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Wreck Report for 'Matador', 1885

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Unique ID:15008
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Matador', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Date:1885
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown

Transcription

(No. 2468)

"MATADOR" (S.S.)

The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876,

IN the matter of the formal Investigation held at the Sessions House, Westminster, on the 10th, 11th, 12th, and 18th days of February 1885, before H. C. ROTHERY, Esquire, Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Captains KNOX, R.N., HYDE, and PATTISON, as Assessors, into the circumstances attending the foundering of the steamship "MATADOR," of Glasgow, and the loss of the lives of fourteen of her crew, off the Longships on the 11th of January last.

Report of Court.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances of the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons annexed, that the loss of the said vessel was due to the water having got into the hold through a hole made in the deck by the carrying away of one of the ventilators, but that the condition in which the vessel was sent to sea, with a hole in her bottom under the after ballast tank, and the quantity of cargo which she had in her, in all probability contributed to the casualty, by taking away a large portion of the buoyancy of the after part, and preventing her from freeing herself, as she might otherwise have done, of the water which came upon her deck; and that the owners, as well as the master, are responsible for the state in which the vessel was sent to sea, and consequently for her loss.

The Court makes no order as to costs.

Dated this 18th day of February 1885.

 

(Signed)

H. C. ROTHERY,

Wreck Commissioner.

We concur in the above report.

 

(Signed)

HENRY KNOX,

 

 

 

Captain R.N.,

Assessors.

 

 

GEORGE HYDE,

 

 

 

JOHN L. PATTISON,

 

Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at the Sessions House, Westminster, on the 10th, 11th, 12th, and 18th days of February instant, when Mr. Mansel Jones appeared for the Board of Trade, Mr. Myburgh for the owners, and Mr. Nelson for the master of the "Matador." Twelve witnesses having been produced by the Board of Trade and examined, Mr. Mansel Jones handed in a statement of the questions upon which the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court. Mr. Myburgh then produced four witnesses, and he and Mr. Nelson having addressed the Court on behalf of their respective parties, and Mr. Mansel Jones having replied for the Board of Trade, the Court proceeded to give judgment on the questions upon which its opinion had been asked. The circumstances of the case are as follow:-

The "Matador" was an iron screw steam ship, belonging to the port of Glasgow, of 664 tons gross, and 408 tons net register, and was fitted with engines of 85 horse-power. She was built at Whiteinch, on the Clyde, in the year 1883, and at the time of her loss was the property of Mr. James Brown, of the firm of Messrs. Baird and Brown, of No. 98, Mitchell-street, Glasgow, and others, Mr. James Brown being the managing owner. She left Santander on the 8th of January last for Glasgow, with a crew of fifteen hands all told, and a boy as a passenger, and having on board a cargo of 650 tons of iron ore, besides 70 tons of coal in ber bunkers. The same evening the wind rose, but abated the following morning, and during the 9th they had fine weather, and were able to take an observation. On the 10th, however, the wind again rose, and continued to increase during the night; and at 4.30 a.m. of the following morning the vessel was on a N. 3/4 E. course, the wind blowing a hard gale from the W.N.W., when the fore boom got adrift, and taking charge, swept away the bridge ladders, and a ventilator which was just forward of the bridge. The captain, who was in the chart-room, at once came out and ordered the helm to be put hard down, which brought the ship up into the wind, and having secured the fore boom, every effort was made to stop the hole in the deck; owing, however, to the quantity of water that they were shipping, it was found impossible to do so. The vessel was accordingly put before the wind, but this only made matters worse, for the sea then lopped in on each side just forward of the break of the poop, washing away the men from the hole. At about half-past seven it was found that the vessel was fast settling down, upon which the captain ordered the boats to be got out. The mates, the engineers, and some of the men were then at the lifeboat, which was on the starboard side, and accordingly the master went to the pinnace, which was on the port side, and having got her over the side jumped into her, and he and a seaman named Morley were the only two who were saved, having been picked up about half-past 2 p.m. the same day by a Spanish schooner, which landed them at Corunna.

