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The State of New York

Blog of Totality: Hell Gate’s 2024 Solar Eclipse Live Coverage

Hell Gate reporters have fanned out across the Empire State to bring you the wall-to-wall eclipse coverage you didn’t know you need.

Governor Hochul updates New Yorkers on preparations for total solar eclipse. (Governor’s Office)

Eclipse Day is upon us, and while New York City will only see the moon covering 89.9 percent of the sun at exactly 3:25 p.m., much of upstate lies in the path of totality. Accordingly, Hell Gate has fanned out across the Empire State, to help those who cannot be there experience a celestial event that won't be seen again until 2044.

Nick Pinto is at a McDonald's on the shores of Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, New York.

Adlan Jackson is on an Amtrak to Montreal.

Katie Way is in Rochester, New York.

Max Rivlin-Nadler is in the Adirondacks at Camp Santanoni, Newcomb, New York.

Esther Wang is on the banks of Willowemoc Creek in the Catskills.

And finally, Christopher Robbins is in New York City, ensuring that a Hell Gate staffer is around for any late-breaking federal indictments, while also searching for a pair of eclipse glasses.

We updated this live blog continuously throughout the day. Now it is done.

5:43 p.m.—Chris in New York City

*Thinking emoji*

4:45 p.m.—Adlan in Plattsburgh, en route to Montreal via Amtrak

I get back to the dining car, where the conductors are still gathered, gabbing and snacking. "Pretty good," I call, like I hadn't just seen something I'll remember for the rest of my life. "Not bad, right?" Conductor Timothy answers. I wonder if he watched it. He goes back to grumbling about his in-laws to the other conductors. "I always drink when my family's in town," he says. "Sounds like everyone we work with," Conductor Garrett replies. "The other day a guy jumps in front of the train. The first thing my mother-in-law says to me? 'I heard you killed someone.'"

(Adlan Jackson / Hell Gate)

Plattsburgh is another 15 minute stop, so everyone takes a breath of fresh air. The moon is still halfway over the sun, and now what eclipse glasses are around are being passed around liberally.

"You helped me!" squeals one rider in a purple floor-length dress, squeezing the hand of another in a red puffer jacket. "Thank you so much," she giggles. "No problem," he smiles bashfully. The young couple in sweats, the ones with the pinhole camera, are doing play karate kicks at each other on the asphalt. Some Montreal punks smoke cigs, all wearing black hoodies.

Back on the train, the convivial energy is ebbing away, but the one of the punks plays a song on his iPhone for an elderly couple interested in the band on his shirt. "It's Quebecois punk," one says, grinning lazily. It sounds pretty poppy to me. Conductor Garrett hands him a declaration card for the border. He sits back down and puts on his sunglasses.

4:03 p.m.—Nick at the McDonald's in Plattsburgh

Meinolf Sellman proposed to his girlfriend during a solar eclipse. In 2005, he and his now-wife were trying to schedule an academic conference in Majorca, which was in the path of totality, but the conference organizers wound up holding it in Barcelona, which was not. "So this is my first total solar eclipse," Meinolf said.

Meinolf Sellman with one of his daughters (Nick Pinto / Hell Gate)

Sellman and his daughters were originally planning on watching from the Finger Lakes, but cloud cover led to an early morning sprint eastward. "The girls were asking for McDonalds ever since Syracuse, but it's Amish country, there's nothing," he said. "We pulled in here and we planned to just get food, but look at it: the scenery is better than the food."

3:45 p.m.—Adlan en route to Montreal via Amtrak

(Adlan Jackson / Hell Gate)

By 3:20 p.m., a small crew has amassed at the back of the train. There's a couple in the back compartment, trying to use a makeshift pinhole camera. "It's not that great," the guy admits. I offer my eclipse glasses and they get in on the action. "Woah! Oh my god!" the woman gasps, taking her turn to stoop at the window. A few of us crowd into the back as the moon whittles down the sunlight.

It all happens at once: the afternoon daylight becomes steelier and steelier, until Lake Champlain is gray from shore to shore. Behind us the train tracks glow, two beams of silver lining the path back to New York City. Everything else becomes one giant shadow: trees, houses, mountains.

