Puget Sound’s orcas welcome fourth calf in three months

March 31, 2015 at 11:39 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 6 Comments

(Photo by naturalist/researcher Jeanne Hyde, Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching)
Word started getting around last night that Puget Sound’s orcas, the Southern Resident Killer Whales, have another new baby – and researchers have confirmed that this is the fourth calf spotted in three months. Three of them, including this one, were born to J Pod. The first report came from the Pacific Whale Watch Association; one of its members, Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching, spotted the baby off Galiano Island, British Columbia, on Monday. This means the SRKWs – J Pod, K Pod, L Pod – are up to 81 orcas in the wild (and the 82nd, Tokitae/Lolita, in captivity in Florida). The newest baby is J52; it’s been exactly three months since J50 was spotted, followed by J51 in mid-February, and then the L Pod baby two weeks later.

In case you wondered: Washington State Ferries’ new Samish is on sea trials again right now

March 30, 2015 at 5:25 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | No Comments

(WSB photo added: M/V Samish in Elliott Bay early this evening, after sea trials off western WS)
We’ve just received a flurry of calls about a ferry off west-facing West Seattle shores, outside the usual lanes and apparently closer to shore than ferries usually get, plus, one texter says it’s “going in circles.” We mentioned it on Friday but if you missed that – it’s just the new, Vigor-built ferry Samish, out on sea trials before it officially joins the fleet. (The larger Tacoma, which had also been testing off WS following repairs, is now back on the Bainbridge run.)

West Seattle weekend scene: Three Tree Point yacht race

March 28, 2015 at 3:36 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | No Comments

(Photo by DLBJ)
Thanks to everyone who’s shared photos of the yachts seen today off West Seattle’s west-facing shores … it’s the Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle‘s Three Tree Point race.

(Photo by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
ADDED SATURDAY EVENING: More photos.

(Photo by Gary Jones)
Couple more to come. Results from today’s race are linked from this page on the club’s website.

In case you wondered: State ferries still on test runs off West Seattle

March 27, 2015 at 10:51 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | No Comments

10:51 AM: Two notes about ferries that appeared to be “dead in the water off Alki” this morning remind us that we should mention this again: Washington State Ferries has two vessels in testing/sea trials in and around Elliott Bay right now, and if you see something unusual, it’s probably one (or both!) of them. The Tacoma is still on sea trials after months of repairs, before returning to the Bainbridge Island run; the Samish, newly built at Vigor on Harbor Island, is testing before officially joining the fleet.

ADDED FRIDAY NIGHT: Turns out M/V Tacoma is officially going back into service tomorrow (Saturday, March 28), according to this announcement from WSF.

Seen off West Seattle: Two helicopters, boat marked ‘Tunisia Navy’

March 26, 2015 at 2:47 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 20 Comments

2:47 PM: An unusual sighting, shared by Gary Jones, who photographs from Alki Point: Seen in the noon hour, a boat marked “Tunisia Navy,” with two helicopters nearby.

Their markings match what we saw on two helicopters passing overhead, westbound, one behind the other, as we arrived at HQ in Upper Fauntleroy after a noontime trip.

Backstory? We don’t know yet. At first, we wondered about a movie shoot (Seattle wouldn’t seem to be much of a stand-in for Tunisia, which is on the Mediterranean Sea in North Africa, but you’ll recall Alki doubling for Florida) – then a bit of Googling revealed that the U.S. donated two similar types of patrol boats to Tunisia seven months ago and was planning to donate more. Still checking around. Know anything? editor@westseattleblog.com as always.

8:44 PM: After a couple of e-mail tipsters suggested we check with local boatmakers that build military-style patrol boats, we sent out queries around 5 pm and just received this reply from sales manager Kevin Rowlee at Bremerton-based SAFE Boats International:

Yes, that was a boat built by SAFE Boats International. It is a “65 Full Cabin – Inboard” destined for the Tunisia Navy. The boat you saw was the second of two boats purchased under the same contract.