These being the facts of the case, the first question upon which our opinion has been asked is, "Whether, " when the vessel left London and Santander respec- " tively, she was in a good and seaworthy condition?" A preliminary objection was taken by Mr. Myburgh that the Court had no jurisdiction to inquire into any matters not directly connected with the casualty; and that whether the vessel, when she left London or Santander, was or was not in an unseaworthy state, was not a question with which this Court could deal, unless it could be shewn that that unseaworthiness contributed to the casualty. I think, however, that Mr. Myburgh has overlooked a clause in the Act of 1876, which says, Art. 32 (2), that "Whenever a " British ship has been lost, or is supposed to have " been lost, and any evidence can be obtained in the " United Kingdom as to the circumstances under " which she proceeded to sea or was last heard of," the Board of Trade may order an inquiry. The clause seems to have been specially intended to meet a case of this kind, for here the vessel has been lost, and there is evidence as to the circumstances under which she proceeded to sea. I shall therefore proceed to inquire whether the vessel was or was not in an unseaworthy condition when she left London and Santander.

And first it may be proper to observe that the vessel was no doubt a first-class vessel, having been built in the year 1883 under special survey, and classed 100 Al at Lloyd's. Indeed, we are told that in some respects she was built above the requirements of Lloyd's, the bulkhead in front of the poop having been extra strengthened, and a close bulwark 3 feet high carried round the after part. It seems, however, that on the voyage immediately previous to the last, whilst entering Alicante and going at full speed, she struck something, but as she did not stop it was thought that no damage had been done to her, and she was therefore not put into dry dock, nor was her bottom examined. Having taken in a cargo of oranges she returned to this country, arriving in the Port of London on the 20th of December last; and, having discharged her cargo, she proceeded to the Ordnance Wharf at Greenwich, to take in a cargo of pitch. After she had taken in a portion of the cargo, orders were given on the 22nd for the after ballast tank to be pumped out. This ballast tank extended from the after bulkhead of the engine room to the run of the vessel, and formed a species of double bottom in that part. The donkey pump was accordingly turned on, but no impression could be made on the water, until the vessel had settled down upon the mud, when they succeeded in partly emptying the tank. It was not however until the 24th that they were able to empty the tank so as to get into it, and it was then found, as the master describes it in his letter to the owners, that she had "a big dinge in the port bilge, also the plates " between two frames rent open wide enough to put " our open hands through," thus allowing a free passage for the sea to the interior of the ballast tank. At this time Mr. Ballingall, the managing clerk to Messrs, Baird and Brown, and himself an owner of 8/64ths parts of the vessel, was there attending to the affairs of the ship, and he at once communicated with Messrs. Baird and Brown by telegraph, and it was decided, under circumstances to which we shall presently have to refer, that they should endeavour to stop up the hole with cement and bricks. The attempt however proved unsuccessful, and it was then determined to proceed on the voyage, with the vessel in the state in which she was, with the tank full of water, and with a hole in the bottom, through which the water had free access to the tank. On this determination becoming known, the three firemen who had engaged to go with her, asked for their discharges; they were accordingly paid their wages, and left the ship on the same evening. The four seamen also asked for their discharges, offering however to go with her, if the captain would consent to take her into a dry dock and have a patch put over the hole, but this was refused, and they then left the same evening, after having been paid their wages. On the 26th the vessel got under weigh, and proceeded down the river to Gravesend, having on board the master, two mates, two engineers, the steward, and a river pilot, but not a seaman or a fireman; the chief mate also, although he consented to go with her as far as Gravesend, expressed his intention of leaving the ship there. Accordingly on her arrival at Gravesend another chief mate and nine seamen and firemen were engaged, and the vessel left on the 27th for Santander; and having there discharged her cargo of pitch, took in another of iron ore, with which she sailed for Glasgow on the 8th of January, but without any attempt having been made to repair the hole in the bottom.

