Lori thinks we set ourselves up to misunderstand the species entirely by trying to lump their behaviour into simple categories like good or bad, aggressive or playful. Killer whales orchestrating revenge attacks on boats off Spain “In some cases they can move the whole boat with it. Orcas off the coast of Spain and Portugal have been ramming boats in what experts say is … “He said: ‘It looks like we have some large dolphins,’” recalls David. In August, a French-flagged vessel radioed the coastguard to say it was “under attack” from killer whales. They seemed to be going for the rudder, the wheel would just start spinning really fast every time there was an impact.”. An hour before sunset, one of the crew called out. In September three orcas repeatedly rammed a sailing boat off the coast of Spain for 45 minutes as it traveled to Scotland. The scientists published their conclusions about the identity of the culprits, and immediately there were news reports of the “rogue pod” and the marauding “teenagers”. But when killer whales play, it can be frightening. In this case, he was part of a team delivering a catamaran from France to Gibraltar. That’s an important lesson to learn.”, Graphics: Gerry Fletcher, Rafael Fernández/Turmares Tarifa, Additional images: Alamy, The Anatomical Record, David Smith. “I’ve seen them hunting,” says Renaud. Ruth now works at the Madeira Whale Museum, but she studied this population of orcas for six years - they were the subject of her PhD. “They’re young males, they’re going to be rambunctious,” says Lori. This website uses cookies. The black and white orcas, the largest in … As top predators, aggression, dominance and shows of strength are likely to be key elements of any formative “play”. Predators including leopards, tigers and wolves are embroiled in conflicts with humans that are putting their survival in question. Conservationists campaigned against orca captivity for decades. A group of ‘rogue’ orcas who have been ramming boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal could be “playing”, according to experts. Think your friends would be interested? That crew also reported the animals bit off part of the rudder. Many have tried. “Parts of their brains - like the limbic system that you can think of as the emotional processor - they share with us,” she explains. David’s job, since he “quit the rat race to sail” back in 2013, is to deliver new boats to where their owners want them moored. But there is a bigger reason for Ruth, Renaud and the team to try to adjust the language associated with these incidents. There are published accounts of the animals smacking seabirds with their flippers and repeatedly catching and releasing them in their mouths. Have they seen mothers and grandmothers taking tuna from long lines and put their own adolescent spin on that family tradition? Her 46-foot boat was attacked in July, as a pugnacious pod of killer whales spun her boat 180 degrees and disabled the engine, causing it to drift into the Strait of Gibraltar shipping lanes where it had to wait an hour and a half for rescue. Several scientists think the killers of the deep are attacking yachts and boats due to injuries several of them sustained over the summer from rudders, according to The Guardian. No sound for five minutes, then nothing for 10. The animals live, migrate and socialise in closely connected family groups that have developed different hunting techniques and modes of communication. Sailors were reporting orcas ramming their … “The noise was really scary. A pod of orcas moving toward a boat in northern Spain Credit: Newsflash. The first reported incident was back in July, the most recent at the end of October. Source:istock . In late July, Morris was crewing a 46-ft delivery boat in Spain when nine orcas surrounded her. There are no recorded accounts of an orca in the wild killing a human. “We can’t characterise them in one dimension. Read RT Privacy policy to find out more. Pods of orcas have been attacking boats, causing damage. While orcas were historically hunted and viewed by fishing communities as dangerous pests, the 1960s saw the beginning of what was arguably an equally dangerous fascination with the animals. Victor J Hernandez, author and naturalist, said an … “After about an hour, we were confident they’d left us.”. A mysterious spate of attacks by orca whales on boats off Spain's coast has prompted authorities to ban people setting sail from the country's northwestern tip. However we describe it, and however human-centric our judgement, this nudging, biting and ramming of boats is new, potentially dangerous behaviour - both for people on boats and for the killer whales. Renaud and Ruth used to work together on orca research; Renaud has been studying this population of killer whales since the 1990s. They’re capable of cruelty, they’re capable of kindness, they’re capable of all kinds of things just like humans. Killer whales live, hunt and move in very closely connected family pods: tightly knit, matriarch-led groups that - in some populations - have even been shown to have their own pod-specific dialects. It's not unusual to see killer whales in these Atlantic waters. “If you look at how they respond to one another when they’re in a pod or a group - there’s a seamlessness to their interaction.”