• July 7, 2016

    Exploring Kaumana Caves – Big Island, Hawaii


    Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kaumana Caves are part of a 25-mile long network of lava tubes formed from a lava flow that began with an eruption of Mauna Loa November 5, 1880. By late June 1881, the molten river was on a slow but steady progression was advancing on what is today Hilo town. When the glowing red mass neared 5 miles of the tiny village, the flow picked up its pace.

    Pleading Pele’s Mercy

    Today, when Kupuna (elders, grandparents, older persons) “talk story”, tales praise Princess Ruth, whose beauty, grace, and ceaseless prayers stopped the lava flow abruptly on it’s path to the sea. Dispatched from Oahu to see the situation first hand and to determine if anything could be done to save the homes of the people in Pele’s path, Princess Ruth requested several young men from the village to act as porters to clear trail and carry her through dense jungle to the front of the lava flow. Taking up a position in the face of the flow, Princess Ruth danced hula, chanted, prayed, and pleaded Pele’s mercy. Offerings were made. On August 1, 1881, just 1.5-miles from Hilo Bay, at sunrise just as first light broke over the ocean waves, the flow suddenly stopped; prayers were answered, the village saved.

    Directions To Kumana Caves

    Kuamana caves are perched in a position of pride hilltop above Hilo, between Rainbow Falls and the city. The cave's entrance is located in a state park close to the 4-mile marker on Kaumana Drive (known as Saddle Road by locals). It is open to any curious adventurers who wish to explore. Admission is free. Visitors proceed at their own risk.


    The cave entrance is a skylight created when a section of the tunnel collapsed. A concrete staircase provides access. The section open for public exploration runs approximately two miles. After that, the tunnel snakes up the mountain, crossing under private property and access is denied. Visitors can expect to view a diverse array of lava formations, including rock that retained its fire-red coloration, having cooled rapidly at the termination point of the lava flow.

    Safety First

    The immediate area around the entrance is well lit by natural light, so if you want to just take a quick peak about one can do so. However, if you desire to explore the 2-mile passageway, precautions are in order. Sturdy hiking shoes with good traction, a water bottle, two powerful flashlights, and a warm windbreaker are advised as minimum gear. Seasoned hikers suggest a stout walking stick, hardhat, and a headband lamp as well. As you proceed deeper into the cave, it becomes quite dark. Adventurous visitors seeking to explore the caves beyond the first 200-to-300 feet are advised to wear long pants, carry rain gear and bring extra batteries.

    Proceed With Caution

    Shine your light on the pathway ahead as the lava surface can be very slippery with holes and crevices. Be aware of outcroppings, ledges or low ceilings. If you are an experienced spelunker, there are numerous off-shooting side tubes. Do not venture into deep tubes during the rainy season; flash flooding is possible, and some sections have been known during to overflow during dramatic weather events.

    Expect To Be Amazed

    For visitors that are physically fit and able to make the trek, the tour of the tunnels is not to be missed. You will see massive hanging roots from surface vegetation, unique geologic formations, and gain an understanding of the power of Pele.

    Guided Tour

    If you are not an experienced caver, a guided tour is an ideal way to enjoy the wonder and splendor of the underground maze. Hawaii Forest and Trail Guides offers custom tour packages led by knowledgeable guides. All recommended equipment other than shoes and jacket are provided.

  • July 5, 2016

    Hawaii - The Endangered Species Capital Of The World

    The Hawaiian Islands, blessed with outstanding biodiversity and an eco-system composed of hundreds of endangered species, is the most isolated landmass in the world. Many evolved species are unique to the island chain.

    Scientists and environmental activists often refer to Hawaii as the “Endangered Species Capital of the World”. The primary reason this statement is true is that Hawaii is the most isolated landmass on the planet and evolved a diverse array of species unique to the Hawaiian Islands.


    Koa played an integral role in ancient Hawaiian culture and today is valued for its magnificent grain, strength and beauty. The giant straight trees were the source for logs to carve voyaging canoes. An assemblage of these Koa crafted canoes became the Polynesian Fleet that navigated the Pacific more than a thousand years before Columbus set sail to discover the new world.

