Killer Whale Culture

We know a lot of people come to our area and book tours with us because they want to see Killer Whales/Orca in their natural habitat. Our naturalists are well educated in the culture and behaviour of theses whales but what is Killer Whale Culture? What does it mean to have culture? Well you can ask all of these questions on your tours, but here is a forward glimpse from Lance Barrett-Lennard, Director of Marine Mammal Research at Ocean Wise.

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Thank You!

A Greeting from Heike Wieske – Owner


A Look Back at our Remarkable Season

Hard to believe the 2017 season has already come to a close. Thank you to all of our guests who travelled from around the globe. We feel very privileged to be able to share this remarkable area with people like you year after year.

To our staff, thank you for your dedication, hard work and passion for the wildlife and what you do.

Enjoy your winter everyone and keep an eye out, you will still see posts from time to time on our social media channels.

All the Best from the Stubbs Island Whale Watching Team of 2017!

We are now taking reservations for our 2018 season. We look forward to sharing this area with you again next year.

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The Last Hurrah for 2017!

Monday October 9, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa

Inukshuk the Humpback Whale flukes in front of the Steller Sea Lion haul out.

Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales (Slash, Freethrow, Inukshuk, Guardian, Argonaut, Freckles, Frosty and Mini Wheat), Pacific Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Ancient Murrelets and Common Murres.

All male Steller Sea Lions haul out.

Pacific Harbour Seals. Their different coloured fur is just like how we all have different colour hair.

Pacific White-sided Dolphins acrobatic in the wake of the Lukwa.

A mature Bald Eagle sits perched on a stag.

A great look at the fluke of a Humpback Whale.

Airborne Pacific White-sided Dolphin.

A large group of Pacific White-sided Dolphins .

Freethrow the Humpback Whale surfaces.

Steller Sea Lions – there were hundreds today.

Today was our last trip of the 2017 season and while we are sad to say goodbye to this remarkable place we know time flies and we’ll be back before we know it.

Even though today was the end for our tours, the wildlife activity is still in full swing out there. We saw more Steller Sea Lions today than on any other trip this year. They were hauled out in many locations. We saw them eating Chum Salmon, porpoising right out of the water! Then a large group of mature male Steller Sea Lions came out of nowhere, surfaced and then we watched while they slowly made their way to the shore.

Humpback Whales were everywhere, and despite the cold temperatures today, guests braved the bow and it paid off. While watching birds off the left side of the boat, Humpback Whales seemed to be converging on this bait ball from multiple directions. Then all of sudden Freckles breached and everyone on the bow was grateful they toughed out the cold conditions.

Another cool Humpback moment today as we watched Guardian and Inukshuk the Humpback Whales travelling together near one of the Steller Sea Lion haul outs. We actually were able to get a picture of Inukshuk’s fluke in front the Steller Sea Lions. There was also some activity in this sighting as Guardian was trumpeting and then suddenly cartwheeled, creating a huge splash. The whales then continued to travel on together. Pretty exciting stuff.

Today’s trip finished off with a large group of Pacific White-sided Dolphins. The dolphins were quite active in the choppy conditions created by the wind. We watched as they rode on the bow of the boat. Guests could be seen hauled over and looking down getting great looks at them underwater. Meanwhile in the wake of the boat, the dolphins could be seen porpoising and leaping clear out of the water. Easy to see why this is one of the most acrobatic species of dolphins in the world. Then at the very end, suddenly all of the dolphins leapt out of the water and cruised in one direction. We are not sure why the dolphins suddenly changed behaviours, but we watched as the “white water” created from all of their splashing moved into the distance.

What a great end to an already fabulous season. Thanks to guests from around the world who visited us and our hard  working and dedicated crew! See you next year everyone!

That’s a wrap on this year folks! We are now taking reservations for our 2018 season! You can book online at

Photo credits: Jennie Leaver and Alison Ogilvie. Images taken with a telephoto lens and cropped. 