Commenter Brian confirms the photo-shoot angle.

West Seattle whale-watching: Orcas in the area

March 25, 2015 at 10:13 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Thanks to Norman for the tip via Twitter, and we see the Orca Network Facebook commenters are discussing it too: Orcas turned up along the Bainbridge ferry route earlier this morning and have now been seen heading south along West Seattle (Me-Kwa-Mooks, says Norman) – let us know if you see them!

Early alert: Aircraft carrier John C. Stennis to sail by on Monday

March 20, 2015 at 9:59 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

FRIDAY NIGHT, 9:59 PM: For West Seattle water watchers who appreciate advance notice of significant sail-bys – the U.S. Navy sent word today that the carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) will be heading back out from Bremerton on Monday (March 23rd), for at-sea training exercises. No specific time yet.

MONDAY MORNING, 9:19 AM: The Stennis may already have gone by – we checked MarineTraffic.com a few minutes ago and there is an unspecified “Navy unit” already north of Elliott Bay. (9:45 note – yes, it’s passed, and we’re publishing reader photos.)

Port of Seattle’s ‘West Seattle Working Waterfront’ tour postponed

March 13, 2015 at 10:36 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

Quick FYI in case you had blocked out the date for the Port of Seattle‘s free “West Seattle Working Waterfront” boat tour next month, promoted by port reps at several community-council meetings recently and mentioned in our subsequent reports: We got word today that it’s been postponed. Port events manager Mary Jean Stephens says it’s been rescheduled for the morning of September 19th; registration information will recirculate during the summer.

Seen off West Seattle: USS Ranger under tow to scrapyard

March 5, 2015 at 3:06 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 12 Comments

(Added 4 pm: Texted photo – thanks!)
Like the Constellation last year, the mothballed aircraft carrier USS Ranger is now under tow from Bremerton to a Texas scrapyard. MarineTraffic.com shows it off south Bainbridge with tugboats including the 155-foot oceangoing tug Lindsey Foss; it should be visible from north West Seattle. Here are details from the Kitsap Sun, which reports the USS Independence will be next to make the same, final journey.

ADDED: Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo added above this line.

Elliott Bay sea trials ahead for Washington State Ferries’ M/V Tacoma

March 5, 2015 at 9:00 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off

(WSDOT photo from Wednesday as Tacoma’s tow got under way from Bainbridge Island)
If you saw that big state ferry under tow in Elliott Bay toward downtown on Wednesday – it was the M/V Tacoma, and you’ll see a lot more of it from here over the next three weeks, even before it goes back into service on the Bainbridge-Seattle run next month following seven months of work. From the Washington State Ferries‘ announcement about its sea trials:

… Starting (today) people may see the Tacoma in Elliott Bay or at Colman Dock as crews conduct three weeks of sea trials to thoroughly test the ferry’s new circuit breaker.

“During the past seven months, we inspected and rebuilt the damaged propulsion switchboard system,” said Tim Browning, acting director of vessel maintenance and preservation. “Now it’s time to test the system and make sure it is working properly while the vessel is underway.” …

Once the testing is complete, the Tacoma will undergo its annual U.S. Coast Guard safety inspection before returning to service on the Seattle/Bainbridge Island route in April.

The Tacoma, built in 1997, lost power on July 29, 2014, while traveling from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. A design flaw prevented a protective circuit-breaker device to work as it should. This caused a chain of events that resulted in significant damage to the electrical switchboard components, which ultimately led to the power failure.

P.S. Thanks to Janna for the tip about this.

Another baby born to Puget Sound orcas: New L Pod arrival!

February 26, 2015 at 12:00 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 8 Comments


Announced this morning – the third calf born to Puget Sound’s resident orcas in the past two months! First came the two babies born to J Pod – we learned about J50 in late December, and then two weeks ago J51 was spotted; and today, NOAA Fisheries announces a baby seen with L Pod as its scientists tracked the whales off the seacoast. “The calf looked very energetic,” NOAA’s Brad Hanson reported.

