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Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:20

More Resources - Explorers (Young)

team_ice.jpgYoung Explorers - More Resources

Students on Ice takes high school students age 14 – 19 and their teachers and chaperones on learning expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. On their website you can read daily dispatches and see photos from previous expeditions.

National Geographic Young Explorer Grants aim to foster the next generation of researchers, explorers, and conservationists. Seed grants to individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 provide the opportunity for many recipients to pursue their first experiences in the field.

The Pittarak Expedition led by National Geographic Young Explorer and Global Warming 101 expedition member Sarah McNair-Landry skied and kited 1,430-miles (2,300-kilometers) to cross the Greenland icecap. See the expedition journals, logs, photographs, and high-definition video footage here.

With guidance from teachers, even very young students can research community problems and plan their own service projects. Kids as Planners is a guidebook that helps teachers engage students in Service-Learning. It can be purchased through the Kids Consortium.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:19

Action! - Explorers (Young)

sigrid_03.jpgYoung Explorers - Action!

Your home region is the best place to start exploring. Visit a Nature Center near you to learn about your local environment. You can ask the staff of the nature center for ways you can take action in your community to help protect the environment.

Help develop the next generation of explorers by hosting a No Child Left Inside Day. The Chesapeake Foundation provides suggested outdoor activities and information about the No Child Left Inside congressional bill. Getting kids connected with nature is an important step towards developing environmental responsibility.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:18

Discussion Starters - Explorers (Young)

toby_03.jpgYoung Explorers - Discussion Starters

Teachers: Use the following information to spark discussion in your classroom. Familiarize students with the events, people and organizations in the following paragraphs and then encourage students to discuss their opinions and reactions. There are several example questions and suggested areas for discussion. Remind your students that discussion requires well-supported opinions, respectful listening, and sometimes agreeing to disagree.

Each generation is unique. There has been a lot of attention in the media lately about the “Millennial Generation”, those born in the 1980s and 1990s. The New Politics Institute produced a profile of the Millennial Generation, drawing on numerous polls, studies, reports, and analyses. Here is an excerpt of the report:

The “Millennial Generation” is becoming the most common name for young people born roughly in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, who are pouring out of college right now. This generation is even larger than the Baby Boomers…

Similar to the Boomers, the Millennials are poised to impact the country at every life stage and in myriad ways - but particularly in politics. By 2008, the number of citizen-eligible Millennial voters will be nearing 50 million. By the presidential election of 2016, Millennials will be one third or more of the citizen-eligible electorate, and roughly 30 percent of actual voters—and this is making no assumptions about possible increased turnout rates among Millennials in the future, which could make their weight among actual voters higher. Moreover, from that point on, the Millennials’ share of the actual voters will rise steadily for several decades as more and more of the generation enter middle age.

The Millennials are an unusual generation, not like young people we have seen for a long time. As first noted by generational analysts William Strauss and Neil Howe, they are not individualistic risk-takers like the Boomers or cynical and disengaged like Generation Xers. Signs indicate that Millennials are civic-minded, politically engaged, and hold values long associated with progressives...

For example, they take concern for global warming and the environment as a given. Millennials overwhelmingly believe that the country should do “whatever it takes” to protect the environment, that stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost and that people should be willing to pay higher prices in order to protect the environment…

And, according to the December, 2006 Pew Research Center Gen Next data, Millennials who are 18-25 today (birth years 1981-88) are running about 10 points higher than Gen Xers at the same age on following what’s going on in government and in level of interest in keeping up with national affairs…

Generations are more than just numbers; they have personalities that are shaped by many factors, including what's happening in the world when they come of age. The Millennial personality comes closest to that of the "GI generation," the one lauded by some as the "Greatest Generation," members of which fought in World War II and built up America and the world in the postwar boom. Millennials are fundamentally optimistic, willing to trust political leaders who perform well, and they believe in government again…

