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tv   19th Century Whaling  CSPAN  December 19, 2020 11:20pm-12:01am EST

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[applause] ♪ >> seasons greetings from all of us at american history tv. >> during a period of the 19th century, nantucket off the coast of massachusetts was a hub for wailing around the world. peggy godwin of the nantucket historical association discusses the history of wailing and the
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impact it had on this tomorrow -- small island community. >> good evening everyone, welcome to the historical association's webinar on the excited toam very present this to you tonight, we have over 230 people participating which is shocking, we are just delighted. we are going to be talking tonight about what it was like on the whale hunt, this presentation will last about 20 minutes and after that i would be more than happy to take any questions that i hope i can answer for you, so i think we are about ready to begin. welcome. take out your map and look at it, see what a real corner of the world a occupies, those are the words of hermann melville in chapter 14 of moby dick. melville was talking about nantucket, our tiny little island 30 miles at sea about 15
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miles long. this little island became the whaling capital of the world, a major accomplishment for a place like nantucket. tonight we are going to go on the voyage of the edward kerry, this is going to be captained by carrie winslow and the boys 54-1858.rom 18 he is going to be accompanied on this voyage with his wife -- by his wife whose name is marianne and two of their children, mary and john will be joining on this voyage. here we have a young man whose name is joseph ray and joseph kept a journal throughout this voyage. a lot of the drawings that you will be seeing came from joseph ray. he was a 21-year-old nantucket boy hired to go out on the
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edward kerry and his job is to be -- that means that when they lowered the whale -- from the whaleship, joseph will be in the bow of the ship. he will first be using in order to help grow towards the whale, but when they approach, he will also be the person who will harpoon the whale. joseph joins the rest of the crew, and these are men from all over. there are men from buffalo, boston, nantucket of course because the captains and the mates are most likely from nantucket. there is also a man from the azores and that is edward -- as the edward kerry sailed all over the world, they would pick up sailors along the way. that will add to the diversity of the crew. the first whaling crews created the first meritocracy in the
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colonies, the and a young man who could prove his worth, could climb up the ladder and eventually achieve success on a whaling voyage. maybe become a mate, maybe even become a captain. pictured here we have -- boston who was the first african-american captain of a whaleship with an all-black crew. the edward kerry is going to -- 1854, thiswar, was a really emotional time when ships departed nantucket. most of the town would be waving goodbye. these men will be away from the town for four years, a really young -- long time to be away from your loved ones. voice, theticular edward kerry is going to go around the cape of good hope into the indian ocean and eventually into the pacific,
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hunting whales. bemarily they are going to looking for spur whales, why? why do they want to gets perm whales?- get sperm means large,c name full headed whale. when you look inside the head which makes a third of its body, you see this chamber and in that chamber are anywhere from 300-500 gallons of spermicide a the finest which was oil in the world. the qualities of the oil were really amazing, it had this viscosity which was very stable, it was not affected by cold temperatures or hot temperatures, it would stay the same, so i lighthouse -- the lighthouses of the world were lit with this oil. as were the streetlamps in
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northern cities, london and france, all over, so they were selling this oil all over the world. after all the will -- all the oil was refined was what was used to make candle products, they burn very brightly, very cleanly, they lasted a long time and actually the oil made such a huge difference in peoples lives because before they had this wonderful product, they had to go to bed when the sun went down , but now they could extend their day. wasmajority of the crew shares of -- there is a very cramped space at the forward part of the shape that ship. they would be sharing this area for a long time. it is very slimy, and is dark, it is dank, probably very smelly. that is where the mineral eat,
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sleep, tell stories, right in their journals, play cards, and it is probably filled with tobacco smoke and also infected with rats and roaches. some of the men will also be very homesick and also very seasick at the beginning of the voyage. this is the quarters for the captain and his family, and actually much nicer space and they actually -- also will get much better food than the men. when joseph ray has free time, he is going to spend a lot of time working on his journal. he illustrates it beautifully with sites that they see, ports that they stop in, and he also writes a lot and tells about missing home and reflections of what life was like on a whaling voyage. we are very fortunate to have all of his wonderful drawings
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that will give us a great picture of what life was like on board a whaling ship. believe me, it was not an easy life as you will see. on the deck is where the men are actually literally learning the ropes, they will be rigging the sales, sharpening the tools they use when they encounter the whales, coiling the line that is in the whale boats and attached to the harpoons and lances and they will be practicing in the whaleboat. they lower the whaleboat so they can learn how to maneuver these boats quickly, build up their muscles and build up their calluses on their hands because they would be doing a lot of rowing. another very important job was the lookout job, two men would climb the highest mast in the ship which was about 100 feet in the air, they would balance on crossbeams, and are surrounded by a metal hoop. back, eachnd back to
