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With Reuben Goossens
With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, Author, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer and Maritime Lecturer
Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!
Orient Line / P&O Lines
Rick’s 1962 World Voyage
With Rick Danley
Friday July 20
Oronsay is not scheduled to dock in
As Oronsay docks, rays of the setting sun
finally break through illuminating water cascading down
Saturday July 21.
Oronsay will sail at 5:30 P.M.
The sights from the next three stops at
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tonight there was dancing in the Ballroom to Oronsay’s orchestra and Housie in the Lounge.
Sunday July 22.
Church services in the morning and “Onward Christian Soldiers” is sung. Bridge in the afternoon and there is a double feature in the evening: “Singapore Stopover” (a documentary - we will be there on Tuesday) and “Posse From Hell” with Audie Murphy. In all it is a day best spent near the pool.
Monday July 23.
We are not far from the equator though we never do cross it. I was already a trusty Shellback from my trip on Del Sud two years earlier. However, I regret that I never get to take part in a crossing ceremony from the Shellback side. My tan is staggering. I’ve never had one this good and more sunny days lie ahead. There’s deck competitions, the Interest Talk is about “British Flags”, other events are taped music of Bruch and Schubert in the Starboard Gallery, dancing, and Housie in the lounge (tickets are only one shilling each now, although the prize pot has been reduced to match).
Tuesday July 24 -
Tuesday July 24 -
Around 5 A.M., Oronsay is off Horsburgh Lighthouse which marks the eastern Entrance to
We strike out on our own. I recall lunch or
brunch at the Raffles Hotel. I recall this magnificent estate, one of the most
impressive dwellings I have ever seen. I recall an unknown
soldier memorial. However today, if I saw its picture I would be hard
pressed to tell whether it was
Sultan’s Palace at Jahore
Nights in port ranged from the
mundane to the intriguing. These are not the ethereal nights at sea. On board,
more lights are turned on. The superstructure (including the funnel) is lit.
More crew are about. A staffed checkpoint is at the gangway entrance. By
today’s standards, Oronsay’s security would be considered
laughable. To tell the truth, in
Of the full night stays in port,
I know I was on deck in
Wednesday July 25.
Oronsay sails at 9:30 A.M. Another Gurkha fife-and-drum band serenades our departure. I am hit with a dose of reality when I realize that in just three weeks, the voyage will end. A conclusion which had once seemed so distant is now on the horizon. I recall a slight uneasiness creeping into each reading of Today’s Events.
This morning, we are three days out of
The Interest Talk is “Ocean Currents”. The Interest Talks have done little to fire my imagination. They are on tape and played in the Starboard Gallery (there was also a Port Gallery), a public room of which I have little memory. As I recall, not everyone was there to listen. Conversations, card games, disinterested readers and the like competed with the detached voice droning over the speakers. These talks would soon be moved to the Ballroom.
3 Travelogue films on
Today’s Events also solicits volunteers for a “Passenger’s Concert” on Friday night.
Thursday July 26.
Deck competitions continue and the “Freak Ships” Interest Talk is rerun. Additionally, there is bridge, cricket practice, and cha-cha lessons. Tonight’s film is “Rear Window” again. It is shown not as per usual in the Ballroom, but in an open-air setting on A Deck adjacent to the pool.
At 6 A.M. Oronsay entered the
Friday July 27.
Besides the lecture today entitled “The Sea.” There are Deck Completions, Light Music, and two other big events are on Oronsay’s schedule.
The first is Frog Racing at 5 P.M. in the Ballroom. This is another of Oronsay’s unique events. Flat wooden frogs are jerked along a string set close to the floor. The string is anchored to chairs set at one end of the Ballroom, a ‘jockey’ tugging on the string is at the other. The anchor chairs, however, are not heavy enough to remain motionless when the jockey pulls. Consequently, to my horror and dismay, I and two friends are among those enlisted to sit on the chairs for additional weight. The reason for the dismay is that my two friends were from Tourist Class.