(Adlan Jackson / Hell Gate)

"It's happening!" Someone cries. "Left side!" And all down the left row of seats on Amtrak train Number 69, passengers press their noses to the glass and look at a new sky, ruled by a big black moon wearing a crown of white silk.

3:43 p.m.—Nick at the McDonald's in Plattsburgh

Jill Iqbal of Clifton Park, New York, is an astronomy student at SUNY New Paltz, and shared her telescope and her handmade solar filter with anyone who wanted to see through it. "My teacher said the difference between a partial and a total eclipse is like night and day, and if you have a chance to see the total, you should," she said. "So I came up." Iqbal has been inretested in astronomy as long as she can remember. "We all see the same sky," she said.

Jill Iqbal (Nick Pinto / Hell Gate)

3:30 p.m.—Esther on the Willowemoc

I’ve left the water and am now just gazing at the sun. No one has caught any trout today, including a man I met who is a guide and has fished for 50 years. Will the fish feed more during the eclipse? "They’ll eat whenever they want to eat," he replied.

3:25 p.m.Nick at the Plattsburgh McDonald's

The view through Jill Iqbal's telescope:

(Hell Gate)
(Hell Gate)

3:24 p.m.—Chris in Manhattan

Near Tin Pan Alley on Broadway, it's gotten cold as we hit 89.9 percent coverage.

Meanwhile, in Niagara Falls:

3:14—Katie in Rochester

People are starting to put on their jackets. The temperature has distinctly dropped. There’s a low buzz in the crowd now that something perceptible is finally happening.

But the churned cream texture of the clouds is exciting in lieu of visible sun. "We’ll hold each other for warmth when it’s pitch black," a woman reassures her giggling friend.

Someone just shushed the crowd.

(Hell Gate)

My friends and I have made the executive decision to look at the sun.

3:07 p.m.—Adlan near Westport, New York, en route to Montreal on Amtrak

On the way to Westport, we pass some cattle ranches, and a herd of people on the pasture by the track wave at the train as it goes by, all eyes covered by eclipse glasses. Another emergency message goes off.

The conductors are trying to maintain a veneer of professionalism—just another day at the office. "We’re doing pretty good, even after getting all those people off," chirps Conductor Garrett to Conductor Timothy. At Westport, I step off the train again and put on the glasses and see the dimple the moon is making over the sun. Conductor Garrett quickly replaces his eyeglasses with eclipse glasses and takes a peak, too. Then gets back to business. But Conductor Timothy, his bald head shining in the dwindling sunlight, won’t budge, even when I offer him my glasses. "I’m good. I've seen it. I'm 52 years old."

But after the train leaves, the natural phenomenon has indeed begun to create cracks in social barriers. "Don’t open any doors," Garrett allows. "But if you go to the rear, there’s a window out back you might be able to catch a peek." I get back there and Conductor Rafael is already stooped by the window, peering through his own glasses. But he's still a cordial customer service professional, and offers me his place.

(Adlan Jackson / Hell Gate)

"You ready to enter totality?" Comes a squawk over the radio. "Only in my pants," cracks conductor Timothy. "Good time to look now," he teases Conductor Rafael. "Here it is!" The outside of the train goes black. "No it's not," Conductor Rafael chuckles. It’s just a tunnel.

3:05 p.m.—Nick at the Plattsburgh McDonald's

(Nick Pinto / Hell Gate)

Art and Jeana Platt, retirees from Southbury CT, originally planned to view the eclipse from Sterling or Polaski with their friend Scott Calkins of Owego NY, but came east instead to avoid cloud cover. "My son saw the one in 2017 and he told us it’s something you have to see in your life," Art said. "I'm relying on that."

Jeana said she’s excited to see a new facet of God’s creation with her own eyes. "People say the experience is just a quieting of your spirit," she said.

"Everything shuts down and you’re just in awe." But why the McDonald’s parking lot? "When you get to be a certain age you need a spot that has easy access to a bathroom," she said.

Zach, Kyeung, and Chris, all from Queens, were originally planning on watching the eclipse in Buffalo, but when the weather reports for there started looking cloudy, "we called an audible" and headed North to Plattsburgh instead, said Chris, who works in construction. "It’s an event, I want to see it," he said. "I'm interested in space and stuff."

2:41 p.m.—Nick at the Plattsburgh McDonald's

It has begun.

