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« on: November 22, 2011, 11:03:56 am »
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The College of William & Mary was founded on PIRATE LOOT – aaarrrgh!

              Buccaneers Davis, Wafer & Hingson, and the Ship Batchelors Delight
By John Fitzhugh Millar, 2010, updated 2011
   

   In 1682, Charles II (reigned 1660-1685) was regarded by many at the time as the best king England ever had. For example, the charter he issued to Rhode Island in 1662 is a model of liberalism, and his Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 is a cornerstone of Western law. However, since Charles had no legitimate children, it was becoming obvious that his brother James would be the next king, and James had a good chance of becoming the worst king England ever had (and he did not disappoint). Therefore, a group of about fifty men in their early twenties decided to get out while the getting was good, and seek their fortunes elsewhere. They intended to go on a “privateering” voyage (a polite word for “pirating”) to the Caribbean, even though they knew little about sailing. Technically, privateering meant being licensed by the English government to attack enemy ships in wartime, whereas pirates had no such license. Our group of men had no such license, but they did not see that as an insurmountable problem; most people regarded the Spanish as permanent enemies, whether war had actually been declared at that moment or not.

   They bought an old ship called Revenge, which had been captured by pirates from the French in the Caribbean, and they hired its previous owner, an experienced professional captain, John Cook or Cooke, who had commanded a pirate fleet a short time previously. Cook declared that the most important asset for a pirate cruise would be a competent doctor. Therefore, they first sailed to the Caribbean, where they picked up Dr. Lionel Wafer (also spelled DelaWafer), ship’s “chirurgeon” (surgeon) in Panama. Wafer (1640-1705) had served Cook’s fleet of pirates as surgeon in 1679, until he had been persuaded to join another group of pirates commanded by Bartholomew Sharp off Cartagena, Colombia. Sharp and his men had abandoned Wafer in the jungles of Panama when the doctor had been seriously wounded in the thigh by the accidental explosion of a keg of gunpowder. The Cuna Indians had not only saved his life but also completely healed the wound, thanks to their skill with herbal medicine, which they also taught Wafer. In fact, when Cook first arrived, he failed to recognize Wafer, since Wafer was dressed and painted exactly like the Indians! One of Wafer’s friends, John Hingson (also spelled Hinson and Hingsett), had stood by him, so he was also welcomed aboard Revenge as assistant surgeon.

   Wafer and Hingson had heard that another old colleague, William Dampier (1651-1715), was hiding out at Hampton, Virginia (note: Hampton was known as Elizabeth City until 1706, so Dampier would not have known the name Hampton), hoping to escape the notice of the authorities after some notorious pirate adventures. Also hiding with Dampier was [John] Edward Davis, whom Cook appointed as Quartermaster (second in command) and Davis’ African servant Peter Cloise. Dampier had sailed around the world in 1679, so his expertise was considered to be crucial to the success of this voyage. The would-be pirates therefore sailed from Panama to Hampton, where they arrived in April 1683. They quickly persuaded Dampier, Davis, and Cloise to join them, and sailed on 23 August for the Guinea Coast of Africa, where they arrived in November.

   Their ship being rotten, the crewmembers were on the look-out to seize an appropriate replacement. They spotted a small, brand-new Danish ship anchored in the Sierra Leone River, presumably waiting for a cargo of slaves. Dampier and crewman William Ambrosia Cowley engaged the Danish owners in an all-night card game with the ship as the intended stakes. They won the game, and renamed the new ship Batchelors Delight (spelling was not uniform in those days). The ship was described as “pretty.” Some reports describe her as a large frigate of up to 40 guns, but other sources, including two pictures of her, show her to have been a mere corvette of 14 main guns (and probably many swivel-guns). Presumably, the Danes received the rotten Revenge as a consolation prize. One crewmember later asserted with false bravado that they had seized the Danish ship by force, that she was loaded with female slaves, whom the pirates took as consorts, and that they burned the Revenge so as to leave no trace, but the surviving evidence does not support such an interpretation.

