November 2009 – Volume Sixteen, Number Eleven
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 15th year, is the monthly review of significant expeditions, research projects and newsworthy adventures. It is distributed online to media representatives, corporate sponsors, educators, research librarians, explorers, environmentalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. This forum on exploration covers projects that stimulate, motivate and educate.
KAYAKERS CROSS ANTARCTIC LAND AND WATER TO EDUCATE PUBLIC
For 80 days starting this month, Chilean kayakers and explorers Cristian Donoso and Mario Sepúlveda will attempt to complete a journey of 994 miles (1600 km), following a maritime and terrestrial route from the coast to the highest summits of the Antarctic Andes. It's a land and sea expedition covering a never-before navigated section of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Donoso and Sepúlveda gained previous notoriety for their self-supported kayak expeditions across Antarctica and Patagonia; the duo have made a name for themselves by paddling waters not previously covered by man.
“The main goal of this expedition will be to alert the public about the effects of global warming on the Antarctic coast,” Donoso said. “In order to achieve our goal we will make a photographic and audiovisual register of landscapes and wildlife of this Antarctic region from the non-disturbing perspective of a kayak expedition.”
The expedition will begin in the Drake Passage before passing the southern Shetland Islands. The duo will set up base camp on Portal Point, located on the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. From there they will climb the Antarctic Andes up to the Forbidden Plateau, where they will leave a deposit with food.
On their return to sea they will initiate a kayak voyage that will take them to the north end of the continent. Passing though Antarctic Channel and Erebus and Terror Gulf, the pair will get to Pitt Point, close to the base of the Victory Glacier, where they will establish their second base camp.
Next they will cross the glacier and its cracked ice fields, ferrying the kayaks and other equipment up to the Detroit Plateau, where they will begin a land voyage of 434 miles (700 km). Through the highest summits of the Antarctic Andes and resupplies from the cache left in the Forbidden Plateau, the explorers will advance with skis and crampons up to Bay Daisy, dragging the kayaks like pulkas (sleds).
In Margarita Bay they will return to the sea, advancing north towards Petermann Island, where their return vessel, Arctic Dream, will meet them in January 2010.
Visual and written documentation will be used for the creation of a documentary film, book, articles and a Web site that will explain the consequences of global warming on the wildlife, land, and glaciers of the Antarctic Coast. The team is sponsored by Kokatat, the paddlewear and accessories company. (For more information: AndesAntarticos.com)
Save the Poles Departs – Polar explorer Eric Larsen announced last month that he's leaving for the South Pole this month to begin the “Save the Poles” first-ever expedition to the North Pole, South Pole and summit of Mt. Everest in a continuous 365-day period (see EN, March 2009). His goal is to travel to the “front lines” of global warming to document the changes occurring in these last great frozen places. Larsen will also use the expedition as a platform to advocate strategies for reducing carbon emissions and collect relevant scientific data.
To help tell the story, Larsen is partnering with the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center and the Protect Our Winters Foundation. Together they will produce 12 hours of climate change curriculum to provide teachers with the tools needed to prepare the next generation of students for what is said to be the defining issues of their time. Larsen will also team up with the Center for Biological Diversity to petition the Senate and President on the need for stronger climate legislation. (For more information: SaveThePoles.com)
Only the Crabs Know for Sure – In April 2007 we wrote about Ric Gillespie's search for the remains of Amelia Earhart. Now with the release of the Amelia movie starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere, Gillespie's unique hypothesis for Earhart's disappearance was bound to claw its way to the surface once again.
Just as a biopic of her life is released, Gillespie's group of researchers claim to have found the spot in the western Pacific where Earhart disappeared on an attempted round-the-world flight in 1937. As the Discovery Channel points out, the awkwardly-acronymed The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) said it has evidence that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, made a forced landing on a coral atoll called Nikumaroro - part of the Phoenix Islands, Kiribati - and became castaways and eventually succumbed to disease, thirst, hunger, or injury.
