Submechanophobia: The fear of underwater man-made objects

My Submechanophobia

When I was a little kid, my mom would always read National Geographic magazine. She’d leave them open on the couch or on the counter and I’d flip through the pictures and read segments that interested me. I remember doing just that one time, and flipping open a two page picture of the sunken Titanic’s massive bow. I cringed and dropped the magazine. I covered my eyes with one hand and tried to close the magazine with the other.

I’ve always known that I have an irrational fear of water, sometimes to the point of being afraid in swimming pools, but my fear is more complex and specific than your run-of-the mill fear of water. I suffer from a phobia called submechanophobia which is that fear of “partially or fully submerged man-made objects” according to google.


Nowadays we’ve come up with names for phobias of almost everything. Some are so ridiculous and rare that it seems unnecessary to categorize them as phobias. Like anothophobia; the fear of flowers, phobophobia; the fear of developing a phobia, and arachibutyrophobia; the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth. Submechanophobia may appear just as obscure a phobia as that of sticky peanut butter, but it might be more common than you think.

There are a few phobias that are interconnected with submechanophobia. There’s thalassophobia which is simply the fear of the ocean, many people suffer from this fear for obvious reasons. The ocean is a big, dark, mysterious place full of predators. Which brings me to another related phobia called megalohydrothalassophobia, or the fear of large objects under water. This phobia is also understandable because large animals underwater can often be dangerous, such as sharks and killer whales.


The strange thing about submechanophobia is that very rarely is there any real danger associated with submerged man-made objects. Sunken ships seem to be the subject of most submechanophobic’s fears but the same kind of anxiety can arise from seeing even small man-made objects under water like pieces of rope or trash. Even photographs of pieces of metal under water can casue anxiety. If you search ‘submechanophobia’ on google you’ll find seemingly endless accounts of people’s specific fears and experiences (as well as pictures of ships and submarines that would make my guts churn). I was surprised to find so much information online. I had thought that it was a coincidence that I have a few friends who suffer from the same phobia as me, but now I think that submechanophobia is actually more common than I once thought.


I’ve always been a little apprehensive about snorkelling and diving because I know that I have an irrational fear. Having an anxiety attack in the water can be dangerous so I generally play it safe and avoid these situations, but a few months ago in Indonesia I decided to challenge myself by going snorkelling with a friend. I was charmed by all of the interesting life that can be seen just below the surface of the water. I had fun and was calm until I came across a tangle of metal just a meter and a half long and about the same distance from the surface of the water. I stood up out of the water on a large rock and began hyperventilating and holding back tears. My friend helped me to calm down and gain my courage to put my mask back on and look at the metal once again. When I looked at it for the second time it still made me uneasy, but I could recognize my fear as irrational and see the object for what it was; just an old piece of metal

How to deal with Submechanophobia

If you struggle with Submechanophobia or any other phobia, try taking baby steps towards feeling comfortable with facing what scares you. When you see a picture of a ship wreck, try to relax and look at the photo until your anxiety subsides. If you come across a piece of concrete, or metal, or rope under the water, try going a little closer to it than you’re comfortable with. Don’t push yourself to the point of a panic attack, but challenge yourself a little bit because you may find that it’s not as bad as you thought.


Leave a comment about your worst Submechanophobia moment and how you deal with your Submechanophobia so maybe we can help each other 🙂

Also if you liked this article you should read about
Submechanophobia how to deal with it (No pictures)

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45 thoughts on “Submechanophobia: The fear of underwater man-made objects

  1. Wally Reply

    It’s difficult to locate well-informed folks on this matter,
    but you seem like you understand what you’re talking about!

  2. Stevie Reply

    “Hi! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Superb blog and great design and style.”

  3. Hannah Reply

    Super glad this isn’t something I’m going through alone! isn’t it strange how we fear something so silly? Submarines are my biggest fear here – the thought of one under the sea while I’m swimming or even one surfacing makes me itch and I get all hot and clammy! I’ve tried looking on other sites about this, and they have photos that I really can’t bring myself to look at. If I was stranded in the sea and had the choice to either swim alone or hold on to a large floating object, then I’d happily NOT do the latter…!
    I had a nightmare once that I was swimming in the ocean, and I could see myself from a birds eye view – and this huge killer whale appear underneath where I was swimming… it wasn’t attacking or threatening, it was just the shape of it underneath me, it was horrendous!