   Here it should be noted that another ship of about the same size and appearance called Bachelor’s Delight, with Benjamin Gillam/Guillaume (1662-1706) as captain and John Outlaw as mate, sailed from Boston on a “privateering” voyage to Hudson’s Bay on 21 June 1682, arriving at Nelson River on 18 August at the southwest corner of Hudson’s Bay, in what would later be called Manitoba. The crew founded a private fort that would later be called York Factory (subsequently a principal outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company), but fort, ship and men were all temporarily captured by the French adventurers Radisson and Groseillers. Ship and crew spent the winter under arrest in Hudson’s Bay and sailed to Quebec the following summer, where they were released by French authorities in October 1683. This is clearly a different ship.

   Cook, Dampier, Davis, and Wafer told the rest of the crew that the Caribbean was not a fruitful place to be a pirate because it was infested with Spanish military patrols. The chief pirate bases at Tortuga and Petit-Goave (Haiti) were being suppressed, leaving only Port Royal, near Kingston, Jamaica, which had not yet been destroyed by the earthquake of 1692. A far better place for being pirates would be along the Pacific coast of Latin America. No roads could be built along that coast, because it was mostly vertical all the way up to the peaks of the Andes. Thus, all the Spanish silver, gold and jewels from the mines of Bolivia in the interior had to move along that coast in mostly unarmed merchant ships in order to get them to Panama. The Spanish knew that it was almost impossible to sail around Cape Horn, so they felt quite safe in not fortifying their cities on the West Coast and in not paying for warships to police the seas there, and not even arming most of their merchant ships.

   Accordingly, the English adventurers in their well-built ship sailed around Cape Horn, and for the next several years they plundered from Chile to California, with a string of exciting adventures of avoiding and defeating Spanish military opposition. In 1684, they joined forces with Capt. Brown and his ship Nicholas for a few weeks at Juan Fernandez Island. They were easily able to hide in the numerous islands along the coast, including the Galapagos off the coast of Ecuador and Juan Fernandez off the coast of Chile. They were the first Englishmen ever to see the Galapagos, and the charts they made from their measurements were the standard charts of the Galapagos well into the nineteenth century. Dampier and one or two others made extensive notes and observations of the wildlife there that Darwin found of great interest 150 years later. Along with Cowley, Dampier made the first charts of the Galapagos, and gave the geographical features their present-day English names. The crewmembers of the Batchelors Delight were also the first Europeans to see Easter Island far off the coast of Chile, although they gave it a different name, and they did not stop to explore it; it was not rediscovered until Easter Day 1772.

    Cook died off Costa Rica in 1684 of an illness he picked up in Chile, and the crew voted to replace him with the experienced Edward Davis, Dampier’s friend.

   By this time, several English and French “privateer” ships (formerly Spanish merchant ships, captured and armed by disorganized English and French pirates, who had crossed the Isthmus of Panama on foot) were operating along the west coast of Latin America, and some of them formed an alliance to attack a Spanish treasure convoy. Three French captains, Francois Grognier, Pierre le Picard, and the Sieur Raveneau de Lussan, failed to support Batchelors Delight, which suffered heavy damage and several deaths during the attack as a result. The English decided to avoid any partnerships with the unreliable French corsairs for a time.

   After this incident, a fleet of hastily-armed Spanish government ships (doubtless merchant-ships seized without payment) gave chase, so the English aboard Batchelors Delight sailed due west from Chile with the Spanish in hot pursuit for about 10 days. The Spanish gave up the chase, but the English were unaware of that, so they kept sailing for a few weeks until the lookout called out, “Land-ho!” They spotted the long, high coast of an unknown land, which they called Davisland after their captain. They must have been the first westerners ever to see the east coast of North Island, New Zealand, which is what it turned out to be. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman had visited the west coast in 1642, but without stopping. When French explorer Marion du Fresne and the British navigator James Cook came to New Zealand in the 1770s, many of their men were eaten by the Maoris (the Maoris did not write, so it was not recorded whether the French sailors, with their garlic, tasted better than the British), so it was probably lucky that Davis, just as he did later at Easter Island, prudently gave strict orders that no member of the crew should go ashore.