While whale experts warn that mortality rates are high even in the best of times, this is nonetheless yet another sign of hope for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. As noted when we covered one of The Whale Trail‘s orca talks here in West Seattle last fall, the resident pods previously hadn’t seen a birth in two years, and that calf did not survive.

Followup: Future West Seattle Water Taxi, M/V Doc Maynard, taking shape

February 25, 2015 at 12:14 pm | In King County Water Taxi, Seen at sea, Transportation, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

(Click picture to see larger image)
With the county launching Water Taxi Watch and planning the debut of the new Vashon Island Water Taxi M/V Sally Fox for late March, we asked how construction is proceeding with West Seattle’s new vessel, the M/V Doc Maynard. In response, the county Department of Transportation shared the photo taken at All American Marine in Bellingham, where, KCDOT spokesperson Rochelle Ogershok says, “Last week the engines were inserted into the hull and the cabin was also attached to the hull. We are still on target for delivery of the vessel this fall.”

When the new vessels are both in service, the county plans to keep Spirit of Kingston, the current West Seattle Water Taxi, as a backup. It has already stopped leasing the SoK’s predecessor Rachel Marie – which went into service on the West Seattle run in 2010 – and will do so with the current Vashon vessel Melissa Ann. The two new boats’ cost will total $11.8 million, 80 percent of which is being covered by federal funding.

P.S. The Water Taxi’s 7-day-a-week schedule resumes April 6th.

Wondering where the boat is? King County now has ‘Water Taxi Watch’

February 24, 2015 at 2:27 pm | In Seen at sea, Transportation, West Seattle news | 5 Comments


(Screengrab from Water Taxi Watch)
Wondering where your Water Taxi is? Just announced:

The King County Marine Division (KCMD) is excited to announce that we have gone live with our Water Taxi Watch system.

Water Taxi Watch, modeled after Washington State Ferries’ (WSF) very popular VesselWatch, allows you to track vessels on our routes in real time, including their position, speed, and direction. You can also find arrival and departure schedules and other useful information on the site. Hopefully the next foggy morning you are down at the dock and cannot see your vessel, you will be able to use this new tool to track the status of your boat.

This project was funded by a Federal Transit Administration technology grant and is a collaborative effort between WSF and the King County Marine Division. Please visit our website at kingcounty.gov/watertaxi for a link to this exciting new feature!

(Note: The site currently lists the vessel’s estimated arrival time. This is an estimate based on the scheduled crossing time added to the actual departure time and does not account for weather or other delays during the crossing)

The direct link is here – it’s hosted on the Washington State Ferries website (you’ll notice that it lists WSF vessels as well), and as noted in the announcement, is reachable via a button from the Water Taxi homepage.

SIDE NOTE: While there’s no official announcement from the county yet (we’re checking), BikeVashon says the first new Water Taxi, M/V Sally Fox (which will be on the Seattle-Vashon route), is expected to be dedicated March 28th.

West Seattle scene: Powered paragliding in the Monday sunshine

February 23, 2015 at 7:48 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

We don’t know who it was (do you?), but – James Bratsanos shared these views of a powered paraglider, cruising over the south West Seattle shoreline this afternoon.

A bit further north, Beach Drive Blog spotted the flyer too.

Followup: Seattle, Tacoma ports ‘relieved’ by tentative contract deal

February 21, 2015 at 7:23 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

One day after the tentative contract agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association (terminal operators) was announced, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma have sent their official comment:

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma are relieved to hear of the tentative deal between the ILWU and PMA.

Operations at our terminals will resume Saturday evening. We are uncertain how long it will take to move the remaining cargo on our docks and awaiting vessels, and to assess the effects this has had on our gateway.

Our combined ports support more than 200,000 jobs throughout the region, many of them depending on the freight moving through our terminals.

