My Attempt at Diving in Italy

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spatman
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My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Sat Aug 02, 2008 5:17 pm

PROLOGUE

A few months ago, our friends L & M told us they were heading back to Italy to spend the summer in M’s hometown of Monte di Procida on the Bay of Naples. (M needs to work in Italy a few months each year in order to keep his eventual pension valid).

“We have a 3 bedroom apartment if you want to come stay with us” they said. A few days and many thousands of cashed in frequent flier miles later, we had our vacation planned.

We had first visited them there 2 years ago for a 4 day stopover on our way to Israel. We loved it and have been waiting for the opportunity to return. While there the last time, I had heard of Roman ruins that lay under 30’ of water just off the coast of a neighboring town, Baia. I wasn’t certified at the time, but thought that diving it would be very cool.


THE DIVE OPERATOR

Now we were going back, and I have my certs. I did my research and found what seemed to be the most reputable and recommended dive operation that was allowed access to the underwater archaeological park.

Not surprisingly, my emails to them went unanswered, so I emailed L and asked her to try to call them to get some info, such as water temps, DIN or yoke, what charters they offered and when, etc. And also not surprisingly, she had a hard time getting anyone to answer the phone.

A couple days after we arrived, we finally managed to contact the dive shop and book a trip to the marine park. My initial idea during my two weeks there was to do 3-4 dives on the Roman ruins and then possibly a few more around the neighboring islands of Ischia and Procida, which according to my research has bountiful marine life and submerged volcanic features to explore. I figured I’d book the other trips after the first day of diving the ruins.

That plan didn’t work out so well.

I was told the first excursion to the ruins left at noon and to be there before 11:30am. I arrived at 11:15am to find a deserted shop.


PREPARATION

The woman working there, let's call her Patricia, was very nice and helpful, gave me a short presentation on the ruins and their history, got me my tank (a LP72) and weightbelt, and directed me to where I could change and store my belongings that wouldn’t fit on the RIB. I was told to setup my BC and tank in the shop because there wasn’t enough room on the boat. While I got my gear ready, a few other divers drifted in. By 11:45 I was ready, and thought that this trip would be me and about 4 other people.

Nope.

I sat on my ass and waited. Around 12:30pm, a horde of about 20 other divers, instructors, and guides descended on the shop. Chaos ensued. Gear was tossed about, tanks knocked over, people shouted in Italian, waivers were shoved in my face to sign that I couldn’t read because there was no English version, etc.

After about 20 minutes of crazy, everyone grabbed their gear and went out the door. I grabbed mine and followed them into the parking lot, where I saw them loading the gear haphazardly on to rolling carts. I really didn’t care for the way they were handling the gear, so I asked Patricia how far the boat was. She points across the parking lot to a dock with a large white zodiac-like boat tied up, about 100 yards away. “That’s our RIB all the way over there.” I laugh and tell her that I’ll carry my gear to the boat myself. She looked at me like I was nuts, just as all of the Italian divers did when I started off across the parking lot with my gear on my back.

Soon after, they roll the cart “all the way over” to the boat and start tossing the gear into the RIB, literally. One of the crew tries to take mine from me and I stop him, indicating that I’ll do it myself. He sneers and mutters something I didn’t quite catch. By now I’m getting strange looks from these folks, partly due to my behavior and partly because of my bp/w long hose setup, which was obviously quite alien to them.


STRONZO

We finally get situated in the boat with the gear. Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. 30 freaking minutes we sat in that shadeless boat, in the 90+ degree heat. While waiting, a guy sitting across the boat is giving me the stink eye, while almost everyone else ignores me. A few minutes of a staring contest with this jerk, then he asks me with a sneer, in broken English, “Why you have this?” - indicating my gear config. “I’ll show you when we’re in the water,” I replied. “Is not right,” he says. He says a few sentences in Italian, then adds loudly, “You Americans know nothing.” Now the rest of the boat is silent, watching to see what happens next.

I look him calmly in the eye and reply, “This American knows a stronzo when he sees one” while pointing at him. (Stronzo is basically the Italian equivalent of “a**hole”).