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one responsible for 180 degrees lookout. 100 feet up in the air and one of the mates -- they have had a long voyage, they have not seen a whale for a while, but all of a sudden, somebody spots ace whale.ale -- a sperm spout,ve a very distinct it blows out of the left side of their head at a 45 degree angle, so the mate up there says there she blows, she blows, and the captain who is down on the neck -- deck will say launch the whaleboat. everyman runs to his assigned whaleboat, the first thing they do is take off their shoes have verye whales sensitive sense of hearing and they do not want to make a lot of noise in these wooden whale boats. also they probably only owned one pair of shoes so they don't want to take any chances, so we
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have joseph up in the bow. he is using his big order to help steer, but as they approach boat header who is the officer in the stern will tell him to take -- put down his or and pick up his harpoon as they are nearing the whale or as they would say would to leather -- wood to leather. the harpoon does not kill the whale, however it does get his attention, so the whale will take off swimming as fast as he can go. maybe 10-15n swim miles per hour, so joseph is urging everybody on so he can now harpoon this whale. this wild ride they are on is called the nantucket sleigh ride , certainly the most exciting part of the whale hunt, but also very dangerous. some of the men are hanging on for dear life, others are coiling -- letting down the line as it goes around the head, some
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are bailing water out of the boat, this is an exciting but very dangerous time. eventually the whale will get very tired and when the whale starts to tire, they will pull in on the line again and get close to the whale again. now we have a switch in positions, the officer has moved to the bow and joseph has moved to the stern and now we have the officer who is going to use the lamp. he is the person will have the honor of actually killing the whale. the officer takes up his lance, he is going to aim for the heart and the lungs of the whale. those are the vital organs, the life of the whale. he will plunge in his lance may be all the way up to the hilt and then he will turn it around to do as much damage as you can, this was a horrible way for a whale today -- two die.
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once the whale has been lanced, everybody waits and they are waiting to see the whale spouting blood and they will yell out fire in the chimney, they know that a vital organ has been hit and they know that the whale is going to die. as soon as they know the whale is dying, they back away as fast as they can. a dying whale can go into a death flurry where they might so -- circle the boat many times, they can tip the boat over and all those men and up in the water. unfortunately, most of them did not know how to swim. the edward kerry has been fortunate -- unfortunate to come across a good size of wales, and whoever has caught the will has to get that whale back to the mothership. the mothership stays in one position and each whaleboat that has caught a whale needs to toe they are well back -- whale
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back. they could be three miles away, that would be three hours of rowing just to get back to the ship. you can imagine, they are carrying a very heavy whale. they can be anywhere from -- that the crewk could do a little rest, but not so, they immediately start the cutting in process. they lower a platform off the side of the ship and start the cutting in. one of the men will actually stand on the back of the whale and he has cleats in his shoes so he does not fall and the water where sharks might be circling. his job is to put a big hole in the top of the head, attach a to aook which is attached winch and they can start to peel away the blubber from the whale. these pieces of blubber that they are peeling away are called blanket pieces, they were about 15 feet long and they were in or enormouslyvy --
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heavy, so they would lay them on the deck with a winch and then these huge pieces go to the area where men used two handled knives to cut these huge pieces of rubber into smaller pieces -- blubber into smaller pieces. you can see them cutting them up into smaller pieces. those are called by believes -- bible leaves. the next thing they do is poke the intestines and stomach of the whale, they are looking for something very specific. whale's favorite food is squid and all squid have a corny beak, think about a parrots beak. that is indigestible and it can get lodged in the stomach or intestines of a whale and if that happens, the scar tissue forms around that began that -- ambs amber agree ergris, it has a very special
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use. inwas used as a ingredient fine perfumes, so i have a high monetary value. next, they cut off the head of the whale and let the rest of the carcass go and they bring the head onto the deck of the ship. to get a big hole in the top of the head and now they go after this valuable oil, bucket it out with many buckets and the youngest, smallest men on board who could be joseph ray is going to be ordered to strip down and lower himself with a bucket into the head of the whale to get every last drop of that very valuable oil. imagine how shocked he is. and lastly, they cut off the lower jaw of the whale because they are going to save those teeth. are eighte's teeth out of every and when they went out catching whales, the captain would distribute the teeth to the crew and then the men would