    Koa wood is prized as a construction material for weapons, building, paddles, canoes, bowls and musical instruments. Due to the rarity of the wood, Koa is very expensive and in high demand. Presenting stellar color ranges from pale blonde to deep brown, Koa’s swirling lines make it a choice wood for exquisite art works. "People love the Koa," says John Kirkpatrick, owner of Genesis Gallery. "They like the idea that it only grows here in Hawaii."

    Known as the “King of the Forest,” the magnificent Koa tree produces one of the world’s finest tropical hardwoods. However, western methods of harvesting have devastated more than 90 percent of the spectacular stands of Koa trees that once blanketed the island chain. This valuable resource was eradicated from lower elevations, destroying the genetic diversity that once existed.

    Throughout the Hawaiian island chain, Koa forests have been decimated to near extinction; harvested for the valuable wood and to make way for cattle ranches and sugar plantations. Today, less than ten percent of Hawaii’s old-growth forests remain.


    On the Big Island of Hawaii, several reforestation projects are underway. One of the most innovative efforts is the work of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods.

    Manifesting a “Spirit Of Aloha” through commitment to reforestation of Hawaii’s old growth forests, HLH LLC, a Hawaiian sustainable reforestation company, in tandem with its non-profit arm, the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI), has, over a five-year period, planted more than 250,000 endemic Sandalwood, Koa, and other endangered and rare species of Hawaiian trees on 750 acres of hillside on the slopes of Mauna Kea; a site that once was the personal property of King Kamehameha I.

    Ecotourism Aids Reforestation Efforts

    Hawaiian Legacy Tours (HLT), named “2014 Ecotour Operator of the Year” by the Hawaii Eco-tourism Association (HEA), is a “first-of-it’s kind” Big Island eco-tour company that provides guests a hands-on opportunity to assist in the creation of the only Legacy Forest in the world.

    Participants tour the forest, learning about Hawaii’s rich historical heritage, culture, and the importance of environmental stewardship. Visitors can plant their own Koa Legacy Tree and track its growth online for years to come using applications such as Google Earth, where they can see their tree from space. Every tree comes equipped with a geo-tagging system that provides ongoing growth, genealogy, maintenance, and carbon sequestration data.

    Planting a memorial tree in honor of a loved one, in celebration of the birth of a child, or any other milestone life event allows each Legacy Tree sponsor to track their tree through time via Goggle Earth, and each tree stores information about the event or person, creating a living monument. The Hawaiian Legacy Forest is the most intricately mapped forest in the world.

  • July 4, 2016

    GET smART—Wirtz Elementary Gets Painted

    27394035681_70b4880230_o On June 7, Wirtz Elementary in Paramount, California got an exterior makeover on walls and basketball hoops courtesy of smART: students making art - sponsored by OluKai.

    The artists in temporary residence included Ben Brough, Gomez Bueno,  Hanai Yusuke, Hi-Dutch, Rich Jacobs, Tim Kerr and Nathaniel Russell. And they went off, with wall-sized pieces by Russell, Yusuke, Brough, Kerr and Bueno. Rich Jacobs painted the basketball backboards using a step-ladder - and they came out just terrific.

    Caruso started the program seven years ago because he was "bummed that Wirtz kids didn't have an art program," Austin-based artist Tim Kerr wrote on his blog.

    Kids participate in art sessions after class with the support of Caruso and a "growing network of artists that donate their time."

    "Paramount...doesn't have a lot of resources, but this program has richness, soul and repercussions that can't be bought," Kerr wrote. 

    Caruso is the smART project creator / coordinator and believes that world with no art is not a world worth living in. He believes California and American schools do not promote art enough. So he made art in schools his quest.

    "As a society we celebrate the arts and the people who continue to do them into adulthood, but we don't do enough to foster that artistic passion throughout the core developmental years of children," he said.  

    "What upsets me about that is the idea that we may be losing some of the greatest creative treasures the world will ever know, and I'm not going to sit back and watch that happen. The intelligence and self-worth of children should not be determined just by how well they can perform arithmetic and their level of reading comprehension... I have watched a child hang their head low for almost an entire year, and you know they feel like a social outcast, and suddenly they discover through art that being themselves is actually cooler than trying to be something they are not. That moment is priceless and life changing. That is the power of art for children."

