HAMNET Report 9th June 2024

A summary of the severe weather South Africa experienced in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, and issued by GDACS on Friday says that, following the heavy rainfall, strong winds and snowfall that affected the Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal provinces in eastern South Africa, on 1-3 June and caused floods, the number of casualties and damage has increased.

As of 6th June, according to media reports, 22 people died, of whom 11 were in Eastern Cape and 11 in Durban area in KwaZulu-Natal, 55 people have been injured, 120 people have been displaced in three temporary shelters, more than 2,000 people have been evacuated in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. In addition, several houses and schools have been damaged.

Over the 48 hours to Today (Sunday), more rainfall was still forecast over western and southern South Africa, and drier conditions expected in the eastern provinces

Meanwhile, volcanic eruptions are being experienced in Philippines and heavy rainfall and flooding in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, Brazil and Germany.

Reporting on the ISUZU Ironman 70.3 event held in Durban on 2nd June 2024, Keith ZS5WFD of HAMNET KZN reports a lovely cool start to the morning which saw 7 Hamnet KZN members deployed on the 90Km Bike Course between Suncoast Casino and Umdloti/M4 Freeway intersection.  A total of 1155 athletes and 34 teams entered for the event. 

Our primary objectives were to ensure cyclists safety by reporting unauthorised private vehicles on the route/road closures, medical emergencies, requests for bike maintenance and withdrawals. 

Joint Operations Centre (JOC) was situated opposite the old Natal Command HQ and manned by Provincial Director Keith Lowes ZS5WFD. Wayne ZS5WAY was positioned at the Penalty Tent 1 at M4/Umdloti, Ben ZS5BN was at the M4/Umhlanga off-ramp, Terry ZS5TB was at Penalty Tent 2 in Suncoast Casino parking area and Deon ZS5DD/Troy ZS5TWJ were at M4/Sandile Thusi at the turnaround (called Argyle Rd in the old street name terms)  Communications were all on 145.550 Simplex . Keith was using the 3-element dual band satellite antenna produced by AMSAT-SA, which was mounted on a telescopic mast.

The temperature recorded at 12H50 outside the JOC in Durban by Event Safety Officer Andre Botha was 28.8°C.

Keith was pleased to report that no serious incidents occurred and offers his thanks to those members that assisted on the day.

Their next event will be the Scottburgh to Brighton Paddle Ski Race on Saturday 29th June 2024.

Thanks Keith for the reportage. Look forward to hearing from you after the 29th of June!

Insideradio.com says in a report issued on 5th June that The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts the upcoming hurricane season, which officially began June 1, will be among the most active in recent years. It is not just radio that is gearing up. So too is the Federal Communications Commission, where the focus in recent months has been on improving communications during disasters.

New FCC rules that took effect in May require wireless providers to share communications outages with the FCC and first responders and emergency management personnel at the federal, state and local level. Carriers must also develop roaming agreements with their rivals and agree on sharing physical assets to reduce the impact of wireless outages and support faster service restoration during emergencies. The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau announced the guidelines Tuesday for how states can request an activation of what is known as the Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative.

“After each hurricane, we examine what worked, what didn’t work, and what lessons we can apply to improve access to communications during future disasters,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “That led us to adopt the new Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative, which requires wireless providers to collaborate during disasters so that people can stay connected when they most need it.

“During crises, the importance of staying connected takes on additional urgency,” Rosenworcel said. “And the Commission is continuing to do its part to improve communications reliability and resiliency for first responders and consumers.”

A report from news.sky.com notes that, when Maureen Sweeney gave her weather report on 3 June 1944, little did she know it would be central to thousands of troops successfully landing in Normandy – an event that went on to change the course of the Second World War.

“Please check, please repeat.” A frantic telephone call from a woman with a cut-glass English accent took Maureen Sweeney by surprise.

A short time earlier, the Irish postmistress had filed her hourly weather report: “Force six wind and a rapidly falling barometer.”

It was her 21st birthday but she and her soon-to-be husband Ted, keepers of the Blacksod Lighthouse, had their job to do.

