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Ned Middleton (British professional underwater photo-journalist & author)
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Titanic's Predecessor: The S/S Norge Disaster of 1904
Titanic's Predecessor: The S/S Norge Disaster of 1904
by Per Kristian Sebak
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 45.19
9 used & new from CDN$ 19.70

2.0 étoiles sur 5 A tale of two bear traps!, July 9 2014
On 22 June 1904, the Danish steamship Norge departed Copenhagen for New York with 700 emigrants and 80 crew on board. Six days later the ship struck Rockall and sank with the loss of 650 lives. That ship, however, was not the Titanic's predecessor in any way, shape or form. The Norge displaced 3,318 tons and the Titanic weighed-in at 46,329. The only similarities between each account is, therefore, the tragedy of it all which, sadly, was nothing new. Almost every year for over 100 years before the Titanic was launched, passengers were failing to survive that transatlantic journey. In 1854 the SS Arctic went down with 322 persons, the Atlantic of 1873 accounted for another 560 lives and the Naronic (they had a thing about ship's names ending with `ic') of 1893 disappeared completely with 74 people on board.

Whereas we need every one of these stories to be fully researched and properly documented in book form, the very tragic nature of each event demands all authors do justice to those who did not survive. The sinking of the Norge - with such a huge death toll deserves its own original approach so that the resultant account will stand apart from all others.

It is an unfortunate fact that all the mystique which previously surrounded the most famous shipwreck in history was totally destroyed in 1997 by a Hollywood film which added unecessary fiction to the real event. There are even those who truly believe that necklace actually exists! I have no idea how many lost ships are openly billed as being this country's or region's Titanic - because they are countless. One book, for example, claims the Waratah as Africa's Titanic and another insists that same title applies to the Le Joola - when both accounts are very wide of the mark. Even within the scuba-diving industry all manner of shipwrecks are described as the `local Titanic' - one of which is nothing more than a sunken Tugboat!

In reality, comparisons may be found between a humble rowing boat and an aircraft-carrier once the broadest parameters are set. With disasters at sea, therefore, there are as many or as few as you wish to make - when all that was needed was an original approach to an original event. This ship was different because it was the Norge (and not any other!), the passengers were different, the crew was different, the problems were different, the course was different and instead of hitting an iceberg she struck a famous isolated rock - now that was different! All that originality becomes the very cornerstone for compelling reading which, in this instance, must be regarded as a great opportunity lost. By falling short in this basic duty of care, the author fails those whose story he seeks to tell. They deserved better - because they were all part of that same tragedy and, therefore, earned it. By getting it so wrong, all that research is wasted because, as with the Titanic, we cannot now know how much fiction is mixed in with the facts.

My own indelible impression from this work is of an author who undertook a great deal of serious research before committing everything to print. At some point, however, he fell into two huge bear traps. The first was that wretched comparison - where none at all was needed. The second appears to be a reliance on data which does not stand up to close scrutiny because it was not checked and then double-checked! With research, there are sources one can trust and others one simply can't. Might I suggest, therefore, the book be rewritten by removing every single reference to the Titanic and everything else which is not fully confirmed as accurate. Such a move will ensure those of us who understand and study shipwrecks (its what we do!) will look again at this work through fresh eyes and probably regard the fruits of such labour as worthy of full marks.

NM

Burning Cold: The Cruiseship Prinsendam and the Greatest Sea Rescue of All Time
Burning Cold: The Cruiseship Prinsendam and the Greatest Sea Rescue of All Time
by H. Paul P Jeffers
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.35

1.0 étoiles sur 5 Either you have or you do not!, July 9 2014
A writer must have serious misgivings about both his subject and his style of writing if; (A) he has to liken the loss of the cruise-ship Prinsendam to that of the Titanic (“Oh not again!” I hear you say with barely concealed yawns) and (B) compare his own abilities (or not) with pen to those of another by claiming; “told in the hour-by-hour style of Walter Lord’s classic Titanic narrative, A Night to remember…” Both of which become nothing more than a bright red emergency turn-off switch. Either you have a story about a ship which is worth telling - in its own right, or you do not. Either you have a style of writing - all of your own, or you do not.

