices were programmed and set up on 144.800 MHz, to be tracking key vehicles during the marathon.

Sasolburg and the greater South Gauteng topography allow for radio trackers to work well.

At the central communications centre of HAMNET Vaal, both GSM and RF tracker signals were received and then SARtrack software was used to map the movements of the vehicles.

In short, the trackers worked well.  The GSM additions made it possible to follow the non-RF devices as well.

A few LORA tracker devices were also activated.  The main problem with these turned out to be the lack of range these devices have on the UHF band used.  When the devices were either out of range of each other or the communications centre, they could not be heard.  This was a disappointment.

Thank you, Riaan, for your report and these useful comments. Clearly HAMNET is alive and well in the Free State and South Vaal areas. Thanks also for allowing me these excerpts from your report.

Now the sun is waking up and we are experiencing the effects on Earth as disruptive radio blackouts and stunning aurora displays. Tereza Pultarova, writing in space.com this week says that the “magnetically complex” sunspot called 2975 has spurted out about 20 solar flares over the past days including an X-class flare that blasted from the sun at 05h37 UTC on Wednesday March the 30th. X-class flares are the most energetic type of solar flares that eject a large amount of charged particles into the surrounding space. These energized clouds travel very fast and can reach Earth within minutes.

Wednesday’s flare was reported to have caused some disruptions to GPS signals and interference with high frequency radio transmissions, which are used by shortwave broadcasting stations, aviators and radio amateurs.

For Thursday (March 31st), the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasted a 50% risk of minor to moderate radio blackouts. On Friday, April 1, the risk was expected to go down to 35%. Both days had a 10% chance of a strong radio blackout, which could cause wide-spread disruption to high frequency radio communications on the sun-facing side of Earth, with a possible hour-long loss of signal.

A strong radio blackout (called R3 on NOAA’s five-point scale) is a relatively common occurrence that can take place up to 2,500 times over the sun’s 11-year cycle of ebbing and flowing activity, according to NOAA.

The more sluggish outbursts called coronal mass ejections, or CME’s, are expulsions of magnetized plasma from the upper layers of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. When a CME hits Earth, it may temporarily disrupt the planet’s protective magnetic field. When that happens, the plasma particles penetrate deep into Earth’s atmosphere, where they trigger magnetic storms that produce colourful aurora displays.

Two CMEs the sun blasted out on Monday (March 28th) arrived Wednesday evening (March 30th), delivering aurora viewing opportunities all over Canada, and, in the Southern Hemisphere, skywatchers from New Zealand and Tasmania also reporting seeing the Aurora Australis.

In addition to auroras, a geomagnetic storm could cause minor problems to satellites in orbit and power networks on Earth. Solar Cycle 25 has definitely arrived in full force.

Thank you to Tereza and Space.com for these extracts from her article.

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

HAMNET Report 27th March 2022

Our HAMNET National Director, Grant Southey, has passed on a message received on Thursday from Carlos Nora CT1END, who holds a similar post in Portugal, referring to a large amount of seismic activity on the island of Sao Jorge, in the Azores, where a group of radio amateurs are working to prevent damage and support emergency communications in the towns of Vela and Calheta. Carlos asks us all in Region One of the IARU to be aware of, and keep clear, the frequencies they will be using, namely:

80m – 3.750 – 3.760MHz. LSB (Overnight)
40m – 7.100 – 7.110MHz. LSB (During the day)
20m – 14.300MHz. USB (For outside the region)

The mid-Atlantic island has been rattled by thousands of small earthquakes in recent days, and there are fears that the more than 10,000 tremors recorded since last Saturday could trigger a volcanic eruption or a powerful quake. About 200 of the recorded earthquakes, with a magnitude of up to 3.3, have been felt by the population.

The region’s CIVISA seismo-volcanic surveillance centre raised the volcanic alert to Level 4 on Wednesday, meaning there is a “real possibility” the volcano could erupt for the first time since 1808.

Meanwhile, the chief of the United Nations announced a project on Wednesday to put every person on Earth in range of early weather-warning systems within five years as natural disasters have grown more powerful and frequent due to climate change.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the project with the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization aims to make the alert systems already used by many rich countries available to the developing world.

“Today, one-third of the world’s people, mainly in least-developed countries and small-island developing states, are still not covered by early warning systems,” Guterres said. “In Africa, it is even worse: 60% of people lack coverage.”