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take a tooth, sanded down, and they would carve or engrave into the tooth things they had seen on their voyage or some memory of home and they would fill in those carved lines with soot from the tower or dried ink and that was the art known as the sailors art. now it is time to clean up the deck in preparation for actually boiling down all the blubber. the ship's carpenter will get and they would put in these chunks of blubber. there will also be skin and tissue that will float up to the top and that would be skimmed off with a skimmer and added to the fire, they kept to fire going. long, arduous process, it could take up to 2-3 days in length, they just kept
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working 12 hour shifts. you can imagine that would be a oil and blubber in a slippery mess. actually very dangerous, the smell was dangerous -- horrendous. you can smell a nantucket ship that was drying out a whale miles away, so you could smell it way before you see it. the edward kerry has been quite lucky and they now have killed 35 whales and the captain says set sail for nantucket, so you can imagine these men are homeward bound, they are ready to go home. the first thing they do when they know that they are on their way home is a break apart the try works, they thrown overboard. they do not want the captain to be tempted to take anymore whale, they want to be sure they're on their way home.
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on their way home this time, they are now seasoned navigators and sailors and they go around the horn and they arrive in nantucket in 1858. and they offload all these barrels and casks of oil that they have accumulated. these will go to a refinery and candle factory for further processing. outlly, it is time to pay or tell the men what they have earned on this voyage. a captain and certainly a ship owner could become a wealthy man after just one whaling voyage, but someone like joseph, our boat stever will probably receive one 100th of the proceeds of the voyage and a oney seamen would receive 60th of the voyage.
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a wonderfulap such journal and told so many wonderful stories, it is really quite exciting to read. i will tell you about one of the adventures, when he talks about lecturing a fellow nantucket or -- a cry resounded throughout the ship, the wind blowing heavy, succeeded in reaching him as he was about to give up. he had a bucket under him which fortunately happens to go over at the same time. the name of the latter was samuel christian -- lad was samuel christian. 27,nother entry, on august 1850 four, joseph described the hard work that took place on the whaleship. old harry,e the putting spars over the stern, and all of his homesick as the devil. so ends the 24 hours of trial
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and tribulation. happened to young joseph ray? after this voyage, he went out on another whaling voyage at -- out of connecticut and unfortunately, he was up in the sales and he fell from the four masked yard and was lost at sea. and what happened to the edward kerry? in 1864 and stopped in san francisco where it was sold and resumed its whaling. then, in 1865, it was captured and burned by the confederate shenandoah and that was the end of the edward kerry. now, --
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people would think that probably the 19th century was the heyday of whaling, but actually it was the 20th century when soviet fleets, european fleets, asian fleets started hunting whales for meat rather than for oil and surprisingly in the 200 years of whaling that nantucket was doing, approximately one million whales were killed, but in the 50-60 years of more modern whaling where they have big factory ships and grenades and harpoon guns and so on, over 3 million -- it is estimated over 3 million whales have been killed. whale populations are still quite threatened, they really are under considerable threats drilling in the sea, from
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pollution and garbage, integument with fishing gear and collisions with other ships. whales the end of our talk, i am so glad so many were able to join us and i would be more than happy to the question -- take questions. >> we got a few questions here. this -- onne is, on the bottle, what is used -- was it used as a gargle? >> it was, we have that bottle in the whaling museum and it was used as a gargle, does not sound too appealing. >> we have a question about the visuals for the whaling boats from the early movie and what was it and was the ship the charles morgan? >> i think it was -- >> it was the charles morgan. >> it was a charles morgan, ok, and the movie is the silent
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movie made in the 1920's and it is called " down to the cn ship" part of it is an actual whale hunt, but part of it is a hollywood interpretation. about the a question photograph, what are the dates and sources of the different photographs? >> from the journal? >> the question is what are the dates and sources. if you want to talk about both, the journal and the photos we used. >> we have these remarkable drawings and stories that joseph ray tells in his journal, but a lot of the other footage as i said is from the movie. some of it is from our collection of course. comments from some that say cruelest,arek on the
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-- crew list. was this the same from the 1830's? >> that is an interesting question, i'm not sure if it was the same. there were so many families connected in nantucket and so many that have the same first name and last name, i'm not sure . another question is how did joseph's journal survive and come to nantucket >? >> it came back with joseph and i don't know, one of his descendents was able to donate it to the historical association and we are very fortunate to have that along with many other ships journal. the research library has an amazing collection of journals and log books. there is a great project going on right now at the research library that transcribes all these journals.