Note, however, that Millennials, while clearly believing in the potential of government, are not satisfied with the ways politics is conducted today or with the politicians that currently represent them. [A Harvard IOP October, 2006 survey of 18-24 year olds found] 78 percent agreed that “elected officials seem to be motivated by selfish reasons;” 74 percent agreed that “politics has become too partisan;” 69 percent agreed that “the political tone in Washington is too negative;” and 75 percent agreed that “elected officials don’t seem to have the same priorities that I have.”
Source: New Politics Institute, 2007 []

The list is long of organizations and movements where Youth are taking action on Climate, including (but not limited to) the following:

Youth can have powerful voices. On November 5, 2007, the U.S. Congressional Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing titled “Youth Leadership on Climate Change.” Young leaders from groups including Students Promoting Environmental Action, the Energy Action Coalition, the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, and the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action addressed the committee. Their speeches moved the audience to applause and tears. You can watch clips of their presentations here [].


  • How accurate do you think is the New Politics Institute’s description of the Millennial Generation?
    • Do you feel their description captures the characteristics of you and your peers?
    • Did the description miss any important aspects of how you identify your own generation?
  • What experiences in your life and the lives of your peers do you think helped shape your generation’s personality?
  • How does it make you feel to have your generation’s personality compared to that of the “GI Generation”, those who won WWII and turned the United States into a world power?
  • How does it make you feel to know that your generation is more engaged, more active, more optimistic and less cynical than Generation X, those people who are now in their thirties?
  • What impact do you think your generation’s personality characteristics will have on this country’s politics? Social systems? Environment? Cities? Foreign policy? Response to climate change?
  • Do you believe that community, government and business leaders will take your generation’s voice into consideration? Why or why not?
    • What could you do to make sure your views are heard and valued?
    • Can your generation’s optimism and engagement “rub off” on other generations? How could you make this happen?

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:17

Lesson Plan - Explorers (Young)

sarah.jpgYoung Explorers - Lesson Plan

Central questions:

  • Who are some of today’s young explorers?
  • What can we learn from the example of young explorers?
  • How can we be explorers?


  • Each student will read about a young explorer.
  • Students will discuss what qualities and characteristics they think make a person an explorer.
  • Students will brainstorm ways they can be explorers.
  • Students will spend time outside of class exploring their surroundings.
  • Students will create and maintain a field journal of their explorations.

Time Needed: At least forty-five minutes, plus follow-up time on a different day

Grade Level: Middle School or High School

INTRODUCTION (5 minutes)

Introduce the idea to your students that most of what we know about the world around us was discovered and recorded by people who were curious about the world around them and who wanted to share their experiences and discoveries with others. We could use the word explorer to describe these curious-minded people whether they are naturalists, scientists, artists, mathematicians, philosophers, travelers, or adventurers.

There is still much to be explored in our world; we shouldn’t think that just because there are few blank spots remaining on world maps that all the questions are answered or that all the discoveries have already been made.

We also should not think that a person has to be “accomplished” in his or her field to make discoveries. Anyone with a curious mind, even a very young person, who actively explores his or her surroundings will make personal discoveries. These personal discoveries and the connection they create to the natural world are an important part of being a responsible steward of the world.
Looking at the examples of several young explorers can help us gain insights into characteristics and qualities that make a person an explorer. We can use these insights to learn how to become explorers of our world.


Explain to the students that you will divide the class into groups of three students. You will then distribute a hand-out to each student that introduces a young explorer and includes some of that explorer’s written reflections on being an explorer. Each student should read his or her hand-out to the other two students in the group. As each student reads, the other two students should jot down key words that describe qualities and characteristics that explorer possesses or important decisions that explorer made that led him or her to becoming an explorer. Each group will then share with the class their favorite or best insights about what makes a young explorer.


  • Divide the class into groups of three. Distribute one “Young Explorer” hand-out to each student (note: there are more than three hand-outs, so you can choose which hand-outs are most appropriate for your individual students). Give the groups time to read and share. (10-15 minutes)
  • Reconvene the class as one large group and ask each group to share its best or favorite insights about characteristics of the explorers to whom they were introduced and/or what they feel makes a person an explorer. Write key words and phrases from student responses on the white-board. (10 minutes)


Homework: If your students have not already suggested this concept, introduce the idea to them that they can be explorers as well. They can start by exploring their surroundings including their yards, neighborhoods, the school grounds, parks, and even their cities and towns.
Remind them that explorers share their discoveries with others by documenting their experiences and observations.

