HAMNET Report 19th May 2024

A final report coming from the George building collapse disaster says that the rescuers have come to the conclusion that there were not 81 people on site when it collapsed, but in fact 62. The removal of rubble down to the basement has revealed no more casualties, and so the statistics stand at 33 deaths, and 29 people rescued alive. Some of those 29 are still in hospital, but all present when the building collapsed have now been accounted for.

Our thoughts rest with the families of the victims who died, but we must be thankful that the death toll was not higher. The plot will now start to thicken as the investigation into the defects behind the collapse properly starts.

In other areas we learn that floods from heavy rainfall in southern Brazil over the last month have resulted in 144 deaths, 130 people missing, 806 injured, 540000 displaced and more the 2.1 million folks affected across 445 municipalities.

River levels are rising in neighbouring Argentina, resulting in evacuations in north-eastern Argentina. No casualties have been reported.

And in Indonesia, the cold Lahar, which is a cold mixture of water and volcanic deposits that flows down the slopes of a volcano and typically enters a river valley, triggered by very heavy rainfall that occurred in the upstream area of Mount Marapi, West Sumatra province on 11 May, has caused flash floods and mudslides to hit several regencies and cities in the province. 

According to the National Agency for Disaster Countermeasure (BNPB), 58 people have died, 35 people have been reported missing, 33 others have been injured and more than 1,500 families have been affected. In addition, several roads and bridges have been damaged and flooded. Search, rescue and relief activities are being conducted by the authorities.

Eric Ralls, writing in Earth.com says that, on Tuesday, May 14th, 2024, at approximately 16:51 UTC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported widespread radio blackouts across North America due to a powerful solar flare.

This particular solar flare, classified as an X8.8, is the strongest recorded in the current solar cycle, which began in December of 2019.

The solar flare originated from the same sunspot AR 3664, which has been actively bombarding Earth with energized particles over the past week.

This sunspot has grown immensely and is now bigger than the diameter of 17 Earths — a size comparable to the one responsible for the historic 1859 Carrington event, which caused telegraph stations to catch fire and disrupted global communications.

Dr. Tamitha Skov, a space weather physicist, told DailyMail.com, “As for the big X-flare, it’s the biggest of the cycle thus far. It would have been our first R4-level radio blackout, but it was partially blocked by the sun.”

That is because AR 3664 has rotated off to the right hand side (or western limb) of the sun, and this solar flare would not have been directly aimed at Earth. Just as well, because another Carrington Event would have had far greater electronic consequences than the 1859 version.

The sunspot number as of yesterday afternoon was 169, which is high and so we are very close to the peak of solar cycle 25. As the old saying goes, the fat lady has not sung yet, so there may be plenty more geomagnetic surprises awaiting us.

Unfortunately last weekend’s very high Planetary K index and geomagnetic storming prevented the operators at the various Mills activated on International Mill Day from making any international contacts. The shortwave bands were buried in high electromagnetic noise levels, which was disappointing, but to be expected.

Defenceweb.co.za reports that it has taken 22 years to finalise an upgrade of the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) combat net radio (CNR) systems, with SA Army brigade, division and formation commanding officers hearing upgraded radio communications being tested by South African Army elements in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The taking into service of improved and technologically updated combat net radios – as per Project Radiate – was imparted during a project outcome briefing with a view to force-wide implementation and utilisation in KwaZulu-Natal’s New Germany, where contractor Reutech Communications is headquartered.

The project started in 2002 with Reutech Communications and the SANDF Command and Management Information Systems (CMIS) Division jointly at the helm.

The first CNR units to be sent to the DRC formed part of extensive Operational Testing and Evaluation with reports from the central African country indicating the radios performed well under “wet and nasty conditions”.

The new tactical radios allow for inter-service and division operability as specified in project documentation. The CNRs operate on HF, VHF and UHF frequencies with secure voice and data network links for ground to air, ground-based and naval applications. The new radios are reverse compatible with older still-in-service units.

Reutech’s landward radios are Link-ZA compatible and feature encryption, frequency hopping and fitted GPS receivers for situational awareness. The radios Reutech is supplying to the SANDF under Project Radiate were designed as a family from the outset for ease of use across all systems for logistics and human-machine interface functionality. Around 4 000 vehicle radios were ordered, with similar numbers of man portable radios.

It is good to know that the SANDF is keeping up with modern encrypted communication systems.

To end, a quick good-news story about a 74 year old paddler called Terrence from Schoenmakerskop, who was tipped out of his paddle-ski by a cresting wave, before he had time to lash himself to his boat, and then caught in a riptide as he attempted to swim back to shore, because his ski had been washed away from him. His friend Norrie, also in a paddle-ski saw what happened, paddled back to him, and kept him afloat for over two hours as Noordhoek Ski Boat Club’s NSRI satellite station launched their rescue boat which is docked 10 km away by road.

Norrie kept his friend awake in the icy water by engaging him in constant conversation, but Terrence was too hypothermic to swim unaided to the rescue boat when it arrived, so a rescue swimmer was deployed to pull him out of the water.

Terrence was too cold to speak, and was “huddled” by two NSRI crew members while they raced back to shore. There a Gardmed Ambulance rushed him to hospital where he was admitted to critical care with stage 4 hypothermia, requiring intubation and rewarming medical treatment. Terrence woke up within 24 hours and has made a complete recovery. He says he has not been put off paddling at all, but will be following all the safety rules far more carefully in future.

I’m sure you would join me in commending his friend Norrie for his assistance, and the NSRI for effecting a successful rescue.

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

HAMNET REPORT 12TH MAY 2024

The news bulletins and the press in the Western Cape are of course concentrating on the disastrous building collapse in George, where 81 workers were still busy building the structure. It was apparently to be a 5 storey building, with a basement and a ground-floor parking area, and 4 stories of apartments.

As of Saturday afternoon, 13 deaths had been reported amongst those removed from the rubble, 19 survivors had been hospitalized (of which one was air-lifted to Groote Schuur hospital for highly intensive care), and 39 souls were still trapped in the rubble. The 19th survivor was miraculously pulled out of the rubble yesterday afternoon, 120 hours after the collapse. It is now more than 140 hours since the disaster, and likelihood of finding those still trapped alive diminishes with each passing hour.

The airspace over the site has been declared a no-fly zone, so that a rescue drone has total freedom over the area. Heavy duty earth moving equipment has been brought in, to remove more rubble more quickly, but is going very carefully and slowly, in case further collapse as a result of major rubble shifts occurs. Forensic medical services are operating at the site, to be able to help with fast identification of victims.

Our thoughts are with the families still waiting for news of their loved ones, and with the teams of rescuers, from a variety of agencies, who are working around the clock to find them.