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West Coast Weather and of Course Wildlife!

Friday October 6, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa

A Steller Sea Lion whacking a fish while a Humpback Whale surfaces in the background.

Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales (Claw, Freckles, Meniscus, Conger, Ridge, Moonstar and Slash), Pacific Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Harlequin Ducks, Ancient Murrelets and Common Murres.

A lunge feeding Humpback Whale.

A beautiful look at two Harlequin Ducks.

A Steller Sea Lions swallows a fish after whacking it.

A Steller Sea Lion swims by the boat.

A rain gave way to sun on our tour and created some awesome atmosphere while watching this Humpback Whale.

Moonstar the Humpback Whale cartwheeling.

Moonstar the Humpback Whale lobbing his/her tail.

We had a true West Coast weather day out on the water and required everything from monsoon gear to sun glasses! The wildlife was of course unconcerned with the wet and windy weather we had at the beginning of today’s trip because it affects their underwater world very little. Luckily for us, there was a lovely sunny break, as we humans aren’t quite as unconcerned about weather as the wildlife we were viewing.

There wasn’t much left of the Steller Sea Lion haul-out due to the very high tide, but a few individuals managed to find some space to rest. The others were all swimming in the water, but in very tight groups, numbering over 30 individuals! Other Steller Sea Lions were seen fishing throughout the trip and could be seen consistently tearing apart Chum Salmon at the surface. One individual was even seen eating his salmon while a Humpback Whale swam by in the background.

The Humpback Whale feeding frenzy continues, and today it was Quartz, Glacier and Claw that we viewed at the bait balls. After one lunge feed, Glacier even returned to the surface opened his/her mouth several times. Looking closely at the photos afterwards, we realized that this Humpback Whale was releasing a gull that had gotten caught in the whale’s mouth! Humpback Whale’s throats are only about as wide as a human hand and therefore all but the smallest birds will not fit down and need to be released at the surface.

Moonstar the Humpback Whale didn’t feed that we saw, but slapped his tail several times against the water while trumpeting. It wasn’t clear to us why Moonstar would seem agitated, but Humpback Whales sometimes slap their tails to communicate or posture to other animals in the area or just because they can. Whatever the reason, it was spectacular to see and hear his enormous tail repeatedly collide against the water.

We only have one more trip left for the 2017 season. Monday October 9th is your last chance to come out and see some of this incredible activity for yourselves. What are you waiting for? Visit our website or come into our office to book your trip!

Photo credit: Alison Ogilvie. All photos are property of Stubbs Island Whale Watching and were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

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Herring Anyone?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa

The sound of these Pacific White-sided Dolphins moving through the water, together with the incredible lighting made for a very special experience.

Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales (Claw, Argonaut, Ashes, Freckles, Meniscus, Piza and Merge), Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Pacific Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Ancient Murrelets, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Common Murres.

Snoozing in the kelp bed is a Pacific Harbour Seal.

Over 300 Pacific White-sided Dolphins and hundreds of gulls fed on herring in a tight group this afternoon.

On the move, these mammal hunting Orca suddenly changed speed and direction as they moved towards a large group of Pacific White-sided Dolphins.

Ashes the Humpback Whale takes a big mouthful of juvenile herring.

Pacific White-sided Dolphins cruise through the waters.

Beyond beautiful. The exhalations of mammal hunting Orca rise in the cool air as they swim through a pass.

Freckles the Humbpack Whale encounters a group of mammal hunting Orca. Yes, we were watching humpbacks and Orcas together yesterday.

Sitting together, here is a mating pair of Bald Eagles.

From the gulls to the dolphins, to the Humpback Whales, everyone was eating herring on this afternoon’s tour!