The guy turns red, starts yelling something in Italian at me and moves to get up. I brace, ball my fists, and get ready to punch this guy in the face should he come at me. Patricia fires off something in Italian, and the guy shuts up, sits back, and sulks, no longer making eye contact with me. Patricia moves next to me and apologizes for this guy’s behavior. I apologize for calling him a stronzo. She says it’s ok, because he is a stronzo, anyway. Apparently he was a regular on the charter and was known to be a troublemaker.


GETTING THERE

Finally the “captain” shows up, smoking a cigar, which stayed lit and in his mouth the whole trip. By now, I’m sweating from the heat, really cranky, and just wanting to get in the water already.

The trip to the site was 10 minutes. We tie off at a buoy, and the lead guide gives his orientation. Patricia translates the usual talk – don’t disturb the wildlife, stay off the rocks/ruins, don’t let you or your gear brush against anything, blah blah blah.

We are loosely assigned into groups of six. I happen to be in the group with Stronzo, but luckily I’m not his buddy (which turned out to be a loose term there anyway). Divers start putting on their masks and fins while the two crew members start inflating BCs and tossing them into the water for the divers to don. BCs are bobbing in the water unsecured, some of which are slowly drifting away from the boat while people are trying to maneuver around each other and get in the water.

One of the crew is moving toward my gear, and I tell him not to worry, I’ll do it myself. He obviously didn’t understand and goes to reach for my inflator. I try to get his attention, but he chooses to ignore me, so I grab his wrist and give him the universal index finger wag of “no, don’t touch that”. He understands, but now I have yet another dude in the boat giving me an attitude. At that point, I couldn't care less. I wasn’t there to make friends.

After a lot of confusion and retrieval of wayward BCs, we are finally in the water with our groups. My assigned buddy is a guy who I’m guessing is in his mid-50s, who is also giving me skeptical looks. He says something to the guide and Stronzo pipes in with something that makes them all laugh, obviously at my expense. The guide tells me that my buddy wants to know why I have such a long hose on my regulator and a short one around my neck.

“Tell him that if he runs out of air, I will give him the regulator on the long hose and use the short one myself.”

The guide translates and there is a minute of chatter and some snorts from the group.

“Tell him to give me an out-of-air signal right after we drop down and I’ll demonstrate.” This elicits more chatter and snorts.

The guide says something and suddenly the group is deflating their BCs and descending. No other safety checks or discussion.


THIS IS HOW WE DO

I descended down to the bottom at 30’ to find the entire group either standing, laying, or kneeling on the bottom in a small cloud of silt. As a point of pride, I vow to myself not to touch the bottom and to stay in as close to perfect trim as I could muster, which isn’t exactly great by some standards. But compared to these guys, I was a freaking rockstar.

I slow my descent and hover nicely at about 3’ from the bottom. I glide over to my buddy and rotate to face him. All eyes are on me. He looks at me and gives me the signal. I donate my primary to him as I exchange for my necklaced reg. He takes my primary and breathes through it. I continue to hover and ask him OK? and he responds OK. I retrieve my reg from him and the exercise is over.

All 5 other divers in my group are wide-eyed behind their masks. The guide gets my attention and claps his hands in applause and nods his head. If I could have talked right then, I think I would have said:

“That’s right, b*tches. Respect the PNW.”


THE DIVE

The dive sucked.

Most of the really interesting artifacts from the site had either been moved to the museum in Naples or covered to protect them. One of the things I had really wanted to see in person was a mosaic floor I had seen pictures of. Well, I found out on the boat that not only was it protected from damage and looters by a large locked cover, but that it was also not part of that day's tour.

What was left of the ruins had been submerged for so long, there was no detail to see since it was covered in growth. The object of the dive was to get a sense of the layout of this rich Roman’s villa by imagining the area that was the courtyard, walkways, various rooms that had once been walled, etc. In order to do this we really needed to be able to view large sections to piece it all together.

This was impossible to do since we had 10-15’ of viz. I found out after the dive that it was typical viz for the summer months and the best viz was in the winter. I wish someone had mentioned that earlier.

So off we went, following the guide. The guide led the way at rather a fast clip, with his buddy following along, nearly vertical, kicking up a plume of sand and schmutz the entire way. The guide himself was dragging his spg over rocks and using his fins to push himself off the bottom numerous times. And this was the same guy who gave us the “don’t touch anything” speech.

