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Posts Tagged ‘Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður’

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Here is one of my „COVID recordings“ that I managed to record by Glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón near the lagoon outfall.
This place is close to the ring road around Iceland so it is usually overcrowded by tourists and other traffic all year round, almost 24/7. I have only been able to dream of recording this place without traffic and human interruption.
But thanks to COVID, on the 10th of June 2020 I managed to record there without too much interruption.
The soundscape is different in this place, but the recording here below is typical for summer soundscape. When I first went to this place some decades ago the glacier was much closer, I guess about 2km away, but today it is about 8km away and much thinner. The sounds from the glacier have almost disappeared. But on the lagoon are large icebergs that melt down rapidly near the lagoon’s outfall. They can emit interesting sounds when they break in pieces.
Arctic terns have nested beside the outfall in many years, but probably because of traffic they seem to have moved the biggest colony closer to the glacier.  In the eighties and nineties when I passed this place every year by bike, Great Skua dominated this area with nests in many places.. But today this big bird is hardly seen near the outfall compared to how it was thirty years ago. Arctic Skua is a common bird there as it has been before.
This recording was made a few hundred meters east from the lagoon outfall.
Not far from the microphone are stranded icebergs which are constantly melting with all kinds of sound.
Most common birds in this recording are Arctic tern, Northern Fulmar, Black Headed Gull, and Razorbill. Other species are audible too.
Common Eiders come quietly close to the microphone and Seals have a fight or mating not far away,
The main background noise is a rumble from heavy surf along the Atlantic ocean coastline  several hundreds meters behind the microphones. Traffic from the ring road no1 is also audible.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at mid level.
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  (mp3 256kbps / 65.5Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices MixPre6
Mics: Lewitt LCT540s (NOS)
Pix: Canon EOS-R

Weather: Cloudy, calm, around 8°C
Location: 64.052841, -16.178658

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In recent years I have spent several nights in Skeiðarársandur to record the changes in the ecosystem.
Skeiðarársandur is a huge broad sandy wasteland along Iceland’s south-eastern coast, between the Vatnajökull icecap and the sea. It is a wonderful place to record deep natural silence in a huge open flat landscape.
For hundreds of years Skeiðarársandur has been a barren desert. but recently with shrinking glaciers and smaller glacial rivers, Birch, moss and other flora have occupied the northeast part of the sand. That means the soundscape on Skeiðarársandur will change in the future which will be interesting to record regularly in the coming years.
I have usually stayed at the same spot near a traditional sheep pen because structures like that are attractive for birds like Snow bunting, Northern wheatear and Rock ptarmigan.
I was very excited when I went to this spot on the 9th of June 2020. Because of COVID, there were almost no tourists in Iceland and therefore far less traffic.  So I was hoping for a beautifully quiet night there. I was not disappointed either. It was calm so the silence was deep. I could hear the Atlantic ocean surf among the coastline 20-30km away, which sounds slightly like low frequency rumble in the background of this recording. I could not see any bird but bird songs came from every direction, clearly far away. During the night the glacier rumbled several times in Skaftafell national park like a thunder in the distance. Once a ship engine noise was audible out of the coastline which sounds pretty spooky. It sounds more coming from the sky rather than from the coastline in the horizon, which was probably a reflection from different temperature layers in the atmosphere.
Anyway the ship engine is not audible in the following recording, but maybe in another blog.
The microphone rig was on the top of the sheep pen wall, not far away from the place which I think Northern wheatear has had a nest every year since I started to record this place. (Listen to recording since mid May 2016)
Luckily the Northern wheatear was not far away. This time the bird was not as angry about the hairy microphones as when I first brought the microphones in this place. The bird just sang for me for almost one hour and here comes part of it.

  (mp3 256kbps / 67,7Mb)

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Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Lewitt LCT540s (IRT Cross)
Pix: Canon EOS-R 

Weather:  Calm to 5m/sek, clear sky, 3 to 7°C
Location:  63.969925, -17.160018

 