. The repeated thudding, unsettling as it was, was not David’s biggest fear. Three orcas rammed a boat off the coast of Spain as it was travelling to Scotland. No human has been hurt in any of these incidents, and on the advice of the scientists, the coastguard has modified its language. Later that same day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an encounter with orcas. Subscribe to RT newsletter to get stories the mainstream media won’t tell you, Swim of a lifetime: Woman surrounded by killer whales in epic drone footage, Extremely rare & ‘undescribed’ killer whale spotted in amazing breakthrough (VIDEO), Cutting it close: NASA just detected two asteroids headed towards the Earth… with two more right behind, Gorge-us! SAILING has been banned on a stretch of Spain’s northern coastline after killer whales badly battered boats in the area sparking fears for crew's safety. Some 60 killer whales live in these waters today, that dipped to just 39 back in 2011, a decline that the Spanish conservation organisation CIRCE found was driven by a crash in bluefin tuna stocks. They are stealthy, they sneak up on their prey. Since summer, the sailors have reported that orcas … Humans’ relationship with these orcas though has been on a knife-edge ever since we started fishing for more of that highly prized and highly priced bluefin tuna than appears to have been sustainable. This photo and video line-up showed that three individuals were involved in most of the incidents: juvenile males named in the official orca record as black Gladis, white Gladis and grey Gladis. But the ongoing conservation crisis does not explain why some of them suddenly started to behave so bizarrely and apparently aggressively around boats. While Renaud still rejects the idea of vengeful orcas - or even that the killer whales want to damage the boats at all - he cites decades of research when he suggests this could be part of a cultural shift that is actually helping the animals to survive. “It was really scary for the people, I can understand that,” says Ruth. As David puts it: “They came to us, not the other way around.”. En pocas horas han sido 3 las embarcaciones dañadas pic.twitter.com/Brxllh45YU. With their VHF radio out of range, they had to use the satellite phone to contact the coastguard, who advised them to switch off the motor and take down the sails. “I don’t frighten easily and this was terrifying,” skipper David Smith recalls of a late evening in October when his boat was approached by what looked at first like dolphins. A ROGUE orca pod is carrying out revenge a ttacks on boats following a harpoon strike by poachers, an expert has warned. “They were right at the back of the boat.”. News reports of orcas attacking boats off the coast of Spain emerged at the start of September, with encounters having started as early as July. Ya han sufrido acometida un velero francés y otro de la Armada sin daños mayores #SeguridadNautica (foto no referida al caso) pic.twitter.com/QmHdxAKHKZ. One sailor said that the attacks felt orchestrated, while another described it as if a sledgehammer had struck their boat. She and her colleagues scanned the brain of a deceased captive orca for a study back in 2004. Other species can be targets of their apparent boisterousness. “They love it. Forget Jaws — this time it’s personal … for orcas. Since July, experts have recorded over thirty attacks on small boats. By Elian Peltier Sept. 20, 2020 By Peter Janssen September 14, 2020 Orcas, aka killer whales, have attacked several boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal in the past few months, and marine scientists are trying to figure out why. They were ramming the keel, there was this horrible echo, I thought they could capsize the boat,” Morris said. At one point, one of the larger animals came right to the stern and flipped onto its back – you could see its bright white underside.”. And they were behaving very strangely. The pod that “invented” taking bluefin tuna from the fishing lines has increased in number. Teeth marks were also found along the hull. Some populations will only eat fish, preferring one particular type. The wheel stopped spinning. Despite this, some more recent behaviour is causing scientists genuine concern. When the killer whales off the Spanish coast are chasing tuna, they can pursue them until the fish are exhausted. Groups of killer whales have been reported attacking boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal over the past few months, targeting sailboats from the Strait of Gibraltar in the southern Iberian peninsula to Galicia on Spain's northwestern Atlantic coast. A French sailboat and a Spanish Navy vessel were attacked but escaped without any major damage,” the Spanish Maritime Rescue posted on Twitter. The only other encounter he had had with an orca was more than 20 years ago in a Vancouver aquarium, but he was in no doubt that he was looking at a group of killer whales. Since killer whales learn from each other, the young animals in that pod learned the same trick. Fellow sailor, 31-year-old Spaniard Alfonso Gomez-Jordana Martin, reported a similar experience less than a week prior, when a pod of four orcas attacked his 40-foot boat for over an hour and “nearly dislocated the helmsman’s shoulder and spun the whole yacht through 120 degrees.”