    The project happened June 4-5, with seven murals completed by Tim Kerr, Gomez Bueno, Ben Brough, Hi-Dutch, Yusuke Hanai, Nathaniel Russell, and Rich Jacobs.  

    On June 6, the artists met with roughly 750 students for over 2.5 hours. This allowed the children, ranging in age from preschool to 5th grade, the opportunity to engage in some meaningful dialogue with the artists about each of the seven mural projects. This component of the project is so important to the kids because they establish a bond with the artists and therefore tend to appreciate the murals even more.

    Tim Kerr has been a participant in the program since 2010, so some of the kids have spent all of their elementary school years frequently seeing him and participating in art projects he has done. Priceless memories are being created for both the artists and the kids.

    Kerr painted the big, yellow “We Are All Making History” mural - the third he has done at the school.

    It took two days and I mixed colors and used exterior house paint,” Kerr said in an email. “This one I did on my own.”

    The faces on the mural are folk singer Pete Seeger, pilot Amelia Earhart, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, deaf/blind activist Helen Keller, Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, Hawaiian surfer Rell Sunn and civil rights leader John Lewis.

    The idea (and the idea of all the people that I paint), is that they did what they did not to be famous,” Kerr said. But because they felt like they needed to do something. It shows that we all are making history in our own way big or small. The kids below them have something that ties them to each other. A guitar, a toy plane, a football, a skateboard etc…”

    Originally from Cantabria, Spain, Gomez Bueno was educated in the Canary Islands and moved to Los Angeles in 1988. 

    “The elementary school I attended didn't have any murals," he said. "I still can close my eyes and see the sad, empty walls of my school and imagine how much better it would had been if some artists would had decorated them. so when Erik asked me to do one for his school, how could I say no?  For the Wirtz Elementary School I wanted to paint something would put a smile on the faces of the kids, send a positive message, and fuel their imaginations."

    Bueno’s mural is a  cartoon design full of surfing animals of every possible color and size.  The surfers range from a tiny duck to a huge elephant, while including crocodiles, toucans, zebras, rabbits, giraffes and camels.  

    “I hope that every kid finds some character they identify with,” Bueno said. “ All the animals are mixed up sharing a wave and some are even sharing the same surfboard. You know surfing is an exclusive sport because of limited access and people often don't want to share the waves.  This piece accentuates the message that sharing is fun, having an open mind, and being inclusive is the key to happiness.”

    OluKai provided material and moral support, according to Caruso:

    "OluKai’s willingness to be a sponsor allowed for smART to work with artists that we truly cherish," Caruso said. "smART now had the means to pay for artists' travel costs and materials costs."

    Caruso identified three primary outcomes of the project and OluKai's support:

    "One: Kids now feel validated, in that their school looks unique and beautiful, and for the creatives in the bunch they are inspired to keep making art and to also realize they are free to express themselves in a medium that can create joy for so many others around them.  

    Two: Kids see the power of art and the instant impact it can have on the viewers. Even though kids may have different thoughts of what the murals mean, the important part is that their minds are being challenged to contemplate messages that are both concrete and abstract.  

    Three: Finally,  the students see the power of volunteering. The fact that the artists gave up so much of their time to give to others creates a spark in kids to go out and follow a path of being an agent of change for  the world. OluKai has now been an agent of change for kids who normally might not have ever been exposed to such opportunities."

    Paramount, California is in south central Los Angeles, in the middle of a concrete jungle and bordered on all sides by Compton. Lynwood. South Gate, Downey, Bellflower and Long Beach to the south. Paramount is neither the safest nor the most colorful city in southern California, but now the kids of Wirtz Elementary can feel a little safer and have some color and imagination in their lives, thanks to the smART project.

  • June 18, 2016

    The Pan-Pacific Ho‘olaule‘a – Matsuri Goes Mainstream

    OKpan During the 1970’s, the number of travelers from Japan to the Hawaiian Islands increased dramatically. In 1980, a small group of local Oahu residents, wishing to ensure that the increased interaction between the two cultures would be educational and enjoyable, hosted the first Matsuri.

    In Hawaii, Matsuri (a Japanese word meaning festival) was viewed as a way to enrich the lives of both the audience and participating artists, with a rewarding participatory experience in traditional Japanese culture. Matsuri in Hawaii provided visiting participants from Japan an opportunity to share their art, music, crafts, foods, and traditions with others in the stellar setting of world-famous Waikiki.