My buddy was all over the place, often falling behind, sprinting ahead, getting above me, dropping down almost on top of me, zig-zagging in front of me, etc. On several of his flybys, his fins would almost kick me in the face. The fifth or sixth time, he nearly tore the reg from my mouth. The very next time he was within reach, I punched him in the leg, hard. He got the point and paid more attention to where I was in relation to him.

We moved along at a good clip, seeing nothing but dark shapes of what could be rocks or ruins through the murk. Occasionally the guide would pause long enough to turn to see if we were still behind him. The only interesting thing I saw the entire dive was a hot spring on the ocean floor.

This went on for about 35 minutes, before we found ourselves back at the buoy line. The guide gave us the ascend-to-safety-stop sign. This ascent was a 10’ difference, since the bottom at the buoy line was registering 25’ on my computer. 3 of those clowns used the line to pull themselves up to 15’, and subsequently hold onto to maintain their depth. One guy was obviously negative, since he was not only holding the line but kicking to stay up, and another was positive, since his feet were probably at 10’ while his head was at 13-14’. In hindsight, I should have taken a picture of them, but by then I was over it, and didn’t feel like pulling out the camera again.

I did my best to stay in trim at 15’, and 3 minutes later, we continued our ascent to the surface.

THE RETURN

The process of getting back in the boat and stowing gear was just as chaotic as I figured it would be. I waited patiently until most groups were back in the boat before I doffed my gear and clipped it off to the boat. Unlike the others, who climbed up the ladder at the rear of the boat and stepped on other people and their gear to find a seat, I just kicked up and heaved myself over the side of the pontoon and brought my gear up after me. The “captain” and his crew didn’t like this and said a few harsh things in Italian to me. I really couldn’t have cared less.

On the way back, Stronzo and a few other divers were looking my way and chatting. I saw a few smiles on their faces and thought they were talking trash again, so I asked Patricia if she could hear what they were saying. She listened for a minute and said it seemed like they were discussing my position in the water and the OOA I did with my buddy. She said that it was the first time she had heard Stronzo admire anyone other than himself.

That’s right, b*tches. Respect the PNW.

EPILOGUE

Back at the shop, I managed to steer clear of the chaos and pack up my gear, which survived intact, unlike a few other rigs. One diver from a different group on the boat had his inflator smashed by the careless tossing of a tank by a crewmember, and he was loudly arguing with one of the dive operators about it, waving the broken part about like a madman.

As I was finishing my packing, Patricia comes over to tell me that the next excursion would be leaving in half an hour. Earlier in the day, I had mentioned that I would like to go on the second trip, but after the experience I had just had, I would rather have chewed broken glass. I politely told her that I wouldn’t be joining them, due to the limited viz.

The rest of the vacation was totally awesome, even though I didn’t do any other dives for the remainder of our stay. I got in some really great snorkeling, though. We saw a few octos, and also visited a cove where there were thousands of small streams of bubbles making their way to the surface. It was like swimming in a champagne glass.

So if anyone’s heading out to the Bay of Naples to go diving, I’m sure there’s good diving there, don’t be discouraged. But just don’t go to the ruins in the summer months, and watch out for the stronzi.

-------------------------

Here's some of the video I shot while on the dive. Yellow tank/blue fins is the guide. The other pair of blue fins later on is one of the near misses by my buddy. The last clip is the hot spring.

Here's a video of one of the octos and the really cool bubbles in that cove off Ischia.

-------------------------
Last edited by spatman on Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Tom Nic
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Tom Nic » Sat Aug 02, 2008 5:46 pm

WOW!! :smt119 What a freakin' AWESOME story! I haven't laughed that hard in awhile! I know it was no laughing matter, but sitting in my chair a long ways away it makes an excellent read.

SO glad you're OK Matt, and way to represent for the PNW! :supz: Seriously, you handled a very bad situation very well, and hopefully opened an eye or two.
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Pez7378 » Sat Aug 02, 2008 5:54 pm

I'm pretty sure I've dove with some of those folks. I especially remember the guy riding the bicycle! Great story Matt!

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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:06 pm

Tom Nic wrote:WOW!! :smt119 What a freakin' AWESOME story! I haven't laughed that hard in awhile! I know it was no laughing matter, but sitting in my chair a long ways away it makes an excellent read.