   However, if they had gone ashore, perhaps they would have seen giant Moas, a mostly nocturnal, wingless, flightless bird, whose females sometimes stood over 16 feet (5 meters) tall and weighed 600 pounds (275kg) – essentially emus the size of a giraffe! They were considerably taller than the 1000-pound elephant bird of Madagascar. All species of giant birds became extinct by 1830. Actually, Dampier and Wafer, the two literary members of the crew, never mentioned the birds in their journals, but it is possible that the men on lookout duty may have seen the birds (we know that coastal sand-dunes were one of the habitats they frequented) and thought merely that they had drunk too much rum! The adventurers then returned to South America as fast as they could sail, taking a more southerly route to catch the strong westerly winds in that latitude.

   While on the west coast of America, Davis’ ship sacked Guayaquil, Ecuador and raided various other ports, including Leon and El Realejo in Nicaragua in 1685, Paita (3 November 1684) and, assisted by Capt. William Knight, Zania/Sana in March 1686 (impressive ruins of Sana, destroyed by a natural disaster 35 years later, are now a proud tourist attraction featuring the pirates and an annual pirate festival!), and Pico in Peru, and Arica in Chile (February 1687). However, not all their raids ashore produced useful treasure, and one raid on Panama went badly wrong (28 May 1685). One Spanish ship they captured was full of slaves from Africa, so they set them free ashore, and welcomed a few into the crew of Batchelors Delight. In May 1687, they allied with French Capt. Picard to defeat a Spanish fleet searching for them off Guayaquil.

   Dampier eventually tired of this life, so he joined the crew of Captain Charles Swan’s Cygnet (another formerly Spanish merchant ship captured by English buccaneers) as navigator, and sailed west across the Pacific to complete his second voyage around the world. The fractious crew left Captain Swan on the beach in the Philippines. Then after he had made extensive observations of the geography, flora and fauna of the wild north coast of Australia (which Joseph Banks found very useful about 80 years later), Dampier himself was marooned with one colleague by the mutinous crew in the Nicobar Islands (between India and Malaysia), and yet the pair amazingly survived a long ocean voyage on a small raft or dugout-canoe with outrigger they had built, until they were picked up at Banda Aceh in Sumatra by a merchant ship headed for England.

   When asked how much is enough, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. once said, “Always a little more,” but the crew of the Batchelors Delight came to the conclusion in mid-1687 that they had indeed gained enough treasure. That was also the same moment that they heard the news at Panama that the dreadful King James was being thrown out by Parliament and replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband William. Life in England would definitely be better under William and Mary than it was under James. Moreover, James had just signed a proclamation offering amnesty to pirates who registered with English authorities. Therefore, they decided to sail back to England.

   The adventurers prudently planned to hedge their bets. They buried approximately one third of their treasure at Chatham Bay on the north coast of Cocos Island, 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, in case they were somehow deprived of the rest of their loot on the way home. It is said that Cocos Island (now Isla del Coco National Park), which is only five miles (8km) long, is the site of no fewer than three treasures from separate pirate ships, but, in spite of many expeditions mounted over the years by treasure seekers, nothing of value has ever been found from any of them. It is now illegal to dig there.

   Several of the crew, who had lost their shares through gambling, asked to be put ashore on Juan Fernandez Island as the ship headed south past Chile. What became of them is not recorded, but they were probably rescued by other visiting ships in a short space of time.

   They rounded Cape Horn in dreadful weather in the autumn of 1687. A book published in 1803 asserted that Davis and his ship were the first people ever to see Antarctica (the next people were as late as 1820!), the result of the ship being blown off-course through Drake’s Channel towards the Antarctic Peninsula at this passage off Cape Horn. Incidentally, a recent book claims that a Chinese fleet had seen Antarctica years earlier, but the evidence simply is not credible.