There being no need for unusual communications efforts at the scene, HAMNET has neither offered our services, or been asked for them.

Meanwhile, there are heavy rains and floods all over the world. In the last week, reports have come from Indonesia, India, Brazil, Texas, Tanzania, Kenya, Haiti, and Iraq, and there are flood warnings out for Belarus, Ukraine, Belgium and Germany. There have been many deaths, even more injuries, loss of many dwellings with displacement of thousands of people, and humanitarian aid organizations being stretched to the limit.

I suppose we must be grateful that the circulation of water becoming salty as it runs into the sea, evaporating into the clouds, and then being released as salt-free water in the mountains for us to drink, is maintained, but sometimes it is just too much of a good thing!

On top of all this, the sun is displaying a whole lot of aggression as it nears the peak of solar cycle 25, and producing ever more frequent large groupings of sunspots, which are resulting in solar flares, leading to coronal mass ejections, and geomagnetic storms.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), issued an updated warning on Friday afternoon of a severe G4 level geomagnetic storm likely to occur either that evening, or possibly yesterday and today. The Space Weather Prediction Centre says that currently, we are experiencing the first G4 Watch since 2005. They reported on Friday at least 7 earth-directed Coronal Mass Ejections in transit to Earth. Each of these CME’s comes from a high intensity solar flare, and all of them have arisen from complex sunspot cluster named Region 3664. This sunspot group is currently 16 times the diameter of Earth, and hasn’t stopped partying yet, so there is more to come, before it drifts off the western limb of the sun and around the back.

The associated geomagnetic storms, as the CME’s slam into Earth’s magnetosphere can trip out powerlines, affect radio (which means us), and of course GPS navigational systems, as well as charge up the surface of spacecraft systems, increase drag on low earth orbit satellites, and cause tracking and orientation problems.

On Friday night, a G5 geomagnetic storm alert was issued, which is as strong as it gets, and the resulting storm was experienced.  Coupled with a Planetary K index of 9 (also the maximum measurable), the bands were completely closed. I doubt whether communications were much good for this weekend’s International Mill Weekend.

On the other hand, outstanding aurora reports have been issued, and I’m sure lots of you have seen the pictures of auroras, or witnessed them yourselves, from the south-western Cape, and even from Kuruman, which is only 27.5 degrees of latitude away from the equator! By midday Saturday, as I write this, the K index is still 9, so the storm is not over yet and the auroras may be nearly as widespread this Saturday night. However, I hope you will have gone out after about 10 and looked around. And if you couldn’t see anything, I hope you tried taking a picture with your smartphone camera. Its spectral range is wider than your eyes can see, and you might have seen things there you didn’t actually witness.

From Sciencenews.com, Meghan Rosen writes that the anti-venom for a black mamba’s bite could one day work for a slew of other snakes. 

Scientists have developed an antibody that shuts down paralyzing toxins in the venom of black mambas, king cobras and dozens of other sharp-toothed serpents. The antibody — a single protein manufactured in the lab — protected mice from otherwise lethal doses of venom, protein engineer Joseph Jardine and colleagues report in the Feb. 21 Science Translational Medicine. That antibody “will be a critical component of an eventual anti-venom,” says Jardine, of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

Venomous snakes generally rely on just a handful of toxin families. If scientists could mix together antibodies targeting each of those types, Jardine says, they could potentially create “one vial of anti-venom that works against any snake in the world.” Such a universal anti-venom might still be many years away, he says. But “theoretically, this is possible.”

The old anti-venom  technology involved  injecting animals like horses or sheep with snake venom and harvesting the venom-targeting antibodies that their immune systems churn out. A snakebitten patient would then get an infusion of horse or sheep antibodies — if doctors have them in stock. 

The new generic antibody targets a portion of snake venom protein that is common to all types of venom, and which might then be effective in a variety of snakebites. Jardine and his colleagues recommend however that anti-venoms be developed for all the snakes in specific areas, rather than the entire planet, because an antibody to a smaller group of snake venoms is more likely to be 100% effective.

When one realises how scarce snakebite anti-venom actually is, one easily understands the value of a generic mix specific to one’s own region, particularly if it is readily available.

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

HAMNET Report 5th May 2024

The Otago Daily Times, in New Zealand reports that a group of teenagers lost in the Southland bush have been praised by police for making the right decision by notifying emergency services and staying put for help.

Police said they were notified at 8.15pm on Friday the 26th April that a group of teenagers had unexpectedly been caught out while walking the Makarewa Falls track in the Hokonui Hills, Southland.

As the group started to lose daylight they also lost the track route and became lost.

When they realised they were in trouble, the group alerted police by using the SOS function on their cellphone before lighting a fire.

Invercargill police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Alun Griffiths said a group of 10 Land Search and Rescue volunteers, supported by Amateur Radio Emergency Communications, was deployed and the group was located shortly after midnight.

The group arrived in the carpark at 2am in good health despite some miserable weather conditions, police said.

The boys did all the right things and stayed calm, Sgt Griffiths said.

Continuing its studies into Infrared Laser Communications, NASA’s Psyche’s mission team has been testing a new communication system. The new approach doesn’t use radio waves but an infrared laser and it has now shown that it works successfully from the most distant place yet. Psyche was 226 million kilometres from Earth when the message was sent. That’s 1.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Psyche was transmitting its engineering data over radio waves through NASA’s Deep Space Network. The mission team decided to also transmit the data over the Deep Space Optical Communication system for the first time. The previous transmissions were not data from the spacecraft but test data.

The April 8 test showed that even from that distance, the data could be downloaded with a maximum rate of 25 Mbps. This is already well beyond the expected goal of “at least 1 Mbps” and is 10 to 100 times faster than radio transmissions.

“We downlinked about 10 minutes of duplicated spacecraft data during a pass on April 8,” Meera Srinivasan, the project’s operations lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement. “Until then, we’d been sending test and diagnostic data in our downlinks from Psyche. This represents a significant milestone for the project by showing how optical communications can interface with a spacecraft’s radio frequency comms system.”

 The technology continues to show promise but there are still a few problems that need to be ironed out. For example, optical observations are blocked by clouds. Radio communications do not suffer from this issue.

“We’ve learned a great deal about how far we can push the system when we do have clear skies, although storms have interrupted operations at both Table Mountain and Palomar [receiving stations] on occasion,” said Ryan Rogalin, the project’s receiver electronics lead at JPL.

I thought you’d like to know something interesting about South Africa’s favourite alarm clock bird – the dreaded Hadeda, or Glossy Ibis.