Their son Vincent recalls: “My mother said, ‘oh my God, were my readings wrong?'” They were not wrong, but they had caused alarm for those planning the imminent D-Day landings.

Some 5,000 ships and 11,000 aircraft had transported 156,000 Allied troops in readiness for the beachfront offensive at Normandy. But there was one thing UK, US and Canadian commanders had no control over – the weather on 5 June, the date they had earmarked for invasion.

It is small and unremarkable in appearance, but the lighthouse at Blacksod Point in County Mayo was about to claim its place in history. Maureen’s son, Vincent, who is the current lighthouse attendant, explains: “We have the first gaze into the Atlantic.

“Any weather that is coming in will come in over us.

“But this depression, with northwest winds, was coming in directly over Blacksod, down through the UK and into the Channel.

“That would have hit Normandy in about five hours, so it was critical.”

Despite Ireland’s neutrality during the Second World War, it continued to supply weather forecasts to Britain under an agreement in place since independence.

Maureen never imagined for a moment that the fate of tens of thousands of Allied troops hung on her readings.

Her report on 3 June indicated a cold front lying halfway across Ireland and moving rapidly south-eastwards, towards Normandy.

Had the plan gone ahead, Allied troops would have faced catastrophe, trying to steer boats through rough water and scramble on to the beach in driving rain.

Maureen’s weather warning, checked and double-checked by Ted, persuaded those in charge to postpone by a day.

In the early hours of 5th June, at General Eisenhower’s morning briefing, another report from Blacksod confirmed that the cold front had passed.

A loud cheer went up in the room, the long-awaited weather clearance had arrived and he gave the order for Operation Overlord to proceed.

And that, friends, is why D-Day took place on the very day my sister, who celebrated her 80th birthday this past Thursday, was born, and not a day earlier!

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

HAMNET Report 2nd June 2024

I have to start this bulletin with reference to the disastrous landslide in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea on Friday the 24th May. A mass of boulders, earth and splintered trees devastated the village of Yambali when a limestone mountainside sheared away that Friday.

The blanket of debris has become more unstable with recent rain and streams trapped between the ground and rubble, said Serhan Aktoprak, chief of the International Organisation for Migration’s mission in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea’s government has told the UN it thinks more than 2,000 people were buried in the rubble.

“We are hearing suggestions that another landslide can happen and maybe 8,000 people need to be evacuated,” Mr Aktoprak told the Associated Press.

“This is a major concern. The movement of the land, the debris, is causing a serious risk, and overall the total number of people that may be affected might be 6,000 or more,” he said.

That includes villagers whose source of clean drinking water has been buried and subsistence farmers who lost their vegetable gardens.

“If this debris mass is not stopped, if it continues moving, it can gain speed and further wipe out other communities and villages further down,” Mr Aktoprak said.

A UN statement later tallied the affected population at 7,849, including people who might need to be evacuated or relocated. The UN said 42% of those people were younger than 16 years old.

“My biggest fear at the moment is corpses that are decaying,… water is flowing and this is going to pose serious health risks in relation to contagious diseases,” Mr Aktoprak said.

The warning comes as geotechnical experts and heavy earth-moving equipment are expected to reach the site soon.

The Papua New Guinea government on Sunday officially asked the United Nations for additional help and to co-ordinate contributions from individual nations.

An Australian disaster response team arrived on Tuesday in Papua New Guinea, which is Australia’s nearest neighbour. The team includes a geohazard assessment team and drones to help map the site.

Heartbroken and frustrated Yambali resident Evit Kambu thanked those who were trying to find her missing relatives in the rubble.

“I have 18 of my family members buried under the debris and soil that I’m standing on,” she told Australian Broadcasting Corp through an interpreter.

“But I can’t retrieve the bodies, so I’m standing here helplessly.”

Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles said an Australian air force C-17 Globemaster, a four-engine transport jet capable of carrying 77 tons of cargo, was already bringing supplies from Australia to Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby.

Two smaller Australian air force turboprop transport planes were already at Port Moresby, which is 370 miles south-east of the devastated village.

Papua New Guinea is a diverse, developing nation with 800 languages and 10 million people who are mostly subsistence farmers.

