This week's report starts with snow reports from large parts of the far Eastern Cape, Lesotho, and the Drakensberg. Forecasts for snow started coming in as early as Wednesday this week, with up to 150cm, or nearly 5 feet, expected in the KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape Drakensberg, and Lesotho, over this current weekend. The foothills of the Drakensberg as far as Underberg may also be affected, as well as Kokstad. High ground between Graaff Reinet and Rhodes in a broad band can expect a cold and white weekend, spreading perhaps North towards the Northern Cape border. The Western and Northern Cape have not been spared, with snow in the Cedarberg and Matroosberg already, and the potential for snow around Sutherland, and even an isolated fall perhaps near Springbok. Even where it is not snowing, and the sun is making a brave attempt to shine, it is jolly cold, so the potential for misery, as well as illness, continues. Please be on the listen-out for emergency calls from hams reporting on weather-related emergencies around the country.
To complete the report on KwaZulu Natal's Deputy Regional Director, I'm happy to tell you that Dave Holliday ZS5HN and his wife Cheryl arrived safely back from America this week, after the car accident which effectively ruined their holiday, and are recovering at home. We're glad you're back, Dave, and hope your recuperation will be swift.
Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD from KwaZulu Natal tells me that he and Glen ZS5GD will be attending the final planning meeting tomorrow evening for the Standard Bank Ironman 70.3 Event on Sunday the 2nd August. This includes a 1.9km swim, a 90.1km bike ride, and a 21.1km run! 9 operators will assist the roughly 3000 athlete's progress. Communications will be on the 145.625 repeater there, as well as using 145.550 simplex. Good luck with that one, Keith.
Now, how's this for progressive thinking when it comes to disaster management? Scientists at North Carolina State University are strapping electronics on to the backs of cockroaches, to be able to control their direction of movement. Cockroaches are good at scrabbling through tricky terrain, making them ideal search-and-rescue scouts. Now, using a drone, the insects can be guided to explore a particular environment by beaming an invisible radio fence to surround them and keep them searching in the correct area. The cockroaches can then be fitted with sensor backpacks, networking them together and allowing their data to be relayed to the drone, as well as sensing the radio fence. The sensors can have low resolution microphones, to allow the beast to home in on sounds, and, by mesh networking, summonsing other insects to the area. Infrared sensors, propane sensors, or even Geiger counters, for example, can also be used to search for appropriate targets. The controlling drone can even airdrop the insects on their target areas, making rescue efforts even easier. Hopefully, these cyber-roaches won't take over the world anytime soon!
At a size we humans can more easily cope with, the solar kits being developed by Paul van Spronsen ZS1V in the Western Cape are taking shape. The kits will contain solar panels, a smart solar voltage regulator, and all the wiring to connect the kit up to the Hamnet members' battery so that he can prolong its life during emergency communications. These kits will be owned by Hamnet, but distributed to the person or group who needs them, to facilitate the duration of their operating time. Portable repeaters or APRS digipeaters, or even just cross-band repeater radios deployed in a car and on a mountain for an extended time, can then keep their systems going for longer. Each kit will be quite expensive to put together, but the principle and the spadework needed to source the equipment will be shared around the Hamnet divisions, to be available around the country when needed. So far Hamnet Gauteng South has expressed interest, with other divisions perhaps to follow soon.
Meanwhile, Alister ZS1OK is calling for volunteers to help man the communications posts during the Wildrunner Cape Winter Trail Series event in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve at Kleinmond in the Western Cape on Saturday the 15th August. Seven operators are required, being deployed as three teams of two, mobile, and one operator for the base station. If you are the man for the job, please phone Alister, at 084 2547837.
And Francois ZS6BUU tells me that the Port Alfred Crime Watch has requested to join the Hamnet Facebook Network, and will soon post on the website, the better to distribute crime and emergency information in the area. We hope this won't be the last of the neighbourhood watch systems to align themselves with Hamnet.
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for Hamnet in South Africa.