Various ibises and shorebirds (like sandpipers) are able to use the “sixth sense” of remote-touch. This allows them to detect vibrations in soil and water, and use this information to locate invisible buried prey items. When they hunt for soft-bodied prey (such as earthworms), these vibrations result from the movement of prey in the soil. The birds can sense these vibrations using a special sensory organ in their beaks, called a bill-tip organ, which evolved during the time of the dinosaurs.

In recently published research from her Ph.D. at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology and reported on in Phys.org, Dr Carla du Toit has shown that Hadedas have this sixth sense too—something that had been assumed based on the anatomy of their beaks but never tested. In addition, she and her co-authors discovered an added twist to their sixth sense—their ability to use it is closely tied to the amount of water in the soil. This has likely played a role in Hadedas’ range expansion, and has global implications for key groups of wading birds.

They tested Hadedas housed in free-flight aviaries at a bird sanctuary, presenting them with trays filled with soil, in which they buried several worms. They knew the birds couldn’t see the buried worms, but they also needed to make sure they weren’t using hearing or scent to find them. They therefore masked any sounds the worms made by playing white noise from a speaker next to the trays. To ensure the Hadedas couldn’t smell the worms, they mixed crushed worms into the soil.

Neither of these affected how quickly Hadedas found their prey. So they concluded that they weren’t using hearing or scent to locate the worms in their experiments.

To test whether Hadedas were able to use remote-touch, the researchers gave them either live worms (which moved around and produced vibrations) or dead worms (which did not produce vibrations). The birds were able to find the moving worms significantly faster than the dead ones, indicating that they are able to sense vibrations, and use them to find prey in the absence of all other sensory information.

The mechanical waves (vibrations) that the birds sense are transmitted better in liquids than in gases, so Dr du Toit predicted that Hadedas would be more successful at detecting vibrations (and finding prey) in wetter substrates. Once they had established that Hadedas could use remote-touch, they tested how adding different amounts of water to the soil affected how quickly they located their prey, as this could be a factor that affects where they are able to forage.

When they were using remote-touch, the birds located the worms significantly faster in wetter soils, supporting the prediction. If they were given dead worms (no vibrations), adding water to the soil had no effect on their prey capture rate, so it wasn’t simply because the wetter soils were easier to dig around in. If the soil was too dry, Hadedas lost their ability to sense living worms faster than dead ones. This indicates that they could not use remote-touch in dry soils, and were instead having to rely on random probing to find prey.

And all along, you, like I, thought the hadedas were just plain simple lunatic birds. I wonder whether we could harness them for emergency comms, by getting them to signal looming danger at great distances. Their raucous cries will certainly carry for kilometres.

Thank you to Phys.org for these excerpts from Dr du Toit’s research.

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

HAMNET Report 28th April 2024

The Global Disaster Alert Coordination System (GDACS) has issued a report this week, saying that extreme weather events occur regularly in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. They are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change. El Niño is expected to exacerbate the risk of drought and cyclones. These natural hazards result in economic and political challenges, crop pests and diseases, and conflicts. This undermines living conditions, food security, and the livelihoods of millions of people in the region. Almost 35 million people in the Southern African and Indian Ocean region are expected to experience, or are already experiencing, high levels of acute food insecurity in 2023-2024.  

In 2024, the EU made an initial allocation of EUR 33.5 million to support humanitarian actions. The most vulnerable populations in Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe are the main recipients of emergency aid.

EU humanitarian funding in the Southern African and Indian Ocean region provides emergency relief responses such as food assistance, protection services, access to health care, access to drinkable water, sanitation and hygiene, logistics, anticipatory action and disaster preparedness. The EU also supports actions to ensure the continuation of education in humanitarian crises. EU humanitarian funding ensures safe learning spaces and provides adequate education programmes for children in areas affected by violence and displacement.

BBC.com says that amateur radio enthusiasts gathered on Wednesday to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Guglielmo Marconi.

Marconi was the famous inventor and Nobel Prize for Physics winner.

The event took place at the Marconi Museum on the Lizard Peninsula, where Marconi did a lot of his work.

In 1901 he achieved a significant milestone, the first ever transatlantic communication from Poldhu to Newfoundland in Canada.

Poldhu Amateur Radio Station was on air talking all around the world as part of the event.

James Woolford, from Poldhu Amateur Radio Club, said he hoped the event would bring a bit of perspective to the younger generation.

He said: “We’re always trying to bring the message especially to the younger generation about what Marconi has brought to their world.

“He was the first man who was talking about mobile phones in the 1920s and we take a lot of things for granted now which link back to Marconi.

“He was a very important character in history who probably touched the lives of more of us and our technology than anyone else.”

Ian Bradley, ZS1BR has sent us a report on a recent motor rally. He says:

“Amateur radio operators were asked to assist with communications at the Cape Swartland Rally which ran over the course of two days and comprised a total of 14 stages. Twenty-eight cars were registered to take part over the two days, including several national teams as this was the first leg of the 2024 National Rally Championship.

“Day one was split into two halves with the first few stages held in the Malmesbury area, after which we transitioned to Killarney Raceway for some fast-paced night racing. While the day was not marred by any serious incidents, our operators were quick to pick up on any vehicles stuck or broken down in the stages and ensure there were no safety concerns.

“Day two was somewhat more relaxed in comparison to the previous evening and took place on the farms surrounding Riebeek-Kasteel, with Control situated at Du Vlei Farm Stall & Restaurant (which will certainly get another visit when we don’t have a race to focus on!).  The first few stages weren’t incident free, however the operators at the start and end positions made easy work of them. Our only serious accident of the rally took place early on in the afternoon and the ambulance was quickly dispatched from the start of the stage. Both driver and navigator were taken to hospital as a precaution but were thankfully found to have no serious injuries.

“While our primary function at these events is to facilitate communication between the various officials and marshals, and to be on standby for emergency communications, we also assist the scorers by collecting and transmitting the stage times as each team finishes a stage.  This allows both the rally teams and the public to track overall positions in near real-time, as well as to exercise the radio operators’ communications skills and accuracy in data transfer.

“Special thanks to ZS1JM, ZS1ATX, ZR1JL, ZS1JFK, ZS1YT, ZS1WV and ZS1EEE for making it a great outing. We invite any operators, whether you have an interest in motorsport or not, to come and play radio out in the field.”

Thank you, Ian, for the report and for the role you played in the rally.

Phys.org says that a team of physicists and engineers at Vector Atomic, Inc., a maker of navigation and communications equipment, has developed a new kind of atomic clock that they claim is both ultra-precise and sturdy. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes the factors that went into building their new clock and how well it has worked during field tests aboard a ship in the Pacific Ocean.