  • Brainstorm with your students ways they could document their experiences of exploring the world around them (this could include photographs, sketches, journals, blogs, videos, audio recordings, a combination of these, or other ideas). Ask your students what positive outcomes could emerge from having a personal connection with their surroundings. If they do not suggest it, you might ask them if they feel that having a personal connection to their home region or for nature in general might make them more likely to care for it. 5 minutes
  • Make an assignment that each student explore his or her surroundings and document their experiences and observations in a creative way.


Notes to the teacher:

  • You can decide for how many days or weeks this project should continue, how many journal entries each student should have, and how the journal projects will be shared with the class.
  • Remind students that any explorations should be undertaken with the knowledge and consent of their parents or guardians.
  • At the conclusion of the journaling project, summarize and debrief the experience with your students. You might chose to ask:
  • What insights did you gain from exploring?
  • How did the act of documenting your experiences impact the experiences?
  • How does it feel to share your experiences with others?
  • Did you feel you developed any personal connection to their surroundings through their explorations and if so, does this impact your motivation to care for their surroundings?
  • You and your students can follow the young explorers featured in this lesson as they travel with Will Steger on the Global Warming 101 Ellesmere Island Expedition. Follow the expedition at
Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:02

Explorers: Historic

Overview Discussion Starters
Lesson Plans More Resources
Action! Back to main

Image courtesy: New Land, Otto Sverdrup

Historic Explorers

Some early expeditions were successful in reaching the High Arctic. The first explorers’ confidence in western methods and the technology of the day, however, did not prepare them for the harsh Arctic conditions. The members of George Nares’ 1876 British expedition developed scurvy and several team members died as they sledged along the northern coast of Ellesmere Island. Five years later a U.S. Army expedition led by Adolphus Greely made the mistake of relying on ships to bring needed food and supplies. When cold weather made the ships unable to reach the expedition, seventeen of the twenty-five team members died of starvation as they tried to retreat. Those who survived did so only by eating the bodies of their dead friends.

Later more successful expeditions understood that success in the High Arctic demanded both respect for the harsh conditions and for the knowledge of the people who had lived there for thousands of years. Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup adopted Inuit and Inughuit technologies to explore the High Arctic. Over four years beginning in 1898 he and his team explored and mapped over 100,000 square miles (260,000 square kilometers), an area the size of the state of Colorado, all by dogsled. His maps were so good they were used until the 1950s when aerial photographs replaced them.

Robert Peary and his African-American partner Matthew Henson hired sixty-nine Inughuit men, women and children to help him prepare for his 1909 expedition. Peary and Henson knew their success would depend on the superiority of Inughuit clothing, dogsledding abilities, and survival experience in the High Arctic. Four of the Inughuit accompanied Peary and Henson all the way to the Pole.

It is important to note that while Europeans and Euro-Americans have been exploring the High Arctic for only the last 150 years, the Inuit and Inughuit have explored and lived in the High Arctic for thousands of years.


  1. What lessons can we learn from the legacy of Inuit and Western exploration of the Arctic?
  2. What can we learn about today’s Arctic from the people who live and work there?
  3. How can we combine the knowledge of western scientists with the knowledge of native peoples to give us a better understanding of the Arctic?

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:16

Explorers: Young

Overview Discussion Starters
Lesson Plans More Resources
Action! Back to main


Young Explorers

A new generation of polar explorers is emerging. Six of these young people are accompanying Will Steger on his Global Warming 101 expedition to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic. Meet these young explorers and follow their expedition on GlobalWarming101.


sarah_headshot.jpgSarah McNair-Landry, Age 21, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

No stranger to cold weather, Sarah grew up in Iqaluit from age three. Shortly after turning 17 she went on her first extended expedition, crossing the Greenland ice cap with her parents and older brother Eric. A year later she traveled to the South Pole on a 71 day kite-ski expedition with her mother and brother. In 2005 she traveled by kite-ski again joining her father and brother in setting the speed record for crossing the Greenland Ice Cap, east to west. In 2006, Sarah traveled to the North Pole on a 100-day dogsled expedition with her father and two British explorers.