Ashes and Argonaut the Humpback Whales were engulfing enormous mouthfuls of herring just minutes from Telegraph Cove. Again and again they emerged, mouthes wide open in the tide rips as the gulls lifted off of the water, pausing their own feeding. The sounds of a feeding frenzy were all that could be heard as we drifted and spun in the tide currents; Common Murres gargled and cheeped, the gulls squawked overhead and Humpback Whales exhaled at the surface. This is our soundtrack to the fall.

We got word of a group of Orcas traveling nearby and suddenly we were watching both Humpback Whales and Orcas! This group of mammal hunting Orcas moved slowly through the area, passing one of the Pacific Harbour Seal haul-outs and likely making at least one kill. We watched them surface, circle, then change directions again all the while their exhalations rising against the rocky backdrop. It was beyond beautiful.

Suddenly changing speed and direction, the orcas led us to even more wildlife! A group of 300 or more Pacific White-sided Dolphins were actively hunting herring along the shoreline. These Orcas, who will prey on Pacific White-sided Dolphins, showed little interest but the dolphins moved quickly in the other direction. The dolphins who are some of the most acrobatic in the world, leapt right out of the water at times as the group quickly moved west. As the dolphins fished, the gulls circled overhead, many of them with herring in their beaks as well. The sound of the dolphins moving through the water, together with the incredible lighting as they surfaced made for a very special experience.

It’s this kind of activity that’s happening out in the waters just outside Telegraph Cove almost every day! There are only two tours left so you better come and see it for yourself.

Photo credit: Alison Ogilvie. All photos are property of Stubbs Island Whale Watching and were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

This Pacific Harbour Seal chose a nice bed of rock weed for his/her rest.

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No better place to be!

Monday October 2, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa

Argonaut the Humpback Whale exhales at the surface following a lunge feed.

Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales (Frosty, Mini Wheat, Cutter, Ridge, Hunter, Moonstar, Claw, Yahtzee, Quartz, Ashes, Argonaut, Inukshuk, Meniscus, Piza, Sharpie, Blackula and Hilroy), Pacific Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Ancient Murrelets, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Common Murres.

Going down, here is Frosty the Humpback Whale in a dive. Mini Wheat, her calf was already below the surface.

Frosty (mom) and Mini Wheat (calf) the Humpback Whales surface before a deep dive.

Water pours out of Quartz the Humpback Whale’s mouth as he/she lunge feeds on juvenile herring.

A Great Blue Heron is highlighted by the October sun as it fishes from the Bull Kelp.

The Pacific Harbour Seal surfaced in a small pass as we drifted through with our engines off. Ahhh the quiet!

You can’t hear them now, but these Steller Sea Lions were very vocal on their sunny haul-out this afternoon.

Spot the Gull with 2 herring in it’s mouth.

Hilroy the Humpback Whale was one of 17 individuals identified on this afternoon’s trip. All sightings are contributed to the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) who are documenting the comeback of Humpback Whales into our area. Are they ever back!

We couldn’t get over the amazing conditions we had on our afternoon tour today. The waters were glass calm and the only thing close to clouds were the exhalations of so many Humpback Whales rising across the waters. We couldn’t think of any better place to be!

Humpback Whales were lunge feeding in every direction just minutes from Telegraph Cove. Watching the circling gulls feeding on herring at the surface, we can often predict where a Humpback Whale will feed on these same schooling fish. Today, however things were difficult, as at times there were over four different groups of gulls and several humpbacks in the area. We laughed as inevitably we missed some fantastic feeding as it happened out of the corner of our eyes, but we were fortunate to watch many more humpbacks feeding at the surface.

We slowly moved from one area to the next, while constantly in the presence of Humpback Whales. More and more individuals kept popping up and we were able to identify 17 different individuals, while many more surfaced in the distance. One of these known individuals was confirmed by the Marine Educations and Research Society (MERS) to be Blackula, an individual who has not been documented around North Eastern Vancouver Island since 2013!

We made our way over to the Steller Sea Lion haul-out and sat quietly watching these giants as the sound of their growling carried across the water. Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles were spotted through the islands and were highlighted beautifully in the October light.