Bonnie Marlow and Jonathan Hirschauer, both with the MITRE Corporation, have published a News & Views piece in the same journal issue, outlining the need for ultra-precise atomic clocks and the work done by the team at Vector Atomic.

As the tools used on board ships have grown more sophisticated, the technology behind them has become increasingly reliant on precise timing. Navigation uses radio systems, for example, that use GPS. With such systems, very small time inaccuracies when measuring signal propagation between satellites can result in positioning errors of hundreds of meters, which can matter a lot when military vessels are involved.

Ships currently rely on atomic clocks that are robust enough to be able to work while on a rolling vessel, but they are not nearly as accurate as the atomic clocks used in research labs. In this new effort, the team at Vector Atomic has developed a clock to help bridge the difference.

The clock is based on the use of oscillating iodine molecules and weighs just 26 kilograms, which is about the size of three shoeboxes—small enough for use on virtually any ship. The group claims that it is approximately 1,000 times more precise than the types of clocks currently used.

In developing the clock, the team has been working with New Zealand’s navy. They tested the clock aboard the HMNZS Aotearoa as it conducted normal shipping operations for three weeks in the Pacific Ocean. Data from the tests showed that the clock was nearly as accurate as it was when tested in the lab—it kept time to within 300 trillionths of a second over any given day.

The development team notes that they are continuing to work on the clock, hoping to make it small enough to carry aboard navigation satellites.

300 trillionths of a second? That’s probably accurate enough to get my boiled egg just right!

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

HAMNET Report 21st April 2024

Artificial Intelligence is making its presence felt in thousands of different ways. It helps scientists make sense of vast troves of data; it helps detect financial fraud; it drives our cars; it feeds us music suggestions; its chatbots drive us crazy. And it’s only getting started.

Are we capable of understanding how quickly AI will continue to develop? And if the answer is no, does that constitute the Great Filter?

The Fermi Paradox is the discrepancy between the apparent high likelihood of advanced civilizations existing and the total lack of evidence that they do exist. Many solutions have been proposed for why the discrepancy exists. One of the ideas is the “Great Filter.”

The Great Filter is a hypothesized event or situation that prevents intelligent life from becoming interplanetary and interstellar and even leads to its demise. Think climate change, nuclear war, asteroid strikes, supernova explosions, plagues, or any number of other things from the rogue’s gallery of cataclysmic events.

Or how about the rapid development of AI?

A new paper in Acta Astronautica explores the idea that Artificial Intelligence becomes Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) and that ASI is the Great Filter. The paper’s title is “Is Artificial Intelligence the Great Filter that makes advanced technical civilizations rare in the universe?” The author is Michael Garrett from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester.

Some think the Great Filter prevents technological species like ours from becoming multi-planetary. That’s bad because a species is at greater risk of extinction or stagnation with only one home. According to Garrett, a species is in a race against time without a backup planet. “It is proposed that such a filter emerges before these civilizations can develop a stable, multi-planetary existence, suggesting the typical longevity (L) of a technical civilization is less than 200 years,” Garrett writes.

If true, that can explain why we detect no techno-signatures or other evidence of ETI’s (Extra-terrestrial Intelligences.) What does that tell us about our own technological trajectory? If we face a 200-year constraint, and if it’s because of ASI, where does that leave us? Garrett underscores the “…critical need to quickly establish regulatory frameworks for AI development on Earth and the advancement of a multi-planetary society to mitigate such existential threats.”

Many scientists and other thinkers say we’re on the cusp of enormous transformation. AI is just beginning to transform how we do things; much of the transformation is behind the scenes. AI seems poised to eliminate jobs for millions, and when paired with robotics, the transformation seems almost unlimited. That’s a fairly obvious concern.

It seems to me though, that the very restriction we might face from Artificial Super Intelligence, might also protect us from those three–legged green creatures from “War of the Worlds”!

Huntnewsnu.com tells us this week that the Boston 26.2 mile (42.195km) marathon held on 15th April attracted about 9000 volunteer helpers, of whom about 300 were radio amateurs.

The volunteers were responsible for maintaining constant radio communications, connecting all points of the course with a main radio hub, Boston Fire, EMS and police.

Radio communications provided important assistance to the other marathon volunteers, said Jonah Lefkoff, a third-year computer engineering and computer science combined major [at Northeastern University] and vice president of NU Wireless. Most of the volunteers in attendance do boots-on-the-ground work, like managing hydration stations or medical tents.

“The value of the marathon, to novice amateur radio operators, is it offers real world experience,” said Maggie Heaney, a third-year electrical engineering and music combined major and director of outreach for NU Wireless. “We treat [the marathon] as a good opportunity for especially younger ham radio operators to get out and use these skills to help the general populace or other outside groups such as the Boston Athletic Association.”

All of the amateur radio operator volunteers from Northeastern University attended a training session in Framingham in February to learn more about the marathon course and their assignments. There are four segments that radio operator volunteers can serve on: start, finish, course and transportation. 

During the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, radio volunteers played a vital role in coordinating and carrying out an emergency response, Lefkoff said. A central component of being an amateur radio operator [volunteer] is being knowledgeable about the safeguards that are in place in case something fails or an emergency occurs. 

I’m sure all HAMNET South Africa members resonate with those opinions.

A quick note about HAMNET Western Cape’s Internet link at our ZS1DCC station at the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre: I’m pleased to tell you that the fibre link has been restored after several months, and we are now able to offer relays automatically from ZS1DCC, of Cape Town Club bulletins, and HAMNET bulletins on Echolink, via ZS1DCC-R, and also on 80 metres 3770kHz LSB. So if you wondered what happened, wonder no more, the relays are back! Feel free to listen to the Cape Town bulletin on ZS1DCC-R on Sunday mornings at 08h30, and the HAMNET bulletin at 19h30 (both times CAT) on Wednesday evenings.

It has been a very pleasant experience to meet with and greet all our old friends in amateur radio, and of course HAMNET, at the SARL Convention this weekend. The Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre is to be congratulated on organising a very successful weekend.

A pre-AGM get-together on Friday evening got the ball rolling and the atmosphere warmer, and I enjoyed saying hello to all the people in ham radio I admire. Then the AGM at a venue I have visited many times for congresses was successfully run without much controversy, and I congratulate those elected to the Council of the SARL for the forthcoming year.

That same venue has never disappointed me from their kitchen, and the spread was up to their usual standard at the Awards Dinner, while we listened to the leaders of council as they greeted us, and presented the annual awards. Thanks also to Brian ZS6YZ for his  presentation on our centenary history collection.

And a huge congratulations must go to Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ, our Deputy National Director, on being awarded the HAMNET Shield. I can’t think of a more worthy recipient. Actually I didn’t know he hadn’t already received the award! Well done Brian, and thank you for all your contributions to date.