2:34 p.m.—Nick at the Plattsburgh McDonald's

2:32 p.m.—Esther on the Willowemoc

Success, in a way! The woman I met earlier came back and we have now become friends. We bonded over our shared love for Joe, the owner of our local fly shop Trout Town Flies. (He rules.) She has inspired me to switch to a nymph. Hope springs, as they say.

2:28 p.m.—Adlan at Port Henry, New York, en route to Montreal via Amtrak

Train number 69 to Montreal is sold out, the conductor’s voice keeps warning us over the intercom, so stop walking by empty seats. The Montreal-bound compartment, to which I’ve been shepherded, though, doesn’t seem as crowded. 

At lunch time, I decided I would head to the dining car to mingle with people with destinations before Montreal. Phones keep blaring with the Public Safety Alert systems warning about not stopping at the side of the road to see the eclipse, but the train zooms past some parked cars with unfolded portable chairs on the highway anyway, and one guy just perched on a pile of wood. A dad guides his son through patting his pockets: eclipse glasses, binoculars, cellphone filter. 

They’re getting off at the Port Henry stop. "I don’t know if Port Henry knows what’s coming!" According to the conductor, 140 people are deboarding at Port Henry. "One hundred forty people—that’s the most business Port Henry has seen in years!”

(Adlan Jackson / Hell Gate)

It looks like it—our train pulls into Port Henry station and it’s a scene, complete with folding tables, a historic train car parked on an out-of-commission track, and a clown. I see a woman approaching the train with a fat stack of eclipse glasses, which I hadn’t gotten yet, and spot my chance. I get off with everyone else and take a pair, then wait to get back on as a parade of my fellow passengers of all ages exit the train. Most of them wave away the free glasses, they’ve already got them.

Back on the train, the dad and son’s table has been taken over by a young guy with a patchy beard. "It’s cool, for the people that live here, probably nothing ever happens," he chuckles to me. "I’m going on to Plattsburgh, I’ll see if I can watch it through the window." Same.

2:14 p.m.—Nick at the Plattsburgh McDonald's

Marie Francisco from Ludlow, Massachusetts called in sick to her job manufacturing golf balls to come watch the eclipse with her son. "We wanted to watch it from the park up the street, but it was already full," she said. "We found the McDonald’s parking lot, people were already here, we said, hey, where better to watch the eclipse." Francisco doesn't expect any sort of spiritual revelation, though. "It’s gonna get dark, that’s all," she said. "It isn't gonna happen again for 20 years. I just think it's gonna be a special way to spend time with someone you love."

Maria Francisco (Nick Pinto / Hell Gate)

2:12 p.m.—Katie in Rochester

After a hearty round of thrift shopping at the AMVet (I bought a pantsuit for $12—total eclipse of my wardrobe), my friends and I made our way to our ultimate totality-viewing destination: the George Eastman Museum, a photography and film museum housed in the Eastman Kodak Company founder's mansion. Out front, someone has popped a pair of eclipse glasses on a statue of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rochester's native son.

(Katie Way / Hell Gate)

According to Eliza Kozlowski, director of marketing and engagement at the George Eastman Museum, the event, "Focus, Click, Totality" has been in the works since April 2019. Guests can wander into a mobile camera obscura tent outside, make their own pinhole camera, or park themselves on the grounds for optimal eclipse viewing. The bad news is, though, that it's only gotten gloomier.

Capacity for the event is around 600, and two hours ahead of the eclipse, it feels more than halfway there. Other guests include a crew of Rochester Institute of Technology film students, who interview a pair of my friends. Initially, I mistook them for a rival news crew, and I was not a very good sport about it.

Otherwise, spirits are high. Kids in eclipse-themed t-shirts run between groups. Teens loiter in hallways; older patrons sit in lawn chairs and munch on sandwiches and snacks stored in tupperware that they brought from home. The vibe is convivial, anticipatory. "It's a gift that we couldn't have planned, to be in the path of totality," Kozlowski told me. "On the exact same day, across the greater Rochester area, we're all working together to welcome people. That rising tide raises all boats, and this is the most massive tide we've ever had."

1:34 p.m.—Nick Pinto on I-87 South, en route to Plattsburgh

Traffic is not good.

