Krakatoa, or Krakatau (Indonesian: Krakatau), is a volcanic island
situated in the
Sunda Strait between the islands of
Java and Sumatra
in the Indonesian province of Lampung. The name is also used for the
surrounding island group comprising the remnants of a much larger
island of three volcanic peaks which was obliterated in a cataclysmic
In 1927, a new island, Anak Krakatau, or "Child of Krakatoa", emerged
from the caldera formed in 1883 and is the current location of
1 Historical significance
3 Geographical setting
4 Pre-1883 history
4.1 416 AD event
4.2 535 AD event
4.4 Visit by HMS Discovery
4.5 Visit by USS Peacock
4.6 Dutch activity
5 1883 eruption
6 Subsequent volcanism
6.1 Anak Krakatau
6.2 Current activity
7 Biological research
7.1 Botanical studies
7.2 Handl's occupancy
8 Popular culture
9 See also
11 External links
Further information: 1883 eruption of Krakatoa
The most notable eruptions of
Krakatoa culminated in a series of
massive explosions over August 26–27, 1883, which were among the
most violent volcanic events in recorded history.
With an estimated
Volcanic Explosivity Index
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6, the
eruption was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT (840 PJ)—about
13,000 times the nuclear yield of the
Little Boy bomb (13 to 16 kt)
that devastated Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II, and four times
the yield of
Tsar Bomba (50 Mt), the most powerful nuclear device ever
The 1883 eruption ejected approximately 25 km3 (6 cubic miles) of
rock. The cataclysmic explosion was heard 4,800 km
(3,000 mi) away in Alice Springs, as well as on the island of
Rodrigues near Mauritius, 4,653 km (2,891 mi) to the
According to the official records of the
Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies colony, 165
villages and towns were destroyed near Krakatoa, and 132 were
seriously damaged. At least 36,417 people died, and many more
thousands were injured, mostly from the tsunamis that followed the
explosion. The eruption destroyed two-thirds of the island of
Eruptions in the area since 1927 have built a new island at the same
Anak Krakatau (which is Indonesian for "Child of
Krakatoa"). Periodic eruptions have continued since, with recent
eruptions in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. In late 2011, this island had
a radius of roughly 2 kilometres (1.2 mi), and a highest point of
about 324 metres (1,063 ft) above sea level, growing 5 metres
(16 ft) each year. In 2017 the height of
Anak Krakatau was
reported as over 400 metres above sea level.
Although there are earlier descriptions of an island in the Sunda
Strait with a "pointed mountain," the earliest mention of
name in the western world was on a 1611 map by Lucas Janszoon
Waghenaer, who labelled the island "Pulo Carcata" (pulo is the
Sundanese word for "island"). About two dozen variants have been
found, including Crackatouw, Cracatoa, and Krakatao (in an older
Portuguese-based spelling). The first known appearance of the spelling
Krakatau was by Wouter Schouten, who passed by "the high tree-covered
island of Krakatau" in October 1658.
The origin of the Indonesian name Krakatau is uncertain.
The Smithsonian Institution's
Global Volcanism Program
Global Volcanism Program cites the
Indonesian name, Krakatau, as the correct name, but says that Krakatoa
is often employed. While
Krakatoa is more common in the
English-speaking world, the Indonesian Krakatau tends to be favored by
others, including geologists.
The Sunda Strait
Indonesia has over 130 active volcanoes, the most of any nation.
They make up the axis of the Indonesian island arc system, which was
produced by northeastward subduction of the Indo-Australian Plate. A
majority of these volcanoes lie along Indonesia's two largest islands,
Java and Sumatra. These two islands are separated by the Sunda Strait,
which is located at a bend in the axis of the island arc.
directly above the subduction zone of the
Eurasian Plate and the
Indo-Australian Plate where the plate boundaries make a sharp change
of direction, possibly resulting in an unusually weak crust in the
At some point in prehistory, an earlier caldera-forming eruption had
occurred, leaving as remnants
Verlaten (or Sertung); Lang (also known
Rakata Kecil, or Panjang); Poolsche Hoed; ("Polish Hat") and
the base of Rakata. Later, at least two more cones (
Danan) formed and eventually joined with Rakata, forming the main
island of Krakatoa. At the time of the 1883 eruption, the Krakatoa
group comprised Lang, Verlaten, and
Krakatoa itself, an island
9 km (5.6 mi) long by 5 km (3.1 mi) wide. There
were also the tree-covered islet near Lang (Poolsche Hoed) and several
small rocky islets or banks between
Krakatoa and Verlaten.