These, then, being the facts, what we have now to consider is, whether the vessel, with this hole in her bottom, could properly be said to have been in a seaworthy condition. It appeared from the original plans of the vessel, as well as from the evidence of the builder and draftsmen of the vessel, that the plates forming the bottom were of 9/16ths and 8/16ths amidships, finely off towards the end to 7/16ths, and in one place to 6/16ths thick. It was also proved that the top of the tank, which by the hole in the outer skin had virtually become the bottom of the ship, and upon which the after part of it rested, consisted of 5/16ths plates; and it was contended on behalf of the owners, not only that the vessel with this hole in her bottom was as good and as strong as ever, but that she was actually better and stronger than before. It was said that the weight of the cargo would by its pressure on the top of the tank counteract the upward pressure of the water in the tank, and that the two forces would nearly balance one another. So however, also, it would seem, would the weight of the cargo, if laid upon the skin of the ship; and yet I am not aware that it has ever before been urged that the downward pressure of the cargo adds to the strength of the vessel's bottom, but if it does so in the one case it would seem to do so in the other. In support of their case the owners produced Mr. William Bruce Thompson, the builder of the ship, Mr. John Mackenzie, the designer or draftsman, Mr. Alexander Morrison Taylor, the owners' consulting engineer, under whose advice the vessel had been sent to sea with this hole in her bottom, and Mr. James Richards, a naval architect; and all these gentlemen told us that the hole in the bottom in no way affected the seaworthiness of the vessel. Indeed Mr. Richards told us that, in his opinion, plates 5/16ths of an inch thick were quite strong enough for the bottom of a vessel of the size of the "Matador," that he had designed a great many war ships, and that many war vessels had not thicker plates than 5/16ths. On being asked the question, however, Mr. Richards was not able to tell us what war ships, nor what class of war ships were built with plates of only 5/16ths of an inch thick; and he at length admitted that, if there were any such, they were much smaller vessels, and that the plates were strengthened with baulks of timber behind them. But we have the fact before us that the thickness of the plates which formed the bottom of this vessel were 9/16ths and 8/16ths thick amidships, and that that was not in excess of what Lloyd's considered necessary for a first class ship of her size. On the whole we have no hesitation in saying that this hole in the bottom did render the vessel unseaworthy, and that what the owners should have done was to have put her, as the men suggested, into a dry dock and placed a patch over the hole. Had this been done, she might then safely have been despatched to Santander; but without it, and without the power of emptying this tank, should the emergency arise for so doing, and with the prospect of carrying a cargo of pitch out and of bringing home a heavy dead-weight cargo of iron ore, she was, in our opinion, not seaworthy.

The second question which we are asked is, "Whether " the ventilators were properly constructed, secured, " and placed in positions of safety?" I do not think that there is any doubt that the ventilators were properly constructed, and that they were placed in proper positions. The ventilator that Was carried away stood amidships just forward of the break of the poop, where we frequently find them.

The third question which we are asked is, "Whether " there were efficient appliances for plugging the " ventilators, and for closing the corresponding holes " in the deck against water shipped on board?" We were told by the master that there were on board the usual wooden plugs to fit the ventilators, and that one of these was brought to stop up the hole, but that the coamings having been caried away flush with the deck, the hole was found to be too large, and the plug dropped through into the hold.

I will now take the fifth question, which is, "Whether " on the morning of the 11th of January the fore-boom " was properly secured, and what was the cause of its " breaking adrift?" it seems that the fore-boom was secured in the usual way by the sheet and by guys from either side. How it came to get adrift there is no evidence to show; it is therefore not possible for us to say.

I will now take the fourth and sixth questions together; they are, "4. Whether, considering the " state of the outside skin of the vessel, she was over " laden when she left Santander?" and, "6. "Had she sufficient freeboard?" With all due deference to Mr. Mansel Jones, we have not been able to distinguish between these two questions. It appears to us that, if a vessel is overladen, the way to cure the defect is to take out a part of the cargo; so also, if she has too little freeboard, what ought to be done is to take out a portion of her cargo; it amounts to the same thing. But it was said by Mr. Mansel Jones that vessels may carry with safety a greater weight of some kinds of cargo than of others, and that, therefore, it may well happen that with some cargoes a vessel might be overladen, even though she had a sufficient amount of freeboard; but is there not a fallacy in the words," sufficient amount of "freeboard;" is it anything more than saying that with certain descriptions of cargo a vessel will require to have a greater amount of freeboard, and that a vessel's freeboard is not, and cannot be, a constant factor for every kind of cargo, any more than it is for every sea or for every season of the year. I shall, therefore, treat these two questions as one, and shall proceed to consider whether, having regard to the condition of her outside skin, when she left Santander, the vessel was too deeply laden, or whether she had sufficient freeboard.