    Through Matsuri, Hawaii residents and visitors gained a deeper appreciation of Japanese history, heritage, and cultural sensibilities.

    By showcasing the ancient arts, dance, crafts, and traditional folk music, and bringing world respected Japanese performers to Hawaii, Matsuri acted as a bridge between cultures as visitors and residents participated in block parties, a parade, and the popular bon dance. In 1998, the Oahu celebration of Matsuri expanded to include all of the multiple cultures that make up Hawaii’s rich melting pot and was renamed the Pan-Pacific Ho’olaule’a.

    Pan-Pacific Ho‘olaule‘a

    Today, the Pan-Pacific Ho‘olaule‘a (A festival or gathering to preserve and promote harmonious relationships) a joyous “super-sized” celebration of friendship and goodwill, invites the people of Hawaii and its many visitors from around the globe, to gather in a gala celebration of multi-cultural diversity. Still known locally as Matsuri, the Pan-Pacific Ho’olaule’a, has grown from a small neighborhood event into an international festival highlighting a broad array of people, cultures, and talents from throughout the Pacific Rim.

    At the Pan-Pacific Ho’olaule’a, music and laughter fill the air. Multiple entertainment stages feature cultural performances such as Korean Dance, Japanese Taiko drums, Hula, Hawaiian string guitar artists, and more. Each year the festival showcases a popular headlining entertainer from Hawaii!

    Held annually in mid-June on the beach in Waikiki, the festival is the largest multi-cultural event of its kind in Hawaii and one of the premier cultural celebrations worldwide. Kalakauna Avenue is temporarily closed down to vehicle traffic from Lewers Street to Uluniu Avenue to accommodate the impressive block party.

    Fabulous Food

    Dozens of food vendors offer scrumptious presentations of taste treats from Hawaii, Thailand, Japan, and China. Favorites are Hawaiian roast pork, poi, and shaved ice.

    Arts And Crafts

    Island artists, crafters, and vendors sell unique items reflecting the diversity of the islands.

    Pan-Pacific Hula Festival

    Happening simultaneously at the Hula Mound located on Kuhio Beach near the Diamond Head end of the Ho’olaule’a, the Pan-Pacific Hula Festival draws visitors from around the world. Held under a spectacular banyan tree, just steps from Waikiki Beach, the Pan-Pacific Hula Festivals is a much-anticipated event or both spectators and dancers alike.

    The ancient Hawaiian fine art of hula has gained immense popularity in many countries, especially Japan where there are more than 200,000 dedicated practitioners of the traditional Hawaiian dance. Hawaii, the birthplace of hula, beckons groups who practice all year long or a chance to compete and dance hula in Hawaii.








  • June 15, 2016

    Hōkūle'a does New York: An Interview With Archie Kalepa As He Chills in Jamaica Bay

    IMG_4213-2As the Hōkūle'a continues its worldwide journey, we caught up with Archie Kalepa after he rejoined the ship's crew to sail from Washington DC to New York City.

    OluKai: We covered your voyage on Hōkūle'a from Mauritius to South Africa. When did you jump back on Hōkūle'a?

    Archie Kalepa: I jumped back on this leg from DC to New York.

    OK: How was it? Was the boat there when you got there or did you sail in on the Potomac?

    AK: Sailed out of the Potomac because the boat was already there in DC when I got there. And then sailed to here, New York.

    OK: So how were the conditions? [...]

  • June 14, 2016

    What, exactly, is a vegan shoe? Vegan shoes explained

    OKveganWhen people talk about being vegan, they are typically referring to a diet that excludes all meat, eggs, dairy products, and any other ingredients derived from animals. But what about vegan footwear? What does that mean? [...]

  • June 13, 2016

    OluKai sponsores smART program to bring art to children

    27394035681_70b4880230_oOver the weekend of June 4-5, OluKai was proud to sponsor a mural and school beautification project in Paramount, CA. The smART (students making art) program at Harry Wirtz Elementary School is a grassroots way of infusing the arts back into schools at a time when art programs are being cut and are no longer being supported. [...]