  4. M Reply

    Great post! I really never had any idea this was a thing until tonight! I thought I had to have one of the most ridiculous fears… the sudden sight of a manmade object underwater in cloudy water that is any deeper than maybe 4 feet, is enough to make my heart start racing and my eyes to roll back a little… Submarines and ships dont really bother me and looking at pictures of shipwrecks in clear water is fascinating to me, as long as they cant be seen from the surface. But I grew up around a large shallow lake (11-12 meters at its deepest point) in Canada (Wabamun Lake) and we used to use all kinds of things to anchor rafts and boats, blocks of concrete with hooks, cinder blocks, old engine blocks from cars etc. Over time the ropes would break or the anchor would get stuck in the sand and be forgotten. The one that scared me the most was two large concrete rings that were chained together just beyond where I could touch the bottom. When we were kids, we would swim all around the area where our piers were or float on inner tubes and I have quite a few memories of peacefully floating and nearly falling off the tube at the sight of some large hunk of metal that was just barely visible (the water in prairie lakes is kind of blueish green!) The worst was falling while waterskiing close to the piers and rafts, where you couldnt quite touch but could see the outlines of rocks and occasionally other things down there, or even while coming up to the raft and looking at the chain going down to its anchor, that scared the hell out of me for some reason too. And since if you leave anything anchored over winter the ice destroys it we had to basically search the murky depths for the anchor chain and try to lift it up with a hook every year which gave me the chills when just looking for it nevermind when I actually came across it. I’d say childhood fears got carried over into adulthood because even though I’m aware old anchors on the bottom of the lake and chains that disappear into the depths cant hurt me they still give me the creeps!

    • S.M. Reply

      I’m from Spruce Grove and have this fear as well! Such a small world!

  5. Chloë Dolores Reply

    Thanks for all of your stories and comments! You’re not alone, this is a very real phobia. If you’re interested in more about my personal experience with this phobia check out my blog post called ‘The Komodo Boat Trip (Facing Fears)’ by scrolling down from the top:

    Keep facing your fears!!


  6. gladifoundthis Reply

    Mine is only with big objects, just thinking about makes me feel bad, but not small objects.

  7. Jesco Reply

    I’ve had this since the first encounter with a bouy. I was 5 years old in a small rubberboat with my father. I asked him what the object was and why it was there. He explained it to me and asked me if i wanted to go to it. I wasn’t afraid yet or nervous. So we got closer until i completely freaked out and hyperventilated. My father backed away from it and we got to shore. The second encounter was when i was 16 years old. I was on vacation in Turkey, a place called Turunç there was this hotel called Serena Suites. As i saw the swimming i was like hell yeah! I jumped in it, as i opened my eyes underwater i saw very big and real metal porthole windows on the wall. I instantly freaked out again and what not. Trough those windows you could see the restaurant wich was pretty nice. But not for me. The third on a dock when i was 19 years old. As a private security contracter i was patrolling at a dock to prevent against copperthieves. As i walked on the docks at night and turned to the right with my maglight aiming at a ship like only a jump away distance and looked down i saw this massive huge Golf/ice breaker on the front partly submerged. I had the panic again and got as far away as possible. When i read all about this and look at pictures i have the same feeling but not as much as in real life. I wish i could defeat this phobia. But when i even think of facing my fear to defeat it, even in slow steps i think i would never be able to do achive this. Not even if they would somehow remove the part of my brain that actually does this to me.

  8. Dea Reply

    Growing up seaside I would always take seaside walks with my parents at night (summer obviously).My parents would walk on water and make me do that too.I used to get anxiety from the ropes which connect the little fishing ships with the ground. Now that I’m grown up I still get anxiety attacks from anything that has to do with underwater for example ships (especially ships endings),metals,rocks,ropes,plants and other lost objects like glasses or even necklaces. Once I saw a shark movie and afterwards my dad took me at the gaming park seaside I remember as if it was happening now that I couldn’t even look at the sea or hear the waves sound.

