El Hierro Volcano eruption (Canary Islands) : Part 25 – January 8 until January 13

Last update: January 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm by By

This is Part 25 of the El Hierro Volcano eruption report


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With the collaboration of Joke Volta, an El Hierro resident.
Read also: (28/7 – early 09)  – (25/09 – 10/10)  -  (11/10 – 13/10) - (14/10 – 17-10)  -  (18/10 – 21/10)   (22/10 – 26/10 )(27/10 – 31/10 )(01/11 – 03/11 )(04/11 – 06/11 )(07/11 – 08/11)(09/11- 11/11)  – (12/11 – 15/11)  – (16/11 – 19/11)  – (20/11 – 23/11)(24/11 – 27/11)(28/11 – 02/12) - (03/12 – 07/12)(08/12 – 11/12)(12/12 – 15/12)(16/12 – 18/12)(19/12 – 25/12)(26/12 – 31/12)(01/01 – 03/01)(04/01 – 07/01)(08/01 – 13/01) – Part 26 (14/01 – 19/01)
Useful links : @VolcanoReportEl Hierro Picasa Photo Album
Our Webcam pages : 3 in 1 pageLas Calmas UstreamLa Restinga villageEruption webcam

Update 13/01 – 19:35 UTC
- Continuing harmonic tremor
- calm jacuzzi area
- 2 more earthquake this afternoon
15:39 UTC – M 2.5 @10 km – epicenter here
18:48 UTC – M 1.2 @ 12 km – epicenter here

Update 13/01 – 14:00 UTC
- Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, also a hot spot volcano, has just entered his 30th year of (almost) continues eruption ! Let us hope that Dr. Kogami has it right with a max. of 2 years !

Update 13/01 – 09:17 UTC
- 1 earthquake at 05:15, no depth specified and a magnitude of 1.4. Epicenter, west of Frontera in an unusual location
- Harmonic tremor at the same level than yesterday evening subsiding a little bit during the last hour.
- Stain is again another pattern today with green waters coming into the harbour. Vent is visible but calm and we haven’t seen any lava balloons since dawn.
- Joke Volta early morning images

Click on the image to see the series in full size

Update 12/01 – 23:32 UTC
- At 19:00 a M 1.6 earthquake occurred at a depth of 15 km west of El Pinar.
- Harmonic tremor has subsided a little bit but is stable again since about 6 hours
- Video from the press conference from Involcan, The Cabildo of El Hierro (Aplidio Armas) and the invited scientist Dr. Kenji Kogami. Dr. Kogami is a specialist in submarine volcanoes and is working at the Tokyo University. Mr. Kogami explains what might happen in the future. Mr. Kogami speals in English, but is sometimes hard to understand because of bad sound quality.

Update 12/01 – 18:42 UTC
- Joke Volta images of the day. The walk she made has been indicated on the map.

Update 12/01 – 17:06 UTC
- Not much to report today although the eruption goes on at a steady pace. We are all curious for the results of the bathymetry mission of the Ramon Margalef.
- A very calm sea shows at this moment a visible stirring weak jacuzzi.

Update 12/01 – 17:00 UTC
- Today’s NASA Modis Aqua satellite picture. The stain is heading to the coast today. The jacuzzi is, at the time of the picture, at the backside of the stain.

Update 12/01 – 08:44 UTC
- This morning shows a stain which can hardly be seen and NO active jacuzzi
- Harmonic tremor shows however that the eruption is still continuing
- At 04:19 an M 1.9 earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 km in between El Hierro and La Palma.

Update 11/01 – 22:57 UTC
- A 7th earthquake occurred tonight at 19:03. It had a magnitude of 1.5 with a focal depth of 11 km. Epicenter was west of El Pinar.
- Harmonic tremor seems to get some spasms late tonight. The mostly hydromagmatic action can start a new set of humeantes (lava balloons) but at the same time can trigger a new collapse of the vent.
- Those people who are able to look at the webcam after midnight UTC (if the live in another time zone), may take a look from time to time at the webcam and inform us when they see something special.