Then further congratulations are due to HAMNET members from all regions, who were awarded Jack Twine awards, namely: Sybrand ZS1L, Peter ZS1OA, Danie ZS1OSS, Colin ZS1RS, Gawie ZS5R, Adele ZS5APT and Syd ZS5AYC, Awie ZS6AVI, Hentie ZS6HPL, Johan ZS6LD, Werner ZS6AR, Tommie ZS6THM and Lizette ZS6ZET.

SARL Certificates of Recognition for services to HAMNET were also awarded to Sydney ZS5SID, Louis ZS5LS, Deon ZS6DAB, Chanette ZS6CAC, Wynand ZS6JD, Theo ZS6JFW and Neels ZS6NR.

Thank you to you all for your contribution to the smooth running of HAMNET. My apologies if I seemed to be reading out a long shopping list there, but all awardees are worthy of thanks!

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

HAMNET Report 14th April 2024

The Western and Southern Cape is still licking its wounds after the severe winds, heavy rain and in some places fires fanned by the wind, caused a lot of damage last Sunday and Monday. Informal settlements were hard hit, and donations of foodstuffs, potable water, dry clothing and building materials were hastily arranged, as always hugely sponsored by The Gift Of The Givers.

The Western Cape cleared up first of course, but Knysna and George were still struggling on Tuesday and Wednesday. I am aware of only one fatality, a security guard who was killed by a falling tree while patrolling on his quad bike. GDACS reported a total of 2779 buildings affected or destroyed, at least 26 schools damaged, and several highways closed across the Winelands, the Overberg and coastal regions.

Meanwhile the Western Cape government plans to ask the national Disaster Management Centre for a disaster classification following this devastating storm, with a view to organizing relief funds to aid stricken communities.

A huge high pressure cell has moved in behind this damaging cut-off low pressure frontal system, and sunny skies, gentle winds and mid-twenties temperatures are forecast for the Two Oceans Marathon which is being run this weekend, and for most of the coming week.

So while we were being battered by wind and rain, the Americas were making a festival of the Solar Eclipse, which swept across many states in the afternoon their time of Monday. As usual NASA does these Astronomical shows very well, and there was a running commentary on NASA TV during the entire passage across Mexico and the USA.

I happened to have time to watch the channel, and saw the Sun’s corona, the diamond ring effect, and the flare promontories several times. Baily’s beads, the glimpses of sunlight shining over the silhouette of the moon’s surface geography were also striking. Even without an understanding of all that’s going on during one, you have to be impressed by the astronomical phenomenon that is a total eclipse!

All the citizen science and ham science that was generated round about the eclipse hours will take a while to be analyzed, but I look forward to hearing the developments that arise and discoveries made.

Across the world, radio amateurs participated in the HamSCI Solar Eclipse QSO Party. It involved operating to gather log data. Those logs will be studied by researchers in the coming years to investigate further the sun’s impact on the ionosphere.

HamSCI’s programme leader Dr. Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, was active from The University of Scranton Amateur Radio Club station. “I’m happy to report that we had an excellent day at W3USR in Scranton and believe that we had fun and [also] collected good data,” he wrote in a message to the HamSCI team.

Greg Mossop G0DUB is managing a JS8Call activity period for IARU Region One today the 14th April starting at 12h00 UTC, and lasting 2 hours. He had previously had interest shown by Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, South Africa, Norway, Netherlands and Ireland, and created objectives during the session, as follows:

To practice using JS8Call to relays short messages through other emergency communications groups;

To promote the use of the group call @R1EMCOR;

To send longer IARU format messages if conditions and confidence allow.

Frequencies to use will be 7.110 and 14.300 MHz

Greg says that there is no control station for this exercise and messages should be addressed to well-known members of the Region One Emergency Communications group.

He expects that it will be interesting to know how many Emergency Communications Groups were able to be worked, and how many IARU messages were sent or received. He notes that it can take about 3 minutes to send an IARU message using JS8Call at normal speed, but propagation conditions or QRM could break some messages. He reminds stations that a message is not “delivered” until a formal “ACK” is received from the receiving station.

Here’s something weird which will probably have lasting advantages in our drone-conscious lives. A team of biomedical, mechanical, and aerospace engineers from City University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has developed a hopping robot by attaching a spring-loaded telescopic leg to the underside of a quadcopter. Their paper is published in the journal Science Robotics.

Quadcopters have become widely popular over the past several years for recreational use by the general public, a means of surveillance, and as a research tool—they do allow for unprecedented aerial viewing and sometimes for carrying payloads.

Two features of the flying robots that are notably in need of improvement are flight time and payload capacity. In this new study, the researchers working in Hong Kong have devised a means to overcome both problems.

The approach they developed involved adding a spring-loaded telescopic leg (essentially a pogo stick) beneath a standard quadcopter, allowing it to hop when necessary. To allow the leg to work properly, the researchers also added stabilizing capabilities.

Adding the hopping ability reduced battery drain, allowing for longer flight times. It also allowed the quadcopter to lift much heavier loads because it did not have to keep them aloft.

The researchers found that the robot could hop around as desired, moving easily from one location to another. It could also take flight mid-hop and then fly as a normal quadcopter. Testing showed that in addition to clean vertical hops, the robot was capable of hopping on uneven ground and could even hop horizontally, which meant the leg could be used as a bumper of sorts, preventing damage if the robot ran into a wall or other structure.

The researchers describe their robot as being the size of a bird with a low weight, approximately 35 grams. Among possible applications, they suggest it could be used to monitor wildlife, for example, hopping among branches high in the trees. It could also be used in disaster areas, helping in assessments and finding survivors, or as farm monitors, hopping from plant to plant testing soil and moisture levels.

Frankly this sounds a bit like one hop away from crazy, but there have been many innovations which started out like this, and ended up being very useful and very mainstream.

Thank you to Phys.org for drawing my attention to this one.

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

HAMNET Report 7th April 2024

In a report issued on Good Friday, Reuters says that the final casualty figure in Madagascar from Cyclone GAMANE in that week was 18 killed and thousands displaced.

Tropical cyclone Gamane, which crossed the northeast of Madagascar on Wednesday and Thursday, displaced more than 20,000 people, the National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC) said in a report. Three others were injured and four were still missing, it added.

Gamane made landfall north of Vohémar in northeast Madagascar on Wednesday morning with average winds of 150 km per hour and gusts of 210 km per hour, BNGRC said late on Thursday.

It slowly dissipated on Thursday afternoon while still over land, the disaster management office said, having dumped heavy rain and caused flooding in many localities.

Roads and bridges collapsed in the north of Madagascar, BNRGC said.