Those who have seen Leonardo di Caprio in “Titanic” will well remember the locked gates separating the classes on the doomed ship. On P&O Orient Line it wasn’t so diabolical. Public thresholds between First and Tourist were merely marked by signs though I do perhaps recall doors which could be shut. That, however, does not mean Oronsay’s stewards were casual about the intermingling of classes, especially among the kids. Adults who strayed between classes without the proper authorization might be civilly reminded and asked not to do it again. Kids, though, they pursued, in a dignified sort of manner, with loud voices to alert any brethren of the danger headed their way.
While crossing the Pacific, I had been well
aware that there were kids my age in Tourist Class. Early on, taunts were
hurled between First Class kids on the Sun Deck and Tourist Class kids on their
side of A-Deck (the open deck at the stern). But, the competitiveness soon
dissipated. Back then, all my friends were from First Class. However, my two
best friends left Oronsay in the Orient. Now, I had made two more, Frank and
Joey, who both travelled in Tourist. As I recall, I got to know them in
With Frank and Joey, I attended some Tourist Class events, Frog Races also (a much more raucous affair); and movies, the same ones as First Class, but on different days and times. For someone wanting to go between First and Tourist Classes, it was not all that difficult. It was generally a matter of opportunity and timing. One wanted to avoid inquiring stewards en route. Aft of C-Deck was always a good entry point. The Clinic, which served both classes, kept its threshold open. Tension decreased the further one moved away. For one thing, Tourist Class stewards paid less attention than their First Class colleagues, and, of course, there were not as many. And, perhaps they simply assumed that no one from First Class would want to bother visiting the common Tourist Class.
Getting Frank and Joey to come the other direction, was difficult at first. They were nervous. Could you actually be confined to your cabin, if caught? Would pool privileges be revoked? Nonetheless, they got up their courage and found a way. Fortunately, if they needed to get out of sight, they could duck into my cabin. They wore shoes to aid in anonymity. It made them look like “good” kids, as opposed to sneaky types who might be trying to get away with something. They didn’t use the pool. We never played deck games in the Arena. We tried to be inconspicuous and yet, do things. Which, of course, was when we sweated the most since there was First Class personnel at every event. For Frank and Joey the extra space after being hemmed in Tourist Class for so long was refreshing. So much more deck space open to the sun; big, uncluttered public rooms; sweeping views of the sea. (I also got them into see The Flat, a real educational experience for Tourist Class kids). The Sun Deck, Oronsay’s uppermost, was a favorite spot. It was very compact and located aft, just above The Grill - Oronsay’s classiest restaurant. The view of the pools and lower decks were framed by the sea and ever-changing shades of blue churning up in Oronsay’s wake. Up there, besides Oronsay’s Tennis courts, Deck Tennis is very strenuous, was sheltered from the sun and wind. Most adults preferred The Arena, with its exciting forward views, nice wicker furniture, windowed walls to deflect the wind, and numerous courts for Quoit Toss, a rather docile game. The Sun Deck was younger, more adventurous, more out of the way, and less frequented by stewards, always a good selling point.
Compared to First Class, Tourist seemed turmoil of humanity. Over half of Oronsay’s 1100-1200 passengers were allotted the aft quarter of the ship and the lowest decks. It’s my understanding that passengers in Tourist paid dirt cheap fares as the operation of the ship was largely underwritten by those in First. This was a reminder that Oronsay was a passenger ship. . Even in the early 1960s, people still used ships as a mode of transportation. P&O Orient Lines tapped very deeply into this market.
Nonetheless, Tourist Class was cramped. The airiness of First evaporated. There were no long promenade decks. The vantage points to watch the goings-on at sea and in port weren’t as numerous and the views much less favorable. The hallways weren’t as wide. The lighting seemed harsher. Two (or more!) people were placed in cabins smaller than my single.
And thus, when asked by the Frog master at the First Class Frog Races to provide the necessary mass to the chairs, we gulped and dutifully took our positions. Since the frogs started at our end, we were sitting there for all to see. But, we looked respectable, so I was hopeful. As the races progressed, we became more relaxed as for today, it seemed we would escape harassment. Nonetheless, there was always an edge to being with friends, especially when they came to visit me.