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>> what was that was thrown overboard to make the voyage and? -- end? >> at the end of the voyage they break apart this brick furnace, and they throw this overboard because they don't want the captain to be tended to take another whale. there is another reason, too, they have used that numerous times to dry out 30-40 whales and so the mortar could become weekend and they will be going around cape horn which is and they dostormy not want that to break apart in a storm and damage the ship. >> what were the maritime or educational requirements for men to set sail on these journeys besides breathing? >> right, a lot of the men, especially the green hands
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really did not need any requirements, they just had to be a body. theyneeded a good crew and needed to seize in them and learn the job as they go. the captains and the first mate would have been lovely nantucket men and they would have been much more experienced and probably -- and they would have worked their way of the latter and learned a lot about navigation and sailing these big ships. >> and who was edward kerry -- who was the edward kerry the ship was named after? >> i did not know that until today, we just found out the original owner of the ship was -- whose name was ahern named the ship after his father and then it was sold to others over the years. in this particular voice, the owners were two cough and who have a house on main street. coffin brothers owned
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the ship, then it went to the starbuck family and eventually it was sold in san francisco. >> we have a question about, why don't people hunt whales today? one, there is a moratorium against hunting 1986., so that started in on huntingmoratorium whales for commercial purposes, although there is some hunting commercially still done. easy, theys are not are very -- in very deep water, so they are the whales that would migrate closed by nantucket although we do have a dideton in our museum that not migrate by nantucket, but that was a rare occasion. hopefully these whales will have time to recover, it is estimated that there are around 300,000
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sperm whales left in the world which is not a great number, but hopefully enough to survive. >> and a question about the presentation itself, is this story the same one that george grant would tell? changed overs has the years, we have done a lot of different presentations and this is the first year we have used the edward kerry journal to illustrate the whaling -- the whale hunt. it is very similar to the one that george would have started all those years ago. >> and he was a whaler? >> he was a whaler, yes. >> when was photography first available for recording whaling? >> that i do not know, when did photography become -- i don't know. >> we would have to probably look at our own photography
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collection, i think the earliest rings are around the early 1840's. but they are mostly portraits of that time, probably difficult to take things on the ship. >> great question. was unusual to go around both capes on a single voyage? >> i think it was unusual, once they discovered the rich whaling grounds in the pacific, then the quickest route would be to go along the atlantic, may make stops in cape verdi and then along the eastern coast of south america and around the horn and up into the whaling grounds of the south pacific. they did their hunting along the equator and so they were really way out in the middle of the pacific ocean. it is fairly unusual that this pacific -- particular voyage did go around the cape of good hope,
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other ships did that, too, but it was more common to go directly to the pacific. >> another navigation question, when did nantucket whalers first venture into the southern ocean around antarctica? >> even on whaling voyages in the early -- in the 1830's thereabouts, they were going in the pacific, but they would also follow the whales. young in warmeir water, somewhere around the equator, but depending on the season they will either go very far north to the arctic, or very far south to the antarctica to feed because that is where the richer feeder grounds -- feeding grounds were. it dependent on the time of year. teeth were the whale proportioned to the crew? >> it depends on the size of the whales? but they could have 30 or more
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teeth. some of the men were proficient at carving teeth, they also used whalebone. and women'sbusts corsets which are usually made out of whalebone and they made jagging whales if you had been in this grimshaw room, he would see all the different items that were made under the art of screenshot. i assume that the teeth were more prized and would be distributed to the men who had time and inclination to carve and do designs in the teeth. >> did they eat the whale meat or discard it? >> they did not eat the whale meat, first of all, we have to think about the horrible smell. this was very unappealing. whales, inar, sperm
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order to dive down so deeply, they could actually go down over a mile or two. they have to have something called a lot of mild globin in their blood which tends to give them more oxygen, but it tends to make their meet a very dark color, and almost black color which was pretty unappealing. this was not about meet for the nantucket whalers. >> coming back to the oil question, what was the difference between oil from the blubber and the oil from the head? >> the oil from the blubber had to be boiled down, the oil from the head was pure oil and it is the only creature in the world that has oil and its head like this. there have been a lot of questions about why biologically does the whale have all its oil and its head and the answer is no one really knows exactly for sure, but the supposition is