Photographs posted on the disaster management office’s Facebook page showed its personnel wading in knee-deep water as they helped residents retrieve belongings from their flooded homes.

Gamane is the first this year in Madagascar’s cyclone and storm season.

Early last year, cyclone Freddy and tropical storm Cheneso killed at least 37 people and forced thousands from their homes.

It seems to have been big earthquake season this last two weeks. Of course, every day GDACS reports about 30 shakes of magnitude 5 or less, so earthquakes are not rare. But there have been a few more severe quakes reported.

The previous week there were strong quakes in Papua New Guinea, and off the coast of Indonesia. This week, a coastal area of Taiwan has been struck, and, as I write this on Friday evening, news of a medium strength earthquake in New York has just started to filter through.

Apparently a magnitude 4.8 quake struck the east coast of the US at about 17h20 CAT this Friday afternoon. It was felt from Philadelphia to Boston. Air traffic was immediately stopped, and only resumed about an hour later.

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck just south east of the coast of Taiwan at 23h58 UTC on the 2nd April at a depth of 11.4km and 13km off the coast exposing a local population of 230000 to danger. GDACS reported nine deaths, 52 people still missing, over a thousand injured, and more than 130 still trapped in rubble.

A minor tsunami alert was issued and nearby Japanese and Philippine islands were placed on alert, but the wave measured 1.6 metres or less.

More than 300 aftershocks of up to magnitude 6.4 have been reported.

Hackaday.com notes that, in the past few years we’ve seen the rise of low-power mesh networking devices for everything from IoT devices, weather stations, and even off-grid communications networks. These radio modules are largely exempt from licensing requirements due to their low power and typically only operate within a very small area. But by borrowing some ideas from the licensed side of amateur radio, Peter Fairlie built a Meshtastic repeater which can greatly extend the range of his low-power system.

Peter is calling this a “long lines relay” after old AT&T microwave technology, but it is essentially two Heltec modules set up to operate as Meshtastic nodes, where one can operate as a receiver while the other re-transmits the received signal. Each is connected to a log-periodic antenna to greatly increase the range of the repeater along the direction of the antenna. These antennas are highly directional, [and pointing in opposite directions], but they allow Peter to connect to Meshtastic networks in the semi-distant city of Toronto which he otherwise wouldn’t be able to hear.

With the two modules connected to the antennas and enclosed in a weatherproof box, the system was mounted on a radio tower allowing a greatly increased range for these low-power devices. If you’re familiar with LoRa but not Meshtastic, it’s become somewhat popular lately for being a straightforward tool for setting up low-power networks for various tasks.

Including, I may add, emergency communications. I know HAMNET in various provinces is experimenting with Meshtastic low power radio networks.

CP24.com says that NASA wants to come up with an out-of-this-world way to keep track of time, putting the moon on its own souped-up clock.

It’s not quite a time zone like those on Earth, but an entire frame of time reference for the moon. Because there’s less gravity on the moon, time there moves a tad quicker – 58.7 microseconds every day actually – compared to Earth. So the White House Tuesday instructed NASA and other U.S agencies to work with international agencies to come up with a new moon-centric time reference system.

“An atomic clock on the moon will tick at a different rate than a clock on Earth,” said Kevin Coggins, NASA’s top communications and navigation official. “It makes sense that when you go to another body, like the moon or Mars that each one gets its own heartbeat.”

So everything on the moon will operate on the speeded-up moon time, Coggins said.

The last time NASA sent astronauts to the moon they wore watches, but timing wasn’t as precise and critical as it is now with GPS, satellites and intricate computer and communications systems, he said. Those microseconds matter when high tech systems interact, he noted.

Last year, the European Space Agency said Earth needs to come up with a unified time for the moon, where a day lasts 29.5 Earth days.

The International Space Station, being in low Earth orbit, will continue to use coordinated universal time or UTC. But just where the new space time kicks in is something that NASA has to figure out. Even Earth’s time speeds up and slows down, requiring leap seconds.

Unlike on Earth, the moon will not have daylight saving time, Coggins said.

The conspiracy theorists in North America seem to have drummed up a concern that cell phone coverage will be affected by Monday’s Eclipse. Cell phones use radio, after all, and we all know that radio waves are affected by an ionospheric disturbance.

Well, the good news is that the most likely disruption of cell phone coverage will be caused by excited people phoning each other to ooh and aah over the eclipse! Signals at about 900 MHz go straight through the ionosphere anyway, and cell phone towers rely on line-of-sight communications, all parallel to the earth’s surface to allow phone calls.

I doubt whether the eclipse will get in the way of those much, and certainly not very likely in South Africa.

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

HAMNET Report 31st March 2024

When this report was being written, Tropical Cyclone GAMANE was crossing northern Madagascar and weakening, and on 28 March at 0.00 (UTC), its centre was located inland over the Andapa District area, Sava Region with maximum sustained winds of 45 km/h as a tropical depression.

According to media reports, heavy rainfall and floods had affected the regions of Sava, Diana Sofia, Analanjirofo, Alaotra Mangoro and Atsinanana and resulted in six fatalities, one person still missing and more than 2,600 people affected negatively. 

GAMANE was forecast to move southeast still inland and to go towards the sea, south of Masoala Peninsula on 28th March in the evening. 

For the following 24 hours, moderate to very heavy rainfall and strong winds were still forecast over northern, north-eastern and central-eastern Madagascar.

Last weekend’s level 4 geomagnetic storm as a result of two simultaneous solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) off the sun both aimed directly at us, must surely rank as one of the most severe we have experienced in the last 10-15 years. Your author cannot recall seeing a Planetary K index of 8, as it was last Sunday at 18h00 UTC, in the last 30 years, and it was definitely an evening to turn off the HF radio, because the bands were completely dead, and to go back to my knitting!

Luckily, the K index had settled down again within 24 hours, and the bands were open again by Tuesday. The two large offending sunspot regions are rotating off our side of the sun, but this kind of disruption is to be expected again as we close in on the peak of solar cycle 25.

In fact on Sunday 28th March, an M7.1 solar flare, followed later in the day by an X1.1 flare and a CME, were released from that sunspot group 3615, the origin of one of last Saturday’s 2 CME’s, but 3615 was far enough rotated to the west of the Sun’s face not to have any effect on our ionosphere.

I’m sure those people living at high latitudes, and who like looking at Auroras had nothing to complain about last Sunday and Monday nights. The geomagnetic storm must have put on a display worth watching.

NASA has added a dimension to the study of the ionosphere during next Monday’s eclipse of the sun, with a plan to launch three instrument-laden sounding rockets on April 8, with the goal of studying how the temporary blocking of sunlight affects part of the upper atmosphere.