We will do everything we can to support our customers in getting this gateway back to our high standards of reliability and efficiency.

MarineTraffic.com shows no container ships at anchor in Elliott Bay right now, but three off Manchester, a holding zone for Tacoma. No word, meantime, when ratification votes will happen.

VIDEO: West Seattle’s Cormorant Cove Park, the undersea view

February 16, 2015 at 11:30 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Late-night extra – another peek beneath the surface, courtesy of “Diver Laura” James. This is likely the first in a series of glimpses into the undersea world beyond the most-popular dive spots near Seacrest; in this short video, she shows you around at Cormorant Cove, the city park off Beach Drive by the Harbor West condos-on-pilings.

P.S. While you won’t see them because they were tucked away in crevices, Laura says “some surviving Ochre Sea Stars (the purple ones) and some young Mottled Stars (the orange ones)” were in view. She also calls our attention to South Sound U.S. Rep. Denny Heck‘s reintroduction of a bill to provide federal help to try to solve marine-disease emergencies like sea-star wasting syndrome – read about it here.

Dock dispute: Terminals closed again today; labor secretary plans meetings in San Francisco

February 16, 2015 at 11:16 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

Two notes on the ongoing contract-talks stalemate between West Coast port-terminal operators and longshore workers:

(Northeastward view over ships anchored off Manchester; photo by Long Bach Nguyen)
TERMINALS CLOSED AGAIN TODAY: Today is the fourth day (of the past five) that terminals remain closed to ship offloading by order of the Pacific Maritime Association, the umbrella organization for terminal operators on the West Coast. So far, they’re expected to reopen tomorrow; that could mean major truck traffic on roads to local terminals, such as lower Spokane St. and East Marginal, which backed up last Friday when terminals reopened after the first day of closure. Nine cargo ships are anchored off Seattle and Manchester today, as shown on MarineTraffic.com (and in the photos with this story)

(Bulk-cargo ships anchored off Magnolia, seen from West Seattle; photo by Chris Panarello; [added Tuesday] note – commenter points out the grain terminal is not part of the current situation)
LABOR SECRETARY IN SAN FRANCISCO TOMORROW: There’s an update today on the plan for U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez to intervene by talking with the PMA and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union: The Bay Area’s NBC station reports via Twitter that Perez will meet with both sides in San Francisco tomorrow. No details yet.

Another new baby for Puget Sound’s endangered orcas: Welcome, J51!

February 12, 2015 at 7:35 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 12 Comments

Another birth announcement for Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales – and, like the last one, this new baby has been spotted in J-Pod. Orca Network sent the news release and photo on behalf of the Center for Whale Research:

After spending the past two weeks near the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, J pod finally came back into the interior Salish Sea waters and showed off another brand new baby whale to the few observers that braved the mist and light rain and watched the whales swim by from land and from vessels at respectful distance.

Dave Ellifrit from the Center for Whale Research, and Jeanne Hyde who first heard the whales on Lime Kiln hydrophone this morning, embarked on the Center ‘s research vessel “Chimo” to Haro Strait while CWR Senior Scientist, Ken Balcomb, watched from shore and managed communications.

The late December calf, J50, with its J16 family were seen today as well; but, the big news is that J19 and J41 were swimming protectively on either side on another new baby that we estimate is about one week old. This newest addition to J pod is designated J51, and the presumed mother is thirty-six year old J19. Her ten-year old daughter, J41, was also in attendance. The newest baby appears healthy.

This brings us to twenty-six whales in J pod, the most viable pod in the Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population of the US and Canada Pacific Northwest. K pod has 19 individuals, and L pod has 34 individuals for a total population of 79 SRKW’s as of today. That number can change anytime with the birth or death of one of these charismatic whales.

West Seattle whale watching: Orcas back in the area

February 8, 2015 at 12:55 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | Comments Off

12:55 PM: Orcas were spotted off Bainbridge Island within the past hour or so, headed toward Alki (thanks to Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales for the alert, which is also on Orca Network‘s Facebook page). Let us know if you spot them!