  9. Clare Reply

    I also have a fear of dark man made things. There was a storm in Cambridge and the river rose high. It had pushed a massive rubbish clearance barge down and it had turned and blocked the river. It was dark when I came upon it and could not bring myself to walk past it. I was terrified. I can’t even play computer games like TombRaider when there are deep swimming bits in it with large doors below. I literally feel massive anxiety even though I knew it could not harm me. Its a game for the love of God. So glad to know Im not alone x

  10. Bobby Reply

    My fear comes from an 80’s Danish childrens movie called “Samson og Sally” about two young sperm whales fleeing whale hunters, oil spilling and killer whales.
    At one point they get stuck in the wreck of a steeled cruise liner and almost suffocated. That scene ruined me completely and now I can even see a key under water without panicking. It’s gotten better thanks to watching a lot of documentaries about shipwrecks but I’m still far from where I want to be.

    Thank you for this information. It’s helped me a lot <3

  11. Karen Reply

    I have always been AFRAID of submarines, they are my biggest fear of all times. The other day I was visiting San Diego with my family and we were walking at the Navy Pier, boats cause me troubles too but I can handle it, I had no idea though that there was also a submarine there, all black and old halfway out of the water, I cannot explain what I felt but it affected my breathing and I just had to walk away ASAP. Awful experience

  12. Eric Reply

    If you visit the Queen Mary in Long Beach, there is (or at least there was, I assume it’s still there) a special isolated underwater chamber that you can walk down to, and look at the prop. “Neat,” I thought, “let’s go do that!” Well I damn near had a panic attack and hustled out of there as soon as it was humanly possible. I also remember thinking that the scene in Titanic, when the boat breaks in half and the back half falls on a lot of people in the water, was an utterly horrifying way to die. It’s somehow worse than, say, having a building fall on you.

    Anyway, the point is, now I know why, because after being alive for 45 years, today I first heard of submechanophobia, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got it. I’m okay with seeing stuff from above the waterline, but the idea of being in the water near those things makes my skin crawl.

    • Jules Reply

      I walked into the entry way of the Queen Mary at Long Beach, turned back and walked out. Could not even walk onto that boat where it sits. I swear i died in a shipwreck in a past life, or sailed on it. I have been on big boats before. That ship CREEPS me out.

  13. Melda Reply

    Wow i just found out what my weird fear are called thank u for this post.
    First of all pardon my english, it’s bad.
    I think i was a pretty good pool swimmer until when i see something odd like one of the tile’s cracking, or have a different color, i got panicked and suffocated. Pool’s lamp, pipes underwater etc. Worst case was when my teacher pointed me to compete a regional swimming competition. I was first place for the first lap, swim as straight as i could because the tile lines are different color, but when i reach the edge of the pool there’s a large metal pipe beneath, so the next lap was awful. lost my pace because i was too panicked. The last weekend i took a surfing class in bali and everything’s fine, because i can’t see anything underwater. Then i swam at hotel swimming pool and got scared when the lamps turned on around me. Think i can swim happily at a beach. I tried to face my fears anyway…

  14. Benjamin Reply

    Why the pictures when i saw those i just looked away and turned my phone off for 10 min i’m realy scared of that shit

  15. Anna Reply

    Cannot believe that there’re so many people out there struggling with this!

    Shipwrecks and other underwater objects totally freak me out… but I had a dream a few nights ago and all I remembered was seeing a small boat floating over me. I woke up immadiately… It doesn’t even have to be underwater and it creeps the soul out of me! Life would be a horror movie for me if I were a fish..

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

  16. Katy Reply

    I have this fear too (as does my sister, we are convinced we must have been on the titanic in a previous life!) and I must agree with one of the other replies – why put the photos on here for people who suffer from this phobia?!I had to block the photos with my hand. Anyway I just wondered if you are also afraid of the hulls of ships? Not when they are sunk but just when they are in the ocean sailing along? This is one of my biggest fears and I’m intrigued to see if anyone else suffers from this. I live in Sydney, so living in a harbour city isn’t the best place to live when you have this fear! Thanks for the post, interesting. PS I do dive and snorkel, but ensure I stay away from ship wrecks and sunken objects. Natural things like fish, sharks and coral are fine.