The sounding rockets will each blast off from the space agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, one 45 minutes before, one during, and the last 45 minutes after the local peak eclipse.

The trio will soar into the ionosphere, a region 55 to 310 miles above the Earth’s surface where, in the day, particles are electrically charged, or “ionized,” by radiation from the sun.

“It’s an electrified region that reflects and refracts radio signals, and also impacts satellite communications as the signals pass through,” explained mission leader and engineering physicist professor Aroh Barjatya, of Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in a statement.

At night, the ionosphere thins out as electrons and ions relax and recombine back into neutral atoms, only to separate again the next day.

A solar eclipse creates, in effect, a temporary, localized night—causing the local temperature and ionospheric density to drop and then rise again.

In this way, the passage of the moon’s shadow across the Earth triggers both large-scale atmospheric waves and smaller-scale disturbances that have the potential to interfere with radio communications passing through the ionosphere.

At the same time, the ionosphere can be disrupted by both regular weather and its space-based counterpart.

“Understanding the ionosphere and developing models to help us predict disturbances is crucial to making sure our increasingly communication-dependent world operates smoothly,” Barjatya added.

He told Newsweek: “Sounding rockets will help us study if, when, where, and why small-scale perturbations happen due to sudden reduction in solar radiation and/or due to meteorological changes brought on by the eclipse shadow.

Thank you to newsweek.com for this report.

Here is some interesting research. Writing in Phys.org, David Appell asks whether it could be that human existence depends on gravitational waves. Some key elements in our biological makeup may come from astrophysical events that occur because gravitational waves exist, a research team headed by John R. Ellis of Kings College London suggests.

In particular, Iodine and Bromine are found on Earth thanks to a particular nuclear process that happens when neutron stars collide. In turn, orbiting neutron star pairs spiral in and collide due to their emissions of energy in the form of gravitational waves. There may thus be a direct path from the existence of gravitational waves to the existence of mammals.

Humans are mostly made up of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, with many additional trace elements. (There are in fact 20 elements essential to human life.) Those elements with an atomic number less than 35 are produced in supernovae, implosions of stars that have exhausted their nuclear fuel and collapsed inward. The implosion/collapse results in a [surface] explosion that spews their atoms all over the universe.

But two elements are provided by other means—Iodine, needed in key hormones produced by the thyroid, and Bromine, used to create collagen scaffolds in tissue development and architecture.

Thorium and uranium have been indirectly important for human life, as their radioactive decays in Earth’s interior heat the lithosphere and allow tectonic activity. The movement of tectonic plates removes and submerges carbon from the crust of the planet, which is itself removed from the atmosphere via water reacting with carbon dioxide and silicates, avoiding the possibility of a runaway greenhouse effect like has happened on Venus.

About half the heavy elemental atoms on Earth (heavier than iron) are produced by what’s known as the “r-process”—the rapid neutron-capture process [too technical to go into here]. The paper concludes that the iodine essential for human life was “probably produced by the r-process in the collisions of neutron stars that were induced by the emissions of gravitational waves, as well as other essential heavy elements.”

“Neutron star collisions occur because binary systems lose energy by emitting gravitational waves,” said Ellis, “so these fundamental physics phenomena may have made human life possible.”

Their paper, “Do we owe our existence to gravitational waves?” is available on the arXiv preprint server.

It appears that the deeper we research, and the more we learn, the more we realise we don’t know.

I’d like to end by wishing a very Happy Easter to all for whom this time is meaningful.

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

HAMNET Report 24th March 2024

The amateur radio world has lost a huge font of knowledge of the measurement of RF signals as they are transmitted or received by radios in the amateur bands, with the passing last week of Adam Farson AB4OJ/VA7OJ, at the age of 84.

For many years, Adam has maintained a website of deeply insightful technical reports on all new ICOM products as they have been released, and has also co-administered a collection of groups.io on every ICOM radio as it came out. His reviews are extremely technical, but at the same time, not biased towards ICOM only, because he has compared them to Yaesu, Elecraft and Kenwood competitors along the way.

He immigrated to South Africa as a youngster with his parents in the 1960’s, and originally worked for Racal here, before moving to the UK, America, and finally Canada, which is where he died, of age-related causes.

Adam was an officer and a gentleman, with a great sense of humour, friendly and willing to share his knowledge and offer advice on any radio-related subject, no matter how simple the question asked of him. He will be greatly missed. The groups.io will continue, and his website will make all his reviews permanently available, so consider viewing his material on www.ab4oj.com/

A formal obituary to Adam has not been released yet, but he is deserving of the highest tributes.

Rob Sherwood, NC0B, of Sherwood Engineering is in the same category of super-giants, but he has specialized in the review of receivers, comparing all major brands with each other for sensitivity and selectivity, together with a host of other very technical parameters. His reviews are also available on the web.

I note that HAMNET Gauteng has had a change of leadership, with Regional and Deputy Regional Directors moving sideways, to take on a training role in improving member’s communications skills. Leon ZS6LMG and Johan ZS6DMX are to be thanked for their long years of service as directors, and I hope they rise to the challenge of the new duties. Until such time as a proper appointment of new regional and deputy directors is made, Brian ZS6YZ and Hannes ZS6EMS will hold the reigns, and we wish them well, as they fill in for Leon and Johan. Best wishes, fellows!

David Ingram, writing for NBC news says that several online retailers and drone technology companies are marketing the sale of radio frequency jammers as drone deterrence or privacy tools, sidestepping federal laws that prohibit such devices from being offered for sale in the U.S. 

Radio frequency jammers are devices that interfere with communications systems, usually by sending out competing radio signals to confuse nearby electronics. It is a decades-old technology that federal regulators have tried to crack down on, but interest in jammers persists because people can use them to keep away unwelcome drones, disable security cameras or block Wi-Fi networks. 

The Federal Communications Commission has warned that jammers can interfere with emergency communications, disrupt normal phone use and have other unintended consequences such as confusing airport navigation systems. According to the FCC, jammers are illegal to sell and may not be operated, marketed or imported into the United States. In general, even local police aren’t legally allowed to use them. 

“These jamming devices pose significant risks to public safety and potentially compromise other radio communications services,” the FCC says on its website. 

But those warnings haven’t stopped some companies from marketing the devices online. These companies take many forms: from Amazon third-party sellers to separate online stores based in China to small domestic companies that specialize in drone-related equipment.

After NBC News published this report, an FCC spokesperson said on Wednesday that the commission had several ongoing investigations into jammers. Those investigations have not been previously disclosed.

Thanks to nbcnews.com for this news.