1:33 p.m.—Esther on the Willowemoc

The water is extremely cold and I have lost feeling in my feet. I am now sitting under a bridge eating trail mix and contemplating why I thought this was a good idea. Nothing wants the woolly bugger, I now hate the woolly bugger.

1:29 p.m.—Chris in New York City

The line for eclipse glasses at the B&H Photo on 9th Avenue is more than an avenue long, but it's moving quickly. People holding posters with QR codes are urging glasses-seekers to buy them online and then immediately pick them up.

A B&H worker said that in 2017, they ran out of eclipse glasses, but that this year they ordered way more. How many, exactly? "I'm not privileged to that information. But, you learn from the past."

12:42 p.m.—Esther on the Willowemoc

I just got to the Willowemoc and I’m not the only one who had the idea of fly fishing during the eclipse—there is a Beemer parked here.

Cloud conditons: perhaps ideal for trout, not ideal for eclipse viewing.

Not good (Esther Wang)

I finally have met another lady fisher! She didn’t seem to want to chat; after we exchanged some pleasantries, she wandered off upstream.

Going to start with a wooly bugger lure today.

(Esther Wang / Hell Gate)

12:21 p.m.—Chris in New York City

I'm off to B&H Photo in Midtown for eclipse glasses, and...

12:15 p.m.—Katie in Rochester

It's cloudy here, but I just peeked at the sun and I can still see it (did not stare although tempting…). Despite repeated warnings from local officials about massive traffic snarls, there is currently zero traffic.

The merch salespeople that I bought an "I Got Mooned" shirt from were totally sold out of that one, and only had shirts in XL, XXL, and small. Apparently, business has been booming—it picked up last night, and during the three minutes I stopped by and we caught up, two people bought eclipse glasses and someone else picked up an "I Got Mooned" button.

(Hell Gate)

AMVets Thrift Store says it’s closing for the eclipse, but when I asked a cashier, she said the people working the afternoon and evening shift will have to stay and work on "special projects." She’s getting to leave at 1 p.m., and she’s "praying that someone mops" in her absence.

9:14 a.m.—Nick in Montreal, Quebec, en route to the McDonald's on the shores of Cumberland Bay in Plattsburgh, New York

When Hell Gate started talking about going inexplicably all-in on New York eclipse coverage, I began thinking about where in the path of totality I wanted to be when the sky goes dark, when a great wind rushes up and a shadow screams across the landscape, when the sun becomes a gossamer, filamentary ring and the stars appear in the afternoon and the solar system reveals itself; when in this great disorienting inversion, people go mad, screaming and weeping, and shocked from their ordinary workaday routine by cosmic disorientation, they plunge into the substrate of being, the all-pervading field of existence that lies beneath perceived reality.

I immediately thought of the McDonald's in Plattsburgh. Not the one on Cornelia Street just down from the Family Dollar—the other one. The one on Route 9. I first discovered this McDonald's years ago, when an intercity bus I was riding pulled off the highway and into the parking lot so the driver and his passengers could piss and refresh themselves. I stepped off the bus and experienced a strange sense of discombobulation, a perplexity that blossomed quickly into a sort of incredulous elation. This was not an ordinary McDonald's. 

I mean, it was an ordinary McDonald's, in the sense that it has a drive-thru window, and the golden arches out front. You can get a Cheesy Jalapeno Egg McMuffin there, or a McRib, or a number seven Combo Meal. 

But where your archetypal McDonald's franchise is located on a sooty commercial highwaysurrounded by strip malls, this one was sited like a centimillionaire's manse, directly on the shore of Cumberland Bay. The vastness of Lake Champlain glittered blindingly behind and around this McDonald's. Far across the water, the implacable stillness of the Green Mountains in Vermont gave mute testimony to the geologic expansiveness of time.

I should say here that I am not one of those people who believe that spiritual vortices endow particular locations with special magical significance. But at the same time, I have to concede that my rational faculties offered no explanation for what I was experiencing. This was a special place—a place where, by the ordinary human laws of zoning and lakeside real estate economics, no fast food restaurant should be. And yet: Here it was, a cool breeze off the water stirring the American flag above the dun aluminum siding of Mickey D's. 