It was admitted that the load line had been placed at 1 foot 3 inches below the deck, so that if she had been loaded down to the centre of her disc, she would have had just 15 inches of freeboard at the centre, and, according to Mr. Mackenzie, the designer and draftsman of the vessel, about 1 1/2 inches less, some 10 to 20 feet abaft the centre line. This, upon a depth of hold of 13.7 feet, would give about 1 1/10 of an inch for every foot depth of hold. It was said, however, that the owner never intended her to be loaded down to that depth, and a book of instructions was produced, in which the following passage occurs:-"We have caused the " 'Matador' to be marked with discs and deck lines, " according to Merchant Shipping Act, 1876, the " former with centre at 15 inches from the latter, thus " giving that amount of freeboard. We wish you, " however, even when loading in fresh water, never " upon any occasion to submerge the centre of disc, " and thus you will always have a freeboard of at least " 1 foot 6 1/2 inches, which, with the good sheer and " greater height of bridge deck and quarter deck, we " believe, is a safe draught." No doubt that would be a very good guide to the master if he loaded in fresh water, so as to secure a freeboard of 1 foot 6 1/2 inches of freeboard when the vessel got out to sea, but it does not appear to be equally effectual to secure her that amount of freeboard in case she loaded in salt water, for it only tells him that he is not to load below the centre of the disc," even when loading in fresh water;" it does not say that he is not to load down to it when loading in salt water. This, however, may be merely an incorrect mode of expression, and it may be well, therefore, to see what was the depth to which the vessel was generally laden, and what amount of freeboard she had. According to Mr. Brown, their practice was to load the vessel with 750 tons of cargo, besides 100 tons of bunker coal, making a total of 850 tons dead weight. And now let us see what she would draw, and what freeboard she would have with the cargo which we are told she usually carried, that is, with a total dead weight of 850 tons. Mr. Mackenzie, the designer of the vessel, told us that he had made very careful calculations of her carrying capacity and of her corresponding draft and freeboard, and that he had found that, with a mean draught of 14 feet and 1/2 an inch amidships, giving her a freeboard of 1 foot 2 (the total depth at side at that place being 15 feet 2 1/2 inches), she would have a total displacement of from 1460 to 1480 tons; and deducting from this the weight of the hull, engines, water in the boiler and stores, which he told us was about 590 tons, there remains from 870 to 890 tons of dead weight, which would be required to sink her so as to leave her with a freeboard of 1 foot 2 inches amidships. With 850 tons of dead weight, therefore, her displacement at that draft being, we are told, about 10 tons to the inch, she would, even in salt water, be sunk down nearly to the centre of her disc, giving her a freeboard of about 1 foot 3 to 1 foot 4 inches amidships, and about 1 1/2 inches less some 10 to 20 feet further aft. This, in the opinion of the assessors, would be quite insufficient for her; so that, if we are to accept the owner's statement, she was habitually sent to sea in an overladen state. But then it is said that, when she left Santander, she had only 650 tons of iron ore, and about 70 tons of coal in her, or about 130 tons less than they would ordinarily carry. There was really no reliable evidence to shew what her freeboard had been on leaving Santander; the captain said that it was about 13 feet 2 mean, giving her a freeboard amidships of about 2 feet; and in proof of that statement the abstract of the mate's log, which had been remitted from Santander, was brought in, in which it was stated that the draft of the vessel on leaving Gravesend was 13 feet 6 forward, 13 feet 6 aft, and 13 feet 6 mean, and that on her arrival at Santander it was 13 feet 1 forward, 13 feet 1 aft, and 13 feet 1 inch mean. It certainly is strange to see a screw steamer, which is generally trimmed by the stern so as to have her screw well immersed, put upon so absolutely even a keel, that she draws exactly the same amount of water forward and aft, and moreover consuming her coals during the voyage in such a way as to preserve an exactly even keel at its termination. It is certainly remarkable, and might lead one to suppose that the figures were rather an approximation, and not absolutely correct and conclusive, of the vessel's draft. But be this as it may, and even assuming that she had a mean draft of 13 feet 2, as the captain states, giving her a freeboard amidships of about 2 feet, that in the opinion of the assessors would not be sufficient, for it must be remembered that the after-tank, which was capable of containing 42 tons of water, was full, and could not be emptied, owing to the hole in the bottom, that the top of the tank, constructed as it was of 5/16ths plates, had become practically the bottom of the vessel; and that she had thus lost a great deal of the buoyancy of the after part of the vessel. Taking all these facts into consideration, the assessors are clearly of opinion that, even with 650 tons of iron ore and 70 tons of coal, she was, in the state in which she then was, too deeply laden.