“This is unacceptable, particularly with climate impacts sure to get even worse,” he said. “We must boost the power of prediction for everyone and build their capacity to act.”

Early warning systems allow for the monitoring of real-time atmospheric conditions at sea and on land as a way of predicting upcoming weather events — whether in cities, rural areas, mountain or coastal regions, and arid or polar locations.

Expanding their use has taken on urgency because more lead time allows people to prepare for potentially deadly disasters such as heat waves, forest fires, flooding and tropical storms that can result from climate change.

A World Meteorological Organization report on disaster statistics released last year showed that over the last half-century or so, a climate or water-related disaster has occurred daily on average, resulting in an average of 115 deaths and R2 Billion in losses a day.

The U.N., its partners and many governments are striving to reach an increasingly evasive target of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Guterres has instructed WMO, the U.N. weather agency, to push forward an “action plan” on the early warning system by the next U.N. climate conference, which is scheduled to take place in Egypt in November.

WMO plans to build on some of its existing programs like a multi-hazard alert system for hazards such as tropical cyclones, flooding and coastal inundation, as well as an early warning system that helps inform people most at risk of some kinds of disasters, the U.N. said.

Here’s a bit of history of how time zones came to be established. Did you know that it was the study of Auroras that started the search for a worldwide time system?

Astronomers and meteorologists of the 1800s worked for years to understand the auroras, wondering if they were a feature of Earth’s atmospheric weather, of outer space, or, perhaps, something that straddled the boundary in-between. In the 1870s, the man leading the quest to understand the aurora borealis was Cleveland Abbe. As a meteorologist and astronomer, he was also involved in geophysics research, and a powerful solar storm in April 1874 presented him with a unique opportunity to study the northern lights.

On April 7, 1874, one of these storms caused a particularly memorable display and Abbe jumped at the opportunity to study the aurora, hoping to learn, if possible, its altitude above the Earth, and compare it to concurrent weather phenomena and magnetic observations.

To carry out this task, Abbe needed multiple data points – in other words, he needed observations from multiple sites across the country. Luckily, due to his position as a weather prediction guru, Abbe already maintained a network of contacts across the USA who helped him gather meteorological data for his weather reports. That night, Abbe put them to work observing the northern lights instead. This team was made up of about 80 public volunteers and 20 expert observers, making this project an early example of a “citizen science collaboration”.

The project didn’t all go as planned, however. The problem, Abbe discovered, was that these volunteers, scattered as they were across the country, took their observations using their own local time systems. As a result, comparing the observations to each other in order to draw useful conclusions was frightfully difficult.

A few years later, Abbe received a letter from a Canadian railroad engineer, Sandford Fleming, who was also trying to find a way to standardize time, in his case to keep cross-continental railroads running in sync. Together, Abbe and Fleming (among others) took their idea to Congress, petitioning them to legally establish time zones in the United States. The railways adopted them first, in November 1883. A year later, an international conference held in Washington D.C. established a global prime meridian for timekeeping at Greenwich. Over the next few decades, countries around the world began adopting time zones, in some form or other, based on this meridian.

Today, time zones are ubiquitous. Their origin is often attributed to the railroads, and that’s partially true, but it’s worth remembering that time zones also grew out of the needs of curious people attempting to understand our world and its place in the Universe. Cleveland Abbe and his small group of citizen scientists, who just wanted a better way to keep time while they watched the northern lights dance overhead, literally changed the world we live in. It’s a cheerful thought, and speaks to the power of curiosity and collaboration to make a difference.

Thank you to Universetoday.com for these excerpts from their article.

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

HAMNET Report 20th March 2022

Tropical cyclone Gombe turned into a dramatic affair, as the statistics after the event bear out. GDACS reported on Wednesday that 15 fatalities had occurred in Nampula province of Mozambique, and one person in Zambezia province was still unaccounted for.

Fifty people were injured and 11 630 displaced to evacuation centres. A total of over 100 000 people were affected and 10 811 houses destroyed, while another 11 882 houses sustained damage.

Meanwhile, in Malawi, the number of fatalities due to the passage of tropical cyclone GOMBE across the Southern Region was reported as 6.

I continue to be thankful that South Africa mostly seems to escape severe punishment from weather-related disasters.

A crowd funded scheme to start transmissions of Voice of America programming material has been started up, with the idea of broadcasting in the general direction of Ukraine and Russia, using a USA-based shortwave station with callsign WRMI.