Update 11/01 – 14:33 UTC
- Everything look so quiet today. An steady eruption : harmonic tremor pattern and no further earthquakes.
- The Japanese specialist from the Tokyo Technological Institute, Kenji Nogami, specialized in submarine eruptions is presently helping the Involcan scientists analyzing the data. He said about the same things that we have mentioned earlier on, like :
* the eruption can last from a couple of hours up to 2 years
* that the danger for the population is relatively limited as the current vent is more than 1 km out of the coast
* that in case of a Surtseyan phase, water columns of 20 meter may be expected and that clouds of steam and ash may rise up to 400 meters
* that fallout of ash has a radius of 1 km (ER : normally the wind blows to the south, so there will be little annoyance for La Restinga)
All this based on the current vent and eruption pattern.
- The Ramon Margalef bathymetry mission is still continuing. The vessel can be seen sometimes on the webcam.

Update 11/01 – 06:59 UTC
- Morning images from La Restinga made by Joke Volta

Update 11/01 – 06:59 UTC
- Harmonic tremor medium with almost no variations for more than 30 hours
- A lot of earthquakes this morning ! 6 in only 5 hours.
00:09:27 Depth 13 km M 1.1 W EL PINAR.IHI
00:52:49 Depth 14 km M 1.5 SW FRONTERA.IHI
02:39:31 Depth 14 km M 1.7 SW EL PINAR.IHI
03:07:01 Depth 29 km M 2.4 W FRONTERA.IHI
04:01:01 Depth 13 km M 1.2 SW FRONTERA.IHI
04:44:15 Depth 6 km M 0.8 W FRONTERA.IHI

Update 10/01 – 23:55 UTC
- 2 earthquakes with only 27 seconds difference. Magnitudes of 1.0 and 1.6 at a depth of 14 km and 13 km.
- Harmonic tremor medium with only limited variations all day long
- Ramon Margalef was still cruising the stain for bathymetry purposes at late night

Update 10/01 – 21:00 UTC
We have just entered a new topic on the Red Sea Zubair Surtseyan volcano eruption. The island has now completely been risen above the water and from space the eruption is showing like a normal volcano eruption. Click here to read the detailed text and to see the latest sharp satellite image.

Update 10/01 – 18:12 UTC
ER reader Jouni Elo attracted our attention to a very interesting paper from José Mangas Viñuela, describing the history and the different theories about the origin of the Canary Islands. The hot spot theory (as Hawaii) is extensively documented. Click here to read it. José Mangas Viñuela belongs to the Departamento de Física-Geología, Edificio de Ciencias Básicas, Campus Universitario de Tafira, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.

Update 10/01 – 16:54 UTC
- Below todays NASA Modis Aqua satellite picture. The stain is getting the form of a sea horse (with a little imagination – better than yesterday as it was snake yesterday : ) )

Update 10/01 – 13:17 UTC
- Another Involcan / Guardia Civil Helicopteres video from yesterday which we like a lot. The video shows the scientists and the crew in the helicopter at work as well as some beautiful colors from the jacuzzi and the stain. The first part of the video shows the dangerous aspect of these flights. In order to measure the emitted gases above the jacuzzi (see SO2 graph below) the Guardia Civil helicopter has to fly very close to the water (Joke yesterday told us that these flights look very dangerous – well, we think she is right).

Update 10/01 – 11:58 UTC
- SO2 levels as measured by Involcan since the beginning of the eruption are a little higher than previous days, but are in no means to compare with the amount of SO2 in the air on the beginning of November (strong Jacuzzi).

SO2 values from early November until yesterday - image courtesy Involcan and Iter

Update 10/01 – 10:31 UTC
- Ramon Margalef appears again in the Las Calmas sea this morning (as indicated on Marinetraffic.com). We expect that the ship will have been chartered by Pevolca for a new bathymetry mission.

Ramon Margalef on top of the volcano on January 10 - Clich on the images to watch the other pictures. Julio has learned Joke to use her binoculars to make a picture with her camera!

Cabildo / Telefonica webcam image captured by ER reader Penny

Update 10/01 – 09:20 UTC
- NO earthquakes at El Hierro since midnight (1 M 2.0 @ 36 km in between Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura)
- Relatively strong harmonic tremor which is not translated in a lot of visual action at the surface waters above the vent
- Just like Alex told us in the comments, small smoking lava balloons can be spotted in the jacuzzi area.