    • Inigo Montoya Reply

      I soooo have this phobia too. I too had to scroll past the pictures. I have been on several cruises and have snorkeled, but underwater MANMADE objects (particularly large ones) make me shiver. Oddly enough, CGI of such things – like the Titanic film seem to be ok.

    • Jecco Reply

      Hi Katy,

      Yes i do fear the hulls as well, and badly!
      I had this task once as a private security contractor to do surveillance in the docks at night. So me and my colleague were walking on the dock and it was pretty dark. So once i turned on my flashlight i saw this big container ship’s hull on my right side with that big wavebreaker partly submerged, can you imagine? I jumpscared the hell out of there lol. It was terrible especially with the flashlight making the underwater parts clearly visible. What was your experience with Hulls that made you discover your fear?

  17. Claire Reply

    Oh wow!! Finally someone who gets it! It gives me chills thinking of diving over some wreck!! Thankfully I can now give it a name!

  18. Catharina Reply

    I get really creeped out by the shipwrecks and the idea of sunken cities. also the new man made art installation with concrete people standing in a circle. Have any of you seen those pictures? It has taken me about 2 years to be able to look at them and not feel sick (I am an artist, so they pop up in my fb feed now and again). I also have the irrational fear of swimming in muddy water since I cannot see what is under me. I worry that my foot with touch the top mast of a ship or the hand of a dead body. I know that neither of those is very probable in a small lake in Sweden, but it has still stopped me from swimming in any dark lakes or deep waters for at least ten years. I am glad I am not alone. Ps: the pictures you posted really freaked me out. Just the thing that triggers my phobia.

  19. Jason Reply

    Thank you!
    My friends lightly “mock” me saying that this is a made up phobia I have.

    The first time I encountered this, I was a kid and my mother got us a pair of swimming masks in order to explore the sea floor together.

    I remember seeing a metal cage at the bottom of the sea and freaked out!

    I live in a country surrounded by sea, so I often go swimming, but most of the beaches are full of boats, and I HATE ANCHORS!

  20. Kay Reply

    I tried playing a game (Stranded Deep) where you are surrounded by sunken tug boats that you are expected to search through to find supplies to live with I can handle (barely) the partial underwater ones but just thinking about going to and a fully submerged one makes me sick with nerves and this is a computer game…

  21. Jecco Reply

    Not only do i suffer from this phobia, the worst thing is how i first encountered this. I was five years old and having fun with my father in a small rubber boat, the ones you need padles for. And my father said: look and those things help captains to navigate, so as he pointed i turned around to see what he ment and i saw this red buoy like an armlength away from our boat. I can’t describe what happened to me. My father had a panic because of my panic and he rushed away from it. He never knew about the phobia and neither did i, it was a hard way to explain what happened lol. After 20 years i finally know this is a common phobia and i told my father about it. We had a blast, but i even failed the army intake because we had to do a “swim to the buoy and back” test. Well let me grab my stuff and walk the hell home ha-ha, NEVER. Sometimes a phobia can close a door in your face.

  22. nil Reply

    i cant beleive you would post pictures of the phobia lol there is a whole subreddit as well that is just pictures!!
    subamrines are the worst for me the very beginning of das boot where the bow of the u-boat appears out of the green murk really got me. also i went to a naval museum when i was 8 or 9 where they have a rusted u-boat out of the water and former navy boats and an old submarine which i actually went into. i dont know if it was because i was with my family or because it was a nice day and otherwise felt safe and calm but by the end i could walk to the front of the u-boat less than a few metres and look right at it. this didnt desensitise me though i think i just acclimatised to the situation. partially submerged wrecks are really nasty as well there is a sunken liberty ship in the thames that is full of explosives that has masts protruding and i saw a boarder in a picture touching the masts and that thing was creepy as hell imagining what the journey over the wreck would be like. the same with buoys and even seeing big ships on the horizon from the coast is quite unsettling. i also have a thing with abandoned aircraft and massive aircraft being close to them gives me great anxiety

  23. Phil Reply

    I’ve always had this phobia, but it’s the sort that surfaces (sorry for the pun) every now and again. I remember being afraid of seeing submerged objects when doing the washing up when I was young and getting anxious when watching films like The Cruel Sea. At other times I’m ok.

