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Topic: TR: A Greenland Science Expedition, 2012, Only took five years. :)< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: May 11 2012, 5:43 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Five years ago I posted a thread announcing a decision to go to Greenland.  The place gripped my imagination since I was a kid.

I've since abandoned my previous career as a computer scientist, entered a Geography PhD program, and hit the books for several years, poring over equations and spreadsheets and maps, analyzing satellite data collected from boxes orbiting hundreds of miles in space, staring through scientific peepholes at a place I've dreamed about.  For two years I've waved goodbye to colleagues embarking on field campaigns, while panging with jealousy at the chance to go.  Six months ago, I grew tired of waiting, grabbed the horse by the balls, and hammered away at every possible resource to carve out a field expedition of my own making.  Lo and behold (almost a surprise to me), it worked.  I got the approval from the NASA program manager to divert funds from an existing grant toward a bare-bones field team to perform a single experiment on the Greenland Ice Sheet.  Our measurements, if successful, will be a proof-of-concept for ground-truthing satellite altimetry measurements, carving out more accurate mass-balance estimates on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

This isn't a backpacking report, but it's my story.  Long story short... this was a long time coming for me.

Feb-April, 2012 - Preparations
Write grants.  Rewrite grants.  Secure funding.  Design instruments.  Order parts.  Borrow tools.  Send countless e-mails.  Listen to hours of NASA telecons.  Borrow equipment.  Return parts and order different parts.  Build instruments.  Buy what field gear I can afford.  Borrow the rest.  Test equipment.  Buy food.  Get field permits.  Custom build more equipment just to get our equipment working together.  Get SAR insurance.  Ship gear through the US Air Nat'l Guard.  Book flights.  Secure accommodations in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.  I'll spare you the bloody details, but it took a helluva lot of work to get this together.

Liam and I building instruments in the basement of the NSICD (Nat'l Snow & Ice Data Center), Boulder, CO:


Dr. Tad Pfeffer and I testing an old SIPRE ice drill loaned from the US Army (thanks uncle Sam!), outside Nederland, CO:


Packing boxes to Kanger with Customs documents attached, a month before leaving ourselves:


One week before flying to Greenland, Liam--my partner in crime and the voice of Greenlandic experience on our team--drops out due to dental/medical complications.  The trip is almost torpedoed; I can't drill those cores alone.  But I get assurance from GEUS (the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, whom we've teamed up with for this expedition) that they will help with our efforts as much as possible.  There are enough people along to cover the tasks, weather willing.  I can come alone, so long as I don't f*** anything up.  Whoo-boy, no pressure there... let's go! :O

April 25-26:  Travel
Up at 4:30.  Four hours from Denver.  3 hours in Newark.  8 hours to Copenhagen.  2 hours to pass through customs and not fall asleep in a Danish airport terminal (red-eye flights don't work, I can't sleep worth a damn).  4 hours to Kangerlussuaq.  Barely a wink of sleep as I land at 9:30 in the morning, prepared for a day and a half of field preparations.

I'm thankful to higher powers for the existence of coffee.

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland... a former US Air Force Base, currently the only private air strip in Greenland big enough for a passenger jet:


Dash-8-200: A 37-seat workhorse plane for Air Greenland regional flights.  Loading up for a flight to Nuuk, I think.


I meet Dirk, Horst, Faisa and Charalampos (a Greek fella hereafter known as "Bobbis") at the airport, we rent a truck and take it to the KISS (Kangerlussuaq International Science Support) facility to check in.  Housed in an old Air Force bunker, KISS now serves as "home base" for Greenland scientists around the world.

KISS:


(More to come...)


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PostIcon Posted on: May 11 2012, 5:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great so far...thanks for sharing!  And I'm looking forward to the rest.

Also if I might say, a pretty good story about changing career paths for something you found a passion for, with an awesome ending.


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PostIcon Posted on: May 11 2012, 5:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks Eastie... although I have to add a slight correction to the word "ending."  I'm just getting started in this field. :)

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PostIcon Posted on: May 11 2012, 5:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sweet

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PostIcon Posted on: May 11 2012, 6:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I like it!  You are a very determined guy, and I am positive you will make it all work itself out.  

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PostIcon Posted on: May 11 2012, 7:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Good stuff! Looking forward to the rest, especially your findings.

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PostIcon Posted on: May 11 2012, 8:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

About damn time. Get to posting the rest.

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PostIcon Posted on: May 12 2012, 12:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great story GBH, very happy to see the hard work and determination led to this opportunity (and more to come I'm sure). Although I'm not surprised, this type of success story IS the Michigan Difference!

Looking forward to hearing the rest of the story.
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PostIcon Posted on: May 12 2012, 2:29 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Good Sir, it always truly amazes me when I see, hear or read about great efforts done by good people yielding such great results. As I have said before, my hat is off to you, good inspiring goal and connection to it.  Or in my simple way – Sweet, Way cool.