I am seen in the middle at the frog races in the checked shirt looking at my friend
That night was also the Passengers’ Concert. I don’t recall any memorable performances. Of the scheduled eight “items”, two were singers, two were pianists, there was a gentleman “and partner in ‘THE TANGO’” (I do vaguely remember two people swirling around), an ensemble called “SEXY - SICKS” (of which there were seven). Item #1 and Item #8 were community singing.
The concert programme
My concert program, however,
included a special handwritten item: “Item #4 1/2 - 2 Performing Carpet
Beetles”. Carpet beetles had become a running joke, courtesy of our favorite English couple, the Hills from Hampshire. When
shortly out of
Saturday July 28 -
Despite complaining about the sweltering heat, my Father nixes my plea to wear flip-flops ashore. The request had been something of a ploy as I had hoped that might make him look favorably upon my sneakers, but they don’t win approval either. Neither does he much like me wearing deck pants as they are “too casual”.
view of the bay as we arrive in
Thus at 10 A.M., when Oronsay anchors off shore, I am fully attired as a launch takes us to the city. I have a bad feeling today will be tedious. Our passports are checked upon docking. The last launch back to Oronsay departs at 5:15 for the 6 P.M. sailing.
Oronsay seen from the tender as we go ashore
We again shun Oronsay’s tour
and this time to our near regret. As previously mentioned, l remember little of
this portion of the trip. I know we bought a few carved items, we visited a zoo
as well as
is seen here with a Buddhist monk at a
I forget the details of why my parents and I
happened to be walking along this wide, but lightly trafficked
Though the street seemed major, it was four,
if not six, lanes, yet I recall little traffic. The late afternoon the
Ceylonese sun seemed little different than high noon, perhaps more yellow in
nature. We walked directly into its glare. I and my Mom were a bit ahead of my
dad. As I passed a doorway to my left, out sprung an elderly man with no hands
and no feet. Just stumps. I mean, he hobbled on all fours. In retrospect, however, his sudden entrance
was a well practiced. I was, as the British say, ‘gob smacked’. I
had been to
I haven’t yet mentioned that my dad was a photographer, and a very good one. For our vacations, his preferred medium was movies, 16mm movies. And thus, when forced to defend for his wallet, he found out just how solid his oversized Bolex camera was. A couple of energetic swings from his camera-cum-weapon caused the assailants to back off and give up, presumably to try again on some other unsuspecting tourist.
And, we continued on. I remained stunned as my parents chattered about the incident. From their point of view, we returned to the ship with an exciting story. But, I wasn’t as enthusiastic. I remained ‘agitated’, for lack of a better word. Ultimately, it became great sport for my dad to tell the tale, but I never wanted to talk about it. To this day I still remember that man’s face.
wonderful lady, Dr. Indu Dave, who now
lives in the
Kandyan dancers appeared in the ballroom before sailing, and that night there was Housie, the first five games were one schilling each and the final game two shillings. Uninterested, I recall saving my money and passing the time on the Sun Deck with my Tourist Class pals. Besides, tonight, I was defiantly barefoot and even the middling formality of the lounge during Housie held little appeal.
Sunday July 29.
One day out of
That night we celebrate Frank’s
impending farewell in
This was a reality about long-haul passenger ships. I had experienced it before. You know people for a few weeks or even just a few days and they become great friends, as good as any you ever know. And then they vanish. The ship docks and they go their own way. They go their own way forever. Paths are unlikely ever to cross again, certainly as kids. Thus, there’s a poignancy to these friendships which doesn’t manifest itself until much later.
Monday July 30 -
dock until 2 PM. The day becomes greyer with each passing hour. There is so
much smog, and the humidity is debilitating. Even if the pool were open, it
would be an unpleasant swim. As it is, every time I go on deck, I return
dripping wet. I dread the prospect of putting shoes on to go ashore. I’m not sure they have completely dried out from
My memory of
“Sam the Worst”
Of course, he is
waiting for us at the gangway. We have eight hours in port, and Sam gives us a
full eight hours. There is the obligatory snake charmer dressed in rags. There
is the Gateway to
Memories were jogged slightly by the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. I know I was at the Taj Hotel. My picture of the Gateway to India Arch places me there. It’s probable I went inside; it’s even possible I ate a meal. I may have a memory of the facade. A half century later, I could have been at grave risk at that spot.