There were three volcanic cones on
Krakatoa island: Rakata,
(820 m or 2,690 ft) to the south; Danan, (450 m or
1,480 ft) near the center; and Perboewatan, (120 m or
390 ft) to the north.
416 AD event
The Javanese Book of Kings (Pustaka Raja) records that in the year 338
Saka (416 AD):
A thundering sound was heard from the mountain Batuwara [now called
Pulosari, an extinct volcano in Bantam, the nearest to the Sunda
Strait] which was answered by a similar noise from Kapi, lying
westward of the modern Bantam [(Banten) is the westernmost province in
Java, so this seems to indicate that
Krakatoa is meant]. A great
glowing fire, which reached the sky, came out of the last-named
mountain; the whole world was greatly shaken and violent thundering,
accompanied by heavy rain and storms took place, but not only did not
this heavy rain extinguish the eruption of the fire of the mountain
Kapi, but augmented the fire; the noise was fearful, at last the
mountain Kapi with a tremendous roar burst into pieces and sank into
the deepest of the earth. The water of the sea rose and inundated the
land, the country to the east of the mountain Batuwara, to the
Rajabasa [the most southerly volcano in Sumatra], was
inundated by the sea; the inhabitants of the northern part of the
Sunda country to the mountain
Rajabasa were drowned and swept away
with all property ... The water subsided but the land on which
Kapi stood became sea, and
Sumatra were divided into two
There is no geological evidence of a
Krakatoa eruption of this size
around that time; it may describe loss of land which previously joined
Sumatra across what is now the narrow east end of the Sunda
Strait; or it may be a mistaken date, referring to a later eruption in
535 AD, for which there is some corroborating historical evidence.
535 AD event
David Keys, Ken Wohletz, and others have postulated that a violent
volcanic eruption, possibly of Krakatoa, in 535 may have been
responsible for the global climate changes of 535–536. Keys
explores what he believes to be the radical and far-ranging global
effects of just such a putative 6th-century eruption in his book
Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World.
Additionally, in recent times, it has been argued that it was this
eruption which created the islands of Verlaten, Lang, and the
beginnings of Rakata—all indicators of early Krakatoa's caldera's
size. To date, however, little datable charcoal from that eruption has
Thornton mentions that
Krakatoa was known as "The Fire Mountain"
Sailendra dynasty, with records of seven eruptive events
between the 9th and 16th centuries. These have been tentatively
dated as having occurred in 850, 950, 1050, 1150, 1320, and 1530.
Satellite view of Krakatau Islands, 18 May 1992
In February 1681, Johann Wilhelm Vogel, a Dutch mining engineer at
Sumatra (near Padang), on his way to Batavia (modern Jakarta)
passed through the Sunda Strait. In his diary he wrote:
...I saw with amazement that the island of Krakatoa, on my first trip
Sumatra [June 1679] completely green and healthy with trees, lay
completely burnt and barren in front of our eyes and that at four
locations was throwing up large chunks of fire. And when I asked the
ship's Captain when the aforementioned island had erupted, he told me
that this had happened in May 1680 ... He showed me a piece of pumice
as big as his fist.
Vogel spent several months in Batavia, returning to
November 1681. On the same ship were several other Dutch travellers,
including Elias Hesse, a writer. Hesse's journal reports:
...on the 19th [of November 1681] we again lifted anchor and proceeded
first to the north of us to the island of Sleepzie (Sebesi),
uninhabited, ... and then still north of the island of Krakatou, which
erupted about a year ago and also is uninhabited. The rising smoke
column of this island can be seen from miles away; we were with our
ship very close to shore and we could see the trees sticking out high
on the mountain, and which looked completely burned, but we could not
see the fire itself.