Exhibit A, according to TIGHAR, are human bones that were recovered from Nikumaroro in 1940 by a British Colonial Service Officer named Gerald Gallagher. Sadly, those bones have been lost, but records of the discovery indicate they matched Earhart's physical characteristics. Whatever other skeletal remains might have been on the island, though, have likely been plundered by the thousands of terrifying coconut crabs in the area.
Other physical evidence includes a "woman's shoe, an empty bottle and a sextant box whose serial numbers are consistent with a type known to have been carried by Noonan," as well as reports that radio signals had been picked up for several days after the disappearance that could have only been transmitted from land.
Executive director Richard Gillespie is planning a $500,000 research expedition next summer to gather more evidence for his theory. If he does, then one of the most enduring mysteries of early 20th century aviation might be solved. Or then again, maybe not.
Tell Me a Story – The year could have been 1905, 1935, 1965, or 2009. Attending The Explorers Club's “Mountain Stories” event on Oct. 17 was like sharing a link back to the Club's storied past as members would gather round and tell tales of their recent expeditions. Six individuals who made their mark in mountaineering and exploration had about an hour each to share their travels with an audience of 50 to 70 people - Club members and the general public alike. Some of the more memorable comments follow below:
Anderson says he took his 11-year-old climbing to Kilimanjaro. “I'm not encouraging parents to take young children climbing, but it's a lot better than video games, although obviously a lot more dangerous.”
He intends to climb Indonesia's Carstensz Pyramid next, the highest peak in Oceania. “I'd like to finish out the eight Seven Summits,” he said to some chuckling in the audience.
(Editor's note: the Seven Summits are based on the continent model used in Western Europe, the U.S. and Australia. The highest mountain on the Australian continent is Mount Kosciuszko. However, the highest mountain in the more broadly defined continental area of Oceania which includes Australia is Puncak Jaya (a.k.a. Carstensz Pyramid) in the Indonesian province of Papua on the island of New Guinea which lies on the Australian continental shelf.
“Maybe we could have saved his life with oxygen and a pressurized Gamov bag, but the logistics of saving a life at 21,000 feet is not a sure thing.” For this reason, the pilot technically never landed - he just hovered - to pick up a stricken Sherpa and American climber Beck Weathers, an American pathologist from Texas originally given up for lost.
Kamler has been to Everest six times, reaching 28,100 feet on the 29,035-ft. mountain. “I don't really need those last 900 feet,” he said, while expressing a readiness to return to the mountain as the doctor on any expedition that needs one. “Mountain medicine is an obscure field. Not many people study it. It's basically unknown.”
One climber told him, “We know the risk. It defines our lives.”
He believes, “Rewards come after the summit as climbers reflect upon the climb the rest of their lives.” Mahoney enjoys camping in a bivouac sack (aka bivvy bag) on the side of mountains. “There are million dollar views not many people get to experience.”
With the advice of climber, author and fellow Bozeman, Mont., resident Greg Mortenson, she started the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation to preserve Lowe's legacy by providing direction and financial support to sustainable, community-based humanitarian programs in remote regions of the world. (AlexLowe.org)
Back to the Titanic – The company that has exclusive rights to salvage the Titanic wants to make another expedition to the world's most famous shipwreck in 2010. RMS Titanic Inc.'s expedition would be the first by the salvor since 2004, though two other expeditions have been to the site since then, including one by Titanic director James Cameron. The company went before a judge last month to seek a salvage award for its past expeditions, and to inform the court of its plans.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, a maritime jurist who considers the wreck an "international treasure," is presiding over the hearings. They are not only intended to determine a salvage award, but to establish legal guarantees that thousands of Titanic artifacts remain intact as a collection and forever accessible to the public. Some pieces have ended up in London auction houses.
The 5,900 pieces of china, ship fittings and personal belongings are valued at more than $110 million and are displayed around the world by Premier Exhibitions Inc., an Atlanta company. RMS Titanic is a subsidiary of Premier.
Deep-dive explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet, who has led five expeditions to the Titanic wreck, testified about the extraordinary expense and risks of deep-sea exploration. They include 150-foot-high icebergs that can threaten ships and the harrowing, claustrophobic voyages 12,000-feet down to the wreck through 33 degree F. Atlantic waters.
