Polar Oral Histories


The American Polar Society and The Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program, with funding from the National Science Foundation, conducted a series of oral history interviews.   The purpose of this project was to document the early years of American polar exploration by interviewing those who were in the polar regions since the 1930's.  Ultimately, the goal was to preserve the heritage of American polar exploration for future generations of researchers and scientists.



Akasofu, Syun-Ichi: Dr. Akasofu is well known in the field of Auroral physics for his work in geomagnetic storms, finding the power source for the Aurora, and determining the shape of the Auroral ring.  He served as Director of the Geophysical Institute from 1986 to 1999. 

Anderson, William R.: Capt. Anderson sailed the USS Nautilus across the Arctic Ocean under the North Pole on 3 August 1958 using the vessel as a scientific support platform to study the Arctic Ocean.  

Antos, Stanislaus A.: Major Antos was a pilot with VX-6 during the IGY from 1956-58 and flew the P2V-7 and flew several long range flights of original exploration. He was the first pilot to land a P2V at the South Pole.  

Aughenbaugh, Nolan: Dr. Aughenbaugh was the Chief Geologist during IGY on the traverse to the Dufek Massif where he conducted the original analysis of the geology there. He returned to the Antarctic in1958-59 summer season where he was a member of the Ross Ice Shelf traverse under Dr. James Zumberge.

Austin, Fred: Mr. Austin is one of the most accomplished aviation pioneers of the United States, learning to fly in 1935. In 1965 he commanded the first around the world flight via the north and south poles.



Barnes, Stephen: Science leader at Byrd Station, 1958.

Beebe, Lloyd: Antarctic film maker during IGY.

Behrendt, John: Dr. Behrendt was based at Ellsworth Station During the IGY. He wintered-over in 1957 and participated as a geologist with the Filchner Ice Shelf Traverse during the summer of 1957-58.  

Bekkedahl, Cliff L: Capt Bekkedahl was assigned to the USS Arneb, AKA 56 – a Navy cargo vessel that was designated as Admiral Dufek’s Flagship for Deep Freeze I. 

Benson, Carl: Dr. Benson specialized in Arctic and glacial research.

Blades, Jehu: CDR Blades was the Commanding Officer of the fuel ship that was towed to Antarctica in 1955 and moored as a gas station in McMurdo. Afterward he was a pilot with VX-6 flying some of the initial flights of exploration out of McMurdo Sound. He returned in 1961 after IGY with VX-6 and Wintered -Over at McMurdo. 

Boudette, Eugene L.: Dr. Boudette organized a systematized geological investigation of Antarctica in consonance with long established standards established by the U.S. Geological Survey. Although his career in the field was brief, it was pivotal in terms of setting long-range goals for geological exploration of the Antarctic.

Brecher, Henry: Dr. Brecher was the glaciologist and weather observer on the first traverse to the South Pole in 1959.  

Brewer, Max: Dr. Brewer is most well known for his tenure as NARL director.

Britton, Maxwell: Dr. Britton was with the Office of Naval Research and was the Washington Administrator for the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory. He was responsible for planning and funding NARL as an outgrowth of IGY.  

Brown, Craig W. :  Mr. Brown worked with the U.S. Weather Bureau in Antarctica.

Bull, Colin: Was on British North Greenland Expedition on a geophysical traverse across Greenland. During the IGY he worked with the American and New Zealand programs in the “Dry Valleys” - the beginnings of the U.S./New Zealand joint logistics and field programs.

Burroughs, Charles A.: He worked in triangulation fieldwork in the Arctic including the establishment of the first Coast and Geodetic satellite triangulation system in the Arctic at Cambridge Bay in 1964. In 1965 Capt Burroughs was instrumental in the establishment of four more satellite triangulation stations on St. Lawrence Island, Shemya Island, Pt. Barrow and Cold Bay. After the C&GS was rolled into ESSA and finally NOAA he was given Command of the NOAA Ship Fairweather during 1973-74 where he made modern hydrographic surveys of the Cook Inlet and Glacier Bay Alaska.



Carpenter, Donald: Dr. Carpenter explains the history as well as the scientific basis for the establishment of Longwire, Sky High, Eights, Siple and Plateau Stations in Antarctica. It is also a very good explanation of the research that was coordinated by the Helliwell Group at Stanford for forty years.