SO glad you're OK Matt, and way to represent for the PNW! :supz: Seriously, you handled a very bad situation very well, and hopefully opened an eye or two.


it certainly wasn't funny at the time, but we were all laughing about it later that night! i hope i opened a few eyes, especially if it can help prevent any accidents. i've been wondering what their track record is like...
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Penopolypants » Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:24 pm

I'm sooo naming my next cat Stronzo.

Awesome report Matt! PNW divers represent!
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Tom Nic » Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:27 pm

spatman wrote:
Tom Nic wrote:WOW!! :smt119 What a freakin' AWESOME story! I haven't laughed that hard in awhile! I know it was no laughing matter, but sitting in my chair a long ways away it makes an excellent read.

SO glad you're OK Matt, and way to represent for the PNW! :supz: Seriously, you handled a very bad situation very well, and hopefully opened an eye or two.


it certainly wasn't funny at the time, but we were all laughing about it later that night! i hope i opened a few eyes, especially if it can help prevent any accidents. i've been wondering what their track record is like...


Having lived overseas in many different cultural situations I smiled to myself as I read your account. Definitely not the "American way". And I'm certainly about valuing and respecting cultural differences, but putting yourself in a position of danger is a non-starter for me as well.

Diving in Israel & Bonaire was also a bit delightfully chaotic, but there was NONE of the disregard for equipment, basic buoyancy control, and just basic safety that you described. Anytime you get a ton of new divers in one place - (both of the places I mentioned were "resort" destinations so you had many newly certified or vacation divers) things are going to be a bit chaotic, but Israel in the Northern Red Sea and Bonaire demonstrated a huge respect and care for both the individual diver and for the undersea environment that was not just lip service.

Glad you could laugh at it afterwards. Again - GREAT STORY Matt! Thanks for telling it, and welcome home, bud. Been wondering where you were.

-Tom Nic
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Penopolypants » Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:29 pm

spatman wrote:
it certainly wasn't funny at the time, but we were all laughing about it later that night! i hope i opened a few eyes, especially if it can help prevent any accidents. i've been wondering what their track record is like...


I can imagine how not funny it was at the time...that video was hard to watch. Blech.

The octo one was cool though.
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Tom Nic » Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:48 pm

Oh, BTW, what was the water temp? What kind of exposure protection did you use? Did you adjust your weighting before the trip or did you already know what it would be for the conditions you found yourself in?
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Sat Aug 02, 2008 8:33 pm

Tom Nic wrote:Having lived overseas in many different cultural situations I smiled to myself as I read your account. Definitely not the "American way". And I'm certainly about valuing and respecting cultural differences, but putting yourself in a position of danger is a non-starter for me as well.

Diving in Israel & Bonaire was also a bit delightfully chaotic, but there was NONE of the disregard for equipment, basic buoyancy control, and just basic safety that you described. Anytime you get a ton of new divers in one place - (both of the places I mentioned were "resort" destinations so you had many newly certified or vacation divers) things are going to be a bit chaotic, but Israel in the Northern Red Sea and Bonaire demonstrated a huge respect and care for both the individual diver and for the undersea environment that was not just lip service.

Glad you could laugh at it afterwards. Again - GREAT STORY Matt! Thanks for telling it, and welcome home, bud. Been wondering where you were.

-Tom Nic



i found the same thing you did in israel. i wasn't certified yet, but it was there that i did my "discover" dive and got hooked. the chaos on that boat was minimal, and the respect, as you mentioned was very high.

the one other time i was on a charter that was really bad was in the florida keys. not nearly as dangerous as this one was, but still enough to scare me a bit.

and as much as i loved being on vacation, it's also good to be home. let's go diving!
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Tom Nic » Sat Aug 02, 2008 8:37 pm

spatman wrote: let's go diving!


Definitely!!

Alas, I am high and dry for at least a few days while my suit gets a new neck seal. After 300 dives it finally said, "No Mas! Enough! I'm done. No more. Ain't gonna do it. See ya. BuBye."
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Sat Aug 02, 2008 8:41 pm

Penopolypants wrote:
spatman wrote:
it certainly wasn't funny at the time, but we were all laughing about it later that night! i hope i opened a few eyes, especially if it can help prevent any accidents. i've been wondering what their track record is like...


I can imagine how not funny it was at the time...that video was hard to watch. Blech.