After our building collapse in George last month, I’m sure we can easily imagine the trauma and suffering experienced by local survivors who don’t have any news of loved ones.

Nigel Rotherham ZS6RN has sent me a very complete report with tons of pictures of the annual Gauteng Scouting Kon-Tiki event, held between 17th and 19th May 2024 at Arrowe Park. I am going to have to prune the report significantly to fit it in to this bulletin.

He notes that close on 4,000 individuals (including HAMNET Gauteng members) participated in one way or another at the annual Gauteng Scouting Kon-Tiki event. The theme for this year’s event was “Ship Wrecked”.

Kon-Tiki is a competition where Scout Troops build a raft from drums, rope and poles using pioneering and other Scouting skills. In the Western Cape and Gauteng Kon-Tiki events, a patrol or team stays on the raft for 24 hours and completes various challenges while other Scouts who assisted in raft construction take part in “fringe” events on shore while the raft is afloat. Cub and Meerkat activities also take place as part of the overall Kon-Tiki experience.

Nigel notes that scouts built 47 rafts in total on Friday afternoon, and 1200 participants slept over that night, completing the projects early Saturday morning before launching that day, witnessed in total by about 3700 people. All rafts had launched by 15h30, with a 100% flotation success, and about 376 scouts slept on the water on the rafts that night. A campfire for 800 remaining land scouts was made that Saturday evening.

Hamnet Gauteng participation consisted of providing support for Kon-Tiki staff in the form of technical assistance for camp wide communications using the 433Mhz licence free band and based at the central JOC, which served as home for all the various ‘services’ in attendance.

The Scouts have their own stock of licence free hand-helds of which about 25 were deployed to the many staff, from the camp chief down, including those with water based responsibilities and roving ‘judges’.

Hamnet Gauteng also deployed one of their disaster communications units (i.e. multiple radios in a ‘GoBox’) as a means for members to ‘play radio’ and demonstrate the hobby to anyone passing by who showed interest. The JOC was located adjacent to the parade ground in the Info Tent which could not be missed being that it was a large white marque!

As with all ‘public service’ events that Hamnet attend, a key benefit of participation is the opportunity to test our skills and readiness of equipment. Kon-Tiki 2024 was no different and after deploying the UHF portable repeater on the Friday evening, it was found to be faulty… Rather have the failure now than in a real world disaster situation.

From set-up on Friday afternoon until breaking camp on Sunday, Hamnet Gauteng again enjoyed the greatest hobby on earth, being of service to others and also in the public eye.

Thanks go to the HAMNET Event Coordinators Brian (ZS6YZ) and Leon (ZS6LMG) plus team members Channette (ZS6CAC), Johan (ZS6DMX), Hannas (ZS6EMS), Andre (ZS6HE), Anja (ZS6SJC), Wim (ZS6WIM) and Maud, Lizette (ZS6ZET), Pro Ethnos International Fire and Rescue and of course Nigel (ZS6RN) during the weekend.

Nigel has sent a selection of very good photos to Anette ZR6D for inclusion on the HAMNET – South African Radio League – Emergency Communication Network Facebook Page. Thank you for the very comprehensive report, Nigel.

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

HAMNET Report 26th May 2024

Kenya is again the victim of a tropical cyclone, this one called IALY. Heavy rainfall, strong wind and storm surge connected to the passage of the tropical cyclone IALY over the western Indian Ocean have been affecting the coastal area of Kenya over the last 48 hours, causing a number of severe weather related incidents, mainly due to the strong wind and storm surge that have resulted in casualties and damage.

Media report, as of 23 May, two fatalities and six injured people across the Kilifi county, south-eastern Kenya. In addition, media also report damages to infrastructure across the mentioned Kilifi county and the neighbouring Mombasa county.

Over the next 48 hours, more heavy rainfall with locally very heavy rainfall is still forecasted over the coastal area of Kenya.

The ARRL reports in its weekly newsletter that the 2024 National Convention at Dayton’s Hamvention was a huge success.