    When they reached the tropics in the Atlantic, Dr. Wafer called a meeting of the entire crew. He told them that if they all appeared in England at the same time with all their loot, they would probably be recognized to be pirates, and could be arrested and hanged in spite of any royal proclamation. He suggested that they should draw straws. The men with the first three or four short straws (among them was notorious pirate James Kelley, who had joined the crew because he was an old friend of Cook) should get off in Jamaica with their share of the loot, the next three or four in the Bahamas, the next in South Carolina, and so forth. They should sell the ship in Philadelphia (which had been founded only a few years earlier), and take passage onwards to other colonies on coastal ferries. After remaining in the colonies for two or three years, they could drift back to England one at a time if they wanted to. They agreed. Davis accepted a royal pardon from the governor at Port Royal, Jamaica, and let it be known that the coin treasure to be divided among the crew came to more than 50,000 Spanish dollars, plus countless jewels and silver and gold plate and bars.

   They sold the ship in Philadelphia in May 1688, apparently to one or more of the pirates in their crew, because the ship next surfaced in a pirate cruise on the other side of the world. Wafer and Davis, along with Wafer’s assistant John Hingson and the African Peter Cloise, drew the straws for Virginia. They sailed down the Chesapeake Bay from Philadelphia on a local ferry and dropped off three crewmen in Sussex County in what later became Delaware (their plantation, named Bachelor’s Delight, was located where the village of Laurel now stands), and they dropped off a crewman named Berry (and presumably his two or three colleagues) in Maryland, where Berry named his land Bachelor’s Delight in Charles County. Then they registered as ex-pirates with Commander Thomas Allen of HMS Quaker, 10 guns, and managed to deposit their loot with a local banker. Wafer said he intended settling in Norfolk, whereas Davis probably planned to hide out in Hampton the way he was doing in 1682. They were immediately arrested, however, at Jamestown under suspicion of piracy within hours of their arrival by order of Captain Simon Rowe of HMS Dumbarton, 20 guns; he said he was acting under orders of Admiral Sir Robert Holmes, whose vigorous anti-pirate campaign stepped on the toes of many colonial officials. Davis had been recognized from his piratical activities from a decade earlier. The royal pardon he received in Jamaica apparently carried no weight in Virginia.

   The judge at Jamestown was worried that if he tried them and found them guilty other pirates might sail up the James River and destroy Jamestown. He therefore ignored the English constitution’s guarantee of a speedy trial, and left the men in jail for about three years. Eventually, their lawyer, a man named Perry, assisted by Virginia’s new Governor Francis Nicholson (in his first term), got them sprung from jail on a writ of habeas corpus (thank you, Charles II!). He was able to make a deal with the judge that they should be sent to London for trial. This was actually against the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which guaranteed trial in the closest courthouse to the arrest, but constitutional law was not a prominent field at that time.

   Captain Rowe and Admiral Holmes tried to gain possession of the loot, but managed only to confiscate a portion of it. Meanwhile, Cloise, who could have been the principal witness against them, had died. The three men sailed without escort or restraint to London aboard the merchant ship Effingham late in 1690, their good behavior ensured by their loot being aboard a different ship. Once in London, the men were free on bail, but they still had to wait an unconscionably long time for their trial in 1692.

   The judge in London summed up at the end of the trial. He told the three men that he was convinced in his heart that they really were guilty as pirates, but he felt the prosecution had not made a proper case. He therefore offered them a plea bargain. If they were to offer King William and Queen Mary a large portion of their loot to be used for some charitable purpose, the court would exonerate them. The court’s offer was not far-fetched, since the crown had recently offered pardon to all English pirates who fulfilled certain conditions. The three men readily complied. The monarchs therefore issued this order: It is this day ordered in council that the money, plate, jewels and other goods belonging to said petitioners and seized by Captain Rowe, now lying in their Majesties’ warehouse or wherever, the same may be forthwith restored to the petitioners.

   The monarchs observed that these alleged pirates had been arrested in Virginia. A delegation led by the Rev. James Blair from Virginia had recently petitioned the crown for financial assistance to establish a college there. Therefore, William and Mary concluded that the money should go to that college. The college was duly established in 1693, with a combination of the former pirate loot (the College’s portion came to about 1000 pounds, with a purchasing power of over ten million dollars in today’s money) and some of the Virginia quitrents collected by the crown. The college building was constructed of brick, supposedly to designs donated by Sir Christopher Wren, at the village of Middle Plantation, about six miles from Jamestown, and was named after the royal benefactors: the College of William & Mary. It was the second permanent college established in English America. Six years later, the village of Middle Plantation was greatly enlarged to make it into the new capital of Virginia, so they renamed it after King William: Williamsburg. Governor Francis Nicholson, an amateur architect, devised the street plan and designed the Capitol and the Governor’s Palace, and then redesigned the College after it had been destroyed by fire in 1705.