Carlson, Gerald F.: He served with the Alaska Native Services Office of the Department of Interior teaching program for native children.

Cartwright, Gordon: He began a career with the US Weather Bureau in 1929 and served in positions of increasing responsibility witnessing all of the major developments in meteorological data collection and forecasting, the advent of satellites for weather reporting, the creation of NOAA from the USWB and other agencies and the USWB role in the Arctic and the Antarctic. He retired from NOAA in 1975 in Geneva where he had been the United States Representative to the World Meteorological Organization for many years.

Cvijanovich, George: Dr. Cvijanovich was lead scientist on Ice Station Alpha during its second year of operation. He was evacuated with the rest of the staff when Alpha broke up on November 5, 1958. He became the Chief Scientist of Ice Station Charlie afterward until October 1959. Witnessed the Soviet atomic tests over Novaya Zemelya in October 1957.

Crory, Frederick E.: Mr. Crory worked on developing the foundations for most major field construction programs in the North American Arctic for 35 years, both for the military and for civilian projects, from the 1950’s until 1990. Heavy construction on permafrost prior to his time was often an engineering as well as an ecological disaster. Today, construction in the north is much more environmentally friendly thanks to the work of Fred Crory and CRREL.



DenHartog, Stephen L. : Mr. Denhartog joined the Ross Ice Shelf Traverse in 1958 under Bert Crary as glaciologist. Later he conducted glaciological observations out to Mile 160 along the “Byrd Station Highway.” After the winter of 1958 he participated in the Victoria Land Traverse from LAV across the Ross Ice Shelf.  In the spring months of 1962 thru 65 he completed gravity surveys from Cessna 180 aircraft flying from Point Barrow, AK.

Dickerson, Richard G.: On October1st, 1963 CDR Dickerson organized and led a two aircraft C-130 aircraft flight from Cape Town, South Africa across the South Pole to McMurdo Sound. It was the longest flight, up to that date, in Antarctic history, the first directly across the bottom of the world and the first time the Antarctic season has been started by a plane flying in from Africa.

Dodson, Robert H.T.:  Chief dog sled driver and assistant geologist for the Ronne Expedition.

Doumani, Dr. George A.: In 1958, Dr. Doumani went to Antarctica as a member of a party destined to relieve Dr. Charles Bentley and others on one of the geophysical research teams that operated out of Byrd Station. In 1963 Dr. Doumani accepted a position with the Library of Congress to head the Cold Regions Bibliography Section. The highlight of his Antarctic discoveries was the collection and description of fossils that provided the missing link in reconstructing Gondwanaland and proving the theory of continental drift.



El-Sayed, Sayed Z: Dr. Sayed made a total of 12 scientific cruises to the Antarctic with the Argentines from 1963 to 1969. He then worked the Pacific sector of the Antarctic Ocean - with either he or his students conducting research on the USNS Eltanin Cruises 19 through 52 over the years 1970 to 1980. Dr. El-Sayed was the prime mover for conducting integrated, multidisciplinary studies in the waters south of the Antarctic Convergence - both nationally for the United States and internationally through SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research).



Feeney, Robert A.: Dr Feeney was a biologist who conducted biological research in Antarctica during the 1960’s. His innovations for conducting research in the cold are still emulated today and he is on of the co-discoverers of glyco-proteins in Antarctic fishes. He has written a very humorous book about his experiences “On the Ice’ as well as a thoroughly researched book about the effects of diet on Polar Exploration.

Fletcher, Joseph O. : Col Fletcher was Commanding Officer of a USAF Arctic weather squadron in Alaska during the late 1940’s when large tabular icebergs were discovered locked in the Arctic Ice pack. In 1952 he and a team of scientists landed on one of these bergs in a C-47 and established a field research station that was manned for 22 years. The station was operated under three names over the years – T-3, Fletcher’s Ice Island and Ice Station Bravo. In May 1952, Col Fletcher and another USAF and scientific team made the first ever landing at the North Pole. Subsequently Col Fletcher held numerous high level management positions: Director Air Force Cambridge Laboratories; U.S. National Committee for the International Geophysical Year; Director of the Officer of Polar Programs of NSF; Chairman of the Polar Research Board; Weather Researcher at RAND Corporation.