Completed in 1973, the cruise-ship Prinsendam was built in Holland with a maximum carrying capacity of 350 passengers and 200 crew. On 4 October 1980, with 520 persons on board, she was cruising off Alaska when a fire broke out in the engine room. The flames spread quickly and, within an hour, calls for assistance were sent out. A number of US and Canadian ships and aircraft responded and, in a remarkable feat of rescue - during which helicopters were refuelled in mid-air, all 520 persons on board that ship were safely rescued before the vessel finally sank in deep water. There is, of course, a lot more to this story although much of that detail is missing from this account!

If I might put that loss into a global context (albeit with figures which commence five years later); Between 1985 and 2010 (26 years inclusive), 177 cruise-liners ceased active cruising. 107 of these ships were scrapped because they were in such poor shape they could no longer put to sea - even though all had recently been carrying hundreds of passengers… 18 of the remainder were lost because they sank. Another 19 were lost to fire. Two ran aground, one capsized, one broke in two at anchor, one was abandoned, two are ‘fate unknown’ and two became floating hotels. 24 changed their role to become freighters, passenger-ships or ferries - in third world countries where safety regulations are not so strict. (That’s OK then!) Put another way; an average of 7 ships every year ceased cruising. Of these, 23.7% (almost one in four!!!) came to an unfortunate end through sinking, fire or simply falling apart. I wonder how many of these were compared to the Titanic at the time!

The only parallels between the Prinsendam and that more famous disaster of 1912 are; ship, sea and cold water. Nevertheless, this writer insists on drawing such comparisons at every given opportunity - with several such references appearing on the book’s cover. The content itself recounts part of the story of the loss of the Prinsendam in a dry and unimaginative style written from an almost disinterested viewpoint – almost as though the writer was an alien observing human behaviour without compassion.

As a shipwreck historian I have been engaged in the study of lost passenger-carrying vessels throughout history for some years as part of an ongoing project. Whenever possible I also photograph wrecks underwater (it’s what I do). Whereas such visits are always exciting, each individual history is often as equally enthralling. The ship, the people, the cargo, the route, the next port of call and who knows who or what might be encountered around that next corner or over that next wave. But none of that is found here. Instead we have a poorly written story of a lost ship padded out with peripheral information about the discovery of gold in 1880 which has no place here. Just to seal that disappointment, the few images which are included are of very poor quality.

Altogether, therefore, one must look elsewhere for an illuminating account of the loss of this ship.

NM

Hijacking: Lessons in the Politics and Prejudice of Terrorism
Hijacking: Lessons in the Politics and Prejudice of Terrorism
by Michael K. Bohn
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 2.98

5.0 étoiles sur 5 You will not be disappointed!, July 8 2014
On 7 October 1985, a small group of Palestinians seized control of the cruise-liner Achille Lauro off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. Taking the passengers and crew hostage, they were demanding the release of fifty Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Having ordered the ship to Syria, they were refused entry into the port of Tartus. After two days of negotiations, the hijackers agreed to leave the liner in return for safe passage to Tunisia. The only casualty had been US passenger Leon Klinghoffer who had been killed by one of their number. Their aircraft, however, was forced to land in Sicily where the group were arrested, tried and various jail sentences imposed. Although unrelated, on 2 December 1994, the ship caught fire off the coast of Somalia during a cruise and sank.

As mentioned elsewhere, I am currently engaged in a huge project concerning passenger and cruise ships throughout history. It is a daunting venture. To date, my studies have taken me far and wide in addition to having obtained a number of relevant books. Sadly, far too many of these suffer from an increasingly common malaise whereby wannabe authors look no further than the Internet as the all-singing, all-dancing source of information. Apart from an overall lack of accuracy, the only skills displayed are an ability to tell the difference between a right and left ‘click of the mouse.’