Update 10/01 – 00:50 UTC
Involcan and Guardia Civil Helicopteres images taken on December 9 – again beautiful Artwork
Advice to the Involcan : make an exhibition of all these masterpieces once the eruption is over.

Update 09/01 – 23:23 UTC
Julio del Castillo Vivero full day time lapse (in 12’39″) of the volcanic activity at La Restinga, El Hierro.

Update 09/01 – 23:23 UTC
A new earthquake (5th today) occurred at 18:41 UTC. It had a magnitude of 1.3 at a depth of 10 km. Epicenter above Los Llanillos.

Update 09/01 – 22:07 UTC
The eruption Cabildo / Telefonica webcam has been switched into nightly mode. Even in darkness the stain can well be seen. Check it out!

Update 09/01 – 22:00 UTC
We have to congratulate Involcan and Guardia Civil Helicopteres in publishing their videos sooner than before. The video below has been recorded today and shows the jacuzzi and stain – no LB today. The recording below has been made with a Pancam panoramic camera. Click here for Video2 Video3 Video4

Update 09/01 – 20:49 UTC
Comment by Dr. Boris Bencke, volcanologist at the Osservatorio Etneo, INGV- Catania, Sicily, Italy.
Dr Bencke is commenting on our 23:30 update from yesterday.

Just to correct a bit of information in the 8 January 2012 – 23:30 h update where it is said that the Spanish volcanologists received aid from Sicilian volcanologists. This has – unfortunately – not happened yet. One of my colleagues in the INGV Catania has been asked a few months ago to maybe go to El Hierro, in case the eruption would be shallow-water Surtseyan. So far the eruption has not reached that stage, and so far my colleague has not gone to El Hierro.
Again, to respond regarding the slowness of diffusing scientific data recorded on the eruption to the broad public – this is not as easy as it might seem to people outside the scientific circuits, because a lot of the data needs first to go through a lot of processing and then a part is obtained with costly methods covered by funding that requires interim reporting, and a lot of data will be kept “secret” until published in scientific journals. Communication with the public is becoming more and more fundamental and many scientists feel the need to expand into that direction, including myself, but it means a lot of extra work without getting paid extra, and even when idealism is high, everyday work demands often hamper any efforts to go far beyond. Very often it is not that scientists do not will to share information with the public (of course, keeping the good bits to be used for scientific publications which are essential for a scientist to get, or keep, a job). It’s simply that they have to respond, in a crisis situation, to a vast amount of agencies and people, including Civil Defense, administrations, and – like at Etna – aviation authorities, and so on.

Update 09/01 – 19:59 UTC
- Morning and afternoon La Restinga area images made by Joke Volta

Update 09/01 – 19:19 UTC
- We have often been criticizing the operators from the webcam, but may we congratulate him/her this time. We know from last night that the Cabildo / Telefonica webcam has also a low light intensity function. It was tested after midnight and the operator seems to try it again. If it succeeds, we might see the stain and the jacuzzi area and eventually some action during the nightly hours (including steam which reflects)

Update 09/01 – 17:07 UTC
- Harmonic tremor is on the rise but no special action on the surface waters

Update 09/01 – 14:07 UTC
Involcan has published yesterday the thermal data from their helicopter flight on Saturday. Involcan makes these measurements on behalf of Pevolca, the committee who is guarding the safety of the Herreños. They are only sharing this information now and then. The last time we saw this kind of Temperature data was on December 7. To be in front of your questions : NO, we do not know why they are not sharing this info on their flight days (like they are doing with the pictures and videos, but we might assume that the information has to go first to Pevolca).
- Saturdays thermal registration took place with limited but constant harmonic tremor but with a lot of Lava Balloons (LB from now on). The difference in temperature in between the “normal” water and the “jacuzzi” water was the second highest measured so far (Blue line and blue description). The strongest difference was measured during the turbulent jacuzzi days on the beginning of November.
- The caption text of the original article (in Spanish, see link below) describes a number of very interesting other findings like :
a) the lava balloons found on Saturday had sizes up to 2 meter !
b) the max. temperature measured on the outer skin of the LB’s was 85.5 °C. As explained in our article below, lava balloons are able to come to the surface because of the volcanic gas in the interior of the balloon. (ER : the same gas is responsible for the burning lava at sea. The ignition temperature need to be higher than 85 °C, but as the temperature at the interior of the balloon is a lot higher, the ignition starts when the LB breaks apart. If he does not break apart, the LB will cool (with a lot of steam) en the gas will not be burning. This is the main reason why only few LB’s are showing burning gas at night).
c) Kenji Nogami, scientist from the Technological Institute of Tokyo, specialized in submarine eruptions was on board of the helicopter flight on Saturday
Involcan article in Spanish