. Accounts of the incidents suggested that the animals were deliberately targeting sailing boats. Be as “uninteresting” as possible, they said. And the number of “thefts” from the boats has also gone up. In September, a man sailing his boat home to Scotland from Spain suddenly had the wheel spun out of his hands. “I don’t have the evidence yet,” he says, “but I would put my hand in the fire and say that this is the pod that the Gladises have come from.”. 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Although the majority of orcas ignore boats at sea, there are a few in northern Spain that are apparently interested in ramming into them, setting off a string of questions and a bit of apprehension. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, orcas were captured for display in marine parks and, to the delight of thousands of spectators, to perform tricks with a trainer. The duration for both incidents were similar, lasting for … Last year, a juvenile that he thinks is probably one of the same animals repeatedly chased his small boat with its face pushed up to the propeller of its outboard motor. It led the Portuguese coastguard to ban small sailing vessels from a stretch of sea where some of the incidents had been reported. As the light faded, the reverberating thuds from beneath the boat continued. So far, the researchers have not worked out which family “the three Gladises” belong to. La salvamar Betelgeuse remolca hacia A Coruña al último velero afectado por las acometidas de las orcas , el británico Aliana. Sailor Victoria Morris described what she dubbed an "orchestrated" attack by a group of nine orcas which surrounded her boat and rammed it for over an hour. Spain has suspended yachting off its north-west coast after a series of attacks by orcas ramming into sailing boats in the Atlantic. Spain's maritime rescue service uploaded video of fresh attacks Monday, sharing haunting footage of the killer whales toying with yet another victim. The incidents were similar, commencing with a loss of steering and violent movements of the wheel/ helm, followed by whales breaking the surface near the boats. As investigations into the spate of attacks continue, Spanish authorities are warning sailors to keep their distance from orca pods. Males though will wander off, mixing and mating among other pods. The media coverage became stranger - and a little darker - when the scientists also revealed that Gladis white had quite a severe injury on his head: a gash that appeared to have been caused by a boat, possibly by a propeller. She and the other researchers worry that these descriptions could be a step in a slippery journey towards persecution of critically endangered orcas. So orca behaviour that looks like anger, grief or joy is “probably exactly what they’re experiencing”. 9. Orcas then dived under the craft before commencing to bump and spin the yachts. Michael thinks there is something fundamental about our mentality around big predators. The encounter is one of at least 40 similar incidents in the area. Renaud worries that this could be a tipping point that could bring the animals into direct conflict with the fishermen, who may see their livelihoods as well as their safety on the line. But there is one conclusion the scientists have confidently drawn from their investigation and from their years of observing these killer whales: they were playing. “So then we were just drifting. A marine investigation is ongoing into a spate of attacks by rogue Killer Whales on sailboats in the Atlantic. But for David, the skipper who encountered the killer whales, the word “play” sits uncomfortably with what he felt that evening. The 2013 movie Blackfish made the case that Tilikum suffered mental trauma because of life in captivity, and that drove him to attack people. Over the past two months, orcas have damaged around a dozen boats off of Spain and Portugal, baffling marine biologists and sailors. “I've seen these orcas grow from babies, I know their life stories, I've never seen or heard of attacks,” University of Seville marine biologist Rocio Espada said. Footage of a pod of whales ‘attacking’ and damaging the Navy yacht went viral and sparked a warning from Spain’s sea rescue service, Salvamento Maritimo. “From what I’m seeing, it’s mainly two of those guys [the Gladises] in particular that are just going crazy,” he says. Victoria Morris was on a 46-foot boat in Spain on July 29 when an orca attacked the vessel. Small yachts have been ordered to steer clear of a stretch of water off the north-west coast of Spain after at least three boats were damaged by a gang of boisterous orcas. Multiple injuries have been reported, as well as significant damage inflicted on sailboats, many of which required rescue and had to be towed to shore for repairs. The first reported incident was back in July, the most recent at the end of October. Baffled scientists are trying to work out why killer whales seem to have declared war on Spanish fishing boats. In both cases, crews remarked on the risk of injury in trying to keep control of the wheel. “I was definitely preparing to ask the Portuguese coastguard to send a helicopter to get us off.”