I mention this in the hope of clearly demonstrating how good this book really is. It is an important account for which the author deserves great credit. It is as exceptional for the detailed research as it is for being a darned good read. The fact that it was Michael Bohn’s his first-ever book is also worthy of equal praise. By producing such a high-quality page turner, we are finally provided with a complete account of what really happened - including all the political intrigue of the day. Alongside that ‘depth of understanding’ of the subject itself, we also find an author who fully appreciates the complexities of research - seemingly having accessed just about every conceivable source. And that is no mean feat!

Research is hard work. It is a lonely, laborious task requiring the identification of all sources of relevant information in additional to possessing a working knowledge of whatever filing/index systems are employed by the many museums, libraries, archives, records offices and private collections which may exist. Little wonder, therefore, that those without either the skills or the inclination are incapable of matching works such as this for sheer quality and readability.

Put simply, if you want to know what happened in 1985, look no further. And, if you want a darned good read into the bargain - treat yourself. You will not be disappointed!

NM

Last Dance of the Vestris: With a Foreword by Commodore Ronald W. Warwick
Last Dance of the Vestris: With a Foreword by Commodore Ronald W. Warwick
by Clint Olivier
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 13.82
14 used & new from CDN$ 11.18

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Let down by dirty boots!, July 6 2014
On 10 November 1928, the 10,000 ton cargo-liner Vestris departed New York for Barbados and Buenos Aires. Under command of Captain W. J. Carey, she had 128 passengers and 197 crew on board. Within 24 hours, the ship encountered the heaviest possible weather and at about 1930 hrs 11 November was struck by two waves of incredible size in quick succession. Two lifeboats were washed away and part of the cargo and bunker coal shifted causing a severe permanent list. The ship now began to take on water at such a rate the pumps were unable to cope.

By daybreak, Captain Carey recognised his ship was in poor shape but refused to send out an SOS message until 0945 hrs. Almost immediately, his work force of firemen (stokers) came on deck and refused to return to their posts. Whereas the engineers attempted to carry out the requisite tasks, the list continued to increase and they too had to stop as well. Without power, Carey had no option but to abandon ship - shortly after which the Vestris rolled over and sank.

On arrival, the rescue ships had great difficulty in finding the lifeboats due to the reduced visibility and high sea sate. Eventually, however, a small number of vessels, including the USS Wyoming, rescued 215 persons between them. The remaining 110 were all lost.

This particular account of the loss of the Vestris suffers from three main problems. Firstly, in a work first published in 2013 (85 years after the event), there is little or nothing which might be described as `new' information. Secondly, the writing style gets bogged down with trivia - especially when it comes to numbers, and would have benefitted considerably from a professional publisher's input. Finally, the text is reproduced on poor quality paper which, although fine for words is wholly unsuitable for images and the B&W pictures, such as they are, appear amongst that text on the same quality paper.

Altogether, therefore, the fact that the book is self-published screams from every page and, in so doing, fails to support all the effort which must have been put into the work in the first instance - in much the same way as the most smartly dressed soldier on parade will always be let down by dirty boots. Whenever that happens, he might just as well not have bothered with all the rest!

NM

Fastest to Canada: From Govan to Gallipoli
Fastest to Canada: From Govan to Gallipoli
by Richard Oliff
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 5.14

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 As complete a work as one might hope to find!, July 5 2014
The passenger liner Royal Edward was built in Glasgow in 1906 and employed between Bristol and Canada until the outbreak of WW1. On 13 August 1915, the ship was acting as an auxiliary troop transport during the Gallipoli campaign when she was torpedoed and sunk by U15 under command of Lt. von Heimburg. Of all the records this ship had accumulated and might have gone on to achieve during her lifetime, she became the first troopship lost to enemy action in the 20th Century.

Lt. von Heimburg remained on site and viewed the sinking and subsequent rescue via periscope and, unlike some of his fellow commanders made no attempt to interfere. Fewer than 500 of the 1,366 troops and 220 crew who were on board the ship survived.

Richard Oliff’s great uncle was one of those casualties and it is from the book’s dedication we first learn how it was his grandmother who inspired the research which led to this work.

Throughout the 20th Century many of the world’s greatest ships (and many more which were not so great) were lost in times of war and peace. Tracing the history of each vessel to come under the microscope of serious research is often such a difficult and onerous task it leads to much being published which either true or false. Happily, in this instance, Oliff deserves much credit for the way in which he has tackled the subject matter and I have learned much that I did not previously know about this ship.