   Unfortunately, no building at the College has ever been named in tribute to Davis, Wafer or Hingson, who had contributed (however reluctantly) a large proportion of the money used to found the College, nor is there any memorial (such as a social club) to the Batchelors Delight. This oversight should surely be addressed. The only other American college with such an unusual source of original funding was Brown University at Providence, Rhode Island, founded in the 1760s entirely on the proceeds of rum-smuggling, but that is another story.

   Wafer, who was now immune from further prosecution for his piratical voyage, wrote a book about some of his exploits and his observations of the Cuna Indians, A New Voyage & Description of the Isthmus of America, published in 1695. The rare book section of the College of William & Mary’s Earl Gregg Swem Library contains a first-edition copy. Anthropologists and naturalists today still find Wafer’s observations useful. Meanwhile, Dampier had finally returned from his harrowing voyage in 1691, so Wafer encouraged him to incorporate the story of the Batchelors Delight into his new book, A New Voyage Round the World, published in 1697. The College of William & Mary also owns an early edition of that work. A miniature portrait of the ship Batchelors Delight has been identified on an early eighteenth-century French map of the Americas, and another miniature portrait is on a period map of the Galapagos. Accurate depictions of specific pirate ships are extremely rare, which makes these two engravings all the more important.

   Wafer next stirred up enthusiasm in Scotland for founding a colony at Darien, Panama at a time when England and Spain were at war. The colony was not a success, but its very existence was a major cause of the parliaments of England and Scotland voting to merge into a single British parliament in 1707.

    Dampier made another voyage to Australia and New Guinea in 1699-1701 in command of the Royal Navy frigate Roebuck, and he returned with copious charts and information on the flora and fauna of the region. He went back to the West Coast of Latin America in 1703-1707 in command of the Royal Navy 26-gun frigate Saint George, accompanied by the 16-gun privateer Cinque Ports. This time, it was all legal, since England and Spain were officially at war – the same war in which England gained Gibraltar from Spain. During this voyage, the captain of Cinque Ports marooned crewman Alexander Selkirk on the island of Juan Fernandez off the coast of Chile, shortly before Cinque Ports sank with the loss of all hands; the pirates left there by the Batchelors Delight in 1687 had meanwhile disappeared. Selkirk’s experience served as the model for Daniel Defoe’s The Life & Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719. Dampier sailed around the world a fourth time in 1708-9 as navigator under the command of Woodes Rogers, on two privateer ships, Duke and Duchess, and Dampier managed to talk Rogers into picking up Selkirk to bring him back to England. Dampier introduced Selkirk to an excited Defoe.

   As for Davis, he returned to Jamaica shortly after Port Royal had been destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1692, and fell into piracy again. Jamaica was no longer a haven for pirates, so he sailed into the Indian Ocean. While there, he encountered former shipmate James Kelley, who had rediscovered the Batchelors Delight and been elected her new captain; Kelley had moved from Jamaica to Rhode Island, before sailing with a Rhode Island privateering commission to Madagascar. The Batchelors Delight, under the command of George Raynor of New York, had previously arrived at Saint Mary’s Island (a pirate base just northeast of Madagascar, commanded by New Yorker “King” Adam Baldridge), after capturing a rich prize on the Red Sea that netted each man 1,100 pounds. She had presumably spent many of the intervening years based at Saint Mary’s (now called Ambodifotatra) and Fort Dauphin (now variously called Faradofay and Taolagnaro) at the southeast corner of Madagascar, and cruised among the Comoros Islands, the Seychelles, Reunion and Mauritius. Kelley and his crew, who were down to only twenty men by this time, were apprehended by Muslim thugs near present-day Mumbai, India. The torture they had to endure caused the death of several of them. The ship, which was quite rotten by this time, was confiscated, and disappeared from history at this point. A full-sized copy of the ship Batchelors Delight is shortly going to be constructed in Canada for a sail-training operation (

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) based in Hampton Roads.