  24. Jules Reply

    Absolutely cannot watch any footage of shipwrecks, airplanes underwater, bridges, oil rigs, etc. Pieces of metal or anything small, no problem. I can watch submarine films and no issue. I remember almost walking out of Titanic several times. Love oceanography, whales. Just a strange, obscure fear. Fascinating that i see many others have it also. Buoys…that is a new one. Interesting.

  25. Claudio Reply

    Thanks a lot for your words. today is the first day of my life, in which I find out the name of my phobia. So, surfing around, I found your page. Honestly I haven’t problem waching pictures, videos, etc. of big underwater objects, and I don’t panic swimming around concrete or wood, but I cannot stay near by just mechanical and metallic structures, ships,, airplanes and cars, even though I’m out of the wather (once I was feeling very uneasy near by a yacht semisubmerged in a very quiet port here in Italy), maybe is related to a possible fear of proximity, real proximity, paraphrasing your words.
    Anyway, today I discovered that is a very common phobia… I said today, because nobody of my friends and acquaintances ever listened to this “funny paranoia” (as they used to say).
    While, regarding the “try to deal with your phobia”, I prefer to swim far away from these objects, because sea is big enough to swim somewhere else! 😉 And in any case I can always decide to go to the mountains during my summer vacation, instead of the sea … less mosquito and cooler climate! 😀

  26. Nate Clark Reply

    I never realized that there was a word for this! I’ve always had to describe my worst fear as “large metallic objects under water.” Ship propellers. Ship propellers make me tense up and asphyxiate at the mere sight of them. To help cope with this, I set this picture as my desktop so I could face it every day.

    • Luxi Turna Reply

      Why make yourself face it? The HELL with that!
      No effing WAY am i going to look at propellers or any other large machine underwater.

      If they were everywhere and i couldn’t avoid them then maybe, to desensitize. But it would be a horrible experience.

  27. Caroline Reply

    I knew I had this fear, but also really wanted to be a certified diver, so when I decided to go for it I told EVERYONE at my dive shop that under no circumstances was I to be taken to a wreck. As we arrived at the dive site for our first checkout dive (the first of four testing dives to get certified) I heard the word “ship.” It turns out that we had moored not near a wreck, but TO one. I almost quit. But we had planned this vacation around getting dive certified and I didn’t want to ruin it for my husband. Jumping in the water knowing there was a wreck below me is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and putting my face in the water and seeing the wreck just beneath me is hands down the most horrifying moment of my life I hyperventilated. I cried. I forgot all about being tested and just had total panicked tunnel vision. I ended up going down the line (towards the ship) backwards, staring at my husband to shift my focus, then using my hands as blinders so I wouldn’t see it. I can’t believe I passed the tests that morning, because I barely remember anything but tears, panic and trying to keep myself from bolting. It was awful. My plan now is to slowly (and from a distance at first) subject myself to wrecks in shallow, clear water in the hopes of getting over this fear. We’ll see how it goes.

    • Luxi Turna Reply

      > I knew I had this fear, but also really wanted to be a certified diver

      Thats like “i’m terrified of dead bodies but i want to work at a funeral home”

      No WAY!

  28. Guy Reply

    I had this fear from childhood. I read in a science book for kids about the titanic and thats the earlyest memory of the fear. through childhood I couldnt fall asleep because of this fear. the funny thing is I am not afraid of submarines or seeing the oceans floor (saw it several years ago in a bbc series about the planet and enjoyed every moment).
    I do how ever get very uneasy seeing submerged tanks from WWII submerged only few meters below surface or ships that could be seen from the surface and swiming in the dark or mirky waters.
    The problem for me in easying it is that I would still have trouble sleeping after seeing a pic of that sort.
    Maybe somday I’ll go to a specialist.

  29. Carla Crace Dixon Reply

    I have had this fear my entire life. I’m 65 and never knew anyone else with it or that it had a name. I’m fascinated with sea life, love flying in planes and would love to ride in a submarine but I can’t look st pictures of them. Or see a real one in person uf I’m by myself. The worse for me are ship propellers, the hull of a ship, or any man made metallic thing under water. I also hate pictures of airplane fuselage parts. Even big bolts in metal make me feel panicky. The worst experience in my life was in visiting the Navy Meuseum in Pensacola, FL. I was 9 yes old and held my dad’s hand with my eyes closed the entire tour. Blimps are another biggie. It’s as if my mind short circuits if I’m surprised by a photo. Nat Geo is my favorite magazine, but I have to peek at each page slowly just in case it’s an under water picture. Thanks for helping me know I’m not alone in this!