Most important of all, perhaps, the style of writing turns almost every little ‘aside’ into another interesting element of the entire story. As an example, after the ship has departed on her final journey, he writes; “Coincidentally, the day after the Royal Edward was spotted rounding the most western point of England, my father was born in the village of Great Burstead….”

Fully supported with an equally fascinating collection of historic images of people, places and, of course, ships, this is as complete a work on a single ship as one might hope to find.

NM

Dreadnought ,by Massie, Robert K. ( 1992 ) Paperback
Dreadnought ,by Massie, Robert K. ( 1992 ) Paperback
by Robert K. Massie
Edition: Paperback
2 used & new from CDN$ 38.77

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An epic of immense proportions., July 4 2014
It was the First World War - known at that time as "The Great War" which changed Britain and Europe forever. As the Generals on both sides sent millions of men to their deaths in the carnage which they regarded as warfare, there came about a change in the psyche of the British male - a change which would herald a complete alteration in the way he thought and acted towards those of the upper, ruling classes. No longer would that British male be so quick to use such words as "M'Lord" or even "Sir." No longer would he doff his cap as a mark of respect, no longer would the ordinary police Constable be so quick to "arrest that man" just because a well dressed person had ordered him so to do.

That change in British Society continues to this day and is easily traced back to the feelings of loss and despair which came with the realisation that far too many young men had died "at the front" - even though the war itself had been won and mainland Britain had escaped unscathed.

In this epic tale, author Robert Massie delves deep into why that war occurred in the first place. Every single aspect of argument and behaviour on both sides (both military and political) is exposed and analysed. As the title of the book would suggest, the theme is the world's first great arms race. When Britain produced the first Dreadnought Battleship it rendered all other battleships obsolete at a stroke (including the remainder of the British Fleet!). From that moment onwards it was always a question of who could produce the most new Dreadnoughts in the quickest possible time. Set against this wish by both Britain and Germany to be seen as the world's supreme masters of the seas was a political intrigue which few have been able to commit to print in such a masterly fashion as is found in this book.

In short, this is one of the greatest books of our time. It is also a damn fine read.

NM

PASSENGER SHIPS OF THE ORIENT LINE
PASSENGER SHIPS OF THE ORIENT LINE
by NEIL MCCART
Edition: Hardcover
14 used & new from CDN$ 35.62

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 My faith was restored!, July 3 2014
For some time now, I have been studying the history of passenger-ships as part of a large project with which I am currently involved. Researching ships and shipwrecks is what I do and this was one of a number of books purchased for that reason. Each new acquisition comes to the top of the pile in no particular order and, having just finished a wretchedly appalling so-called history of P&O Cruises (which was nothing more than blatant advertising for Carnival Cruises!), I was still a little angry when I picked up this book which just happened to be next. Almost immediately, my faith was restored.

Created in 1878, the Orient Line soon became the preferred shipping company for European travel to Australia and the Far East. With a reputation for comfort and quality, the company operated 31 vessels before merging with P&O in 1960.

In this carefully and skilfully produced work, the very history of the Orient Line is told through those ships, including the hardships of two world wars. Appearing in date order, each vessel is described with all the technical data and full career narrative. The Ophir of 1891, for example, spent part of her time as the official `Royal Yacht' - although it might seem almost impossible that such relatively low-profile ship had sufficient room for that huge and very beautiful first-class dining saloon. Elsewhere, a photograph of the Otranto signed by the entire Australian cricket team of the day adds another dimension to the life-time of a ship which had two serious collisions before settling down to complete over 30 years loyal service. My own favourite, however, will always remain the Orcades - but then I did have a model of that ship when I was a boy.

Not only is this an excellent work, it is also a clear demonstration of how the history of any shipping line should be written a reproduced. The author has an engaging style of writing and the entire product is lavishly illustrated with B&W historic images. One can ask for no more!