   Davis and Kelley escaped and became ordinary seamen aboard Fidelia, a pirate ship commanded by Tempest Rogers in 1697. When they sailed into Saint Mary’s Island, Rogers asked them to assist in repairing William Kidd’s ship. Rogers secretly left their shares of treasure with Kidd and sailed away without them in 1698.

   Davis and Kelley therefore thought themselves lucky finally to fall in with Captain William Kidd. Kidd and his followers had decided to retire from piracy and return to normal life in Britain, but their luck had run out. Davis and Kelley would have been far better off if they had dropped in on Captain Giles Shelley of the 30-gun pirate ship Nassau from New York, who returned home safely at about that time. Kidd and his men sailed the large ship Cara Merchant (sometimes known as Quedah Merchant or San Antonio) to Santo Domingo (the wreck of the burned ship has recently been found). From there, they took a sloop to Lewes, Delaware, next to New York City, and then on to Boston, where they were all arrested, and shipped to England aboard the 48-gun Royal Navy cruiser Advice in 1700, to be tried in London. Kidd and Kelley were convicted, but the court admired Davis’ testimony on 8 and 9 May 1701 and released him. Kelley had enough time before his execution on 12 July 1701 to write a memoir of his activities, which was published as A Full & True Discovery of all the Robberies, Pyracies & other Notorious Actions of that Famous English Pyrate, Captain James Kelley. In it, he revealed that he had used many aliases, including James Gilliam/Guillaume (apparently no relation to the Boston Captain Benjamin Gillam/Guillaume mentioned above), Sampson Marshall, and Gilliam/Guillaume Gabriel Loffe or Lawes. For some reason, Kelley’s entire piratical fortune ended in the hands of Rhode Island’s elected Governor Samuel Cranston, who was in the habit of passing out privateering commissions to any generous, would-be pirate who asked him.

   Davis had not finished his adventures. He is said to have made Hampton, Virginia his home base, but he sailed to Jamaica in the fall of 1701. On 24 July 1702, now that England was officially at war again with Spain, he sailed from there with Capt. Brown on the ship Blessing to attack Tolu, just south of Cartagena, Colombia, where Brown died by gunshot and was replaced by Capt. Christian or Tristian. Then they attacked the mostly empty gold mines in San Blas, Panama, and finally Porto Belo, Panama. Davis crossed the Isthmus of Panama and acquired another vessel. He was reported cruising off Peru in 1703. It is thought that he returned to Isla del Coco to dig up his treasure and return quietly to Hampton, Virginia to retire.

   Some ships sail through their short lives with nothing remarkable to report. The little ship Batchelors Delight managed to cram far more than her share of excitement into her life. In addition to several years of piracy (including an attack on Sana, Peru that is still the subject of an annual festival there) that happened to supply the money that founded the College of William & Mary, her crew drew the charts and wrote the scientific journals about the Galapagos Islands that were crucial to Darwin over a century later. From her deck, the crewmen were the first Europeans to see the east coast of New Zealand, and the first to see Easter Island. They were also the first people ever to see Antarctica, 133 years before the next explorers. From separate voyages, the ship even came close to circumnavigating the globe.


Portraits of Cook and Dampier can be found on the Web, but strangely none of Davis or Wafer.

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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2011, 02:54:23 pm »
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Thanks Christian! Looks like I need to hunt that book down.

Davis had quite an interesting career and a good bit of luck in his exploits. Now there is a pirate to make a movie about since he seemed to escape certain death at every turn. I often wonder if there is an old house, tavern, or inn in Virginia with a pile of gold stashed in the basement....  Grin

Apparently Tempest Rodgers didn't want competition for captaincy from Davis, but if I recall Rodgers fell prey to foul play soon after and lost his ship anyway. That's an interesting story too. Ah those crazy pirates! 

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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2011, 02:57:50 pm »
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Thanks, Christian!  That is quite a treatise.  Very interesting.  Thanks!    Detecting

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