We can tell that fall is in the air but there is so much going on out here! You better come and see it for yourself!

Photo credit: Alison Ogilvie. All photos are property of Stubbs Island Whale Watching and were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

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So Much Activity

Sunday October 1, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa

Transient (mammal-eating) Killer Whales just breaking the surface.

Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales (Ridge, Argonaut, Meniscus, Hunter and Black Pearl), Transient “Bigg’s” (mammal-eating) Orca (UK) Pacific Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Ancient Murrelets, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Common Murres.

A Mink scurries across the dock at Telegraph Cove with a huge crab in his/her mouth.

One of many Humpback Whales spotted on today’s tour.

A Steller Sea Lions lets out a massive growl.

A Transient (mammal-eating) Killer Whale.

A Great Blue Heron flies over a patch of Bull Kelp.

Steller Sea Lions haul out in the warm September sun.

Luckily on yesterday’s tour there were no neck injuries as guests were required to look in so many different directions.

There was action pretty much right off the dock on today. Just after we crossed Johnstone Strait we started spotting Humpback Whales. There has been so many of these giant whales around lately, but we continue to be astonished by their impressive feeding techniques.

We watched as Argonaut and Ridge, two Humpback Whales we know well in this area, started lunge feeding. Lunge feeding is impressive in and of its own, seeing a whale that big with his/her mouth wide open will steal your breathe, we promise you. That being said, this lunge feed was crazy, as Ridge and Argonaut appeared to be lungeing so high through these bait balls that half their bodies were out of the water.

The beautiful lighting that comes with Fall made our viewings of the Steller Sea Lions even more splendid. Their creamy brown colour was so accentuated by the light, they just looked marvellous. Add to these sensational conditions the audio component of listening to their growls and grunts as they negotiate sharing their haul out. Pretty cool stuff to see.

Then a report came in that there were Orca in the area. These whales turned out to be the mammal-eating ecotype who feed on a variety of other marine mammals, one of which being, Steller Sea Lions. Transient Orca are often very stealthy, taking long dives and difficult to track and this groups was very stealthy. We had a difficult time keeping track of them at first but then eventually everyone on board got a good look. In the same area were a lot of Steller Sea Lions who were whacking a fish and appeared to be on high alert. The Orcas just passed trough though, paying no attention to the sea lions.

Then, everything happened at once, a Humpback Whale lunge fed, meanwhile Orcas could be seen on the other side of the boat and there was Steller Sea Lions swimming around as well. You can see now why Captain Wayne was concerned about neck injuries. LOL! Then to end things off, we returned to the dock in Telegraph Cove and watched a Mink scurry back and fort across the dock catching crabs.

Phew! What an afternoon!

Photo credit: Alison Ogilvie. All photos are property of Stubbs Island Whale Watching and were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

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Humpback Whales, Humpback Whales and more Humpback Whales!

Saturday September 30, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa

So much spray of both water and fish, as this Humpback Whale lunge feeds.

Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales (Freckles, Argonaut, Apollo, Hunter, Yahtzee, Cosmo, Meniscus and Ridge) Pacific Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Ancient Murrelets, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Common Murres.

Awesome colours on this Pacific Harbour Seal.

A great look at the head of this Humpback Whale as it lunge feeds.

Mature male Steller Sea Lions haul out.

Amazing lightening for photography in September as this blow just lingers in the air.

The throat pleats on this Humpback are very visible in this lunge feed.

Two Humpback Whales, (Apollo & UK) are seen travelling together.

Apollo the Humpback Whale tail lobbing.

The fluke of Apollo the Humpback Whale.

As we say goodbye to September, we certainly did so with a bang. With a full boat and the rainy morning giving way to a sunny afternoon we were in good shape and good spirits for whale watching.