The eruption was also reported by a Bengali sea captain, who wrote of
the event later, but who had not recorded it at the time in the ship's
log. Neither Vogel nor Hesse mention
Krakatoa in any real detail
in their other passages, and no other travelers at the time mention an
eruption or evidence of one. (In November 1681, a pepper crop was
being offered for sale by inhabitants.) In 1880, Verbeek
investigated a fresh unweathered lava flow at the northern coast of
Perboewatan, which could not have been more than two centuries old.
Visit by HMS Discovery
In February 1780 the crews of HMS Resolution (1771) and
HMS Discovery (1774), on the way home after Captain James
Cook's death in Hawaiʻi, stopped for a few days on Krakatoa. They
found two springs on the island, one fresh water and the other hot.
They described the natives who then lived on the island as "friendly"
and made several sketches. (In his journal,
John Ledyard calls the
Visit by USS Peacock
Edmund Roberts calls the island Crokatoa in his journal. A paraphrased
account follows: On 8 September 1832, US sloop-of war Peacock anchored
off the north end, also visiting Long Island, in search of
inhabitants, fresh water, and yams. It was found difficult to effect a
landing anywhere, owing to a heavy surf and to the coral having
extended itself to a considerable distance from the shore. Hot springs
boiling furiously up, through many fathoms of water, were found on the
eastern side of Krakatoa, 150 feet from the shore. Roberts, Captain
Geisinger, and marine Lieutenant Fowler visited Forsaken island,
having mistaken the singing of locusts for the sound of running water.
The boat glided over crystal clear water, over an extensive and highly
beautiful submarine garden. Corals of every shape and hue were there;
some resembling sunflowers and mushrooms; others, cabbages from an
inch to three feet in diameter: while a third bore a striking likeness
to the rose. The hillsides were typical of tropical climate; large
flocks of parrots, monkeys in great variety, wild-mango and orange
groves—a superb scene of plants and flowers of every description,
glowing in vivid tints of purple, red, blue, brown, and green—but
not the so-much-needed supply of water and provisions.
In 1620 the Dutch set up a naval station on the islands and somewhat
later a shipyard was built. Sometime in the late 17th century an
attempt was made to establish a pepper plantation on
Krakatoa but the
islands were generally ignored by the Dutch East India Company. In
1809 a penal colony was established at an unspecified location, which
was in operation for about a decade. By the 1880s the islands were
without permanent inhabitants; the nearest settlement was the nearby
Sebesi (about 12 km away) with a population of 3,000.
Several surveys and mariners' charts were made, and the islands were
little explored or studied. An 1854 map of the islands was used in an
English chart, which shows some difference from a Dutch chart made in
1874. In July 1880, Rogier Verbeek, made an official survey of the
islands but he was only allowed to spend a few hours there. He was
able to collect samples from several places, and his investigation
proved important in judging the geological impact of the 1883
Main article: 1883 eruption of Krakatoa
Two-thirds of the original
Krakatoa Island was obliterated by the 1883
Evolution of the islands around
Krakatoa from 1880 to 2005. Note the
continuing growth of Anak
Krakatoa after the 1883 event.
While seismic activity around the volcano was intense in the years
preceding the cataclysmic 1883 eruption, a series of lesser eruptions
began on May 20, 1883. The volcano released huge plumes of steam and
ash lasting until late August.
On August 27 a series of four huge explosions almost entirely
destroyed the island. The explosions were so violent that they were
heard 3,110 km (1,930 mi) away in Perth, Western Australia,
and the island of
Rodrigues near Mauritius, 4,800 km
(3,000 mi) away. The pressure wave from the final explosion
was recorded on barographs around the world. Several barographs
recorded the wave seven times over the course of five days: four times
with the wave travelling away from the volcano to its antipodal point,
and three times travelling back to the volcano.:63 Hence, the wave
rounded the globe three and a half times. Ash was propelled to a
height of 80 km (50 mi). The sound of the eruption was so
loud it was reported that if anyone was within ten miles (16 km),
they would have gone deaf.