Flowers, Edwin C.: Recollections of Flowers’ experience in Antarctica during the IGY as weather observer.

Fountain, Gordon: Mr. Fountain was a sailor on the Barkentine Bear, Admiral Byrd’s flagship in 1933-34.

Frankiewicz, Edward: CDR joined VX-6 when it formed in early 1955 and was assigned to fly R4D’s in direct support of scientific field parties. He was backup pilot for the first landing at the South Pole to Gus Shinn and was the first pilot to land at Hallet Station.



George, Alfred: Executive Officer for the Geophysical Institute (GI) in 1956.

Gerasimou, Helen: Mrs. Gerasimou became part of the NSF Office of Polar Programs staff at its inception. She participated in its organization with elements from the National Academy of Sciences and the Office of Naval Research in 1957.  

Gerson, Nathaniel C.: Nate Gerson was an internationally known ionospheric physicist recognized for his expertise in high frequency radio wave propagation. Gerson served on the AGU Special Committee for AGU/IGY Relationships in 1957, and was also active in AGU efforts at that time to improve the content and usefulness of the Transactions.

Gow, Anthony: Dr. Gow joined the Snow, Ice and Permafrost Research Experiment (SIPRE) group and traveled to Antarctica  in October 1957 during the International Geophysical Year.

Gray, Thomas: Mr. Gray was the meteorologist selected by the U.S. Weather Bureau to be Officer in Charge of the International Weather Center at Little America to coordinate and collate all weather research in Antarctica. Mr. Gray spent 15 months in Antarctica from December 1957 to January 1959. 

Grisez, David Norman: Recollections of Grisez’s experience as a U.S. Navy machinery repairman  working at Williams Air Operating Facility (later known as McMurdo Station) during Operation Deep Freeze.

Gudmundson, Julian P.: Master Chief Gudmundson joined Deep Freeze in 1956 and was sent to Little America where he wintered-over as the Leading Chief Petty Officer in 1957 – as such he was responsible for maintaining the base. He spent six more summer seasons in Antarctica and was promoted to Command Master Chief for Operation Deep Freeze in 1975.



Hathaway, Clifford: Lt Hathaway joined the Navy reserves in 1947 and trained as an Air-Controlman . In 1955  he answered a Navy call for duty in Antarctica and volunteered for Operation Deep Freeze.

Helliwell, Robert A.: Dr. Helliwell's work resulted in the establishment of Long Wire Station, Sky High Station, Eights Station and Siple Station to study the ionosphere and its effect on radio transmission. His work was one of the largest projects ever conducted in Antarctica – it spanned 30 years. The air logistics to support his projects were one of the major efforts of the Naval Support Force Antarctica during this time period.

Hillis, Earl: His first duty was with VX-6 for Antarctic research support. He was part of three flight crews that wintered-over at LA V. Flew over to LA I, LA II and LA III and opened the tunnels to the old Byrd camps. He also flew many cargo flights to South Pole

Horner, Rita: Dr. Horner helped reduce the phyto plankton data that Dr. Tom English gathered on Ice Station Alpha. This led to a career in polar biological research with many firsts -first woman to conduct research on T-3 and one of the first to use icebreakers as research platforms. Essentially she paved the way for women polar researchers in the polar regions.



Jones, Walter R.: He answered the call for Equipment Operators (EO) to go to Antarctica in 1956. In Rhode Island, where he staged, he was put in charge of preparing the LGPD-8 Caterpillar tractors (LGPD-8 stands for Low Ground Pressure model D-8) that were to traverse from Little America to Byrd Station to stage supplies for IGY.



Koether, Bernard G. : Mr. Koether made two cruises to Antarctica aboard the Glacier - the first in the 1959-60 Antarctic summer season and the second during the 1960-61 summer season.



La Fond, Eugene: Dr. LaFond made three surface ship (USS Nereus, USS Cedarwood, & USS Burton Island) cruises as Chief Scientist into the Arctic in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.  In 1957 Dr. LaFond sailed across the Arctic Ocean in the USS Skate as Chief Scientist – as part of this cruise the ship made the first surfacings ever through the Arctic sea ice - including at Ice Station Alpha which was part of IGY.