In recent days, as I have read accounts of the sense of confusion and wonder described by people who have witnessed a total solar eclipse, I recognize the bewilderment and awe I experienced stepping off the Greyhound and into this McDonald's parking lot. I have a glimmer of understanding now of why, months ago, when we began discussing our eclipse coverage, this McDonald's burst into my mind like a breaching humpback. 

Does some fate still occluded from my vision await me at that McDonald's today? Am I being summoned by a deep instinctive voice to a rendezvous with destiny? I don't know. I just know that when the darkness falls upon the earth, that's where I want to be.

9:01 a.m.—Max, somewhere in the Adirondacks

Every 15 minutes or so on the northway, on route 30, on route 8, the byways and highways of the North Country—there's a highway sign foretelling doom. 

"SOLAR ECLIPSE MONDAY"/"EXPECT DELAYS" or 

"SOLAR ECLIPSE MONDAY, ARRIVE EARLY, LEAVE LATE"

(Hell Gate)

But up in the southern Adirondacks this weekend, just a few minutes drive south of the path of totality, it was pretty sleepy. People enjoyed a late-season snowfall at state-owned Gore Mountain, whose slopes were covered in mush-like soft terrain that made for forgiving, easy going for skiers and snowboarders alike. The nearby town of North Creek was fairly empty besides a few Airbnb-ers stocking up on food at the local Tops, and people enjoying an apres-ski at the always-popular Bar Vino. On Sunday, an hour south in Schenectady at Union College, pianists Mitsuko Uchida and Jonathan Biss warmed up for their Carnegie Hall show on Tuesday, playing some unsung Schubert compositions, fitting as they're the work of a tortured man who would have most likely appreciated the celestial drama of an eclipse. 

With the late snowfall, this correspondent is going to try a two hour cross-country ski into the Santanoni Preserve, where you can find the largely unused Camp Santanoni, one of the Adirondack Great Camps. Camp Santanoni, a collection of 45 buildings constructed in the 19th century by a former ambassador to Japan with some decidedly Orientalist tastes, resembles a phoenix when seen from above. Secluded deep in nature, and adjacent to Newcomb Lake, the preserve makes for a good, private vantage to get away from the "crowds" (that may or may not appear). Santanoni is also marked by a bit of spooky tragedy—it was abandoned by its last owners after one of their grandchildren, eight-year-old Douglas Legg, disappeared after wandering off the property, never to be seen again.

As temperatures warm up through the day, skiing might get harder, so we might end up walking through the mud. Luckily, the well-trained aid dog, Stiva, will be accompanying.

8:55 a.m.—Esther, in the Catskills

I began fly fishing last year, spending all of my disposable income on flies and most of my weekends on the various famed trout streams in the Catskills. Am I a good fly fisher? No. I'm terrible at fly fishing. Trout are finicky, as even the most seasoned fly fisher will tell you. I have yet to figure out how to "match the hatch," let alone master how to delicately drop a dry fly right in front of a hungry trout. 

Still, I'm obsessed. So this afternoon, I'll be on the Willowemoc, outside of the path of totality but close enough, I'm hoping, that the skies will darken—and that the trout will begin to bite.

(Hell Gate)

All I have to guide me are anecdotes. One report of animal behavior from 1932's total solar eclipse in the northeast offered me some intriguing tidbits. A Mr. GR Bowman reported that at a river in New Hampshire, "as the sun became obscured and dusk began to shadow the waters at the moment of eclipse I rose and hooked two trout, landing them both, one 14 inches and one 11 inches, then the sun came out again and not another rise till dusk again." Others also reported fish feeding as if it were evening, or aggressively leaping out of the water. (There was also this fascinating if ghoulish anecdote: "One observation, from Mr. GH Fuller, of Allston, Mass., tells of two goldfish, one of the fancy, long-tailed variety, the other of ordinary form, which had lived together for many months. During the eclipse the ordinary goldfish ate off the tail of its companion and killed it.") 

And then there's this account from an A. Mosely, who wrote that "during the partial solar eclipse observed in England on August 30, 1905, I was taking a holiday, and fishing in Slapton Ley (Devonshire). All the morning the sport had been indifferent, but as the eclipse neared its maximum the fish suddenly became ravenous, and I took more in that hour than all the rest of the day."