After the sights, Sam took us to his flat and displayed his wares. I still have an interesting knife from his fine stock. On the way back to the ship, we stop at a tea/bar establishment (for lack of a better description) for late refreshments. Just a local watering hole really - some additional color. Yet, a memory remains. The place seemed rooted in the 30s. Tall ceilings set with twirling fans. A well-worn white tile floor reflects light and sounds. I remember the atmosphere as much as the place itself. The muggy weather outside adds to the ambiance. Unlike the Japanese, Indians paid no attention to westerners in their midst.
Prior to sailing, some local performers come aboard to entertain in the Ballroom and my dad picks out a familiar face. It’s the snake charmer from earlier in the day. But, now, instead of rags, he is dressed in glorious flowing silks. He and my dad seem to share a good laugh about his miraculous rags-to-riches transformation. My dad reports that when asked about the dangers of working with a cobra, the charmer told him that the snake had been defanged. “Are you crazy?” he is alleged to have said.
Barefoot. As ten o’clock comes and goes, I patiently wait on A-deck for
Oronsay to sail. After squishing around
After a bit, I spot a lone figure, constantly looking up, searching the railings for someone aboard ship. For some moments, I watch as he wanders aimlessly. However, after piercing the dimness, I realize it to be Frank. I shout some greetings and then race a circuitous route down staircases and hallways to Tourist Class. I literally drag Joey from his bunk and we hoof it up to the Tourist Class section of B-Deck at the stern. It’s lower and we don’t have to yell to be heard. We have only a few minutes for some final memories (with, of course, solemn promises to write) before Oronsay starts drifting away. Nonetheless, it was a unique experience to be on a departing ocean liner and have the only person to see the ship off be there to wave goodbye to you and a friend.
Tuesday July 31.
We will be largely at sea for several days which suits me fine. This is also my morning to tour the engine room. It might be prudent for me to wear shoes down there, I suppose. But since my Father has already had his tour and won’t be along, I decide wear my sneakers.
The official invite for me to visit the engine room
I would hardly call it a room either. It resembles a factory. It’s immense. I try to imagine how such a gigantic space can fit into Oronsay and still leave room for everything else. Metal catwalks vie with pipes of all shapes and sizes. Valves and meters dot the landscape. I stand within two meters of a propeller shaft whirling much faster than I had imagined. It also hit me then that I was 30 feet under the water. I imagine conditions are a far cry better from the days when guys were stoking coal into the boilers. Still, all this is going on while I have fun in the pool.
The rest of day is routine but, two weeks from tomorrow, it’s all over. I try to think of nothing but the pool. It would be nice if it was open at night. All the regular events are on today’s schedule. Housie, progressive housie, cha-cha, deck competitions, light music, and “Winds and How They Are Caused” for the Interest Talk.
As long as the pool is open, whatever events occur are fine by me. Routine events don’t get me down. But, for the food! Seemingly, overnight a malaise set in as it’s become beyond mundane. Everything tastes dreary. The smell of the dining room, itself, numbs my appetite. I linger over the menu hopeful of finding an entrée to liven up the meal; something to make me feel it has been worth my while to have donned a jacket, tie and shoes. It’s the same food I liked at the start of the voyage, and still prepared to same high standard. But, dinner has become drudgery. The Verandah buffet is a welcome relief, though on days when there is none, lunch and dinner blur together.
There will be a brief stop for fuel in
Wednesday August 1.
There is plenty to do today. There are 4
travelogue films on
At the Syndicate Quiz, thanks to some sharp answers from my dad and Mr. Hall, we finish third. Unfortunately, our prize is a bottle of champagne which does me no good. But, Mr. Hall does lead a hearty toast to me while I sip on ginger ale.
Thursday August 2.
Today’s Interest Talk is “Dhows” and the movie tonight is “A Taste of Honey”. “Parents are advised that this is an ‘X’ film - adults only.” It gives me an excuse to run off to Tourist Class after dinner.
Today’s Events also has one other announcement of interest to my dad, quite possibly even caused by him: “Attention has been drawn to a number of errors and omissions in the printed passenger lists issued on board. These lists are printed on shore some while before the ship sails, but the inaccuracies are much regretted and will be brought to the attention of those responsible for production.”