Landolt, Arlo: IGY scientist who studied airglow and aurora.  He was with Paul Siple during first winter-over at South Pole.

Larsen, Calvin: LCDR Larsen was a driver as well as a photographer on the first tractor train to establish Byrd Station in early 1956. In September 1956 he was the assistant Train Commander, driver and photographer on a return tractor train. In October he was one of five men who built Beardmore airfield which served as staging base for the first South Pole Flights. In the spring of 1957 he participated in the Crary Ross Ice Shelf project as photographer and aide to Bert Crary.

Leinbach, Harold: Dr. Leinbach helped to design the first riometer in the world to measure radio waves in space. He operated riometers at all of the Geophysical Research Institute’s sub stations during the IGY.

Long, Elgen: Mr. Long was one of the great pioneering pilots in both polar regions during the 1950’s through the 1970’s.

Long, Jack: Mr. Long participated in so many scientific traverses during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and during the years that immediately followed that he was given the official title of “Traverse Engineer” by the University of Wisconsin and the National Science Foundation. Transcript is currently unavailable.

Long, William: He spent the IGY year of 1957 to 1959 at Byrd Station in Antarctica as the glaciologist.



Malville, McKim:  Dr. Malville was the auroral scientist under Capt Finn Ronne at Ellsworth Station, Antarctica during the first year of the IGY.

Manke, Robert: The interview concerns the experiences of Manke as a Navy Seabee in Antarctica in 1958.

McCormick, William S.: Bill McCormick is the world’s senior Antarctic support aviator.  He flew with Admiral Byrd during first winter-over at South Pole.

McGregor, Ronald K.: From 1954 to 1956 McGregor flew the Adak run from Midway to Adak Island in the Aleutians. In 1960 he volunteered for duty with Operation Deep Freeze Antarctica and was assigned as the Commander Antarctic Support Activities (CASA).

McLean, Donald: Dr McLean was the Chief Medical Officer of the Ronne Antarctic Expedition of 1946-47. He later served in Greenland when he was attached to the US Air Force.



Neidle, Alan: Alan is a career diplomat, an international lawyer, who was assigned to Ambassador Paul Daniels in 1958 by John Foster Dulles as legal advisor for the Antarctic Treaty negotiations. He sat in on every negotiating session and helped draft American proposals with Ambassador Daniels and President Eisenhower, and as such, was a witness to the entire negotiations process.  

Newcomb, Robert: Capt. Newcomb was the navigator of the USS Glacier when it broke out the channel into McMurdo to bring in the supplies for building the station. He is the senior surviving officer of that evolution. He also helped Dr. James Van Allen with his high altitude Aerobee rocket shots when the Van Allen Belts were discovered.  

Nygren, Harley D. : RADM Nygren's early career found him on duty in the Arctic where he was assigned for three years to the Arctic Field Party of the Coast and Geodetic Survey. He was the founder and organizer of the NOAA Corps and became its first Director when it was formed. He served in this capacity from 1971 to 1981 and reported to four Presidents – Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. 


Passel, Charles: Charles Passel was the man who conducted all of the temperature and wind speed measurements that led to the development of the Wind Chill Index that is in common use around the world today. However, he is a  geologist and expert dog sled driver who participated in an 800 mile geological traverse into the Rockefeller Mountains in the summer of 1940-41.  

Peden, Irene: Dr. Peden’s life story is one of persistence to achieve equality as well as a story of scientific achievement – a struggle to break through the ‘glass ceiling.’  She was the first woman scientist or engineer to live and work in the interior [of Antarctica] as a Principal Investigator.

Peterson, Harries-Clichy: Col. Peterson was a member of the Ronne Antarctic Expedition of 1947/48 to East base on the Antarctic Peninsula.  He was responsible for collecting data on solar radiation, cosmic radiation, weather data collection and magnetism. The data was delivered to Bartol research Institute at the end of the expedition.

Pomerantz, Martin: Dr. Pomerantz began studying cosmic rays in the polar regions in 1948 when he built the first observatory at Churchill on Hudson bay and continued through IGY until 1995. Today there are Pomerantz observatories at Thule, Churchill, Swarthmore, Mt. Haleakala, McMurdo Sound and South Pole. 