Most recently, Sarah and her brother Eric returned to Greenland to cross the Ice Cap vertically by kite-ski, traveling 1429 miles/ 2300 km over the course of 2 months! When she's not off chasing the winds across the Arctic, Sarah is busy chasing her dreams of becoming a filmmaker. After graduating from high school in Quebec, she took courses at the New York Film Academy studying digital filmmaking in New York City.

eric_headshot.jpgEric McNair-Landry, Age 23, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

Eric spent most of his childhood in Iqaluit, Baffin Island, Nunavut where he was raised in a family of adventurers. Eric graduated with a degree in engineering from Acadia University and is considering continuing in architecture. In 2004 and 2005 he took a year off of school to join his family’s Kites on Ice Expedition and became the first American/Canadian to haul sleds to the South Pole without resupply.

Eric has spent his time instructing kiting, guiding sea kayaking trips, working on film projects and at the Nunavut Visitors Center. He also holds the silver in the Canadian Ski Marathon. Needless to say, Eric is passionate about kiting. When there is no wind, he spends his time teaching himself computer graphics and website design.

sigridekran_headshort.jpgSigrid Ekran, Age 26, Norway

Born in Norway, Sigrid is completing her Master of Arts degree in Northern Studies from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. She placed 20th in the 2007 Iditarod, receiving the notable awards of Rookie of the Year and Best Female Musher. In the same year she placed fourth in the Klondike 300 dogsled race. Outside of her dogsledding awards, Sigrid’s passion and inspiration comes from the Norwegian tradition of explorers. Sigrid is committed to combining a career in conservation management and dogsled mushing.

toby_headshort.jpgThorleif Tobias (Toby) Thorleifsson, Age 28, Norway.

Toby finished his Master of Arts degree in polar history and politics at Simon Fraser University in the fall of 2006. He has since worked as a writer, lecturer and mountain guide focusing on environmental issues. In February 2007 he assisted with the opening Antarctica’s first education base. Toby has circumnavigated most of the North Atlantic by sailboat and last summer he sailed to Franz Josef Land in the Russian Arctic. When Toby is not traveling he splits his time between the city of Oslo and Finse in the Norwegian mountains.

benhorton_headshot.jpgBen Horton, Age 24, United States

Recipient of the National Geographic Society’s first Young Explorer award for research he recently completed on Cocos Island involving shark poachers, Ben is a budding photographer and adventurer. Ben is motivated by travel and extreme sports with a yearning to make a difference for his generation. At 17, he traveled around the world with his brother, visiting numerous countries and living the adventures he and his brother had dreamed of. Ben splits his time between Colorado and the rest of the world.

sam_headshot.jpgSam Branson – Age 21, Great Britain

Sam and his father, Sir Richard Branson, joined Will Steger on the Global Warming 101 Baffin Island Expedition from Clyde River to Iglulik. Sam took to dogsledding and Arctic travel like a seasoned adventurer. Sam grew up in both England and the Caribbean and has a great respect for nature and all the elements within it. After school he trained as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and then went on to do a year's diploma in music. His love for extreme sports began when he was young, and one of his favorite things to do is surf.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:06

More Resources - Explorers (Historic)


Image courtesy: New Land, Otto Sverdrup
Historic Explorers - More Resources

John Huston and Tyler Fish’s Forward Expeditions website offers a succinct overview of the history of Arctic Ocean and North Pole exploration, beginning with Nansen in 1893. The site also includes links for continued study. The historical information provides a context for Huston and Fish’s attempt to ski unsupported to the North Pole in the spring of 2009.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s Polar Discovery Project offers a look at Arctic exploration history going back to 330 B.C.. The site is funded by the National Science Foundation and is part of the International Polar Year.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:04

Action! - Explorers (Historic)

Image courtesy: New Land, Otto Sverdrup

Historic Explorers - Action!