  • June 9, 2016

    The Magnificent Colored Sand Beaches of Hawaii


    Hawaii is the proud home to the most naturally occurring colored sand beaches in the entire world, the result of a diverse variety of corals, unique marine life, and debris from the many ancient volcanoes that gave birth to the island chain. A few of Hawaii’s colored sand beaches are accessible; the majority remote and secluded, accessible only by a challenging hike, ATV or all-terrain vehicle. However, if you are a fan of romantic colored sand beaches and up for the challenge, you will discover red, green, black, white, and golden beaches of jaw-dropping beauty.

    Big Island Papakolea Green Sand Beach Tucked away at the base of Pu’u o Mahana, an ancient cone of a long-dormant volcano located near the southern tip of the Big Island, Hawaii, Papakolea Beach is a rarity. From the trailhead to the beach is a vigorous three-mile hike, so go equipped with plenty of fresh water and sunscreen. There are no services or lifeguard at the beach. Be aware of surroundings and wave breaks. The green sand is composed of finely ground, semi-precious olivine. The multi-faceted sand grains shimmer and sparkle in sunlight, but are especially striking at sunset. However, unless you plan an overnight camp out, it is best to start the hike back to the highway at least three to four hours before sunset as the terrain is challenging and can be dangerous in the dark. Novice hikers are advised to enlist the services of a guide service to ensure a safe and memorable eco-adventure. Seasoned trail guides are available in nearby Kona.

    Maui Kaihalula Red Sand Beach Accessible by the twisting Hana Highway, Kaihalulu Beach, which means ‘roaring sea” in the Hawaiian language, is not a beach suitable for swimming or any beach or water activity. Close to shore rip tides, and rocky outcrops are dangerous and deadly, but the scenery is amazing. The beach is composed of brilliant red sand with flecks of black, a product of nearby Ka’uiki Head, a now-dormant cinder cone volcano. The sands are red in color, ground down from lava that cooled quickly, retaining its fiery hue. When in the area, be sure to explore the charming amenities and points of interest in Hana and find your way to the Seven Sacred Pools.

    Molokai Halawa Black Sand Beach Park Molokai, perhaps best known as a 19th-century leper colony, is also the home of some of finest beaches in the island chain including one composed entirely of fine black lava sand. The majority of Molokai’s beaches are a rich golden color, often described as spun burnt sugar, making the pure black sand beach at Halawa an attractive abnormally. From the beach, there is a sweeping vista across the channel with a view of Maui in the distance. Hawaii’s scenic black sand beaches are the result of lava flow into the sea. When basalt settles near the surface, these spectacular haunting coastlines are created.

    Lanai Hulopoe Bay Golden Sands Beach Flanked by lava fingers protecting the beach from riptides and strong ocean currents, Hulopoe Bay is a great place to swim, snorkel and paddleboard. The pale golden colored sand shimmers on a moonlight night, and it is not an unusual sight to spot humpback whales and dolphins. Under the stewardship of the State of Hawaii, the inviting beach park provides campsites, showers, clean restrooms, BBQ pits, and picnic tables.

  • June 8, 2016

    Hōkūleʻa Sails Inland Across, Through and Up Florida

    DJI_0012After crossing the Atlantic from Namibia and putting in at Natal, Brazil, Hōkūleʻa headed north by northeast into the Caribbean for Leg 18 of this around the world voyage for Malama Honua: Five days in the British Virgin Islands and then to Havana, Cuba, where the Hōkūleʻa crew saw FINCA Marta, an organic farm that used mostly solar power for irrigation. The crew members also visited the Museo de la Canoa to learn about Caribbean canoe history as well as visiting Old Havana Town.

    Hōkūleʻa departed Cuba on March 23rd and sailed north to Florida where she stopped in Key West before making the voyage’s first touch of the continental US in the Everglades.

    Noelani Kamalu is a 31-year-old educator from Oahu. She was on Hōkūleʻa as a crew member from the British Virgin Islands to Havana, Cuba to Titusville, Florida and saw some island culture: “Havana was different,” Kamalu said. “It was like a snapshot into the 50s. All the old cars, the buildings. It’s like it stood still in time. The food was awesome. I try something new no matter where I go. I liked the culture, the music.”

    Hōkūleʻa then made the crossing to Florida, putting in at Key West first, then Everglades City and then zig-zagging north to Fort Myers. Looking at the Hōkūleʻa Tracking Map—it appears the Hawaiian ocean voyaging canoe somehow crossed Florida overland.