Temperature data from Involcan made possible by the cooperation of the Guardia Civil Helicopteres

Update 09/01 – 12:010 UTC
- A new earthquake (4th today) occurred at 10:59 UTC. It had a magnitude of 2.0 at a depth of 13 km. Epicenter close to Los Llanillos.

Update 09/01 – 10:06 UTC
With more daylight we can see not only a very visible wide stain, but also a very wide active stirring area within the bigger stain. During the strong steaming episode the area was getting bigger and bigger compared to a few weeks earlier.

Update 09/01 – 09:34 UTC
We have updated yesterdays 23:30 update describing the Lava Balloons with an image that shows exactly the same phenomenons as encountered so far at El Hierro. The coloring of the sea waters, the occasional SLS’s, the flares at night, the sinking of the material afterwards. The Forjaz 1999 activity (it did not reach Surtseyan activity) has been well documented by many papers.

Update 09/01 – 01:31 UTC
- 3 earthquakes since midnight
M 1.0 @ a depth of 12 km at 01:41 Here
M 0.7 @ a depth of 12 km at 02:14 Here
M 1.7 @ a depth of 14 km at 03:46 Here
- Harmonic tremor is back at the same strength than yesterday afternoon before it collapsed, just now slowly subsiding
- almost no visible stain and no jacuzzi this morning

HT from midnight until 07:30 - image courtesy IGN

Update 09/01 – 01:31 UTC
- The stain is visible in the middle of the night because someone was manipulating the webcam settings.

Update 08/01 – 23:57 UTC
- Images and experiments from Joke Volta

Update 08/01 – 23:55 UTC
- Julio del Castillo Vivero full day Time Lapse, x30 real-time, of the volcanic activity at El Hierro, Canary Islands from two webcams. Very useful to see the stain evolution this morning. Click here to watch the video

Update 08/01 – 23:30 UTC
- The credits for finding this valuable information goes to a forum participant at Avcan and Julio del Castillo Vivero who found this information by digging into the Internet.
May we ask a kind question to the scientists ? Why have they not published this information when everybody started asking what the SLS were about and started making their own theories about what they saw. Joke told me a few weeks ago that a CAP person opn duty told her that the scientists got help from volcanologists from Sicily and from Portugal. We are quit sure that the Portuguese will have shared this information (the article information below comes from them).
For many days the IGN/CAP people on duty looked at Joke like she came from another planet when she told our story of burning stones in the Las Calmas Sea. We must believe that the CAP personnel on duty may not have known the phenomenon. Science sharing information in an open source environment seems to be a very difficult mariage. Some have understand it like USA, Iceland and Sicily to name a few, others have still to learn a little bit.


A small seismic crisis during November 1998 was monitored by the Azores Seismological Surveillance System (SIVISA). It was centered W of Terceira Island on the E of the so-called Graciosa Trough [38.783°N, 27.483°W; submarine vent at -500 m]. After four days of major activity seismicity decreased and remained at normal levels until 18 December; then, a few microseisms were registered by SIVISA and white vapor columns were reported by fishermen to be rising from the sea 8 km W of Terceira island. These phenomena were discontinuous but persisted until the night of 23 December when local residents observed orange lights several miles W of Terceira.

Although no unusual seismicity was noticed in the following interval, on 8 January fishermen again reported white vapor columns on the sea. Scientists from the Center of Volcanology of Azores University (CVUA) using a helicopter of the Portuguese Air Force took the first pictures of the phenomenon (figure 1). Lava blocks reaching a maximum of 3 m in length rose gently to the surface where they floated for a few minutes. White steam columns resulting from contact between hot lava blocks and seawater were observed, rising about 10 m above the surface of the sea. During the night the same activity was observed from the W coast of Terceira island and six different areas of incandescent, dispersed lava blocks were identified along a NE-SW axis. Activity continued at the same level until 13 January after which only intermittent short-period events were observed.

right : A floating lava block from Serreta (Terceira), 80 cm maximum diameter, collected on 10 February 1999. Such blocks have been termed a "lava balloons." Courtesy of the Center of Volcanology of the Azores University (CVUA). Left : Two views of the eruption site as photographed by João Gaspar from a helicopter during an overflight on 8 January 1999. Courtesy of CVUA.