I know I am truly interested in the results of all of the data that has been collected, though I must say, the simplified version of course.


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PostIcon Posted on: May 13 2012, 11:59 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Best of luck I'm the arctic. Keep us posted!

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PostIcon Posted on: May 14 2012, 5:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

more, More, MORE!

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PostIcon Posted on: May 14 2012, 7:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

where's the report of the actual field work?  that's the cool part!

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PostIcon Posted on: May 14 2012, 10:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm getting there, hold yer' britches. :p I had better things to do all weekend and was pretty tied up at work today. I think tomorrow I should be able to post some more.

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PostIcon Posted on: May 15 2012, 12:42 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Interesting and cool read so far.
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PostIcon Posted on: May 15 2012, 8:48 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Awesome so far! Definitely something pretty cool to be involved in.

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PostIcon Posted on: May 15 2012, 3:41 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ May 14 2012, 10:58 pm)
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I think tomorrow I should be able to post some more.

It's "tomorrow", and we're still waiting...

ETA: I forgot about the Mountain time zone thingy, so I'll cut you a little slack


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PostIcon Posted on: May 25 2012, 5:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

April 26-27: Field Preparations

We check in to the facilities at KISS and get our bunk keys.  Various teams from various corners of the world buzz around randomly; in various states of boredom and frantic work.  First on the "to do" list is haul science supplies.  Dirk rents a truck and we head to the Danish shipping warehouse to pick up gear shipped in by GEUS (the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, picking up the majority of the tab on this trip).

It's a crisp, calm, balmy day in Kanger.  Temps hovers just around freezing most the day.

Horst, waiting in the warehouse:


GEUS load 1 of 4 in the rental truck:


After unloading the gear at KISS, most the team has assembled, and we collectively head over to the NEEM trailers in town.  NEEM (the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling Project, in Danish) is a multi-million-dollar deep coring project sponsored in part by the University of Copenhagen.  None of us work for NEEM at all, but the GEUS folks are somewhat affiliated, and Dirk knows the combination to the supply trailers NEEM keeps in Kanger to keep their field teams supplied.  A quick hop in the truck, open a couple padlocks and we're surrounded with all the personal polar field equipment you could shake a stick at, on loan at our disposal from the royal government of Denmark.  It's good to have friends in high places. :)

Opening the NEEM trailers:


Polar suits galore!  Dirk and Babis looking over a couple items in the truck:


Dirk picks out a polar suit that fits fairly well, but we call him "janitor" enough times that he eventually chooses something more fashionable:


Next: Food!  I shipped up a couple boxes for Liam and I, and the guys from Aberystwyth University in Great Britain (another component of our team) haul out some old crates leftover from a previous field season (what's still good in here?).  GEUS plans to pick everything up in town.  A couple trips to the grocery store where everything costs 3x a much as you'd buy at home, and we're eventually surrounded by a whilrwind of collective team food.

Crap is expensive in Greenland ($57 kr. = about $12 US).  GEUS spent approximately $4500 DKK picking up their share of the field food at the Kangerlussuaq market.  I'm glad we shipped the bulk of our stuff up ahead of time.


Horst and Sam sorting through old boxes from previous field trips out back.  Some was good... some, notsomuch.  Canned fish, anyone?


Horst and Faisa sorting food in one of the old spare labs at KISS:


By mid-afternoon I'm able to borrow the truck and finally retrieve my gear at the NSF (Nat'l Science Foundation) USA Science Support facilities nearby:


The mood is bright as the team settles in for the evening.  It's Horst's 36th Birthday, and we share a bottle of good Scotch while sampling the local musk-ox cuisine from the Thai take-out restaurant down the street (Thai food made with musk-ox, who'da thunk. :p  Although musk-ox is better than you'd think, actually. :))

Dirk enjoying a laugh at dinner.  Later, Dirk and Babis look over some data while I enjoy an evening drink at KISS.


Alun (that's "Dr. Hubbard", from Britain), being Alun:


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PostIcon Posted on: May 25 2012, 6:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Next morning it's up early.  Dirk and I meet our pilots at the airport, a couple Icelandic guys (of the "speak seldom but carry a big stick" mentality) flying a chartered Norland Air Twin Otter plane.  We agree to load up the first flight tonight, to get as early a start tomorrow as possible.  Less than a day left to prepare, still lots to do!

Katrin and Emily organizing some of the GPR (Ground-Penetrating-RADAR) equipment:


Field boxes galore; everything's got a purpose:


Anyone got a gate key?


...anyone?