This is in addition to the two transmissions by the BBC World Service in the afternoons and evenings, also with the hope of making civilians in Ukraine and Russia aware of reasonably unbiased news reporting.

Now, under the heading of Amateur Radio Public Relations, and from the ARES letter for March the 16th, this week, comes a report that, in 2021, the Rural Radio Preparedness Association, an ARRL affiliated club and sponsoring organization of Santa Rosa County (Florida) ARES, was donated funds to purchase a cargo trailer for use in emergency communications. Several members of the ARES team donated time and money to outfit the trailer.

In addition to emergency communications, one of the main goals was to use the trailer for public education of amateur radio and on 18th to 20th February operators had that opportunity at Pensacon. Founded in 2013, Pensacon is the premiere comic book and pop culture convention serving Pensacola and the Gulf Coast. The event draws 10,000 or more people each year with guests lining up for hours for a chance to meet their favourite writer or celebrity.

Recently the ARES group was donated a 17 metre pneumatic mast that was installed on the trailer to get height for antennas. Operators attached a dual-band J-pole antenna as well as a 20 metre long end-fed long-wire antenna for HF operations. Inside the trailer is an ICOM IC-7100 transceiver connected to a laptop. Over the course of the 3-day event, operators had the opportunity to show visitors how email can be sent without a local internet connection by utilizing Winlink. Visitors were amazed that this capability existed, and many were interested in learning more.

Setting up at conventions, festivals, and other events is a great way to help promote amateur radio in your community as an avocation and for emergency communications. If your club or ARES [think HAMNET] team has resources available, reach out to event organizers to see if you could set up a booth or your team’s communications trailer. Most events allow volunteer organizations to set up for free. While you’re at it, see if their event could benefit from volunteer communicators. Before committing, be sure that you have enough volunteers to support the event.

Thanks to the ARES letter for the suggestion.

The Times of India reported on March the 16th that a field operation on how to use amateur radio when all other communications are down, especially during natural calamities or other disasters, was held at NITK Surathkal. It was organised by the NITK Amateur Radio Facility, radio call sign VU2REC, in collaboration with Mangalore Amateur Radio Club, at the NITK Beach, [and] concluded on Sunday.

This event was a part of the ARSI Field Day Contest organised by the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI), where VU2REC is also a corporate life member.
Such field events help in keeping the amateur radio volunteers ready for emergency communication that may be deployed during disaster relief operations.

Licenced amateur radio volunteers from Mangalore, Manipal and Udupi participated in this special field event. The focus was on deploying emergency communication stations in the HF range of the radio spectrum, which is typically suited for establishing point-to-point or point-to-multipoint communication across the globe, without relying on any type of service provider or agency. Such stations are self-sufficient, and do not rely on any support infrastructure. The beach location provided a natural setting, where electricity and shelters were absent, thereby simulating a minimalistic environment, to be one with the elements.

In light of the fact that a radio amateur in America was arrested in February on charges of broadcasting false weather emergencies such as tornado warnings, as well as threatening other operators who requested him to stop, PAhomepage notes that false information shared in this manner could reach many listeners.

Thankfully the airwaves are well regulated and these situations are rare. HAM radio is still a great backup for emergency situations.

Bob Folmar, a radio amateur in Sweet Valley, Luzerne County says that cell towers go down, due to hurricanes, floods and things like that. When they do go down ham radio operators are ready to help coordinate with local agencies as soon as they can.

Amateur radio operators can therefore provide vital backup communications for emergency service providers, when systems fail. The false weather warnings of the arrested ham are especially dangerous in these times of fake news.

The ARRL publication QST subsequently carried a report that the ham in question was found guilty of the contravention and given an appropriate punishment.

Finally, it seems a few HAMNET members around the country think that the hour-long HAMNET bulletin I transmit in the Western Cape on a Wednesday evening at 19h30 Bravo, is worth re-transmitting. [This just goes to prove that you can fool some of the people some of the time!]

Tony Mayall ZS5GR takes the news bulletin off Echolink at ZS1DCC-R, and retransmits it around KZN, and now Danie van der Merwe ZS1OSS tells me he is receiving it on an Open WebRx SDR receiver on the correct frequency, so you can listen by pointing your browser at https://bit.ly/hamnetwcbulletin . The bulletin goes out every Wednesday of the month except the first one, when HAMNET WC holds its member’s meeting, either at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg Hospital, or (previously) virtually on the jit.si platform. We hope that further waves of Covid will not force us to hold meetings virtually again.

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