Courts have declared RMS Titanic salvor-in-possession - meaning it has exclusive rights to salvage the ocean liner - but have explicitly stated it does not own the 5,900 artifacts or the wreck itself.
Copper Clues Linked to Fate of Franklin Expedition – A few snippets of copper may be a vital clue towards solving one of Arctic exploration's most haunting mysteries: what happened to Sir John Franklin's two superbly equipped ships when he and all 150 members of his expedition died in the search for the North-West Passage more than 160 years ago?
The fate of the 1845 expedition haunted Victorian imagination, and accounts suggesting some of his starving men prolonged their lives by cannibalism destroyed the reputation of those sent to find them.
Expensive rescue expeditions continued for almost 20 years, spurred on by Franklin's formidable widow, Jane Griffin. Evidence confirming Franklin's death was only discovered in 1859. Dumped supplies were recovered along with personal possessions, letters describing his death and those of many of his senior officers, and finally bodies, but his twin ships - the Erebus and the Terror - have never been located.
Now, if he can borrow a Canadian government icebreaker for next summer's diving season, Robert Grenier, the archaeologist who has led the hunt for the past 30 years, believes he can close in on the Terror at last. Analysis of sheet metal and clippings of copper, which he recovered last year from 19th-century Inuit summer hunting sites, have convinced him that they once formed the protective plating over the Terror's hull and that the ship lies deep beneath the icy water of a narrow inlet south of King William Island.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"People's perception is that the highest mountain is the most important. And it's just simply not true, because the highest mountain isn't necessarily the most difficult. You don't get (climbing legend) Reinhold Messner calling you the best alpinist in the world for climbing Everest. You get that for climbing Nanga Parbat. That's a technical route, but nobody's ever heard about that outside of the climbing community." - Climber Steve House, 39, Terrebonne, Ore.
Nanga Parbat is a 26,660-foot peak in the Himalayas, whose Rupal Face is considered the tallest mountain face in the world, rising 15,000 feet above its base. In 2005, House and partner Vince Anderson climbed the face in a daring eight-day ascent with minimal equipment and little margin for error.
He goes on to tell the Associated Press last month, "My main complaint about expedition-style climbing - I've seen this, and taken photos of this and I have documented this - is that all that stuff gets left," House said. "I don't like to think of myself of criticizing climbing of any style. What I'm a critic of is people not cleaning up after themselves and dumping large amounts of equipment and just abandoning it."
House writes in his new book, Beyond the Mountain, "Climbing is not an attempt to transcend gravity or death, for it is these intractable forces that actually create the endeavors … Without gravity, climbing would not exist. Without death, what matters life?"
MEDIA MATTERS The Wildest Dream – April 2010 is the scheduled premiere of The Wildest Dream, about George Mallory's 1924 attempt to climb Mount Everest. The $7 million movie from National Geographic Entertainment is narrated by Liam Neeson, with his late wife, Natasha Richardson, providing the voice of Ruth Mallory, wife of George Mallory. Five years in the making, the film is jostling for a place among the 15 or so documentaries that will be included on a short list of Oscar candidates scheduled to be released in mid-November. It is expected to compete for a slot on the list against The Cove, about the slaughter of dolphins, and Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story.
Conrad Anker and Leo Houlding are seen in the film attempting Mallory's route in old-style gear to see if it was possible. The film shows a difficult assault from Tibet, in the north, as Mallory about 85 years ago had no access to a less demanding southeastern alternative from Nepal. It also meant scaling a rock formation near the top - the Second Step - in the way Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine would have had to do it - without the benefit of a metal ladder that for years has been giving climbers a leg up.
The New York Times plays a minor role in the picture. During a visit to New York, Mallory was asked, “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” The Times, on Mar. 18, 1923, reported his answer, the now famous “Because it's there.”
Would George Mallory and Irvine have been able to make the summit in 1924? “Maybe,” said Jennifer Lowe-Anker at The Explorers Club on Oct. 17. “But it was really, really cold.”
With Rich Wilson
In 1993, Rich Wilson, now 59, a competitive long-distance sailor and educator from Marblehead, Mass., made news with a record-setting trimaran voyage from San Francisco to Boston.