During February and March 1999 the submarine eruption that began late 1998 continued at the Serreta volcanic ridge, ~9-14 km W of Terceira island (BGVN 23:01; Luis and others, 1999). The activity decreased slightly until the end of February, but eruptive areas clearly defined two main volcanic trends in both NE-SW and NW-SE directions (figure 2). In March, activity became less vigorous and observers saw sea surface manifestations only during intermittent short periods.
This eruption involved basaltic, and probably very gas-rich, magma.

The scientific team attributed their seismic observations coupled with the floating blocks to the following mechanism. The magma, being low in viscosity, moves very easily through the already opened fractures and was thought to escape without producing high seismic signals. Floating lava blocks could result from the detachment of pillow-lava edges followed by the ascent of blocks with sufficient gas content. It is also possible that hot, gas-rich lava fragments result from small submarine lava lakes or fountains. A thin frozen skin of lava seals the gas cavity, and the block might then rise as a hot lava balloon. During ascent, the gas exsolves and nucleates inside the hot fragment while the blocks expand. Once at the surface the interaction between the hot blocks and the seawater produces white steam columns. At the same time, while cooling at the surface, the blocks crack slowly, lose their magmatic gas and sink. Sometimes when water enters inside the hot blocks, they blow up, violently throwing fragments several meters high.

The image below shows exactly the same phenomenons as encountered so far at El Hierro. The coloring of the sea waters, the occasional SLS’s, the flares at night, the sinking of the material afterwards. The Forjaz 1999 activity (it did not reach Surtseyan activity) has been well documented by many papers.


Schematic presentation of the 1999 Azores events at Forjaz - image courtesy geocrusoe.blogspot.com

Text and (some) images : courtesy Smithsonian Institute – Click here for the link to the entire article

Update 08/01 – 22:58 UTC
- What we see on this short video is burning lava. We have more footage, but fainter light and most only short blue lights. We have zoomed the area a little bit and have slowed down the speed with a factor 2

Update 08/01 – 22:55 UTC
- At 19:34 UTC an M 0.5 earthquake occurred at a depth of 12 km here
- Another M 2.0 earthquake happened at 22:20 UTC at a depth of 26 km in between Gran Canaria and Tenerife. The second today (first one see below for the data)

Update 08/01 – 21:55 UTC
- Our B) option has proved to be the right one. Harmonic tremor is back and the volcano lives again (in fact he never really died because we saw the jacuzzi still going at lesser strength even when HT was almost lost).

Update 08/01 – 17:57 UTC
We are, just like a lot of you, following the situation almost from minute to minute and went searching for comparable parameters on HT. The graph below shows the daily signal before it all began, the collapse on December 28 (bear in mind that we had very strong HT before it collapsed) and today’s collapse.
Conclusion : the last couple of days HT was already weak and had a hard time to recover from weaker periods, but … the jacuzzi is still going on, even with this very minimal tremor.

Update 08/01 – 17:31 UTC
Julio del Castillo Vivero full day Time Lapse of the volcanic activity at El Hierro, Canary Islands.
There has been a lot of smoking lava stones coming out during the day, releasing huge quantities of steam.

Important Update 08/01 – 16:38 UTC
The El Hierro volcano keeps people looking at it with so many different events. We have a new one, it may be welcomed by the Herreños and will certainly be bad news for the volcano lovers. Harmonic tremor went to an absolute minimum on 15:33, staying there for a while, then gradually picking up from 15:46 onwards and then suddenly decreasing again at 16:00.
What to think about all this ?
- The magma flow might have decreased fundamentally for one of the following 2 reasons : a) the magma feed has stopped suddenly or b) a partial collapse of the vent.
We think it will be b) as there is still a jacuzzi going on at the moment (see image below which was taken during the minimal HT). The jacuzzi means that degassing is continuing strongly. But, this is only our own opinion. The only one who knows what is happening is the volcano himself!
The next couple of hours will be decisive in what the El Hierro volcano will do (at least for now).
- A girl living at El Hierro and commenting on AVCAN just said that her house was trembling slightly but during a longer period than the other shakes. Another person commented on a long noise without shaking. All this happened during the changing phase.