Explorers look at the world with an inquisitive eye. They are curious to discover the true nature of their surroundings. If we looked at familiar places with that same intensity, what would we find?

Start with your home. You probably think you know it quite well, but you may be surprised to discover where your house might be losing energy. The U.S. Department of Energy website has instructions for doing your own home energy audit. It also has information on choosing a professional energy audit, if you prefer.

Explorers also use creativity and perseverance to solve problems and reach goals. The Department of Energy website has information to help you reach your goal of a more energy-efficient home.

What if you can’t afford to weatherize your house? Explorers seek support for their projects and you can too. The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income families weatherize their houses. The average savings on heating bills is over 30%.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:02

Discussion Starters - Explorers (Historic)

Image courtesy: New Land, Otto Sverdrup

Historic Explorers - Discussion Starters

Teachers: Use the following information to spark discussion in your classroom. Familiarize students with the events, people and organizations in the following paragraphs and then encourage students to discuss their opinions and reactions. There are several example questions and suggested areas for discussion. Remind your students that discussion requires well-supported opinions, respectful listening, and sometimes agreeing to disagree.


Some polar historians compare the early European and Euro-American Arctic expeditions to the lunar expeditions of the 1960s and 1970s. Akin to the astronauts seventy years later, the early Arctic explorers were entering unknown territory with a real chance of failure and even death. Some of the expeditions were out of contact with the rest of the world for as long as four years, enduring hardships including bitter cold, storms and malnourishment.
Some journal entries from the Aldolphus Greely expedition (1881 – 1884) give a glimpse into the reality of the daily reality of one of the most ill-fated of the early expeditions (19 of the 25 men on this expedition died from starvation, drowning, or hypothermia. The survivors, however, were praised as heroes):

  • “Everyone complains of excessive weakness, and even the strongest of our party may be seen to stagger.” David Brainard, October 21, 1884.
  • “Personally I would rather take almost any chance that offered than stay here another long winter night.” James Booth Lockwood, August 4, 1883
  • “God only knows what the end of all this will be. I see nothing but starvation and death.” James Booth Lockwood, September 26, 1883

Not all expeditions were as miserable as the Greely expedition, however. Otto Sverdrup’s book recounting his 1898 – 1902 Arctic expedition received the following review in the New York Times (May 24, 1904):
“Unlike the narratives of most Arctic explorers, this of Sverdrup’s does not read like a catalogue of horrors and privations. It reads rather like the record of a pleasure jaunt on a rather large and adventurous scale. One hears little of frost bites and freezings, nothing at all of dying of starvation. One reads instead of comfortable Winter quarters on the Fram, of wild dashes into the surrounding country upon dog sledges, of great slaughters of polar oxen, of seal and walrus hunting, of gunning for that giant beast, the Arctic hare, described as an ‘extraordinary fat creature’.”
Whether the early Arctic expeditions were miserable disasters or wildly successful, they captured the popular imagination of the day. Royal Geographic Society member J. Scott Keltie recounts joining Norwegians Nansen and Sverdrup as they sailed the last few miles to return home after their 1893 – 1897 Arctic expedition:
“We sailed up the fjord to Christiania, amid a scene never to be forgotten. All the way up we passed through a double procession of vessels of all kinds, with continuous cheers and firing of guns, the vessels turning after passing the Fram and ranging up behind. We landed in a boat at the pier where the crowd was impenetrably dense. There were festivities of all kinds lasting almost a week.” Source: The Geographical Journal, 49(5), 350-372.
The expeditions also inspired the public with a sense of pride and emboldened them to take on new challenges. Historian Rasmus Hansson writes in Norway and the Polar Regions:
“The expeditions [Nansen and Sverdrup] carried out, and the manner in which they did so, gave a great boost to Norwegian self-confidence and Norway's sense of national identity at a time when union with Sweden was nearing a breaking point…So polar research played its part in the re-establishment, after several hundred years, of Norway as an independent nation."
Even today the actions of the early explorers inspire many. The books that recount their adventures continue to sell well, expeditions try to recreate their feats, and documentary films recreate the excitement.