I can understand my Father’s unhappiness. You go on that once-in-a-lifetime round-the-world voyage and not only is your name never in the Passenger List, the quality of “the inaccuracies” is humiliating.
Passenger List booklets were issued on three
occasions during the voyage: after sailings from
I am not sure what my Father said to the Purser, but before the voyage was over, we specially received six new Passenger Lists, two of each edition, with corrections pasted over the errors. And though my Father was now properly listed, I was still accorded a line just to myself, proving there were no children in our party.
Friday August 3 –
I don’t feel
real well. The fuel here is like everything else in
My parents have brought
me a souvenir of
A few hours out of
Saturday August 4.
A perfect day for Aquatic Competitions. Though the sun is fierce, I haven’t
worried about burning since
A busy day and full of fun!
I do the diving-for-spoons. I don’t win, but I do pretty well. I’m used to the pool and opening my eyes in the salt water. I can stay under a long time. As I recall, in order to win, I would have needed bigger hands. This time for the pajama race, “BUTTON UP” pajamas are specifically stipulated, capital letters and underlining courtesy of Today’s Events. Had I missed something at the previous pajama race?
Tonight is also the Fancy Dress Parade & Dance, a truly festive occasion. However, I have no imagination. I want to take part, but my heart isn’t into the making of a clever costume. Finally, I go as ‘The Beach Bum’. In other words, my “costume” is to dress pretty much as I usually did when away from the dining room.
Yes Mom also partook in Fancy Dress
or lose, it was great fun!
Win or lose, it was great fun!
I felt fatalistic. Once
Oronsay passed through the Suez Canal,
I felt fatalistic. Once
Oronsay passed through the Suez Canal,
I’d catch up on sleep during the day by dozing on the Sun Deck, or by
the pool; maybe a nap before dinner.
Eventually, something in my sleeping brain, triggered by extreme quiet, would wake me. Always barefoot, I’d climb silently upwards. I wanted no one to know when I came or went. The stairs just outside my B-deck cabin took me directly to the Stadium Deck. On many ships, this would be called the Boat Deck. I’d wander aft and find a secluded length of railing hidden among lifeboats and davits.
Below, torrents of white, and sometimes phosphorescent, froth meet the blackness of the sea. The horizon between ocean and sky vanishes. The Milky Way shines so brightly that its reflection can be seen upon the water. I’d hear Oronsay’s reassuring hum. I’d feel her vibrations against my feet. Because the rest of the world sleeps, every one of those sensations, as well as a myriad of others, is ever more acutely realized. At these times, only Oronsay and myself sail the great oceans.
Sunday August 5.
A short notice
regarding the Gulf of Suez and
It is a magnificent day. The sun is hot and I can’t get enough of it. I am now so aware that this
life on board hasn’t long to go. There’s divine services in the morning, cricket in the
afternoon, and Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” in the evening.
However, the real excitement is the land visible most of the day, especially in
the afternoon as Oronsay sails past the Sinai Peninsula and into the
I awake after midnight to a different type of
quiet. The engines have stopped for it turned out that the Oronsay is at
anchor. The sound is eerie. Not at all like being in port.
On the Stadium Deck, from my favorite section of
railing, I can tell there are many other ships nearby, all awaiting dawn to
I don’t linger. Oronsay’s funnel is lit, overpowering the Milky Way. There is crew up and about readying the ship for the transit. Tonight, no sea wind blows through my hair, no vibrations pulsate, no seclusion exists.
Besides, I need to sleep. We are leaving for
Monday August 6 - Port
Today has been keenly anticipated. The
Pyramids were always a focal point. No other individual sight compared. We have
chosen BlueBird Travel’s “Quick Trip to
Blue Bird tour brochure
The Blue Bird tour brochure
The 5:30 A.M. breakfast is a hurried affair. I already feel ragged. Women are directed to bring scarves to cover their heads; men, to wear long pants and bring jackets and ties. Hotels and restaurants would not serve us otherwise. Staying aboard Oronsay for the transit might not have been such a bad option. As we are ferried ashore, I note that the shield on Oronsay’s bow is open, revealing a spotlight. I’d no idea the shield was anything except decoration. I imagined that it was put to use in finding an anchorage during the night.
