How the huge volcanic eruption in Tonga was picked up by amateur radio enthusiasts in Harborough – over 10,000 miles away

“It was just so incredibly dramatic it’s hard to get your head round”

By Red Williams
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 5:31 pm
The Tonga pressure wave graph

The cataclysmic undersea volcanic eruption which hit Tonga at the weekend was incredibly picked up by amateur radio enthusiasts in Market Harborough – over 10,000 miles away.

The powerful and destructive blast has made news headlines around the world after threatening to totally overwhelm the 176-island Polynesian kingdom in the South Pacific.

And it also sparked a stir here much nearer to home as the violent shock wave was detected by a highly-sensitive sensor in Market Harborough over 14 hours later last Saturday (January 15).

The last club meeting of 2021

Stunned Peter Rivers, 67, secretary of Welland Valley Amateur Radio Society, told the Harborough Mail: “It was absolutely incredible.

“This is maybe a once in a decade event – if that.

“There was a sharp sudden spike as the pressure wave from the volcanic eruption in Tonga passed over us here in Market Harborough.

“It sped to us here in the town at about 7.10pm on Saturday night,” said Peter, a retired geologist.

The Tonga pressure wave graph

“That was about 14 and a half hours after the volcano erupted.

“The shock wave had travelled about 10,200 miles at a speed of just over 700mph.

“I just thought wow!

“The graph just went boom.

“It was just so incredibly dramatic it’s hard to get your head round,” said the father-of-two.

“I just find it so fascinating as a geologist to be able to sense and to measure the earth actually ringing.

“It’s amazing that we got hit by this phenomenal pressure wave sent out by a massive volcanic eruption on the other side of the world.

“It was being reported too by other fellow enthusiasts all over the UK and Europe.

“You can imagine that the airwaves and the chatgroups were buzzing with it.”

Peter said that about a dozen like-minded people set up the flourishing Welland Valley Amateur Radio Society just before the first Covid lockdown in March 2020.

“We suddenly had a lot of time on our hands and decided to do something with it.

“Highly-motivated men and women all over the Harborough area got together,” he said.

“We set up a network of sensors in the Welland Valley measuring all sorts of meteorological and other data and sending it around the network.

“The chips and sensors we’ve used were cheap items bought off the internet and we just got going as an experiment and for the fun of doing it,” said Peter.

“The group’s coming along really well.

“And the Tongan volcanic eruption has clearly got to be the most extraordinary thing that’s happened to us so far.”

If you would like to find out more about the group you can visit their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3543791355677024/