2:06 PM: No reports yet from local waters but some have been spotted southbound off the east side of Vashon Island – you’d need really good binoculars to see from here.

Dock-talks update: Terminal operators say they’ll close for the weekend

February 6, 2015 at 3:02 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 33 Comments

Terminal operators at ports including Seattle say they’ll shut down for the weekend, as the contract-talks stalemate with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union continues. The announcement comes in this statement from the Pacific Maritime Association, which says “weekend vessel loading and unloading operations will be temporarily suspended this weekend, with yard, rail and gate operations continuing at terminal operators’ discretion.” No comment yet from the ILWU, but its president was quoted yesterday as decrying the PMA’s previously voiced “threat” to close ports, made as the terminal operators’ organization went public with its latest contract offer.

Locally, the Port of Seattle’s newest online schedule shows six vessels due on Saturday/Sunday (one of them, NYK Daedalus, is already anchored in Elliott Bay, and another, ZIM Djibouti, is anchored off Manchester).

West Seattle Super Bowl spirit: State ferries’ Seahawk names

January 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm | In Seen at sea, Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

Fauntleroy's 12th man

(M/V Tillikum with Seahawks-fan flags in September 2013; photo by Paul Brannan)
Just like last year, Washington State Ferries is giving its vessels honorary temporary names on Sunday, as a show of support for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Here are the three that sail out of Fauntleroy:

M/V Issaquah: “M/V Russell Okung
M/V Tillikum: “M/V Kevin Williams
M/V Evergreen State: “M/V Byron Maxwell

Same names as last year except for the Tillikum; see this year’s full system-wide list here.

West Seattle whale-watching: Orcas headed this way

January 30, 2015 at 11:07 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 4 Comments

11:07 AM: Thanks to Trileigh for sounding the alert that Orca Network tipsters are reporting orcas headed north in Colvos Passage on the west side of Vashon – which means they might be visible from here at some point soon. The fog is of course complicating things, and even without fog, the whales might stay along the western shore of the sound, but we wanted to make sure you knew.

2:11 PM: The whales have gone into Rich Passage, which leads to Bremerton, as of the newest comments on the same Orca Network post we’ve linked above.

Some Puget Sound seabird species ‘may be turning the corner’ in a good way, 7-year analysis suggests

January 20, 2015 at 4:38 pm | In Environment, Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 5 Comments

(All photos in this story are by Mark Wangerin. Above, rhinoceros auklet)
A glimmer of good news about the health of Puget Sound and some of its wildlife. This news release arrived via NOAA, but much of the work was done by volunteers:

A new analysis of seven years of bird sightings by volunteer birdwatchers from the Seattle Audubon Society has found positive trends in several Puget Sound seabird species that had been in historic decline.

(Common loon)
The study tracked the occurrence of 18 seabird species at 62 sites around Puget Sound and found increased presence of 14 species, including cormorants, loons, rhinoceros auklets, and harlequin ducks. It also documented local hotspots for certain species, which may reflect especially important habitat or prey the birds depend on.

(Harlequin duck)
“This means that all other things being equal, if someone goes out now they’re more likely to see these birds than they would have been seven years ago,” said Eric Ward, an ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and lead author of the research.

Many seabird species are thought to have declined around Puget Sound since the 1960s and 1970s but the new results suggest the trends have turned up for many species.

Click to read the rest of Some Puget Sound seabird species ‘may be turning the corner’ in a good way, 7-year analysis suggests…

One more aircraft-carrier note: USS Constellation tow ending

January 15, 2015 at 9:09 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

(WSB photo, August 8, 2014, from Seattle/Sunset viewpoint in North Admiral)
In this week that’s already had two aircraft-carrier sightings off West Seattle – USS John C. Stennis heading out for training, USS Nimitz moving from Everett to Bremerton for maintenance – we have one more carrier note. Remember the coverage last August as the USS Constellation was towed out, headed down the Pacific Coast, around Cape Horn, up through the Caribbean and to Brownsville, Texas, to be scrapped? Oceangoing tug Corbin Foss, with the “Connie” in tow, is now arriving after five months – the timeline projected back last summer – and expected to finish the journey by tomorrow. The Foss website has kept up its “tow blog” with periodic data entries.