The combined effects of pyroclastic flows, volcanic ashes, and
tsunamis had disastrous results in the region and worldwide. The death
toll recorded by the Dutch authorities was 36,417, although some
sources put the estimate at more than 120,000. There are numerous
documented reports of groups of human skeletons floating across the
Indian Ocean on rafts of volcanic pumice and washing up on the east
coast of Africa up to a year after the eruption. Average global
temperatures fell by as much as 1.2 degrees Celsius in the year
following the eruption. Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for
years and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888.
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (October 2016)
Verbeek, in his report on the eruption, predicted that any new
activity would manifest itself in the region which had been between
Perboewatan and Danan. This prediction came true on 29 December 1927,
when a submarine lava dome in the area of
Perboewatan showed evidence
of eruptions (an earlier event in the same area had been reported in
June 1927). A new island volcano rose above the waterline a few days
later. The eruptions were initially of pumice and ash, and that island
and the two islands that followed were quickly eroded away by the sea.
Eventually a fourth island named
Anak Krakatau broke water in August
1930 and produced lava flows faster than the waves could erode them.
These new islands are of considerable interest to volcanologists, and
have been the subject of extensive study.
Volcanic activity at Anak Krakatau, 2008
2010: The thick brown plume of ash, steam and volcanic gas rising from
Anak Krakatau in this true-colour satellite image is a common sight at
"Anak Krakatoa" in 2007
An eruption in summer 1999
An eruption in 2008
Anak Krakatau has grown at an average rate of five inches (13 cm)
per week since the 1950s. This equates to an average growth of 6.8
meters per year. The island is still active, with its most recent
eruptive episode having begun in 1994. Quiet periods of a few days
have alternated with almost continuous Strombolian eruptions since
Hot gases, rocks, and lava were released in an eruption in April 2008.
Scientists monitoring the volcano have warned people to stay out of a
3 km zone around the island. Several videos of
YouTube show recent footage of eruptions and of the inside of the
crater as seen from the rim of the volcano.
On 6 May 2009, the Volcanological Survey of
Indonesia raised the
eruption alert status of
Anak Krakatau to Level III. A recent
expedition to the volcano has revealed that a 100-meter
(330-foot)-wide lava dome is growing in its crater. The dome has two
active vents that eject incandescent gas.
The islands have become a major case study of island biogeography and
founder populations in an ecosystem being built from the ground up in
an environment virtually cleaned.
The islands had been little studied or biologically surveyed before
the 1883 catastrophe—only two pre-1883 biological collections are
known: one of plant specimens and the other part of a shell
collection. From descriptions and drawings made by the HMS Discovery,
the flora appears to have been representative of a typical Javan
tropical climax forest. The pre-1883 fauna is virtually unknown but
was probably typical of the smaller islands in the area.
From a biological perspective, the Krakatau problem refers to the
question of whether the islands were completely sterilized by the 1883
eruption or whether some indigenous life survived. When the first
researchers reached the islands in May 1884, the only living thing
they found was a spider in a crevice on the south side of Rakata. Life
quickly recolonized the islands, however; Verbeek's visit in October
1884 found grass shoots already growing. The eastern side of the
island has been extensively vegetated by trees and shrubs, presumably
brought there as seeds washed up by ocean currents or carried in
birds' droppings (or brought by natives and scientific investigators).
It is, however, in a somewhat fragile position, and the vegetated area
has been badly damaged by recent eruptions.
A German, Johann Handl, obtained a permit to mine pumice in October
1916. His lease of 8.7 square kilometres (3.4 sq mi)
(basically the eastern half of the island), was to be for
30 years. He occupied the south slope of
Rakata from 1915 to
1917, when he left due to "violation of the terms of the lease."
(According to Winchester, Handl arrived in 1917 and stayed there for
four years.) Handl built a house and planted a garden with "4 European
families and about 30 coolies". It is his party that is believed to
have inadvertently introduced the black rat to the island. Handl found
unburned wood below the 1883 ash deposits while digging, and fresh
water was found below 18 feet (5.5 m).