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Shortly after I set up my gear in a safe spot near the lagoon beneath the Svínafellsjökull ice fall. I heard thunder behind the Hafrafell mountain
Two minutes later and suddenly all icebergs in the lagoon began to move around like corks in a boiling pot. Big waves paralyzed the shores of the lagoon, in some places for many meters.
„Shit“ was my first thought. „I was not in the right place“. I should have been on the other side of the lagoon and closer to the glacier, where I have spent hours and days in recent years trying to record incidents like this without success. I ran to the lagoon to see what was going on.
…Or maybe I was lucky to be where I was. I saw big waves go far up on the shore at the place where I have been recording the past years. I probably would have damage or destroyed the Phantom power adapters inside the hydrophones XLR´s.plugs   
Thanks to COVID I was now in a place which has been impossible to record because of the tourist explosion in recent years.
Two microphones were now placed under a high steep crawl on the lagoon´s west bank, 5 meters above the lagoon surface. Below the microphones, two hydrophones were put in the lagoon between big rocks to prevent them from getting crushed or touched by icebergs. It was a bad placement for a successful underwater recording. But I  remember quite well what happened in this lagoon few years ago. So I was sure I would lose them both and probably something more if I threw them deeper into the lagoon. 
Although the outcome is OK, even though the hydrophones did not pick up the whole soundscape underneath the lagoon’s surface. 
The glacier calving starts in this recording at 3:15 min far away and behind the Hafrafell mountain, so it doesn’t sound very loud. But it makes a big wave in the lagoon which makes a chain reaction of a few other glacier calving.
Just before the first incident you can hear the hydrophone pick up a sound of crushing ice. It would have been much louder if the hydrophones have been deeper in the lagoon. But recording glacier lagoons is not an easy task when the lagoon is full of ice which can flip without warning.  
This recording was made in the late afternoon so traffic noise from rode no:1 is audible in the background. But compared to recent years, it is nothing. Thanks to COVID.   
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 48Mb)

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Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6 
Mics: Lewitt LCT540s (NOS) & Aquarian H2n XLR (Spaced AB)
Pix: Canon EOS R

Location: 64.007567, -16.880922
Weather: Cloudy, calm,  +11°C  
 

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Recording Icelandic glaciers aims to be my main passion for the coming years.
Unfortunately, I feel I’m starting too late because the sounds have changed significantly over the last 20-30 years. It is because they have lost a lot of mass, especially on the edges of the glaciers where they mainly produce sound.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to get to places where a glacier is crawling because there are no roads or tracks near the places that are considered suitable for recording today.
Not enough. Most of the glaciers are within national parks and protected areas today. Therefore, I need to apply for a permit to go to various places within the national park to record.
Once in place, it is not a given that it is possible to record exactly where it would be best to get an interesting sound. It must be taken into account that glaciers are not playgrounds and they can be dangerous. Glacier lagoons’ coastline are also dangerous when large pieces of ice fall from glaciers and large icebergs flip over and break down in pieces.
Weather conditions are also important. I am used to record continuously for many hours, even days, so calm and dry weather most of the time is always on the wish list.  
Last summer Jökulsárlón lagoon and Breiðamerkurjökul glacier were my main targets. It was slightly more difficult than I thought in the beginning, mainly because I did not have a clue what microphones worked best for this project so I brought with me microphones for all kinds of situations which is a hell a lot of stuff. In the end it was my parallel MKH8020/8040 rig which worked best for this glacier project last summer. Mainly because glaciers are not so quiet and therefore microphones with the lowest noise floor are not so important . 
It takes me almost two hours to sail on pedal Kayak with all luggage to the location near the glacier. I started immediately to record with two recorders after arriving. Then it takes me almost a day to find the best location for the microphones. It was not the best place to get the highest quality of sound recording. But they were sheltered from the wind and in safe distance from big waves or tsunami from the lagoon.
This following recording is a part of a 20 hour recording on this location. 
WARNING. This recording has a wide dynamic range. It includes several blasts (especially at 6:34) which are very loud that can damage speakers, headphones or your hearing if played too loud.
As usual for nature recordings it has not got any process in post. Just add gain about 20dB. Therefore is clipping inevitable in the „blast“ at 6:34.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level.

(mp3 256kbps / 56,3Mb)
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Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 in Parallel AB40. Mixed50/50%
Pix: Canon EOS R

Location: 64.109285, -16.243593
Weather: 4°C 2-4m/sek, cloudy

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I was shocked last summer. Then I realized it was becoming increasingly difficult to get interesting recordings of glaciers. I was missing out on unique opportunities if I would not change my traditional methods of recording glacier sounds.
Glaciers that have so far been accessible with all kind of sound seems much quieter than before. Finding good places seems to be more difficult each year and to reach them with all of my equipment are getting even more difficult. Many glacier toes in Iceland seem to be turning into „dead ice“ at the toe end so they will not be crawling under its own weight anymore just lay where they are until they melt down.
One of this glacier which has gotten thinner, smaller and quieter each year is Svínafellsjökull glacier.
I spent three nights recording there last summer without recording anything „interesting“
The temperature varies between 2°C over the night, to 18°C during the day. During the night it melted little but it started to melt intensely at dawn and became very intense during the day, especially when the sun was shining on the glacier.
The following recording was made in a small „Ice cave“ in the glacier toe, 27th of May 2019. The time was around 8 AM, about an hour after the heat started to rice and the melting began. In this 27 minutes long recording  you will clearly hear the melting of the ice increase until I became afraid about the microphone and I stop the recording.
You can hear several times a deep rumble sound, probably because the glacier is crawling high in the mountain. Many other strange sounds are in this recording, some are known, while other unexplainable. I was never close by so it is not sound from me.  Some of them are loud, so be careful, do not listen to the recording on high level.
Other sound in distance are tourists, almost constant motorist traffic. But fossil fuel machines and humans mobility are sadly one of the reason for rapidly shrinking glaciers now a days.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low-mid level.
If you are having problems playing this or other recordings on this blog, try to open each blog-post in separate new frame or tab.

