|SEANET OR SEA NETWORK - A COMMUNICATIONS LIFELINE
A Network, as we
commonly know, is "any structure in the form of a net". Therefore the
average layman may well wonder what a Sea Network or SEANET (for short)
is. It has nothing to do with the Sea or anything with the remotest
connection to it except that it stretches over the Oceans to form a
regular communications network; on many an occasion, much more reliable
than the usual official communications channels available to nations.
The South East Asia Net (SEANET) is a group of painstaking and dedicated
Amateur Radio Operators (Radio Hams) mostly in South and South East Asia
and Oceania, that meets as a group every evening (1200 hours Zulu), via
Radio. The Amateur Radio Service is one that has Consultative status with
the United Nations. The Radio Ham is one whose purpose is self training
and Eoucation in Radio. It is a great hobby to well over 500,000 Radio
Hams in the world. Many a new development in design and technique have
been conceived sprouting, from the fertile minds of Radio Hams pursuing
their hobby. Short-wave broadcasting was triggered by Radio Hams. On any
day one could tune in (10, 15, 20, 40, 80 metres) and hear the Radio Hams
talking, discussing and arguing about many things—some ideas that will
eventually blossom out to encompass the whole communications industry and
possibly affect the lives and life styles of the many billions of other
ordinary people, in many lands.
SEANET was born on November 29, 1963 when a small group of Radio Hams in
South East Asia felt that they could get together on the Air, daily, to
have a chat. From these small beginnings was born a group that was
eventually to span the globe. They talked of the weather, technical
problems, new ideas, about one another's families and themselves—their
hopes and aspirations. The first group consisted of a handful of Hams
representing Nepal, Laos, Philippines and Malaysia. Every day at the
pre-agreed time their radios would be tuned to the same spot and they
would chat amongst themselves. One by one, more Hams from South East Asia
joined in on this daily schedule.
But a problem arose; that of the time difference. When it was found that
Hams in Hong Kong and the Philippines felt it convenient to meet just
after coming home from their offices in the evenings, it was discovered
that those in the countries such as Nepal and Malaysia were still at work.
The group made a number of adjustments and finally found that 1200 GMT was
quite convenient for most (1200 GMT or Noon time GMT is 5.30 p.m. in
India/Sri Lanka, 7.30 p.m. in Singapore/Malaysia, 8.00 p.m. in Hong Kong,
8.00 p.m. in the Philippines, etc.)
The number of these Hams meeting daily, has grown from the modest
half-dozen or so in 1963 to over 75 in 1975. On some occasions there have
been as many as 120 stations in the Network.
Let us look at what happens on a typical evening on SEANET. At a few
minutes before 1200 GMT, the Net Control Station (NCS) — Paddy Gunasekera
4S7PB from Sri Lanka has been the regular NCS for the past 7
years (from 1968 to 1974)—switches on his Radio equipment, and while allowing it to warm up,
checks his clock with the Standard Time Broadcast heard in his country
Having synchronised watches (so to say) he looks around the radio spectrum
assigned to the Hams on 14 MHz (20 metres) to ascertain interference free
channels that SEANET members could use if they want to chat with each
other. At 1200 GMT, the NCS calls the Net to order, and after ascertaining
whether there are any urgent matters to be dealt with, goes on to call in
country by country, to report into the SEANET. One by one you could hear
these countries of the Orient, in their unmistakable accents, reporting in
to the NCS or Net Control
Station. Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei,
Sarawak, Hongkong, Macoa, Bhutan, Sikkem, Christmas Islands, Andaman
Island, Maritius and Seychilles are some of those one could hear.
When one station operator wishes to speak to a friend from another land,
he informs the NCS and the NCS assigns them a spot or channel which is
free from other interference and they then talk to each other and discuss
their own matters of interest.
On a typical day now, one may count as many as 75 Stations on the Net
representing around 25 countries in Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Middle
East. Stations from afar such as England, Ivory Coast, Sweden, U.S.A.,
Central and South America, Caribbean, South Pole, etc. are also heard
Entirely apart from the hobby value—some wives feel that this hobby at
least keeps the man at home rather than out—there is also the value of the
SEANET as an Emergency communications network. There have been many a
private Yacht in the Indian Ocean that had been helped via the SEANET and
Amateur Radio. Once there was this small Tri-maran which had exhausted all
its fuel, food and water and were drifting helpless. Radio Hams and SEANET
alerted rescue services and succeeded in getting an Ocean liner to divert
and drop off fuel, food and water. There have been other impressive
achievements to the credit of SEANE1T. There was the case of a young
mother in Sri Lanka whose baby of a few days had a serious condition which
could only be treated by a special drug not available locally. SEANET
members looked in the likely places in Australia and Singapore but failed.
They then contacted their friends in the U.S.A. and succeeded in getting
the drug flown out from California—the baby was saved. There was also the
case of the frantic father who could not be near at hand when his wife was
delivery their first baby in a Singapore hospital, over a thousand miles
away from his jungle location. He kept in touch via Ham radio and SEANET.
The wife, in hospital, had friends from SEANET visit every day. On another
occasion, when disaster struck Darwin, Australia recently, wiping off all
communications facilities, a member of the SEANET group living in Darwin
set up his station and was one of the first to contact the National
Authorities with news and requests. Another SEA-NET member in Sri Lanka
was able to obtain details of the whereabouts and health etc. of his
countrymen living in Darwin and so reassure their near and dear in Sri
There was once also the team of Himalayan climbers who attacked Mt.
Everest from a new direction and when success was first conveyed via
Amateur Radio and SEANET.
The good Samaritan spirit of Amateur Radio, during national calamities,
etc. is legion. The members of this wide ranging group of Radio Hams in
South East Asia and the nearby countries have their share of Emergency
service to be proud of.
Realising that Amateur Radio usually means that one Ham comes to know
another only by voice (Amateur Slow Scan TV is changing this too) the
SEANET group decided a few years ago that they should meet once a while,
face to face. SEANET Conventions is the result. There have been SEANET
Conventions in Penang (Malaysia), Bangkok, Singapore and Manila. The next
one is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (7, 8 and 9 November, 1975). Many Radio
Hams—not only from the SEANET area—but from all over the world gather
there to meet other Hams and discuss matter of mutual interest.
"International understanding and Friendship" may well be the motto of