Last March he made news again – skippering the 60-foot single-hull sloop Great American III, becoming the only American to complete the 2008-09 Vendee Globe, an around-the-world, single-handed, nonstop sailboat race. That's nonstop as in never coming to shore in 28,000 miles over 121 days, not even for resupply. The Vendee Globe has been called the “most grueling and dangerous prolonged competition on the planet” by the Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin. For good reason.
Wilson is founder and president of sitesALIVE!, a nonprofit that has produced 75 live, interactive, full-semester programs linking K-12 classrooms to adventures and expeditions worldwide. A friend spoke about Wilson to the New York Times, “There's a way of doing nutty things in a very sane fashion. That's Rich. … He has almost a religious fixation about doing things right and in exactly the same way.”
Recently, we met in Darien, Conn., whereupon we asked the first 10 questions to pop into our fertile pea brains:
Why subject yourself to such a torturous competition?
For me, it's not about winning. I was in it primarily to create a global school program off this uniquely global event. Therefore I needed to finish the race and am pleased to have finished ninth this year. Americans are too focused on winning. The French see it differently. They admire and respect people who undertake a great challenge. I'll never forget what a 10-year-old French youngster told me on the dock as I was departing, “The important thing is to participate.”
If there's one thing I believe in, it's writing about my experiences as they happen, so that kids back on shore can learn more about the world. We created a 15-week Teacher's Guide and had agreements with 50 U.S. Newspaper in Education programs to publish a weekly series that I wrote from the boat. On publication day, classroom newspapers were delivered to participating teachers. That program reached 7 million readers weekly and 250,000 students during the course of the race. We also had a comprehensive, interactive Web site to connect to our overseas schools in 15 countries.
Is the race as tough as climbing Everest?
Three thousand have climbed Everest. Five hundred astronauts have gone into space. Yet only 50 people have sailed around the world nonstop and alone. I was number 46. I like to think Mt. Everest is the Vendee Globe of mountain climbing. I make that point just to get some respect for sailing!
121 Days? Was it ever boring?
I would have given anything to be bored at sea. You're on high alert all the time, constantly worried. You survive on only two to five hours of sleep, usually taken in 45-minute naps. The boat is a big racing machine, the sails are huge, the race is too long, too risky, too dangerous, too everything. When things go wrong there's no one to help. Your default position is you just have to keep going, heading back to France.
How did you fight loneliness?
There is solitude, but not loneliness. With modern technology, we can talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Nonetheless, at sea I am reminded that my place in the universe is very, very small.
What about that teen who is trying to sail the world?
I don't agree that a 15-year-old should be sailing the world just to get into the Guinness Book of Records. You do it because you want to be out there. Do it to see the stars, the albatross, the wonders of the sea. Fifteen is too young to be doing anything just for celebrity.
What was the scariest moment?
There were 50 scariest moments. Take your pick. Getting thrown across the cabin on day two in 50 knot headwinds in the Bay of Biscay and breaking ribs. This made the next month of sail maneuvers agonizing. Going 60 feet aloft to make a repair at 53 South just before Cape Horn. The two 60 knot gales in the Indian Ocean. Crash-gybing in a 55-knot gale off Uruguay at midnight and the boat laying over at 70 degrees with the keel canted on the wrong side.
Watching helplessly the drama of Yann Elies who was crushed against his bow pulpit, breaking his femur, pelvis and back, and his rescue after 48 hours by the Australian Navy, and of Jean Le Cam's capsize off Cape Horn after a collision with an underwater object broke off his keel bulb, and his subsequent rescue by a competitor. Nerves, fatigue, anticipation, anxiety - it all adds up.
What do you say to critics?
I guess you mean American journalists! To people who think sailing is for sissies, come hear my talk on the Vendee Globe, then come up and state your case. It took me three months after the race before my elbows, wrists and fingers healed enough for me to lift a computer bag.
Do people just assume you're too old to be a serious competitor?
Not the French. They all assume I will be back in 2012.
So, what's next for you?