Arctic-drilling support at West Seattle’s Terminal 5? After intense debate, Port Commission supports proposed Foss lease, but…

January 13, 2015 at 4:20 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 28 Comments

(UPDATED 9:54 PM with chronicle of how the discussion unfolded)

(October 2014 photo by Peter West Carey, shared via Twitter)
The issue of whether to pursue a lease with Foss Maritime, temporarily taking part of closed-for-modernization Terminal 5 to support Shell‘s Arctic drilling operations (here’s our previous report), wasn’t supposed to be up for a vote; on this afternoon’s Seattle Port Commission agenda, it was just a briefing.

But after more than 20 public commenters at the meeting, held at Sea-Tac Airport, and intense discussion between commissioners, Commissioner Courtney Gregoire said she believed they had to give staff direction – and so they did, not via an actual vote, but via opinions: Three commissioners (Stephanie Bowman, John Creighton, and Bill Bryant) said basically, they’re not in favor of Arctic drilling, but not allowing this lease to go forward wouldn’t make a difference, so they feel they have to support it, given the hundreds of jobs and ~$28 million revenue it would bring. Two (Gregoire and Tom Albro) said they felt the port, with its “green gateway” mission, should not become the “homeport of Shell Arctic drilling support.”

But beyond a decision on this matter, commissioners did voice support for coming up with a port “energy policy” that could set guidelines for any future decisions along these lines, and possibly other actions that the port could take to support a clean-energy future, beyond policies and procedures it’s already implemented.

We’ve been monitoring the entire discussion, held at Sea-Tac Airport, via live video, and live tweeting at @westseattleblog. If you don’t use Twitter, you can see our three hours of tweets (interspersed with a few other stories) in the box below – reverse-chronological order, just scroll through:


And we’re writing up notes in a more-conventional manner to add here as soon as we can.

ADDED 9:54 PM: Scroll or click ahead for our narrative:

Click to read the rest of Arctic-drilling support at West Seattle’s Terminal 5? After intense debate, Port Commission supports proposed Foss lease, but……

Another day, another aircraft carrier: USS Nimitz now Bremerton-bound

January 13, 2015 at 9:43 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

(WSB photo by Patrick Sand, substituted for tweeted version shown here earlier)
9:43 AM: Thanks to the texter (206-293-6302) who called our attention to the Kitsap Sun‘s report that the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) is en route from Everett to Bremerton right now, for 16 months of maintenance. Naval Base Kitsap says via Facebook that it’s expected to arrive around 11:30, so if you can’t see it from West Seattle shores yet, it can’t be far. It’ll be the second consecutive day of aircraft-carrier sightings – the USS John C. Stennis headed northbound yesterday, leaving Bremerton for more training.

10:29 AM: Looking north from the Alki promenade, we’re seeing it in the distance now, passing West Point.

11:08 AM: Back from watching until it turned into Rich Passage.

(Update: Photos added, including Greg Snyder‘s view of the turn, above.)

Passing West Seattle shores: USS John C. Stennis, headed out

January 12, 2015 at 10:30 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off


Aaron texted us about an aircraft carrier passing Alki Point right now and at first we thought it had to be the USS Nimitz, expected to be Bremerton-bound sometime this week, postponed from last week. But no, it’s the USS John C. Stennis, headed out for training again, per the Kitsap Sun (whose photo tweet you see above).

ADDED: Thanks to Lynn Shimamoto for catching a good look at the Stennis and sharing the photo:

No exact date yet for the Nimitz’s trip from Everett to Bremerton, by the way.

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