I will now take the seventh question, which is, " Whether the vessel was navigated with proper and " seamanlike care?" In our opinion she was, both before, as well as after, the accident to the ventilator.

The eighth question which we are asked is, "Whether " every possible effort was made to save life?" The master seems to have endeavoured by every means in his power to stop up the hole, which had been caused by the tearing away of the ventilator, putting bedding and mattresses and sails over it; but all in vain, the water constantly washing them away, He told us that if the decks had been free from water for only three minutes he thinks he should have been able to stop the hole, but that it never was. At length, finding that nothing more could be done, and that the vessel was fast filling and going down by the head, he ordered the boats to be got out, and finding the mates, engineers, and some of the men at work on the lifeboat, which was on the starboard side, he went to the pinnace, which was on the port side, and having got it over the side, told one of the men-a Japanese, I think-to get into her, and fend her off the side. The man got in, but whether he was frightened, or whether he was injured in getting in, the master could not tell us; but seeing that he was doing nothing to fend off the boat, he desired another man to get into her; the man, however, seems to have been afraid to do so, and fearing that the boat would be stove against the side of the vessel, the master himself jumped in, and having straightened her alongside, the painter was let go, but by whom does not appear; and as she dropped astern, he called out to the second mate and to Morley, the seaman who was saved, and who were standing on the poop, to jump into the sea. As he cleared the vessel's stern, he came across the lifeboat which was adrift, but without any one in her, and having got into her he called upon the Japanese to follow him, but the man was either unable or unwilling to do so. In the meantime the second mate and Morley had jumped into the water, and the master succeeded in picking them up and getting them into the lifeboat, but it was impossible to get hold of any of the others who were struggling in the water, the vessel having by that time gone down. They continued pulling about until about 2.30 p.m. the same day, when a Spanish schooner bore down to them. The master and Morley, with the assistance of the crew of the vessel, succeeded in getting on board her, but the second mate was lost, the boat being smashed alongside. We think that everything was done that could have been done to save life, and in our opinion the master deserves great credit for his exertions, both to save the vessel as well as the lives of those on board.

The next question which we are asked is, "What " was the cause of the loss of the vessel?" No doubt the loss of the vessel was principally due to the great quantity of water which must have got through the ventilator hole into the main hold, for we are told that she went down head foremost; and the captain has stated that, before they left her, he went into the engine room, and that there was then no water in it. At the same time we are somewhat disposed to think that the condition of the vessel with this hole in the after tank, thus reducing considerably the buoyancy of the after part, may also have contributed to the casualty, by preventher from clearing her decks of water; for it must not be forgotten that, according to the master, if they could only have got the decks clear of water for 3 minutes, they would have been able to stop up the hole, and probably have saved the vessel.

The next question that we are asked is, "What was " the cost of the vessel to her owner; what, in the " opinion of the Court, was the value of the vessel " at the time she last left London; and what were the " insurances effected, and how were they appor- " tioned?" The cost of the vessel, when she was originally built in the year 1883, was, we were told, 13,000l.; but on some additions having been made to her, the owners insured her for 14,000l. At the time, however, of her loss, the insurance had been reduced to 13,500l., in addition to which, however, the freight and outfit were insured for 500l. In the opinion of the Assessors, looking at the depreciated value of shipping as compared to what it was in 1883, 13,5001. was a very full, if not an excessive value to put upon her.