NM

Crossing & Cruising: From the Golden Era of Ocean Liners to the Luxury Cruise Ships of Today
Crossing & Cruising: From the Golden Era of Ocean Liners to the Luxury Cruise Ships of Today
by John Maxtone-Graham
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 7.97

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 May your ancestors now rest easy., June 30 2014
As a shipwreck historian (it's what I do) I study ships of all types and sizes. Currently engaged on a huge project involving the history of passenger-ships, my never-ending quest for information in recent years has favoured that particular genre. Although published in 1992, I came to this work because of the sub-title which reads; "From the golden era of ocean liners to the luxury cruise ships of today" in the expectation of finding an historical treatise on the subject. It is no such thing.

This is the third work by Maxtone-Graham to cross my desk recently and each of these informs the reader he is the quintessential expert, the fount of all knowledge, the very sage itself - when it comes to the subject of big passenger-ships. Instead of learning anything of real value, however, his writing might easily be described as the perfunctory outpourings of those back-room people who are paid to produce promotional literature. The sort of people who are employed to make a company look good, make defeat look like a victory and annihilation like a temporary setback. In this particular book, we are subjected to a no-holds-barred view through the rosiest of tinted spectacles of how good cruising is and nothing else.

Whereas he does occasionally mention yesterday, he does so in a style which does not seek to teach the reader of the historical context or of the technology of the day. Instead it centres on the hardships and privations of the steerage-class passenger which is then used as a platform for returning to his self-appointed theme of how good it is today. Were he selling the product it would amount to subliminal advertising.

There is a lot which is right with cruising and cruise-ships and much that is very wrong. From this work, however, we are subjected to an annoyingly sycophantic repetition of preaching from the pulpit of big ship travel in which the author extols the benefits of how good cruising is now when compared to how bad it was then. It is a message which almost demands the reader partake in a modern cruise just so that their ancestors may now rest easy...

I am mindful of the publication date of 1992 when providing the following statistics - which I have readily to hand. Similar figures for the 26 years to 1992 would take far too long to produce. Nevertheless, the message is clear.

What you will not learn from this book is anything similar to the following: Between 1985 and 2010 (26 years inclusive), 177 cruise-liners are listed as having `retired' from active cruising and you may judge the associated statistics for yourself. 107 of these ships were broken up (i.e. scrapped) at the end of their lives. These were all in poor shape and could not be used at sea any more and yet, had all recently been carrying hundreds of passengers. 18 of the remainder were lost because they sank. Another 19 were lost to fire - with three of those also sinking. Two ran aground, one capsized, one broke in two at anchor, one was abandoned, two are shown as `fate unknown' and 26 are recorded as having changed their role. Of the latter, two became floating hotels but most of the remainder became freighters, passenger-ships or ferries - mostly in third world countries where the requisite safety regulations are not so strict. That's OK then! A swift analysis reveals: An average of 7 ships every year ceased operating as cruise-ships. Of these, 23.7% (almost one in four!!!) came to an unfortunate end through sinking, fire or simply falling apart. Although there were four years in which no vessel was lost to accident or misfortune, there were seven when at least three met a very tragic end.

These statistics are deliberately included in order to redress the extremely biased, one-sided, pleasant-dreamy-eyed view of cruising in this lengthy piece of promotional blurb.

NM

Clydebank Battlecruisers: Forgotten Photographs from John Brown's Shipyard
Clydebank Battlecruisers: Forgotten Photographs from John Brown's Shipyard
by Ian Johnston
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 41.53
19 used & new from CDN$ 36.55

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Where many of the images leap from the page., June 28 2014
This photo-led work is an excellent compilation of images from John Brown’s shipyard on Clydebank. Whereas I never tire of looking at such historic photos, there are ships and there are ships and those depicted in this book rank amongst some of the greatest warships ever built. The five Battlecruisers built by John Brown’s are detailed in the order; Inflexible (24 pages), Australia (26), Tiger (28), Repulse (32) and the Mighty Hood (56). These are followed by an overview of the G3 contract which was cancelled in 1922. The book then concludes with 10 Appendices, Sources & Bibliography and Index.