Of the two and a half hour Pullman Coach (bus)
We are soon on our way to the Pyramids. I
suppose that while my perception of them was certainly lofty, I really
considered them no different from seeing, for example, the
It is like the days of “Lawrence of Arabia” out here, sand everywhere
We spend a fair amount of time though not enough for me to go clamber around the bases or to take more than a cursory glance at The Sphinx. These omissions, I still regret.
Nonetheless, it is possible that the supreme
highlight of my entire voyage was riding the camel. Actually, I didn’t ride him. He just stood up with me on his hump.
But, when he did, the not-too-distant city of
What a great experience and in from of the Pyramids and the Sphinx
For the rest of
After donning the jacket and tie, we lunch
atop the Nile Hilton. The hotel is very modern and the view, absolutely
stellar. I wouldn’t
mind staying here a few days if for no other reason than to watch
Next, Mr. Fez takes us across the way to the
We see the mummies after Mr. Fez requested an admission fee from us just for the mummy room. We enter through a common doorway, and there they are, numerous pharaohs and queens, each displayed in their own austere wood and glass cabinet. Unlike Tutankhamen’s treasures, the mummies are lit by bland overhead lighting. Little printed cards stuck in a corner of the glass indentifies each mummy. I had not yet read the poem about Ozymandias, but when I did, I thought of me in the Mummy Room. Here was Rameses 2. There was the one with the clubfoot. I remember the detail of their eyelashes and fingernails; of their toes splayed out at cartoonish angles. I doubt many of these royal souls would be pleased to know I had gazed upon their faces. But, if it would help Mr. Fez to his “big tip”, I suppose they would have to bear the ignominity.
Ultimately, Mr. Fez didn’t get “it”. My Father became rather contemptuous of him. Indeed, Mr. Fez had been regularly hitting my dad for extra fees for one reason or another. When my dad meets others from the ship and asks if they had to pay additional beyond stated admission prices, they answer no. Mr. Fez’s “big tip” is doomed.
I was only 13, and it was rather cheesy of Mr. Fez to be after me like that, always waiting until I was out of earshot of my parents (and, at 13, I was always trying to be out of earshot of my parents). Of course, in our country, no reputable guide could get away with such audacity. But, then again, it was not our country.
In retrospect, I think we should have played along a bit. I think we should have given him a modest tip and laughed about it. We could have let Mr. Fez know we didn’t appreciate his deceit. We could have assured him we would NOT be recommending him to our legions of well-to-do friends about to visit the Pyramids in the coming weeks. But, there was nothing wrong with his tour per se. True, his frequent bouts of self-promotion grew tiresome. Still, my dad needn’t have stiffed the guy like he did. I can’t say I remember Mr. Fez with any great fondness, but I do well remember him; and, ultimately, he deserved more for the memory.
After a dinner on the outskirts of Cairo
Ismailia, perhaps, we board the buses for the return to Oronsay.
At sunset, our caravan of buses stops at the
desert’s edge. Everyone gets out for one final stretch before the long
Except for the power lines in the distance, it was like going back to Biblical times!
At very last light, I look down that long
ribbon of highway to
Night falls soon after we are underway. The
burden of the long day takes its toll. I sit all the way in back with no one
near to me. My parents are several rows in front. In the darkness, I ditch my
sand filled shoes and socks. Perhaps, I made sure they would get that way, so I
would have the excuse. It is pointless to look out the window. There is only
black. I have no way of knowing if we are along the Nile, along the
In Part Three: Returning to the Oronsay and the voyage to Tilbury!
SS Oronsay: This Page covers RMS Oronsay’s complete history.
SS Oronsay: Page Two contains this fine ships complete Deck Plan!
Part Two: Rick Danley sails on SS Oronsay’s World Voyage in 1962.
Page One: Across
Page Three: Port Said to London & Epilogue – RMS Queen Mary Trans Atlantic crossing
Page Four: Voyage memorabilia, menus and other items – further items to come online soon!
Watch the following Pathe films:
This film shows RMS ORONSAY during her very early days!
is the continuation of the above film
This is the continuation of the above film
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