Krakatoa documentary and historical materials
Krakatoa featured in 100-rupiah banknote
In 2004, an astronomer proposed the idea that the blood-red sky shown
in Edvard Munch's famous 1893 painting
The Scream is believed to be an
accurate depiction of the sky over
Norway after the eruption.
A large part of the 1947 children's novel
The Twenty-One Balloons
The Twenty-One Balloons by
William Pene du Bois takes place on Krakatoa, where several families
have established a wealthy and fanciful colony based on fictional
diamond mines on the island.
Krakatoa has been featured as a subject and a part of the story in
various television and film dramas. In the 1953 film Fair Wind to
Java, an American sea captain and a pirate leader race one another to
recover a fortune in diamonds hidden on Krakatoa, which begins its
final eruption as they search the island for the treasure. The
island was a prominent part of the plot of '"Crack of Doom," an
episode of the
Irwin Allen television series
The Time Tunnel
The Time Tunnel in 1966.
It was also featured as the main part of the story line in the 1969
film, Krakatoa, East of
Volcano in a re-release in the
1970s), which depicts an effort to salvage a priceless cargo of pearls
located perilously close to the erupting volcano. An Indonesian
martial arts action film, Krakatau (1977), starring Dicky Zulkarnaen
and Advent Bangun, also set the story on the mountain. In more recent
years, it has been the subject of a 2006 television drama, Krakatoa:
Volcano of Destruction and again in 2008 as Krakatoa.
In Klaus Teuber's board game Seafarers of Catan, the "Krakatoa
Variant" is a scenario involving an island composed of three volcano
List of volcanic eruptions by death toll
List of volcanoes in Indonesia
^ Dunk, Marcus (2009-07-31). "Will
Krakatoa rock the world again?".
London: Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
^ Breining, Greg (2007). "The Deadliest Volcanoes". Super Volcano: The
Ticking Time Bomb Beneath Yellowstone National Park. Voyageur Press.
p. 256. ISBN 978-0-7603-2925-2.
^ Hopkinson, Deborah (January 2004). "The
Volcano That Shook the
Krakatoa 1883". 11 (4). New York: Storyworks: 8.
^ a b "How
Krakatoa made the biggest bang". London: The Independent.
2006-05-03. Archived from the original on 2007-04-27. Retrieved
^ "Anak Krakatau". Retrieved 2011-11-10.
^ a b "Krakatau". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian
^ Winchester 2003, p. 27.
^ Note:The main theories are:
Onomatopoeia, imitating the noise made by cockatoos (Kakatoes) which
used to inhabit the island. However, Van den Berg points out that
these birds are found only in the "eastern part of the archipelago"
(meaning the Lesser Sundas, east of Java, on the other side of the
Wallace Line).
Sanskrit karka or karkata or karkataka, meaning "lobster" or
Rakata also means "crab" in the older Javan language.) This
is considered[by whom?] the most likely origin.
The closest Malay word is kelakatu, meaning "white-winged ant".
Furneaux points out that in pre-1883 maps,
Krakatoa does somewhat
resemble an ant seen from above, with Lang and
Verlaten lying to the
sides like wings.
Van den Berg (1884) recites a story that Krakatau was the result of a
linguistic error. According to the legend, a visiting ship's captain
asked a local inhabitant the island's name, and the latter replied,
"Kaga tau" (Aku enggak tahu)—a Jakartan/Betawinese slang phrase
meaning "I don't know". This story is largely discounted; it closely
resembles other linguistic myths about the origin of the word kangaroo
and the name of the Yucatán Peninsula.
^ Note: This spelling has been attributed to a sub-editor at The Times
(who may have typographically swapped the 'a' and 'o' of the
Portuguese spelling) interpreting telegraphic reporting on the massive
eruption of 1883.
^ Winchester 2003, p. 183.
^ "Volcanoes of Indonesia". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian
Institution. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
^ Note: apparently because it looked like a hat from the sea
^ Note: The dating of these events is currently unknown. The Sunda
Strait was first mentioned by Arab sailors circa 1100.
^ "Krakatau version 1.0, Part 2". The Anthropogene. 2003-11-11.
Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
^ a b Wohletz KH, 2000, Were the Dark Ages triggered by
volcano-related climate changes in the 6th century? EOS Trans Amer
Geophys Union 48(890), F1305.
^ a b Thornton, Ian (1997). Krakatau: the destruction and reassembly
of an island ecosystem (1st ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press. ISBN 978-0674505728.
^ Note: Vogel returned to Amsterdam in 1688 and published the first
edition of his journal in 1690.
^ Winchester 2003, pp. 132–133.
^ Note: Historians Van den Berg and Verbeek both conclude that Vogel
must have exaggerated the extent of the eruption he saw. Even so,
there must have been an eruption around this time.
^ Roberts, Edmund (October 12, 2007) . "Chapter III; Arrival at
Crokatoa and Forsaken Islands". Embassy to the Eastern courts of
Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat : in the U. S. sloop-of-war
Peacock ... during the years 1832-3-4. Harper & brothers. Digital
^ a b Symons, G.J. (ed) ''The Eruption of
Krakatoa and Subsequent
Phenomena'' (Report of the
Krakatoa Committee of the Royal Society).
London, 1888. Archive.org. 2008-04-01. Retrieved 2015-05-05.
^ Winchester 2003, pp. 154–166.
^ "Indonesia's Krakatau roars, dazzles with fireworks".
2007-11-11. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
Krakatoa from safer distance". YouTube. Retrieved
^ "Krakatau". YouTube. 2010-11-01. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
^ "VSI Alert". Volcanological Survey of Indonesia. Archived from the
original on 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
^ Wilson, Edward. O. (1999). The Diversity of Life. New York, NY: W.
W. Norton & Company. p. 425.
^ Backer, Cornell's Andries (1929). The Problem of Krakatau, as Seen
by a Botanist. author, at Weltevreden, Java.
Reuters (11 December 2003). "
Krakatoa provided backdrop to Munch's
scream". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 15 November 2010. ;
Reuters (10 December 2003). "Why the sky was red in Munch's 'The
Scream'". CNN. Retrieved 15 November 2010. ; Panek, Richard (8
February 2004). "'The Scream,' East of Krakatoa". New York Times.
Retrieved 15 November 2010.
^ tcm.com Fair Wind to
Java (1953) Overview
Krakatoa Bay". Catan Maps. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
Alfred, E. & Seward, A.C.; The New
Flora of the Volcanic Island of
Krakatau, (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009,
Dickins, Rosie; The Children's Book of Art (An introduction to famous
paintings) Usborne Publishing Ltd., Usborne House, 83–85 Saffron
Hill, London ISBN 978-0-439-88981-0 (2005)
Krakatoa Secker and Warburg, London (1965)
Self, Stephen; Rampino, Michael R. (1981). "The 1883 eruption of
Krakatau". Nature. 294 (5843): 699–704. Bibcode:1981Natur.294..699S.
Simkin, Tom and Richard S. Fiske (editors); Krakatau, 1883—the
volcanic eruption and its effects
Smithsonian Institution Press,
Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-87474-841-0 (1983)
Symons, G.J. (ed); The Eruption of
Krakatoa and Subsequent Phenomena
(Report of the
Krakatoa Committee of the Royal Society) London (1888)
Thornton, Ian; Krakatau: The Destruction and Reassembly of an Island
Verbeek, R. D. M. (1884). "The
Krakatoa eruption". Nature. 30 (757):
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Verbeek, Rogier Diederik Marius; Krakatau Batavia (1885)
Winchester, Simon (2003). Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August
27, 1883. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-621285-5.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Krakatoa.
1883 Eruption of Krakatau from the United States Geological Survey's
Indonesia (1883) – information from San Diego State
University about the 1883 eruption
Krakatoa – The Great Volcanic Eruption on
YouTube – "Naked
Bani, Philipson; Normier, Adrien; Bacri, Clémentine; Allard, Patrick;
Gunawan, Hendra; Hendrasto, Muhammad; Surono; Tsanev, Vitchko (2015),
"First measurement of the volcanic gas output from Anak Krakatau,
Indonesia", Journal of
Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 302:
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