Dirk eventually finds a key sitting in an untended forklift, and opens to gate so our truck can get onto the tarmac to load up.  It's not the most secure international airport I've ever been to :p, but hey, it gets the job done. :)  One of the first items on is one (of two) SkiDoo's, for our local transportation on the ice:

Rickard driving onto the tarmac:


These things don't track on concrete like they do on snow.  Lean into it, Rickard!


Hmm.  Hey, whatever works. :)  One fit, two didn't.  The second Skidoo will go on the second flight tomorrow.


Hauling our gear that wouldn't fit back to the hangar for another flight:


One of the military hangars at Kanger airport.  If the plane won't fit?  Just cut a hole in the door, dummy!


After loading the plane, the evening is a flurry of sorting personal gear.  Most the past two days we've sorted and tested science and team field gear, finally with that packed there's a chance to arrange my personal items for a week on the ice.  I use the phone to say goodbye's to loved ones back home, and stay up late getting everything arranged for the flights tomorrow.

Sortin' personal gear, in the room.


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PostIcon Posted on: May 25 2012, 6:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

like any good story, the set up all leads the reader deeper into the personalities involved, so later when the real action takes place, we can better understand the who, and the why of it all.  I like this story.

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PostIcon Posted on: May 25 2012, 6:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

April 28 - To the ice?

Hurry up and wait!

The team is up for breakfast at KISS, for naught.  A small storm rolled in off the Greenlandic Sea last night, and the coast is socked in with snow.  Our pilots would gladly take off from the runway in such conditions, but landing on the ice is a different story, and the Weather station is unclear what conditions might be on the ice.  We hang around and drink coffee 'till about 10:00, when the pilots call and let us know that the airport has cancelled all outgoing field flights today.  The team, packed and ready to go, has little to do but sit around.

Evening snow:


Kangerlussuaq in the morning:


By midday I'm bored at KISS.  The weather has fairly cleared off down here (although it's still questionable up on the ice), so I borrow one of the trucks and drive it down to the harbor ten km away, at the end of the Sondre Stromfjord.

Leaving Kanger behind:


Old ferries and a stranded barge, at the harbor:


The sea ice across the fjord is still fairly solid, and I take the opportunity for a walk across the ocean:


Stress fractures and slushy pools.  Watch your step!






Just a crappy self-portrait:


Old US Armed Forces crews used to tag the harbor hillsides with their callnames and other messages.  Sure, it's blatant graffiti, but it's also a bit of history here:


Some of the other team members show up in other trucks, and we spend a bit of time scrambling up one of the nearby cliffs, hanging out a bit and enjoying the views.





Atop the barge:


Spring growth, coming through:


Out into the fjord:


Eventually we drive back to town, toss about 20 beers (courtesy of Alun, thanks lady Britain!) in the truck, put the clutches in 4-Low, and make our way up a sketchy gravel road to the top of the "Black Cliffs" south of town, enjoying our drinks with a view.





Andreas, enjoying the light over Kangerlussuaq:


The tower radiation can't be that bad, can it?


The Watson River in Kangerlussuaq, heading out to Sondre Stromfjord:


Braided channels, the way a wild river runs:


Eventually we're back in KISS again, another evening in town.  We're restless, but the forecast looks good tomorrow, so spirits are well as we enjoy our (hopefully!) last evening in town.

Preparing dinner:




Growing bored of Kanger, ready for the ice:


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PostIcon Posted on: May 25 2012, 6:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I gotta head out this evening, but I have time this weekend and will post some more.  On the ice, very soon. :)

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PostIcon Posted on: May 25 2012, 6:59 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Beer, Tabasco, and fish.  What else would a guy need?  

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(ol-zeke @ May 25 2012, 3:59 pm)
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Beer, Tabasco, and fish.  What else would a guy need?  

If you have to ask. . .

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PostIcon Posted on: May 26 2012, 1:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

He wasn't up there that long.  I am sure he got a warm reception when he returned.  Most fellows would be OK with that arrangement.    

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 17 2012, 5:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

April 29 -- To the ice!

The morning dawns brisk and cloudy, but the airport Met station says it should clear up shortly, so we give our pilots a call and scramble all the trucks to the airport!  (YAY!)  First load on the Twin Otter is one snowmobile with Alun and Sam, who are being dropped off at a lower GPS station (about 40 km outside of camp) to maintain instruments there before meeting the rest of the crew at the main camp later.

First load of field equipment, minus the snowmobile we already loaded two days ago:


Twin Otter's ready to go:


We have at least 90 minutes before the plane comes back.  It's relatively warm in Kanger this morning, maybe 20-30F.  However, those of us heading on the next flight to the ice dress in our full field outfits, because you never really know the conditions up on the ice 'till you get there.  It takes ~5 minutes to get dressed, and the rest of the time I take a nap on the tarmac to pass the time.