The 11th question which we are asked is, "Whether " blame attaches to the owner for the state in which " the ship left London and Santander, or for the depth " to which she was laden at London or Santander, or " for the loss of the vessel?" it appears that Mr. Ballingall, the clerk to Messrs. Baird and Brown, and himself the owner of 8/64ths of the vessel, was at Greenwich when the hole was discovered, and at once communicated with Messrs. Baird and Brown on the subject, informing them of the nature of the damage, and telling them in his letter of the 24th of December that they would do their best "to stop the leak without " calling in an outside surveyor, who," he thought, " would probably order the ship into dry dock." And in a telegram which he sent to them on the 25th, he says that if they failed to stop the leak he feared that they must dry dock her. Clearly, therefore, Mr. Ballingall's opinion at that time was that she ought to be dry docked, in order to have a patch put over the hole on the outside, as required by the seamen who left her. Messrs. Baird and Brown, however, seem not to have approved of this being done, for they consulted Mr. Taylor, their consulting engineer, and then telegraphed to Mr. Ballingall in these words, "Taylor " cannot understand why, if leak below double bottom, " you don't approach inside, or exclude cargo and sail " tank full ;" and then they add, "very disappointing to " dock." it is clear therefore that they were well aware of the state and condition of the vessel, and whether the suggestion came from Messrs. Baird and Brown, or from their consulting engineer, Mr. Taylor, they gave their approval to the vessel going away with a cargo of pitch and to bring back a cargo of iron ore, in the middle of winter, with this hole in her bottom, and without the power of emptying the after tank, if the necessity for so doing should arise; and this, because they would not incur the expense of having her put into dry dock, so that a patch might be placed over the hole, and the water excluded from the tank. They knew also from Mr. Ballingall that the chief mate, as well as the whole of the firemen and seamen, who had agreed to go with the vessel, had refused to sail in her unless a patch was put over the hole, and that they had consequently been paid their wages and had left her. Knowing all this, we think that they are greatly to blame for having sent her away in the state in which she was. They are also, in our opinion, to blame for the depth to which the vessel was laden, as it seems to have been their practice habitually to load her too deeply. They are, therefore, in our opinion, to blame for the loss of this vessel. In extenuation of their conduct it is said that they acted on the advice of their consulting engineer, Mr. Taylor; and Mr. Myburgh has also told us that, although the firm to which these gentlemen belong has been in business in Glasgow for the last 50 years, they have never before met with any casualty accompanied with loss of life. Still that does not relieve them from responsibility for their conduct in this case; it was a grave error of judgment, but we are quite prepared to acquit them of the charge of having sent this vessel to sea with the knowledge that they were exposing the lives of those on board to undue risk.

The twelfth question which we are asked is, "Whether the master is in default?" and it is added that "the Board of Trade are of opinion that the " certificate of the master should be dealt with." The master, no doubt, was perfectly well aware of the condition in which this vessel was; and what is more, he intentionally concealed that condition from the seamen and firemen whom he engaged at Gravesend. For this he is very greatly to blame ;'he had no right to engage these men to go to sea in this ship on the assumption that she was in a thoroughly seaworthy condition; they ought, at all events, to have known of the nature of the service which they were about to undertake. At the same time it must not be forgotten that Messrs. Baird and Brown had been fully informed of all the circumstances, and that Mr. Ballingall, their chief clerk, and himself an owner of 8/64ths was there, which would, of course, to a certain extent relieve the master of some portion of the responsibility. The master, too, who seems to have behaved with great courage after the accident occurred to the ventilator in attempting to save both the ship and the lives of those on board, has suffered very greatly by this casualty; and on the whole, although he is in our opinion very greatly to blame, we think that he has been sufficiently punished, and we shall therefore not deal with his certificate.

At the conclusion of the inquiry Mr. Mansel Jones asked for costs against the owners. Seeing, however, that they must necessarily have been put to very heavy expenses by having to bring their witnesses from Glasgow to London, we shall not condemn them in the costs. The only question was whether they ought not to pay the expenses occasioned by the adjournment from the 12th to the 18th, but seeing that it was not an unreasonable application to make, we shall not condemn them in any of the costs, but we shall not give them any.

 

(Signed)

H. C. ROTHERY,

Wreck Commissioner.

We concur.

 

(Signed)

HENRY KNOX,

 

 

 

Captain R.N.,

Assessors.

 

 

GEORGE HYDE,

 

 

 

JOHN L. PATTISON,

 

L 367. 2243. 170.-2/85. Wt. 36. E. & S.

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