The Vaal HAMNET team is preparing for the upcoming Road race in Sasolburg on 7 May. Riaan Greeff ZS4PR reports that Freedom day was a good opportunity for the guys to get together and assemble the new Solar Panel Kits received from HAMNET National. One set will be sent to Rickus De Lange ZS4A in Bethlehem, the other will be kept with the Vaal team. HAMNET Gauteng South also received three Solar Panel Kits. HAMNET GS also kindly allowed the Vaal team the use of their HAMNET trailer. The Vaal HAMNET team are eager to get into action, and this opportunity allowed the team to bond, chat, learn and become prepared. Thanks for the insert, Riaan.
Meanwhile, the Western Cape has been exporting our special kind of foul Winter weather to the rest of the country. A well-developed cold front struck the Cape on Friday morning early, with very strong winds, and about 20 to 30mm of driving rain to flood our low-lying areas. Well, after we'd had enough of it, we sent it on, and Division 4, and then 6 and 5 were subjected to the same sort of thing on Saturday, with forecasts of snow in mountain ranges all the way from the Hottentot's Hollands eastwards to the western edges of KwaZulu Natal. Temperatures have plummeted and the Sun is making a weak attempt to warm us wherever it is still shining. Roads are treacherous, and the news is brimming with stories of accidents and loss of life. Please drive carefully, or monitor your emergency frequencies if you're near your radios.
In my Western Cape bulletin on Wednesday evening, I noted that the riskiest place to live in the world is the island state of Vanuata, East of New Zealand, where about 30% of the population of 260000 has a chance of being involved in a major natural disaster every year. My words were hardly transmitted when news came through on Thursday of a magnitude 7.3 earthquake striking Vanuata at 21h30 our time. 72000 people live within 100km of the epicentre, and were therefore in danger. A small tsunami was forecast, with waves about 1 metre high. Vanuata is on a line of two converging tectonic plates, with convergence rates somewhere between 60 and 90mm per year. In the words of that old song "something's got to give". Since Thursday, 6 more quakes have been recorded in the Vanuata area. No major loss of life has been reported, fortunately.
In passing, the safest place to live in the world, from the point of view of natural disaster, is in the region of Bahrain and Qatar in the Persian Gulf, because nothing happens there. They don't suffer earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods and there aren't massive forests to burn down.
Following on with the subject of the health-risk of being exposed to radioactive fall-out from nuclear power station disasters, Belgium has announced that it will issue Iodine pills to every citizen of the country, to be taken immediately if radioactivity is detected in the area. Apart from its own nuclear power provision, Belgian citizens are exposed to power stations across the border in the Netherlands. Iodine taken in the tablets is rapidly taken up in the persons thyroid gland, blocking the subsequent uptake of radio-active iodine in the radio-active pollution which would make the population at risk of thyroid cancer, as is happening to children exposed to the Fukushima disaster. Very progressive thinking by the small European country!
Finally, a write-up in Ham Radio - QRP last weekend mentions the poor reputation an end-fed long-wire antenna, useful in emergency communications, gets for propagation. One overlooks the fact that, without a decent counterpoise on the ground lug of the tuner, the power cannot run back along to the other leg of the dipole created by the counterpoise, and returns to your equipment via the coax, causing RF interference everywhere it can. By cutting counterpoises for all the bands you wish to use on your long-wire, and attaching them to the ground lug, you improve propagation. An obvious point, but we overlook the absent resonant counterpoise as the reason for a poor signal when we are trying to be heard in an emergency.
This is Dave Reece, reporting for Hamnet in South Africa.