Nap on a runway... another "first" for me.  One a side note, the Air Greenland plane behind me is not our plane... it's just left there unattended for awhile during our wait for the twin otter to return.


Our plane returns by mid-morning, I'm roused, and we load the second Skidoo, fuel, and whatever equipment we can fit along with the three of us (Horst, Rickard and myself).  We're tasked, after landing, with getting camp ready when the rest of the team arrives later.

Loading the plane.  I'm jumping to cram one last bag in the cargo hold.  See if you can guess who in the picture is heading to the ice soon, and who isn't:


Once everything's strapped in, we're on!  After the long wait in Kanger, it's a joyous thing to prepare for takeoff.

Guess who in this picture is the rookie, and who's been out there a number of times:


Horst, snug as a bug:


Takeoff!  (I cut about 30 minutes out from the middle of the flight.)


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 17 2012, 7:55 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I was wondering if I missed an installment while I was in Italy, so this is a nice surprise.      

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 17 2012, 9:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hey, I was just thinking about this the other day (as in, "Gee, GBH STILL hasn't finished his Greenland TR").  Keep going. . .

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 18 2012, 4:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The flight out of Kangerlussuaq is spectacular, particularly the edge of the ice where massive crevassed glaciers spill out from the "inland ice" between jagged peaks like molasses flowing from a wolf's jawline.  I have to come back, sometime.

We land at the "S9" station, where Alun and Sam were dropped off previously.  They're still working, but we give them the second Skidoo (parties always travel by two snowmobiles between camps, in case one breaks down) and we pick up fuel barrels cached previously at S9 that they've dug up.  Then, it's off for another short flight to our camp, dubbed "KAN-U" (Kangerlussuaq transect, Upper weather station, also called "S10" for the last of 10 GPS stations placed along the ice flow line).

Swapping gear at S9.


Let's not smoke in here, m'kay?


Our landing in KAN-U is uneventful... the pilots spot the weather/GPS tripods on the ice, and we land right next to them, quickly unloading the gear so they can head back to Kanger (when hiring pilots, time is $$!).  Hunched on a pile of gear next to the plane, we bid temporary farewell to our pilots as the twin otter makes for the coast.

Rickard has done this before.  It takes about 19 seconds in this video 'till I get taught a lesson.


We look around the ice, the noontime sun causing us to squint.  Choosing a good spot a hundred yards or so from the science stations, we begin hauling gear off the "runway" and setting tent bags on the snow in a staggered pair of lines so that the common prevailing winds don't cause snowdrifts from one tent to bury others in the next week.

Um, here's a good spot for the tents!


The sun seems big out here.  This is about as high in the sky as it gets this time of year, here at noon just north of the Arctic circle.


Setting up a MH Space Station tent... these things are a PITA until you get the hang of 'em.  The first space station is our mess tent.  Rickard sets up the stove to begin melting water while Horst and I get the personal tents set up for the team (you can see one set in the background).  Notice the tent stakes.  Bamboo poles are big, cheap, easy to drive into the snow, and easier to dig out from compact ice than metal stakes at camp's end, a week or month later.


The weather isn't bad, but once the mess tent is up, hot drinks are still appreciated.  There is much debate about how (and where) exactly to set up the toilet, but eventually we get something constructed, consisting of a meter-deep pit about a hundred yards outside camp with a bucket and heavy garbage bags. :)

Rickard cuts out a toilet seat while Horst enjoys some tea.


Despite clouds rolling in, eventually the rest of the team lands in camp with most the science gear (the field gear was unloaded previously with our plane), and the rest of camp comes to order quickly.

Hey guys!


Camp looks good.  :)


Rickard digs a toilet pit, and a set of flags are posted so you can find your way safely to/from the latrine in a storm, without losing your way.  Wandering even a hundred feet in a whiteout can cause you to wander off fatally if you lose your bearings.

Rickard digging the toilet pit.  It's easy to miss if you don't know where to look.


A flag to the toilet pit.  I have no idea where Andreas and Dirk are pointing.


The afternoon rolls on into evening, and for a bit we're worried about Alun and Sam down at S9 (they're late, and haven't checked in on the Sat-phone).  But eventually we reach them on the Iridium phones, and an hour or two later they've make it back safe and sound.  Everyone unpacks their personal gear in the tents, and settles in for a nice dinner and evening in camp. :)  Already a day late on the ice, we're anxious to get working tomorrow if the weather allows.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 27 2012, 9:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thank you for posting the TR, truly enjoyed the read and Pictures.  I hate to say it, living for so long down here in the desert, well man it does look so cold, biter down through the bones cold.  Not sure it is my cup of brew these days, but looking at the pictures does tug on the inner soul for adventures.

Way Cool GBH :cool:  :)


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 09 2012, 6:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

very cool..VERY VERY cool.

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