More recent experiences also back up the idea that to fish, a solar eclipse equals the arrival of evening, and thus, meal time. "Right before totality, boom, the big fish started hitting!" Tim Reinbott, the director of field operations at the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri, told Live Science of 2017's eclipse. "Arguably, there could be a noticeable feeding frenzy that happens as the sun gets covered by the moon, the skies suddenly grow dark and the temperature rapidly falls," Lynn Burkhead wrote recently in Game & Fish magazine. 

Will I catch a trout? Follow our live blog to find out. 

8:30 a.m.—Adlan, at Moynihan Station

Today, I'll be taking Amtrak's Adirondack train to Montreal. If all goes according to schedule, I should be somewhere between Westport and Plattsburgh when the region is experiencing the eclipse's totality, a moment I'll share with everyone on the train. 

Writers love long train rides. They're simultaneously a trap (your single coach seat, your mind)  and an escape (Lake Placid, Plattsburgh, Montreal, the minds of strangers). If you feel like you're suffering from a lack of motion, the hope is that by getting on a train, you'll get enough momentum to climb out of whatever pit you're in.

(Hell Gate)

What will I listen to? New York state released an official eclipse playlist, which was so bad that we thought about making fun of it in the Hell Gate Slack before realizing we'd be punching down on an intern. The New York Times released their own, which was better, though it suffered from taking the assignment as literally as the government did. 

What I really want here are other peoples' attempts to figure out what an epic moment in nature is supposed to mean to the modern human, to someone like me who fends off gnawing anxieties about A.I.-commanded missile systems that were probably built in part by people I went to college with by spending most of my time worrying which celebrities I can interview, or whether I'm "leveraging social media to the fullest extent and reaching the maximum of my potential audience," or whether I should write about the new Vampire Weekend album even though their publicist didn't respond to my request for a chat. 

Days like this are supposed to snap us out of all that: The moon is passing in front of the sun, you imagine yourself realizing, so should I really have built a life structured around metrics of digital engagement? But I suppose I want to find whatever straw-sized tunnel of meaning can travel between the darkening of the sky over the Adirondack mountains and writing for a digital media company. Or to be that tunnel.

12:30 a.m.—Katie in Rochester, New York

Rochester was supposed to be swarmed with prospective eclipse-watchers—300,000 to 500,000, by its own mayor's estimate—but so far, those crowds haven't materialized. The flagship Wegmans, decked out in gold foil sunburst balloons and filled with special eclipse-party display cases, was less crowded than usual on Sunday afternoon. Traffic remained a non-issue. The only line I saw, cruising around the city all weekend, was at the Pittsford Farms Dairy & Bakery—but that, my Rochester native friend informed me, tends to happen when it's unusually sunny because they sell really good ice cream. Sadly, the eclipse day forecast is gloomy. Too bad; it was lovely all weekend, sunshine and blue skies in Roc City and its tidy green suburbs.

(Hell Gate)

Also absent the weekend of the eclipse: coverage from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the local Gannett-owned newspaper whose original offices were—local legend goes—the birthplace of USA Today. The newsroom moved across the street to a smaller building a few years ago, just one of a cascading series of cuts and downsizings, according to the paper's unionized reporters. Right now, the staff of the D&C are on strike—a "Total Eclipse of the News"—after five years at the bargaining table. They are, per union members, excruciatingly close to cinching a contract. Management's refusal to budge any further on Friday proved the final straw; the strike vote in the 24-person unit was unanimous. 

Gary Craig, a union member and D&C reporter with 34 years at the paper under his belt, said the lack of D&C eclipse coverage is going to be everyone's loss. Sure, Gannett can bus reporters in from other newsrooms, or make temporary hires, but it won't replace the special edition that was in the works up until the strike. 

"Management had huge, huge plans for eclipse coverage, and I know because I was helping organize it," Craig told me. "We had 12, 15, 20 people lined up for different places around the region. The public places where everybody was gonna be, and then a mix of really out of the ordinary plans, people who had some very idiosyncratic ideas for the eclipse." 

Craig added, "They don't have the sources, they don't have the people, they're not gonna know how the hell to get where they're supposed to go if they're coming from Alabama and Florida. It's…pardon my language, their coverage is gonna suck. I hate to say that, but it is. But hey, that's what management chose." (Gannett hasn't yet responded to our request for comment.)

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