Taking the Inflexible as an example of the way in which each subject vessel is tackled, we find the complete story of this ship in between images of the highest possible calibre. Bearing in mind the book’s full title, these photographs show almost every conceivable angle and feature. Four triple-blade propellers, twin rudders, stem, hull and so much more are shown in a series of pre-launch pictures which even include one of her steam launch. After her launch, we find photographs which include; deck views, amidships, aft section, stem, boat stowage, workmen taking a break on the foc’sle deck, bridge, turrets, the two starboard 125 cwt Wasteney Smith stockless anchors close up to the hawse pipes, upper control platforms, weapons, aft funnel, boat deck, steam siren, searchlight, ratings asleep below decks, refrigeration plant, Admiral’s cabin and a number of ship portraits both steaming at full power, stopped in the water. The other vessels mentioned are given the same treatment with even more images per ship.

From this selection of previously unpublished images one begins to gain an appreciation of the amount of work which went into the three year building and fitting-out process for such weapons of war. That detail is then made all the more interesting by the inclusion of sufficient text to whet the appetite and, although not exhaustive, answer most of the questions one might have.

Altogether, this is an excellent product where many of the images simply leap from the page.

NM

Cross Channel and Short Sea Ferries: An Illustrated History
Cross Channel and Short Sea Ferries: An Illustrated History
by Ambrose Greenway
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 53.11
15 used & new from CDN$ 30.44

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 There is a lot more here than just British ferries., June 28 2014
Throughout my work as a shipwreck historian (it’s what I do!), I find many gaps in published material. The ferries which ply the English Channel and other short routes around Britain, for example, are often overlooked in favour of more glamorous vessels. This work seeks to redress that balance and is another excellent publication from Seaforth Publishing in which we find some 300 images of the ferries of yesterday. I never tire of looking at photos of historic ships and I now have a whole new selection to study at my leisure. With 2 or 3 B&W images on almost every pages, this is a book which takes the reader on a journey through time to the early 1970s in which it explains the cross-channel steamer and ferry in marvellous detail.

Leaving the ‘Introduction’ until last, the book is thoughtfully divided into 10 chapters which take the reader from the earliest vessels right through to 1971 - where the book completes its journey. The chapter headings are self-explanatory as follows; (1) Early Paddle Steamers and Experimental Vessels, (2) Screw begins to Challenger Paddle, (3) From Paddle to Triple Expansion Engines, (4) Improved Steamers, (5) The Turbine Revolution, (6) Geared Turbines and WW1, (7) Diesel Debut, (8) The 1930s, (9) WW2 and Fleet Reconstruction and (10) The Final Years. Each of these commences with its own short preamble after which we find vessels listed by year - each with its own image and explanatory text.

It is, however, in the ‘Introduction’ where the entire subject is displayed in excellent fashion. The very concept of a ‘Cross-channel steamer’ is one which was born out of the geographical location of the UK and its close proximity to mainland Europe. Just as Mississippi riverboats are special to that river and Great Lakes steamers were developed for the conditions found there, each style of ship is different for very good reasons. Having explained the origins of the type of ship in question, we are then introduced to the many developments and variants which came about; railways, paddles, screws, turbines, WW1, hospital ships, armed boarding-ships, auxiliary mine-layers, mine-sweepers & net-layers, seaplane carriers, the inter-war period, motor-ships, WW2, troopships, hospital ships (another war!), infantry landing-ships, anti-aircraft ships, Axis-requisitioned ships, post-war reconstructions, final deliveries, last survivors, Wm Denny & Brothers and notes on ship design. And all that from 14 pages of Introduction.

The paddles - as mounted onto the sides of a ship, were complex items and the two engines required to turn those wheels required far more space than the single engine required for a propeller. As those original steam engines gave way to turbines and then diesel, we find an explanation of that process of evolution and further development put into the context of how, where and when it all happened. This allows the book to take on a whole new meaning and, therefore, importance, because of the ongoing additional educational element. In other words, there is a lot more here than just British ferries!

Whereas I was already aware of the significant changes in nautical propulsion systems - nowhere have I found the subject better explained than in this work and that makes it rather special!

NM

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