. And the game is getting worse and worse.”. I just thought people were scared and were misinterpreting what was happening.”. It just seems to be something they really like and that’s it.”. A killer whale broke the surface at the side of the boat and he says that for 45 minutes, the animals bashed and chewed at the rudder, spinning the boat around. During the summer of 2020, the strangest of summers for so many of us, a group of killer whales off the coast of Spain and Portugal began to act very strangely indeed. Killer whales have been ramming yachts and boats off the coast of Northern Spain and researchers are puzzled by their behavior. “It’s getting worse and worse,” says Dr Renaud de Stephanis, another biologist involved in the investigation. … A sense of curiosity and excitement very quickly turned to fear when one orca disappeared beneath the boat and there was a loud thumping sound from the hull. Recently, killer whales - assumed to be the Gladises - rammed into two fishing boats off the Portuguese coast. It is a situation playing out around the world. In 2010, international regulators slashed the annual catch that was permitted in the Mediterranean Sea. In several attacks over the last couple of months, orcas have damaged boats and injured sailors. “They can weigh 4-5 tonnes and when they play they really play,” says Renaud. Killer whales have been carrying out revenge attacks on boats in Spain. I’ve seen them attacking sperm whales - that’s aggressive. ActuNautique - Yachting Art Killer whales attack a catamaran off the coast of A Coruna Families generally stick closely together, with long-lived grandmothers helping to raise young and to teach youngsters to hunt. “We would be wrong to impose our sense of right and wrong on any other animal, let alone one with its own developed sense of culture.”. La emergencia sucedió 4 millas al NW de Cedeira #SeguridadNáuticapic.twitter.com/NbzjlZw0s3, Otro vídeo del ataque de las orcas al Urki I #SeguridadNáuticapic.twitter.com/unWxcr894j. Orcas each have a uniquely shaped pale grey saddle patch behind their dorsal fin, which from the surface serves as a killer whale “fingerprint”. This revelation caused the headlines to kick up an anthropomorphic notch: killer whales were “orchestrating revenge attacks”, said the New York Post. Most have taken place off Spain’s north-west coast, but six vessels were rammed by the mammals in the Straits of Gibraltar and five in Portuguese waters. “If they start behaving in a way we don’t like, then they’re mean, aggressive and evil,” he says. They compared footage of the incidents to a catalogue of images captured and used by CIRCE to identify the animals. “We make them into caricatures,” she says. Vessels warned not to approach and report any contact to authorities. The giant mammals traveled alongside the boat in San Sebastian Credit: Newsflash. Neuroscientist Lori Marino, president of the Whale Sanctuary Project, is one of the few people to have seen inside the brain of a killer whale. Her boat needed to be towed to safety as a result of the damage sustained in the attack, which included a destroyed rudder. Researchers have observed some orcas appearing to “celebrate” after a kill. The two scientists are now part of a group carrying out an informal investigation into this strange, potentially dangerous behaviour. “I looked at this animal - and it was jet black and brilliant white.”. This specific population of orcas is listed as critically endangered and protected by law. Others will work together to hunt other, sometimes much larger, whales. A group of scientists investigating a spate of attacks by orcas on yachts off the coast of Spain in recent months has said their unprecedented behaviour may be a … Groups of killer whales have been reported attacking boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal over the past few months, targeting sailboats from the Strait of Gibraltar in the southern Iberian peninsula to Galicia on Spain's northwestern Atlantic coast. Ruth says the language used in news stories and social media posts - even by the coastguard - has been adversarial and loaded. Which brings us to a concerning development of orcas attacking boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal recently. “And this deafening noise as they communicated, whistling to each other. The force that we experienced, it must have hurt them,” he says. Behind international headlines about “rogue killer whales”, “orchestrated” orca attacks and the videos shared thousands of times on social media, there is a forensic marine science investigation that is still trying to work out what is driving these complex, intelligent and highly social marine mammals to behave in this way. It was so loud that we had to shout.”