Jacuzzi while HT was to minimum and harmonic tremor graph - graph courtesy IGN

Update 08/01 – 13:20 UTC
Report visit from Joke to the CAP science center in La Restinga this morning.
On her question whether they had something to report, they said no, nothing unusual … What is happening today goes on for many weeks right now . Joke asked again whether the IGN people now believed our gas/ lava stone burning story (or at least glowing lights). They said yes, we now also saw some lights in the sea but the videos on the Internet are exaggerating the size and the time they are burning. ER : At least it will not be our site (although they know very well for which site Joke is reporting), as we are always writing what we do with the speed of the video (slowing it down or make it go faster). But … in order that scientists would believe us, we had to zoom the lights (described in the update) to see the action. Joke also asked why that the CAP / IGN people did not reported or published some of their material ? They said , all we have goes to Pevolca and they have to decide what to do with it.
- The helicopter was missioned by IGN, who wanted to see on location what was going on …

She also waited for the return of the IGN helicopter to ask some questions about their flight. They said they haven’t seen anything unusual and lesser activity than yesterday. The floaters were smaller although some bigger pieces can still be found in the water. The scientists on board of the helicopter saw, just like many readers, a lot of seagulls above the vent.

Update 08/01 – 12:33 UTC
It looks like the eruption is subsiding strongly as the escaping smoke has decreased a lot, but the sea surface is only one part of the story. Harmonic tremor proves that the submarine volcano is erupting as strong as the last couple of days. You will have to keep watching the webcams as a Surtseyan eruption will not have a known pattern, only that if the eruption continues, it may happen (today, next week or next month).
As the vent (the jacuzzi spot) is now the same for many weeks in a row, it will depend on the combination of the current depth of the vent and the strength of the volcano below it.
Looking at the recent Etna eruption from earlier this week (see the video on our Volcano News page) you will see that the action can suddenly get a lot stronger. If this happens here, a sudden stronger phase can start. As there was no more bathymetry mission since a couple of weeks, we do not know how deep the vent is at the moment. Volcanologists, specialized in submarine eruptions, are stating that the subaerial phase can start from a depth of approx. 100 meter. The last indication we had from the Oceanographic ship dates from December 23 and reported a depth of 175 meter, thats 2.5 weeks ago.

Update 08/01 – 12:07 UTC
- NO earthquakes today at El Hierro, but IGN has listed an earthquake in between Tenerife and Gran Canaria. The epicenter is at approx. the same location than the earthquakes earlier this week. The earthquake had a magnitude of 1.5 at a depth of 15 km.

Update 08/01 – 09:49 UTC
- Very few burning gas during the night although it would have been a totally different view with a light sensitive webcam. In developing the screen-shots we saw a lot of different color intensities.
- We are anxious to watch the satellite or helicopter images later today as we see a very wide and concentrated stain
- The comments this morning are again talking about the steaming process. As can be seen on the colorful images from Involcan below, we are still talking about long steaming/smoking lava blocks, not a strong steaming portion of the water. We do not think that this will happen as we expect in the next phase to see strong vertical steam jets getting to the surface, very limited in the beginning and gradually increasing.
- Harmonic Tremor is back to the values from yesterday, after having decreased to the minimum after midnight.
- Many people are talking this morning about the many seagulls they are seeing above the active vent. If you look at images from the first jacuzzi’s, you will see the same phenomenon. Why ? We truly do not know. It mzay be bait they find there as it is being killed by the volcano, but nobody has reported this yet or they may like the higher temperature of the water

Read also : Scientific paper reveals massive historic Tenerife volcano flank collapse
Read also: Economic impact on El Hierro and the Canary Islands if an aerial eruption would occur

Volcano Discussion Panel : If you are a person who wants to discuss and read about all aspects of volcanoes, this discussion panel might be a very good place to hang around. Especially if we start speculating about what to happen next, this panel is a great place to look at. Give it a chance.

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