The octo one was cool though.


those octos were very cool and a couple let me get pretty close, too. close enough to grab them if i wanted to. in fact, i showed M the video and he was asking why i took the time to shoot video when i could have been grabbing the octo for that night's dinner. sorry, M, i have a soft spot for octos. in fact, i saw a few others while we were snorkeling that i scared away before he could see them...
Last edited by spatman on Sun Aug 03, 2008 5:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Sat Aug 02, 2008 8:48 pm

Tom Nic wrote:Oh, BTW, what was the water temp? What kind of exposure protection did you use? Did you adjust your weighting before the trip or did you already know what it would be for the conditions you found yourself in?


the water temp was mid-70s, at least at about 30'. i brought my 3mil long-sleeved shorty and was very comfortable for the 45 minutes i was in the water. as far as weighting, i figured that since i had used 12lbs in florida with an al80, that my 6lb backplate plus 3 kilos would be just about right. i didn't take into account the steel tanks, though, so i was a few pounds overweighted. i had thought that i would shed a kilo for the next dive, but, as you know, that didn't happen...
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by LCF » Sat Aug 02, 2008 9:59 pm

This story really made me laugh.

A couple of years ago, there was a very nice young man on ScubaBoard who learned to dive, and got on the internet, and read about long hoses and backplates and trim and the like. Unfortunately, his dive buddy was his uncle, who had learned to dive as a puppy and wasn't having any. This young man was Italian, and the stories he told sounded very much like yours. I don't know what ever happened to him . . . he kind of faded away.

Every day I dive, I bless the good fortune that brought me in contact with the people who taught me how to weight myself properly, achieve horizontal trim, not silt out a dive site, and be a useful part of a team. Not everyone gets that kind of education, sadly.
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Joshua Smith » Sat Aug 02, 2008 11:51 pm

“That’s right, b*tches. Respect the PNW.”



:supz:

Awesome. Welcome home, you special idiot, you!
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by BASSMAN » Sun Aug 03, 2008 1:40 am

Way to go!
PNW Represents!! :supz: :supz:
Great Report very entertaining from this chair I'm sitting in.
Glad your okay and can have a good laugh about it afterwards
Welcome back! :salute:
Hi, my name is Keith, and I'm a Dive Addict! :supz:

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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Sun Aug 03, 2008 5:49 am

LCF wrote:Every day I dive, I bless the good fortune that brought me in contact with the people who taught me how to weight myself properly, achieve horizontal trim, not silt out a dive site, and be a useful part of a team. Not everyone gets that kind of education, sadly.


it is a shame that many divers don't get better educations, either due to disinterest on their part or just circumstance. having experiences like this make me lean more and more toward becoming a DM or even instructor someday.
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by airsix » Sun Aug 03, 2008 12:19 pm

Matt, I loved reading your report. =D>

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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by divernick » Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:32 pm

Welcome back Spatman, glad you made it back from the dive in one piece. Thanks for the report...and the laughs.

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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Mon Aug 04, 2008 3:39 pm

Scubagirl45 wrote:Great story Matt! Thanks for entertaining us, but sorry the diving sucked.


these things happen. at least i survived and can laugh about it now!
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Sounder » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:51 pm

What a story. Sometimes the CESA option is a beautiful thing.

“That’s right, b*tches. Respect the PNW.”

Love it.
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by 4ster » Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:41 pm

Thanks for posting that, very well done. You get paid to write I'm guessing, if not you should. Very entertaining.

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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:25 pm

4ster wrote:Thanks for posting that, very well done. You get paid to write I'm guessing, if not you should. Very entertaining.


glad you liked it. i actually have never gotten paid to write anything other than html, but if you know someone who's hiring.... \:D/
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by Sounder » Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:15 am

spatman wrote:
4ster wrote:Thanks for posting that, very well done. You get paid to write I'm guessing, if not you should. Very entertaining.


glad you liked it. i actually have never gotten paid to write anything other than html, but if you know someone who's hiring.... \:D/


I know someone, but he's a real stronzo.
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Re: My Attempt at Diving in Italy

Post by spatman » Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:22 am

Sounder wrote:
spatman wrote:
4ster wrote:Thanks for posting that, very well done. You get paid to write I'm guessing, if not you should. Very entertaining.


glad you liked it. i actually have never gotten paid to write anything other than html, but if you know someone who's hiring.... \:D/


I know someone, but he's a real stronzo.


i can handle stronzi. especially if they pay well.
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