Raithel, Albert L.: Capt. Raithel had a very short career with VX-6 during Deep Freeze II (1956-57) where he flew one of the first P2V’s there.

Reed, Dale : Participated in two Antarctic expeditions - Deep Freeze III 1957 – 1959, and Operation Deep Freeze, 1959–1961.

Reimer, John D.: Warrant Officer Reimer first went to Antarctic in 1956 aboard the icebreaker Staten Island to the Weddell Sea leading the supply ship Wyandot to build Ellsworth Station. Were frozen in for 20 days and unloaded late in February. WO Reimer photographed the complete area, the original photography of the Filchner Ice Shelf and the beginning construction of Ellsworth. In 1957 he was assigned to McMurdo and Little America and conducted aerial mapping of trans Antarctic Mountains. He went again in 1958 for aerial mapping. Was with a photo team that discovered the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains.  

Remington, Benjamin: Benjamin Remington spent two summer and winter seasons in Antarctica as a weather observer for the Weather Service. The first was the 1956/57 season at Little America  and the second at South Pole during he 1958/59 season.

Riley, Stephen: He was in charge of photographic unit in ca. 1968 in Antarctica. Riley had special responsibility for photographic mapping and had training in both navigation and aerial photography. 

Ronne, Edith: “Jackie” Ronne was the other of the two women who first wintered over in Antarctica. She was the wife of Finne Ronne, the expedition organizer and leader.

Roscoe, John: Dr. Roscoe provides information on the original efforts to photo-map the Antarctic Continent an well as interesting information about Admiral Byrd’s involvement in High Jump, Windmill and Deep Freeze I. It also sheds light on U.S. activities in the field vis-à-vis Antarctic claims during Operation Windmill – something that the U.S. State Department does not acknowledge today.

Rubin, Morton I.: Dr. Rubin represented the National Academy of Sciences on Operation Deep Freeze I in 1955-56. He established the International Weather Center for coordinating international weather research at Little America in 1956. He wintered-over with the Russians at Mirny Station from October 1957 to February 1959.  

Rutford, Robert H.: Dr. Rutford worked on the development of the LGPD-8 tractors for traverses in Greenland in 1953 as a predecessor to using them in Antarctica during IGY. Later he was Director of the Office of Polar Programs and Chairman of the Polar research Board.  Dr. Rutford also served as President of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research from 1998 to 2003 - an international body that coordinates research in Antarctica among nations. 



Sater, John: Mr. Sater’s polar career began 1955 when he was in the Army as part of the First Engineering Arctic Task Force. During the IGY he did surface motion studies on the McCall Glacier under a project funded by the Arctic Institute of North America. His career from this point on was centered about AINA and Arctic research although he had one tour in the Antarctic with the British.

Schindler, John: John is mostly known in Arctic scientific circles for his tenure as the assistant director of the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) in Barrow, Alaska from 1960 – 1971 and as director from 1971 – 1973.

Segers, Chester: Chet Segers was the cook for the first crew to spend a year at the South Pole Station.

Shapley, Alan: Dr Shapley was the Vice Chairman for the U.S. National Committee for the International Geophysical Year and also a United States member to the CSAGI (Comite’ Spec’ial del’Anee Ge’ophysique Internationale), which organized the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58.

Stokes, Frank: Frank graduated from the Naval Academy in 1953 and after his first tour of duty volunteered for Operation Deep Freeze. He was assigned to Little America in the fall of 1957 as the Communications Officer.

Streich, Paul Robert. : CDR Streich a scientific support pilot flying out of Little America V during Deep Freeze I (1955-56). He was also the first man to fly in Antarctica during the winter night. He crashed an Otter aircraft while flying back from Byrd Station and led the crew and passengers on an overland trek towards safety before being rescued.

Strider, John P.: Chief Petty Officer Strider was the Plane Captain of the Que Sera Sera – the first aircraft ever to land at the South Pole and among the first Americans ever to stand at the pole (31 October 1956). He was the first man to step out of the aircraft at the pole making him the first American to set foot at the South Pole. This was Strider’s second year “On the Ice”. During his first season 1955-56 he flew as Plane Captain on several long exploratory flights deep into the Antarctic.