The Vendee Globe 2012, although this time I'll need a newer generation boat that goes faster with the same amount of effort to eliminate the last 10 days of exponential fatigue. But sponsorship is always a challenge in the U.S. The media here doesn't follow sailing, therefore fewer corporations sponsor the sport. Yet 300,000 mobbed the start of the race in France, some 120,000 attended the awards ceremony. We have a French asthma drug company interested - maybe a French sponsor for Great American IV!
I'm looking for $2 to 4 million to compete in 2012. But it's not just money. I also need committed content distribution channels to reach K-12, asthma, and seniors constituencies. Those channels are falling into place.
I've had severe asthma since I was a one-year old kid. It's a condition I've managed to keep under control, thanks, in part, to all the time I've spent in the clean, fresh air of the world's oceans. I hate grass, pets, trees, smoke and dust. I guess I'm just allergic to land.
(For more information: SitesAlive.com)
Bowermaster Goes to School – In October, author, filmmaker, and explorer Jon Bowermaster transported over 700 students to Antarctica. Their mode of travel? His new film Terra Antarctica. Bowermaster, a National Geographic sponsored athlete, presented a full screening of his brand new, high-def film chronicling his expedition along the Antarctic Peninsula which premiered this spring.
Students from Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wake Forest University and Forsyth Country Day School) along with students from Raleigh, N.C. (Broughton High School) attended the presentations. Students expressed keen interest as they discussed the impact of warming waters and other effects of human-caused climate change. This was Bowermaster's second trip to North Carolina in 2009 under the sponsorship of Mountain Hardwear and Great Outdoor Provision Co. (For more information: GreatOutdoorProvision.com)
Want to find a sponsor for the trip of your dreams? These are the kind of appearances you need to be prepared to make.
The Third Man Factor
by John Geiger (Weinstein Books, 2009)
Reviewed by Robert F. Wells
If you've experienced extreme and unusual environments (EUEs), you probably know what John Geiger is writing about here. You're stressed. Utterly freezing. Sleep deprived. Strung out. Enduring massive sensory monotony. And throughout this, you're alone. But are you?
Here's the rub. Interestingly, you're not alone if you've ever felt like you were not alone. Puzzled? So were Shackleton, Lindbergh, Messner, Slocum - just to name a few. Each was "out there" amidst brutal loneliness ... and yet each sensed a presence. A "visitant.” A phantom companion - urging one to go on and pointing a direction to proceed. Realizing an inexplicable phenomenon, each tried to erase the delusion from their mind, yet to a man diaries made mention. And as unearthed by Geiger, these mentions were surprisingly consistent.
This wonderful little book brings each of these "third men" to life. Talks about the nature of each. And after you climb inside its pages, you wonder: Are we ever truly alone? Why are each of these visitants helpful - positive and encouraging during dire times? Does the body have a way to invent companionship? Or is this simply a neurological short circuit? Strap on the crampons of your mind. Read on. Turn your eyes into the howling wind-driven snow as each page tricks you into believing that the impossible might in fact be absolutely possible. In the end, you might even be able to bubble up a similar recollection from your own expeditionary past.
Time to Eat the Dogs – Fans of exploration usually can't get their hands on enough material about the heroes of yesteryear and the modern-era adventurers and explorers who are still getting it done. We recently became aware of the blog TimeToEatTheDogs.com – a wealth of information about exploration and its place within the cultural imagination. It's written by Michael Robinson, a historian of exploration and assistant professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. Robinson studies the role of exploration in American culture. He's author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006), which covers the heyday of Arctic exploration in the U.S., from 1850 to 1910.
It contains book reviews, film reviews (including an analysis of exploration themes in the animated movie, Up), links to numerous exploration resources, an easy-to-read four-minute dissertation on Darwin, and even a look at why expeditions fail.
About that name: In 1907, Arctic explorer Robert Peary declared that “man and the Eskimo dog are the only two mechanisms capable of meeting all the varying contingencies of Arctic work.” Men were tricky mechanisms to control. Dogs, on the other hand, were powerful and reliable. And, of course, edible. When they broke down, they were fed to healthier dogs. And when these healthy dogs failed, or when provisions ran low, they were fed to the men. Sometimes this happened as a last resort. More often than not, however, it was a part of the plan, a calculation of food, weight, and distance, Robinson writes.