In general, the average citizen is aware of RF jammers being used to block their attempts to lock their cars remotely as they walk away from them. I don’t know about you, but I unconsciously press my car’s remote button about 6 times as I leave my car, in case the first attempt was blocked. This is a simple form of the same jamming which the FCC is attempting to declare completely illegal.

A team of aroma chemists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, working with psychologist colleagues from the Technical University of Dresden, has uncovered the reasons for the dissimilar smells between babies and teenagers. The study is published in the journal Communications Chemistry.

Prior research and anecdotal evidence have shown that babies have a pleasant smell, often described as sweet. Teenagers, on the other hand, especially males, have often been described as smelling less pleasant. In this new effort, the research team sought to find out what causes the difference.

The researchers recruited the parents of 18 children aged up to 3 years old to wash the youngsters with a fragrance-free gel and to take swab samples of the armpits of their pyjamas prior to sleep. They did the same with 18 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. All the cotton pads were then collected and analysed in a lab setting.

The research team used mass spectrometry to identify the chemical compounds in the pads, and used gas chromatography along with a human sniffer to assess the odourousness of the smells associated with each chemical compound.

The researchers found that most of the chemicals responsible for body odour were similar between the two groups of volunteers. But there were a few that made the difference. Teenage sweat, for example, had high levels of many kinds of carboxylic acids, which the assessors described as “earthy, musty or cheesy.”

They also found two steroids in the teen sweat not present in the baby sweat, one of which resulted in “musk or urine-like” emanations—the other, the assessors suggested, smelled more like “musk and sandalwood.” Without such chemicals, the sweat of babies smelled much sweeter.

The researchers suggest that study of the chemical compounds in teen sweat could prove fruitful for makers of odour-control products. They also suggest that more work could be done better to understand the impact of such odours on parents.

Silly me! All along I thought the difference in smell was because one group washed, and the other group didn’t!

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

HAMNET Report 17th March 2024

A happy St Patrick’s Day to all my listeners! And if you’re not Irish, that’s not a reason not to think of green things. I hope you have a great Sunday.

By Monday of this past week, GDACS was starting to make mention of Tropical Storm FILIPO, which had arisen in the Mozambique channel, was heading for the coast of Mozambique, and also threatening, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa. Wind-speeds of 127 km/h were forecast, but at that stage, no large populations of locals were threatened. Wind-speed forecasts were cranked up as the week progressed to about 140 km/h, but no big threat to populations expected.

FILIPO made landfall in Mozambique over the Inhassoro City area, northern Ihambane Province in the very early morning  of 12 March, with maximum sustained winds up to 116 km/h. 

Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management and Reduction (INGD) reported 2,780 people affected and seven injured in Vilankulo and Morrumbene Districts, Inhambane Province, 12 houses destroyed, another 510 houses, 14 health centres, and 6 schools affected. Preliminary reports indicated minor damages in Gaza province with ongoing assessment. Three accommodation centres were open and hosting 43 people.

FILIPO was expected to continue over the southern Indian Ocean, well off the coast of southern Mozambique and northern South Africa on 13-15th March, strengthening, with maximum sustained winds of 135 km/h (as a tropical cyclone).

Over the following 48 hours, heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surge were forecast over Gaza and Maputo provinces in Mozambique, the whole of Eswatini and north-eastern South Africa.

By Friday, storm warnings were showing the wind speeds to be up to 158 km/h. but the Post-Tropical Depression as it was then called, was veering away from the Eastern coastline of South Africa, and heading into the south-eastern Indian Ocean.

We are aware of large amounts of rain along our eastern coastline, but not of any really major losses.

May I remind you that it is exactly 5 years to the week, since Cyclone IDAI devastated Mozambique, claiming 500 victims, displacing 120000, completely destroying 36000 houses, flooding hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable land, and placing 1.85 million people in need of humanitarian aid? The country has still not fully recovered from that catastrophe.

The Stellenbosch Flying Club is hosting an airshow this coming weekend, the 22nd and 23rd of March. Their Chairman is Stuart Burgess, ZR1SB, and he has invited radio amateurs in general, and HAMNET in particular, to assist with on-site communications during the show. A fairly large attendance is expected on Friday, and an even bigger attendance on Saturday, and Stuart’s club is hoping to deploy a number of monitors – that is, hams with handheld radios – among the crowds to report on security or medical issues to their central JOC.

HAMNET has taken up this challenge and has almost got its expected quota of volunteers – 8 on Friday and 10 on Saturday – to do the job. Michael ZS1MJT got the ball rolling, and the volunteer list is almost full.

The plan is to deploy our newly completed HAMNET comms trailer, kitted with all frequency monitoring and APRS and Internet facilities, next to the airshow JOC, so the foot-mobile operators can report to our trailer, who will in turn report to the JOC.

I hope to be able to squeeze a short report in to next week’s bulletin.

In an encouraging article posted in the Idaho clearwatertribune.com website, mention is made of the absence of communications for days after the devastating 2023 Hawaiian fire. Except for amateur radio, of course.

Clearwatertribune.com continues: “During the 2015 fires in North Central Idaho [they] lost 72 homes [and] 212 outbuildings. Throughout the fire if you tried to use your cell phone you learned that the cell towers were easily overwhelmed by the large traffic load. We find this to be true during most disasters. During the fire amateur radio operators worked with the local Emergency Operations Centre to provide backup communications and they were able to talk to their families and friends, and help keep each other informed of the fire activities without interruption.

“Amateur radio operators have been providing emergency communications in disasters such as floods, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes since 1910. Hams typically are first to get information out of the area when public service communications are down or overloaded.

“Amateur radio is far more than just voice. With an amateur license you can send emails without the internet. You can text someone without a cell-phone. You can send pictures or video.

“You can build a wi-fi mesh network that doesn’t require the internet and you can boost the wi-fi power up with your Amateur license. You can use amateur radio satellites to talk some very long distances with just a handheld radio.

“If you use GMRS, FRS, or MURS radios and you have antennas on your vehicle it’s time to move up to amateur radio. Remember Ham radio is great for family trips, camping, four wheeling and hunting.

“The Amateur Radio Service is the only group that can provide many types of personal and emergency communications with reliability. Nationally/ Worldwide and at any time.”

Thanks to clearwatertribune.com for the report.

Now all of this is old hat to you, if you are already an amateur radio operator, or HAMNET member, but, if you’re not, this might be a stimulus to you to log on to the SARL website at www.sarl.org.za, and zero in on ways of acquiring your operator’s licence, so that you can become involved in volunteer emergency communications.

And don’t forget to register for the SARL Convention to be held in Cape Town over the weekend of 19th to 21st April 2024. The event details are on the landing page of the SARL website. We look forward to seeing a large contingent of HAMNET members there, and thank the CTARC for hosting the event.

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