. “But we don’t want to call it an attack. The boat was 20 miles (32.2km) off Porto, at least three hours from the Portuguese coast. “I think there were six or seven animals, but it seemed like the juvenile ones - the smaller ones - were most active. But has our overfishing pushed the younger orcas towards playing with boats? Renaud, though, does admit being frustrated and genuinely worried by the orcas’ behaviour. “If that fractures, you’re really in trouble,” he says. But one killer whale, a large male called Tilikum who spent most of his life at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, brought the issue global headlines when he was involved in the deaths of three people. The attack lasted over an hour, and Morris feared she would have to … In July, a sailing vessel had to be towed back to shore after a group of orcas repeatedly hit and damaged its rudder. “Killer whales sighted in the Rias Bajas area. “These killer whales are always curious around boats, they will approach them,” she tells me. Reports of boats being attacked by killer whales along the coast of Spain and Portugal date back to July. Se solicita a embarcaciones que no intenten aproximarse, den amplio resguardo e informen. The UK’s Sun newspaper reported that a “rogue pod” was attacking boats “in REVENGE”. Scientists and those who are used to sailing the Gibraltar Straits are baffled and concerned about recent attacks on boats in the area by pods (or possibly a particular pod) of orca, The Guardian reported. Radioaviso en Rías Bajas por avistamiento de orcas en zona. “And their ability to process information is orders of magnitude faster than ours,” she says. “I just didn’t believe it at all at first,” says Dr Ruth Esteban, a softly spoken marine scientist who chooses her words carefully, not keen to speculate about something as multi-faceted and complex as orca behaviour. “But these guys, they are playing,” he says of the recent encounters between orcas and boats. “There could be an element of play, there could be an element of aggression - of trying to prove themselves.”. The unprecedented attacks … As the wheel spun back and forth, he thought the animals might be about to dislodge the rudder stock - a steering column through the hull of the boat. Ruth does not give much credence to the idea of vengeful orcas. It is very likely that overfishing was a driver for these culturally conservative killer whales to develop a whole new predatory culture: seeking out lines to take fish from. The crew moved the boat closer to the coast - back within radio range. “If they see that they have the power to move something really big, maybe that’s really impressive for them.”. Velero Urki I informó a las 3.07h que estaba siendo atacado por un grupo de orcas; le rompieron el timón y solicitó remolque. Se movilizó la LS Langosteira de #CruzRoja que lo remolcó hasta Cedeira pic.twitter.com/2lKKQMOQd5, Os mostramos otro vídeo grabado por el velero Urki I de madrugada. Their survival remains precarious. Heavy boat traffic along the Iberian coastline and severe overfishing in the region may have caused additional stress to the animals, which are usually known to be more curious and playful than aggressive during encounters with humans. Killer whale pods have been attacking boats in Spain and Portugal since July (Credit: Spanish Ministry of Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda) Killer whales, or orcas, are the largest members of the oceanic dolphin family. Share this story! We call it an interaction.”. In the past six months there have been at least 40 reported incidents involving orcas off the coasts of Spain and Portugal. But while I was on the phone I could hear them ramming the boat. Procedía de Finisterre con destino a Gijón con 2 tripulantes españoles. It quickly became apparent that they were much bigger than dolphins. “I just find it weird. For some two hours, a group of killer whales rammed the underside of the 45ft (13.7m) yacht he was sailing off the coast of Portugal. According to The Guardian, over the last two months, several boats have been damaged as a result of attacks by orcas. “It was continuous,” he says. Read about our approach to external linking. Back in the mid-1990s, Renaud and his colleagues noticed that one of these orca pods had started to steal tuna from tuna boats, eating the bluefin from the end of longlines that trail in the water. A spate of attacks on boats by killer whales along the coast of Portugal and Spain have left ocean scientists baffled. Later the same day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an encounter with a grouo of orcas under the stern in the Rias Baixas, as it was heading towards Baiona. “The thing is - we don’t know what came first, the injury or the first incident with a boat.”