FitForTrips.com – Training for baseball or football. That we understand. But how do you train for adventure trips? Proving that there's money to be made online if you just think hard enough about it, FitforTrips.com provides itinerary-specific resistance and endurance programs. It was founded by fitness trainer and adventure enthusiast Marcus Shapiro to improve the physical fitness of adventure travelers worldwide by creating pre-departure fitness programs for tour operators.
Fit for Trips staff reviews the itineraries, and then creates programs so travelers can physically prepare for the activities on their trip. You dial in the name of the tour operator, the exact destination, then explain how many weeks you have left to get into shape. A program for travel in the Sea of Cortez with O.A.R.S. for instance costs about $155.
Psychological protection – “Something between you and hitting the ground. If nothing else, it lightens your rack. It's often put into thin ice on an ice climb. It's not going to do much, but you feel better it's there.” (Source: Kevin Mahoney, UIAGM-certified mountain guide speaking at The Explorers Club “Mountain Stories” event, Oct. 17).
ON THE HORIZON
Sea Stories – On Nov. 14, The Explorers Club in New York will host its fifth annual “Sea Stories,” a day focused on ocean exploration. Topics will range from protecting the ocean to discovering a Spanish galleon to researching the migrations of large sharks to a deep-water search for a lost submarine in the Mediterranean. $60 admission includes breakfast, lunch and evening reception. The event is open to the public and held at the Club's headquarters at 46 East 70th Street. (For more information: (+1) 212-628-8383, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Experience the Thrill of Underwater Flight! – Learn to “fly” the revolutionary deep-diving Super Aviator submersible to 600 feet under water.
Beginning 7 February 2010, Sub Aviator Systems LLC (SubAviators.com) will be conducting Underwater Flight School training at Lahaina, Maui. Full-day courses range from one-day Basic Training, at $3,350, to three-day Advanced Flight and Co-Pilot's training, at $8,650.
SPACE IS LIMITED! Book your Under Water Flight course today with Captain Alfred S. McLaren USN (Ret.), Ph.D., Senior Pilot, at: email@example.com or (+1) 303-447-0608
Compression Socks Give Your Feet a Boost – Competitors from runners to triathletes to skiers are increasingly turning to compression socks for an edge that helps them recover faster in the process.
CW-X Compression Support Socks, from Wacoal Sports Science Corporation, makers of CW-X® Conditioning Wear, use seamless, variable compression Torex four-way stretch fabric to provide targeted support to increase circulation in the feet and lower legs.
A built-in Support Web™ supports the calf muscles and arch of the foot, and stabilizes the ankle joint. This results in reduced fatigue and quicker recovery from strenuous athletic activity.
You Want to Go Where? – How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams – The only book that not only takes you behind-the-scenes of some of the most historic and modern-day adventures and expeditions, but also provides advice on how individuals can fund and arrange their own trips.
Written by Jeff Blumenfeld, editor of Expedition News, it retells the story of explorers familiar to EN readers, including Anker, Schurke, Shackleton, Steger, Vaughan, and many others. It includes tips on communications technology, photography, writing contracts, and developing a proposal that will impress potential sponsors. Available through Amazon.com (also Kindle Edition), BarnesandNoble.com and Borders.com (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009).
Advertise in Expedition News – For just 50 cents a word, you can reach an estimated 10,000 readers of America's only monthly newsletter celebrating the world of expeditions on land, in space, and beneath the sea. Join us as we take a sometimes-irreverent look at the people and projects making Expedition News. Frequency discounts are available.
(For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org)
EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc., 28 Center Street, Darien, CT 06820 USA. Tel. (+1) 203-655-1600, fax (+1) 203-655-1622, email@example.com. Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Assistant editor: Jamie Gribbon. ©2009 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments accepted through www.paypal.com. Read EXPEDITION NEWS at www.expeditionnews.com. Enjoy the EN blog at ExpeditionNews.blogspot.com. Layout and design by Nextwave Design, Seattle.
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