Great looks at Steller Sea Lions once again as we visited a local haul out. Here we could see hundreds of the world’s largest sea lions both swimming in the water and on land. Some of the individuals on the haul out appeared quite restful, while others growled and battled for territory with other sea lions.

Speaking of smaller marine mammals, there were multiple sightings of Pacific Harbour Seals today. At times we got a glimpse of their full figure as they hauled out on land. At others times we could only see their little noses and heads poking out from the bull kelp. Great opportunity for all on board to see how deceptive size can be when both seals and sea lions are seen in the water compared to on land.

The highlight today, as has been the trend of late, was feeding Humpback Whales. There are three photos included on our sightings report page of this awesome feeding behaviour and we missed a bunch of times too. This tells you how much feeding is going on out there right now.

There was also a very interesting moment when we watched Apollo the Humpback Whale, as he/she travelled with another Humpback Whale whom we have yet been able to ID. Then off to the left we spotted Hunter in the same vicinity. An exciting moment as there appeared to be what looked like a collision, when Hunter came into contact with the other two whales. There was some rustling at the surface and some trumpeting just prior to seeing Hunter fluke and the whales then separate.

We were just starting our return to Telegraph Cove when we were surprised by a big splash behind our boat. Apollo the Humpback Whale whom we had been previously watching, was now surface active. We watched as he/she cartwheeled a few times and then continued to slap his/her tail against the surface. Always amazing to see these huge whales become active.

We are in a countdown to the end now folks, so make sure if you’re not visiting us this season to stay tuned into the amazing activity that is going on out there. Also, in case you’re thinking of joining us last minute, our last tour will be October 9.

Photo credits: Jennie Leaver and Alison Ogilvie. All photos are property of Stubbs Island Whale Watching and were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

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Warm Winds, Sunny Skies and Sightings Galore!

Thursday September 28, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa

Inukshuk the Humpback Whale flukes with the beautiful mountains in the distance.

A Steller Sea Lions drifts along on his back.

Another lunge feeding Humpback Whale.

Pacific Harbour Seals.

Squiggle the Humpback Whale lunge feeds.

A great look at a mature Bald Eagle.

A mature male Steller Sea Lions sits on this rocky shoreline.

Frosty and her calf, Mini Wheat surface in tandem.

Dall’s Porpoise rooster tail past the Lukwa.

A Common Murre surfaces with a Herring in his/her beak.

Humpback Whales Frosty and her calf Mini Wheat are seen travelling with Sharpie, another Humpback Whale.

Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales (Conger, Freckles, Argonaut, Claw, Moonstar, Ridge, Inukshuk, Mini Wheat, Frosty, Sharpie, Bumpy, Black Pearl, Corporal, Cutter, Yahtzee, Meniscus,  Piza and more) Dall’s Porpoise, Pacific Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Ancient Murrelets, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Common Murres.

Over the last couple of days the number of Humpback Whales we have been seeing is astonishing. In fact on both our morning and afternoon tour our heads, and the heads of all of our guests were on a swivel, with action happening in all directions.

Wondering what the Humpback Whales are doing this time of year? We saw it multiple times today, they are feeding! Eating as much juvenile Herring as they can, before they begin their migration to Hawaii or Mexico. We saw bait balls everywhere again today and multiple Humpback Whales could be seen breaking the surface, mouth wide open, as they engulfed tons of little fish. It doesn’t matter how many times we see it, we gasp pretty much every time.

Frosty and her calf Mini Wheat were seen on both our morning and afternoon tours. In the morning both Frosty and Mini Wheat could be seen lobbing their tails and at one point, Mini Wheat Cartwheeled. In the afternoon the two were seen again, travelling in tandem and surfacing together. What a great look for all on board at the difference in size between a calf and a full grown Mom.

In addition to Frosty and her calf, we also saw at least 15 more Humpback Whales. There were blows everywhere today. Such a wonderful sight to see as we hunted them almost to extinction on our coast, up until whaling stopped in 1965.