  • What aspects of these expeditions do you think helped to capture the popular imagination of the day?
  • Why do these stories still resonate with people?
  • What about these expeditions helped embolden people to take on new challenges?
  • Is there anything to learn from these early explorers that could help us take on modern challenges like slowing global warming?
  • What do you feel is the current attitude of the public in regards to the challenge of slowing global warming? Do people feel inspired and emboldened? Why or why not?
  • Historians liken the early Arctic expeditions to the lunar expeditions of the 1960s and 1970s. The lunar expeditions also captivated the imagination of the public and led to giant strides in technology and science:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” President J. F. Kennedy []

  • Some people have suggested that what we as a society need now to face the challenge of global warming is the same type of focus we showed as a nation during the space race:

"For this generation, climate change is our space race. The climate crisis is also one of the greatest economic opportunities in the history of our country. It will unleash a wave of innovation, create millions of new jobs, enhance our security and lead the world to a revolution in how we produce and use energy." Hillary Clinton, November 6, 2007.

  • Do you see any similarities between the space race and the climate crises?
  • What was it about the space race that motivated the nation?
  • What would it take to motivate the nation now to work to slow climate change?
  • What excites and motivates you?
  • Think back to a time when you successfully motivated or inspired someone else. How did you do it?
Wednesday, 19 March 2008 08:47

Ann E. Bancroft - Explorers (Modern)



In 1986 Ann Bancroft traveled 1,000 miles (1,600 km) by dogsled from the Northwest Territories in Canada to the North Pole as the only female member of Will Steger’s International Polar Expedition. This feat earned Ann the distinction of being the first known woman in history to cross the ice to the North Pole.

In 1992 Ann led the first American Women’s East to West crossing of Greenland. The next year she led the American Women´s Expedition to the South Pole. She and three other women skied 660 miles (1,060 km) over 67 days. With this accomplishment, Ann became the first woman in history to cross the ice to both the North and South Poles.

Ann and Norwegian polar explorer Liv Arnesen returned to Antarctica in 2001 and became the first women in history to sail and ski the 1,717 miles (2,747 km) across Antarctica’s landmass. They spent 94 days completing that task.

Ann and Liv continue to travel and explore the polar regions.


Q (Will Steger Foundation): You’ve been exploring the Arctic since the 1980's. Have you seen any changes in the environment in the time that you’ve been traveling?
A (Ann Bancroft): I have been traveling in the high Arctic for over two decades; most recently in 2005 and 2007. The changes in the ice of the Arctic Ocean are profound. Much more open water and as a result, gear such as sleds and outfits for swimming have been incorporated into our strategy. Polar bears were more prevalent as well. We’ve had conversations with Native people of both Russia and Canada. They have all answered the questions we have asked them in similar ways. When asked if they have witnessed changes in their environment they all seemed to think weather and wildlife have changed.

Q (WSF): Have the changes affected your ability to travel on the Arctic Ocean?
A (AB): It is much harder to think about pulling sleds in the Arctic because of the thinness of the ice and shortened season for traditional travel.

Q (WSF): What impacts or what effects would you imagine a trend that continued in this direction would have on polar exploration?
A (AB): Pulling sleds as I do will perhaps soon be a thing of the past. People will still be able to attempt the last two degrees of latitude to the North Pole, but from land to the Pole is getting increasingly difficult.

Q (WSF): What concerns you most about warming in the Arctic?
A (AB): For me, it is heartbreaking to see changes to an environment that I love—the ice, the animals, the people and culture that is going to be gone for future generations. It is not just the Arctic, however. I am also deeply concerned for what will come to other parts of the world. Human nature appears to have a difficult time dealing with challenges that seem far away.

Q (WSF): What influence or effect do you hope your expeditions will have?
A (AB): My basic hope for our expeditions is to move people into engagement. I want people to feel empowered to take the small steps that, just as in an expedition, will help us reach our goal and make the changes we need to implement.

Q (WSF): Are there lessons or inspirations individuals and communities can take from your experiences?
A (AB): The expedition is a great metaphor for the steps we need to take to begin the changes needed. It is a good way and a good place to ignite people’s sprits to risk to take the first step.

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