    What was that? Did they put the canoe on a big-rig or roll it by hand for 50 miles along coconut tree logs or something? “Interesting you mention that because I didn’t know that until weeks before we got on the plane,” Kamalu said. “We had a crew meeting in Honolulu. Originally I was supposed to go to Miami and then he started pointing around the map and I’m thinking, ‘Where is he going? This isn’t the way I thought we were going to go.’ And then he showed me the waterway. I don’t know the waterway but it starts in Fort Myers and passes through Okeechobee Lake and pops out in Stuart, Florida on the east side. It was an interesting experience. It was the first time Hōkūleʻa had been through a lock system. Or locks in general. Most of us had never been in a lock.”

    According to Noelani, all along the way, Hōkūleʻa and her crew carried a message of Hawaiian aloha which was returned with many different flavors of aloha: Cuban Aloha, Floridian aloha, Washington aloha. The crew were treated like family, but in Stuart, Florida, Noelani Kamalu really did meet family:

    "I happen to have [family] who live in Florida, who helped to host and mālama the crew of Hōkūleʻa. They greeted us on the dock, made us`ono food, and were overall amazing hosts," said Noelani,  "And, while I would like to say that they did it because they had relatives aboard Hōkūleʻa, I know that they would have taken care of the crew, regardless of my family’s involvement in the Worldwide Voyage."

    For the transit along the east coast of Florida through the Inter Coastal Waterway Noe stayed with the boat from Stuart up to Titusville. Each leg of Hōkūleʻa's adventure has pleasures and perils - whether it be out in the middle of ocean, or tucked away in a protected inland waterway.  From Stuart north along Florida, Hōkūleʻa was under way only during daylight hours, so they docked or anchored every night. “As a result Captain Bruce has stressed the importance of knots, line handling and overall good seamanship” according to Mark Elis on the Hōkūleʻa Blog.

    From Stuart to Indian Harbor is 44 miles as Google Earth flies, and that was the first day of the ICW leg, according to Shawn Kana’iapuni.

    "We traveled through the waterways, got here to Indian Harbor. And we decided to stop here because we were losing daylight, and it ended up being a good decision because there was space in this beautiful community," said Noelani, "The community outpouring has been fabulous here in Florida. There’s so many Hawaii connections and people have fed us, housed us, and given us so much aloha. So mahalo to all of you out there in Indian Harbor who have made us feel welcomed."

    From Indian Harbor it was a two-day voyage north to Titusville, through a waterway that is equally industrial and natural—manatees and factories—and where Hōkūleʻa’s message of Malama Honua—to care for our island earth—resonated and spread across the water.

    At Titusville, Hōkūleʻa was greeted by 200 smiling faces who had heard word of the coming of the canoe from the other side of the world.  Crew and guests were treated to a performance by Halau Hula o Kaleooka'iwa that made everyone feel much closer to Hawaii.

    Crew 18 cleaned and prepped the boat for Crew 19 in Titusville, and then they all took a sidetrip to NASA Kennedy Space Center to honor two Hawaiians—Lacy Veach and Ellison Onizuka—two pioneering space navigators who use the stars to explore space, much as their Hawaiian ancestors used the stars to navigate through the Pacific. (For more on that connection between traveling through space and traveling through the Pacific, click here.)

    The next day, the official changing of the crew from 18 to 19 happened in the afternoon. Leg 19 of the Hōkūleʻa’s voyage passed from Florida into Georgia, along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and to Charleston, South Carolina, where they were greeted by Native Americans and gave canoe rides at the Charleston Outdoor Festival.

    Hōkūleʻa and crew celebrated Earth Day in Newport News, Virginia then pulled into Yorktown on April 24—where Hōkūleʻa spent two weeks, before sailing through Tangier Island and Alexandria then up the Potomac River to arrive in Washington DC for a whole different level of aloha.

  • June 7, 2016

    Wai: Harnessing The Spiritual And Physical Characteristics Of Water

    OKwai2For Hawaiians, water symbolizes life. The Hawaiian word for prosperity or wealth, is waiwai, literally means water-water. Many names in Hawaiian have the word wai in it, referring to the water source that the people relied on at that time. [...]

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