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that it acts as a buoyancy control that allows the whale to dive so deeply and come up quickly. we are really not sure, it is rather hard for scientists to study whales because they are underwater most of the time. >> how competitive was nantucket -- and other whaling centers? >> for a good period of time starting in the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s, this was the only industry on this island and they were really premier wellman -- whalemen. they were really successful with the innovation of having a furnace on board. then, in the mid-1800s, certainly new bedford began to take over. they were a number of things that happened on nantucket that
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ended the whaling business, one of those being the great fire of 1846, the discovery of gold in california that took so many men away from here, the discovery of oil in pennsylvania which produced kerosene and the civil war. a number of things happened in a short period of time the ended whaling on nantucket and new bedford was the next big whaling center. after that, san francisco also got into whaling, so it was over by the time of the civil war. forhy was it so uncommon the crewmembers to not know how to swim? >> that is a good question, i think that is true, i have heard that is true. you think about it now, all our children go in pools and oceans and take swimming lessons, but ocean were not using the around us as a resort or
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recreation, this was business, so i think probably the thought of learning to swim never occurred to them. >> some of them came from farms. >> right. question -- >> did women ever travel on whaling ships? >> yes, but not often, only sailors wives, no other women were allowed. it was not not frequent, but a number of wives did go along, we have a wonderful story from the museum about women who accompanied their husbands on whaling voyages. there is a wonderful new book that tells the story of a woman who went on a voyage with her husband and kept a journal which we have and that is a wonderful story of what it was like for a .oman to go out it was quite an adventure for
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women in those days, but the women that were left from just behind and nantucket were very powerful women. think about it, the men were gone and the women had to run this town and they did so in remarkable ways. we have remarkable stories of the nantucket women who were ahead of their time did >> interesting question, i was in norway and sampled smoked whale at the fish market, what type of whale with a habit that market? >> it could be any kind of, certainly the -- norway and iceland i know offer whale meat as a delicacy, it could be a home back well, i don't know -- humpback whale. >> we have a correction here , jimone of our old friends
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, anyway he said it appears that the morgan was used for static sees and a different ship, the wanderer was re-rigged for some of the whaling sees -- seas. that is great information to clean up our actor little bit. >> thank you. >> a question here about the presentation, they see it is being recorded, will it be posted somewhere for replay or to share with others? >> yes, i am not sure when and where, but yes, we did record this. we will post it on our website when the time comes. >> given our proximity to the banks and whales, was their local hunting here in new england? >> yes, certainly the early whaling on nantucket was right around nantucket, there were whales migrating particular in the north atlantic and that
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whale migrates up and down the east coast, but yeah the early whaling they did not have the option for going out 3-4 years on a whaling voyage. if they had a where they had to get back to nantucket before the blubber was rancid. >> we have a comment about .ntarctic whaling on theere whaling harbor, close to the antarctic peninsula. >> right, right. >> greenland's north, i'm confused. we have some dramatic stories in journals and log that tell usmuseum how difficult it was when they were really in the arctic area
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because often the ships would get stuck in the ice and that could be very fatal because if the ice closes in eight can collapse the ship, so very dangerous. purchasepossible to those candles today? >> now, it is illegal to hunt those whales, it is illegal to hunt whales. >> our last question, i think we will end on a high note. with the men away, did women rule? >> yes. >> the whaling station meant by greenland. that is the end of our list. thanks. this is terrific. >> thank you all for joining us
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and we look forward to doing it again sometime. >> thank you. >> if you like american history tv, keep with us knowing the week on facebook, twitter, and youtube. learn about the state in history and see previewed clips of upcoming programs. @cspanhistory. >> teacher teaches about music in the post-civil rights era highlighting james brown and others. it describes how in the 1970's, african-american artists emphasized a black cultural identity in their music. professor butler: welcome to the latest lecture in history 336, rock 'n' roll history in the united states. i am dr. butler. today the towe


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