Svensson, John: Capt. Svennson was stationed in McMurdo Station with the Naval Support Force Antarctica as a Sea Bee surveyor. He left the Navy in 1964 and landed a job at the Arctic Section of the Department of Oceanography of the University of Washington.

Swartz, Philip: Captain Swartz was to the Officer in Charge of South Pole Station during Deep Freeze 61. Transcript is currently unavailable.



Turner, Mort: Dr. Turner spent over 29 years with the Office of Polar Programs of the National Science Foundation. right after the IGY ended in 1959. One of Dr. Turner’s responsibilities was the disbursement of monies to build permanent polar research programs at selected research institutions in the United States – Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin, Florida State University, Texas Tech University and other universities around the nation on a smaller scale. Most of these efforts bore fruit and these are permanent research institutions today. He also funded the year-round science programs on the RV Hero. In addition Dr. Turner directed field research from McMurdo Sound during the Antarctic summers over 20 times.



Untersteiner, Norbert: Dr. Untersteiner was the scientific leader of Ice Station Alpha from September 1957 to September 1958 spending over a year conducting research on the ice floe. As part of his research there he developed ice growth theorems that are current to the present day. he was later Director of Operation AIDJEX the largest year-around ice station research project in the Arctic Ocean.



Van Allen, James A. : Dr Van Allen studied under Dr Thomas Poulter during the early1930’s and managed Dr. Poulter’s geophysical research while Poulter was serving in Antarctica  as Admiral Byrd’s Chief Scientist during the Second Polar Year. In 1951 Dr. Van Allen hosted a meeting of eminent polar scientists at his home in Maryland. The outcome of the meeting was an agreement to organize the Third Polar Year during 1957-58. This was later re-named the International Geophysical Year – a world-wide effort that resulted in most modern national polar research programs in the world today; accordingly Dr. Van Allen has been acknowledged worldwide as the “Father of the International Geophysical Year”. Dr Van Allen completed significant space-oriented geophysical research during IGY in the Arctic and Antarctic and later was credited with the discovery of the Van Allen Radiation Belts that encircle the earth.

Vaughan, Norman: Norman was a dog driver for Byrd's first Antarctica expedition.



Ward, Edward M.: In January 1946 he was assigned to the Office of Naval Research and designated Officer in Charge of Special Alaskan Magnetic Survey (Project SPAM). Flying a PBY-5A out of Pt. Barrow, he conducted an airborne magnetometer survey of the Navy Petroleum Reserve Four (PET-4). In January 1947 he returned to Alaska as Officer in Charge of Project Volcano. In 1951 he returned to Point Barrow as Officer in Charge of Project Ski Jump 1 and in 1952 he returned as a member of Project Ski-Jump 2. 

Weeks, Wilford: Dr. Weeks headed the Joint Services Sea Ice Project in Hopedale Labrador and Thule Greenland during IGY. This led to a career in sea ice research at the Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory (CRREL)  and the University of Alaska. 

Weihaupt. John: Dr. Weihaupt participated in three field seasons in Antarctica. He is a geophysicist/geologist who specialized in determining the depth of ice.

Welch, David (Kelly): RADM Welch was Commander Naval Support Force Antarctica from 1969 to 1971. After he retired he was a special assistant to Dr Larry Gould, Byrd’s Chief Scientist in 1929, at the University of Arizona for over 20 years.

Wessbecher, Howard O.: Wessbecher’s job was to coordinate with the military to set up the research projects for IGY at the soon to be opened South Pole Base (First landing there was October 31, 1956). He worked with the military to ensure that everything that was needed for Aurora, Geomagnetism, Seismology, Ionospheric, Meteorology, Geomorphology and Glaciological research was packaged and readied for air drop when South Pole Base opened.

Wilson, Stephen O.: Upon graduation from college in 1955 he received a commission in the Navy and asked for orders to an icebreaker – he was assigned as part of the original crew of the USS Glacier. He made three cruises to the Antarctic aboard the Glacier 1955-56, 1956-57, and 1957-58. He conned the ship as it made the first breakout of ice in McMurdo sound and also in Kainan Bay when the built Little America V. During the last of these cruises he was assigned as Scientific Officer and as such acted as special assistant to Dr. James VanAllen, father of the IGY


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