A few other cool highlights on today’s trips, as we watched Common Murres surfacing after dives with Herring in their beaks. We know these seabirds and the Humpback Whales eat the same thing but it was special to see it with our own eyes.

Then today a sighting we have not had over the last few days, Dall’s Porpoise. It was a big energy booster on our trip when a small group of them came ripping by the Lukwa, creating rooster tails as they went. Guests also got a good look for their full size as they passed by under the water.

Hard to believe with all this activity that there are only 6 more trips remaining in our 2017 season. Don’t miss out on all these amazing sightings, come into our office and book your tour today!

Photo credits: Geoff Dunstan, Alison Ogilvie and Jennie Leaver. All  photos are property of Stubbs Island Whale Watching and were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

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Here a Humpback there a Humpback, Everywhere a Humpback Whale!

Wednesday September 27, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa

Such beauty! Here are Frosty and Inukshuk surfacing in the mist this morning.

Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales (Slash. Yahtzee, Conger, Frosty, Mini Wheat, Meniscus, Ridge, Cutter, Inukshuk, Moonstar, Claw, Tangent, Quartz, Freckles, Sharpie and Ripple) Pacific Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Ancient Murrelets, Red-necked Phalaropes, Parasetic Jaeger and Common Murres.

Corporal the Humpback Whale was one of many lunge feeding whales this afternoon. Do you see unlucky herring in his/her mouth? Can you find any that got away?

This Pacific Harbour Seal was hauled out in the sunshine on this afternoon’s tour.

Ridge the Humpback Whale surfaces in super sunny conditions this afternoon.

These lucky students from Port Hardy had whale school amongst the Humpback whales this morning. There is no better way to learn than from mother nature.

Yahtzee and Ripple the Humpback Whales were two of many seen on the water today. Here they are surfacing together.

Steller Sea Lions were lounging in the sun this afternoon. We had perfect conditions on our tour.

Yahtzee the Humpback Whale dives against the mountain backdrop.

Sharpie the Humpback whale surfacing in the mist.

What an astonishing day! While traffic on the historic boardwalk of Telegraph Cove seems to becoming less and less, Humpback Whale traffic is steadily increasing. As is the trend as of late, there were blows everywhere.

In the morning we hosted a school group from Port Hardy and the conditions were breathtaking. There was just the perfect amount of fog, so we could still see the wildlife but it created a very erie and west coast feel to the tour. We saw numerous Humpback Whales who were lunge feeding. The feeding activity was off the charts and it appeared as thought there were whales everywhere. At times we could also see some whales travelling side by side in the morning mist. Meanwhile we heard the oohs and awes of all on board.

The kids also got great looks at Steller Sea Lions, as well as Pacific Harbour Seals and multiple different species of seabirds.

The afternoon was equally spectacular to the morning, but the fog had cleared and gave way to a sunny September afternoon. The feeding activity continued, as we moved from bait ball to bait ball, tipped off by Seagulls who were feeding at the surface. Humpbacks were lunging through these balls of fish, with their mouths wide open. Guests on the bow had a jaw dropping moment as a Humpback Whale breached not to far off in the distance, which was absolutely incredible. The lightening we have been having as of late, contributes to the already stunning sights, as you can see in today’s pictures.

Pacific Harbour Seals were hauled out in the Broughton Archipelago and were looking very dry in the warm September sun. At times we also saw their little heads just above the surface as they swam along the shoreline.

Steller Sea Lions continued to be hauled out in the afternoon. Guests on board were privy to their amazing growls and towering size. A cool moment as we came across a sea lion in the water who was whacking a fish before we watched him swallow it whole.

We may be getting ready to call it a season here in Telegraph Cove but there is still so much to see with the remaining trips, we just can’t wait to get back on the water tomorrow.

Photo credits: Jennie Leaver and Alison Ogilvie. All photos are property of Stubbs Island Whale Watching and were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

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