The convention theme, “Be radio active,” was played out in a variety of ARRL-sponsored exhibits, presentations, and activities. One particular focus area was on youth involvement in amateur radio. On Saturday, ARRL hosted a Youth Rally that drew dozens of young people for an all-day immersion into ham radio interests and activities. “It was great to see the kids fired up about ham radio,” said ARRL Education and Learning Manager Steve Goodgame, K5ATA. “They got to make radio contact with a parachute mobile station, learn about satellites, and really put radio concepts into action.” In his forum, “Youth Outreach Through Amateur Radio STEM Education,” Goodgame shared the keys to success ARRL has found in helping grow interest in radio among the next generation. A video recording of the forum is available on the ARRLHQ YouTube channel. In a follow-up to a previous bulletin, where I talked about radio jamming devices being declared illegal in the US, here’s a story of their misuse.

In Groves, Texas, officers were sent to a home on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, where police were told that four or five masked men were attempting to break in to a home, according to a news release. 

After officers found that the home had indeed been invaded, they spotted two of the suspects in a nearby field and arrested them following a brief foot chase.

Officers searched the suspects and found a radio “jamming device” in a backpack that they believe was being used during the burglary, according to the release.

Jamming radio signals is against federal law, according to the FCC website.

“Federal law prohibits the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment that interferes with authorized radio communications, including cellular and Personal Communication Services (PCS), police radar, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS),” according to the FCC.

I wonder whether would-be burglars in this country have become this sophisticated yet…

Newsonair.gov.in reports from India of a pioneering move towards reinforcing disaster communication capabilities, in which the Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority (NSDMA) has embarked on a ground-breaking initiative in collaboration with Open Source Classes for Amateur Radio India (OSCAR INDIA). Towards this, the NSDMA conducted a comprehensive mock drill exercise utilizing amateur radio technology on May 9.

This marks a significant milestone as the first-of-its-kind effort in enhancing alternative communication methods during emergencies. The state is also preparing to be the first disaster management authority in the country to enter into HAM Radio Technology for emergency communication systems.

Joint Chief Executive Officer of NSDMA, Johnny Ruangmei during a press briefing held at Nagaland Civil Secretariat Kohima today, informed that a mock drill was conducted which was also a first of its kind using HAM Radio technology, stating that it was a good lesson learned.

Phys.org is reporting this weekend of a potential forward leap in battery charging technology.

Imagine if your dead laptop or phone (or handheld radio) could charge in a minute or if an electric car could be fully powered in 10 minutes.

While not possible yet, new research by a team of CU Boulder scientists could potentially lead to such advances.

Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers in Ankur Gupta’s lab discovered how tiny charged particles, called ions, move within a complex network of minuscule pores. The breakthrough could lead to the development of more efficient energy storage devices, such as supercapacitors, said Gupta, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering.

“Given the critical role of energy in the future of the planet, I felt inspired to apply my chemical engineering knowledge to advancing energy storage devices,” Gupta said. “It felt like the topic was somewhat underexplored and, as such, the perfect opportunity.”

Gupta explained that several chemical engineering techniques are used to study flow in porous materials such as oil reservoirs and water filtration, but they have not been fully utilized in some energy storage systems.

The discovery is significant not only for storing energy in vehicles and electronic devices but also for power grids, where fluctuating energy demand requires efficient storage to avoid waste during periods of low demand and to ensure rapid supply during high demand.

Supercapacitors, energy storage devices that rely on ion accumulation in their pores, have rapid charging times and longer life spans compared to batteries.

“The primary appeal of supercapacitors lies in their speed,” Gupta said. “So how can we make their charging and release of energy faster? By the more efficient movement of ions.”

Their findings modify Kirchhoff’s law, which has governed current flow in electrical circuits since 1845 and is a staple in high school students’ science classes. Unlike electrons, ions move due to both electric fields and diffusion, and the researchers determined that their movements at pore intersections are different from what was described in Kirchhoff’s law.

Prior to the study, ion movements were only described in the literature in one straight pore. Through this research, ion movement in a complex network of thousands of interconnected pores can be simulated and predicted in a few minutes.

“That’s the leap of the work,” Gupta said. “We found the missing link.”

And I’m quite sure this Professor Gupta is not a previously unidentified brother of the Guptas we have come to know and distrust in this country.

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

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.


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.