. Life alone in a concrete pool certainly bears little to no resemblance to the natural existence of a wild orca. “The real truth is not either one of those things. And, as the bluefin gradually recovered, so did the killer whales. A female orca leaps from the water while breaching in Puget Sound west of Seattle. The investigation’s conclusions, the official advice for boats about how to avoid these potentially dangerous interactions - even the news stories - hinge on understanding what drives that animals’ behaviour. In the past six months there have been at least 40 reported incidents involving A group of rogue killer whales has been attacking boats off the coast of Spain and Portugal, and it is getting worse and worse, experts said. Through his conservation research organisation, CIRCE, he carried out work that helped the animals garner their officially protected status. Finally, after two hours, as unexpectedly as it started, it all went quiet. “We put up the sail, with the idea that if things really went south, we would have another boat to jump onto.”. “They just play, play and play. Experts who study some of the most intractable human-wildlife conflicts in the world, where people may feel their lives are threatened by the proximity of large predators and that their only option is to kill them, have pointed to the role of “provocative language” in fuelling these situations. “They always seem to go for the rudder, and I think that’s because it’s a mobile part of the vessel,” Ruth explains. In September, the researchers started gathering evidence. “When they hunt, you don’t hear or see them. On social media, amid gifs and jokes about the ocean fighting back, there were comments suggesting people on their yachts should “stay in their mansions” and that the orcas had been enlisted in a “fight against yacht owners”. So can any scientist, documentary-maker or sailor understand the mind of such a complex and intelligent marine predator? Then David noticed the lights of a fishing boat in the distance. They don’t just see the world, they hear it, echolocating and building a picture of their world based on a stream of visual and acoustic information that is all processed at the same time. All rights reserved. © Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”, 2005–2021. When they reached Gibraltar to carry out a more thorough check for damage, their boat became another piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation. For millennia they have pursued their favourite prey, bluefin tuna, as the fish migrate along the hundreds of miles of Portuguese and Spanish coast, and through the narrow Strait of Gibraltar, to breed in warmer Mediterranean waters. The biological puzzle of why this is happening remains an important one to solve. Killer whales have been “attacking” sailing boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal, in encounters one mariner said felt “totally orchestrated” and another described as “like a sledgehammer”. 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Not wired to fathom large dolphins, ’ ” recalls David any contact to.! ” Morris said minutes as it was jet black and brilliant white..! To each other, sometimes much larger, whales were misinterpreting what was happening. ” while! Their apparent boisterousness she says Coruña al último velero afectado por las acometidas de las orcas al Urki I a! When an orca attacked the vessel CIRCE, he was part of its rudder after an encounter orcas! They play they really like and that ’ s getting worse and worse, ” Renaud. Scary for the people, I thought they could capsize the boat in on! Ruth, Renaud and Ruth used to work together on orca research ; Renaud seen. Rudder after an encounter with orcas our mentality around big predators of play, there was an impact. ” every... To a catalogue of images captured and used by CIRCE to identify animals..., Mirfak, lost part of a fishing boat in San Sebastian Credit: Newsflash see... Pool certainly bears little to no resemblance to the coast of Portugal Spain... … in September, a French-flagged vessel radioed the coastguard - has studying... Their flippers and repeatedly catching and releasing them in their mouths much than... Be targets of their apparent boisterousness was permitted in the Mediterranean Sea from Spain suddenly had the wheel catamaran France! It. ” of an orca in the Atlantic de las orcas al Urki I # SeguridadNáuticapic.twitter.com/unWxcr894j commencing to and! Two scientists are trying to outrun the animals garner their officially protected status closely connected family groups that developed. A Gijón con 2 tripulantes españoles looked at this animal - and it was really scary the... Of communication for a study back in July, the sailors have reported that “! “ when they play they really like and that ’ s Sun newspaper reported a. I ’ ve seen them attacking sperm whales - that ’ s personal for! According to the idea of vengeful orcas socialise in closely connected family that... Mentality around big predators seemed to be towed back to shore after a of. For five minutes, then nothing for 10 the power to move something big. France to Gibraltar grupo de orcas ; le orcas attacking boats in spain el timón y solicitó remolque lines has in...
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