  30. Hanna Reply

    I so thought I was alone in all of this. One of the worst things for me is underwater mines. The thought of submarines in the water while i’m in it. God, it gives me anxiety!! It’s nice to know that I am not alone in it all and that others feel the same way.

  31. Lisa Niebs Reply

    The first time I knew that my phobia was severe was when I was on the lake that my Mom lived on. I was in the paddleboat with my sister going down a very small canal. She told me to look to the left, that a sunken rowboat was about to be below us. As I looked I saw the whole rowboat clearly on the bottom of the canal. Since that part of the canal was only about 4 feet deep it was east to see all of it. I couldn’t talk, I froze and began to sweat. My reaction was so severe that I was unable to talk all the way back and could barely help to paddle.

    I’ve come close to drowning because I was too afraid to grab hold of a boat ladder in only 5.5 ft. of water. Can not even come close to a buoy. Will not look at the submerged portion of any boat, ship, etc. Cannot even stand next to a dock even if the water in at my waist.

    I tried to overcome this recently while snorkeling recently. I had started to overcome the fear of deep water while in Grand Cayman. The water was so clear that I could see everything (and everything I saw belonged there). So at one of the stops during a snorkeling trip in St. Thomas they announced that a shipwreck had occurred there. I thought it would be a good time to at least try to “peek” at it. After getting into the water and putting on my mask, I tried to put my mask just a little bit into the water to just look for a second and be done. I started to put my mask under and heard someone talking about how cool and big the ship was. I instantly began to panic. I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t move. My hand was still on the rung of the ladder and no one else could come down or go up. As I stared at the ladder I realized there was boat below the water in front of me, the ladder went further down, etc. After what seemed like eternity, I felt a woman touch by shoulder. She was a lifeguard by trade. She asked me if i was o.k. I couldn’t answer. She cleared people away from me and talked me back into the catamaran. I couldn’t talk the rest of the trip and never got off the boat again until safely at the shore.

    There may be a way to overcome submechanophobia but this was NOT the way. I can definitely say that I will not try to cure myself again!

  32. Luxi Turna Reply

    > “facing and curing this phobia with desentization…”


    Why the FCKK would I want to do that? The hell with that! I just want to stay away from shipwrecks.

    Worst is water that gets murky a few feet below the surface. The picture of a submerged street sign on a flooded road causes instant panic. The pole disappears into the dark depths.

    In Texas, I swam in a pool with a huge star painted on the bottom. I started swimming to it and completely panicked. I refuse to swim in lakes because I might touch the bottom. If I did and I touched metal and looked down at a submerged car with dead bodies in it, I’d probably have a heart attack.

    I also panicked when I tried to follow an anchor chain to the bottom in very clear water. When I turned over to swim up instead, I saw the bottom of the boat. I could have committed suicide then, just to not have to see it.

    I think the problem is incongruity, what I call a “context fault.” That’s like a program exception or CPU interrupt. Seeing underwater objects in such a wrong context, that my brain just locks up. It’s like an unhandled interrupt that hangs the machine.

  33. Miranda Napier Reply

    I can’t look at pictures of ships, and I hate the pictures of the statues underwater. It just gives me an urgent sense of doom because to me, manmade things belong on land not sunken to the bottom of the ocean. Gahhh, so creepy and unsettling!

  34. economygirl Reply

    I have always wanted to learn to dive, but have had this strange fear of manmade things underwater, which even includes drains and the black swim lap lines in pools. I was talking with a friend of mine about it. I don’t think I’m going to get sucked in the drain and I can’t figure out what made me afraid of those things. Once snorkeling there was a shipwreck sticking out of the water and I totally freaked out. I found in the Bahamas, that even with totally clear water I got anxiety. Growing up I spent weekends at a lake and just couldn’t get past falling off the jetski, tube or trying to waterski, I would lay on my back and just scream. I want to get over these fears because in the Spring of 2019 I want to learn how to dive.

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