(mp3 256kbps / 51Mb)
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Recorder: Sound Devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 in Parallel AB40
Pix: LG G6
Location: 63.996493, -16.874061
Weather: Calm, light clouds, around 10°C

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It is a special feeling to stay close to a glacier. It’s like standing near a wast monster that is constantly moving, but very slowly. Everywhere around this flexible ice the gravity of the ice is visible. Glaciers usually have strong smell of fresh oxygen that glaciers have captured in ice and compressed in to locked bubbles for hundreds and thousands of years. This smell from the past is like from another world, probably because today has much more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than it has been for 800 thousand years at least. Glaciers also make sounds, sometimes quite loud, from falling drops of water to earthquakes, but most of these sounds are not audible to human ears. Glaciers make constant sound in water which needs hydrophones to capture, as can be heard on the following recording. I can not say I have been lucky in recording glacier sounds in years past. I’ve always been at the wrong place at the wrong time when glaciers produce “big sounds”, but after many hours, and several days on the same spot, I got something interesting which is worth listening to.
One of those days was 5th of June 2015 when I was at the glacier lagoon neneath of Skaftafellsjökull glacier’s icefall. This lagoon is not big, probably around 500m squared, but the depth is around 80 meters so the soundscape beneath the surface can be pretty exhilarating when the glacier is crawling at the bottom of the lagoon.
I put two hydrophones in the lagoon and two microphones on a nearby hill and recorded there for almost fourteen hours. The gain on the recorder was almost equal on all channels, or around 48dB, and during these 14 hour session the soundscape was different mostly because the glacier surface melts differently during the day then during the night with different water flows into the lagoon. All the time the glacier was grinding the bottom of the lagoon so under the lagoon’s surface the soundscape was much nosier than above.
Then just before midnight the glacier did a “big move” (starts 25:00) which lasted for several minutes, crawling with cracking and scratching sound. The soundscape down in the lagoon sounds really strange and surreal, but the listener must keep in mind that sound travels much faster in water than in the air. The soundscape above the lagoon was different. It was possible to ‘feel’ or ‘see’ through the audio the movement of the whole Svínafellsjökull glacier icefall through the valley. But that recording will be for another soundblog.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 63Mb)
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Recorder Sound Devices 788
Mics: Aquarian H2a XLR
Pix: Canon EOS M

Location: 64°00’12.7″N 16°52’39.6″W
Weather. Calm, cloudy, 11°C

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Two years ago, when I was recording in Skaftafell National Park, I noticed that Redwings sing differently between two places in the park. In the forest around Skaftafellsheiði, above the campsite and the information center, the redwings sing quiet „normal songs“ as most Redwings do in Iceland. But in nearby valley, in Morsárdalur in Bæjarstaðakógur forest, most of the Redwings colony start their song with two long tones before the „normal song“ starts.
I have search my recordings for something interesting. What makes it different and what is common with this Redwing songs which will probably bring me, or someone else, to further research.
But I will not talk about it here, because that will be another story.
By slowing down the recording four times (1min > 4min) it makes a totally new soundscape. It sounds like a rain forest full of screaming monkeys. It opens my mid for different understanding on birdsong. Redwing’s song is much more complex than I thought. They are far from being singing the same melody or make a simple message all the time. It sounds more like a complex language.
It does not matter what they are doing. Are they speaking to each other, sending messages or singing a complex song to the crowd, it always leave the question: What are they doing and what does it all mean?
Following recording was recorded last summer in Bæjarstaðaskógur. You can hear this special Redwing start his song with its two tones before he continues with a „normal“ song.
In the normal speed recording at 2:40, you will hear a rumble from the Morsárjökull glacier which was about 10km away
Background noise is mostly from streaming water in the mountains and the Morsá river.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level.

Normal speed.
(mp3 256kbps / 12Mb)

Slow speed (4x).
(mp3 256kbps /41Mb)

Recorder: Sonosax SR-X4+ (24/48)
Mics: Sennheier MKH20 (AB40)
Pics: Canon EOS-M

Weather: Light cloud, showers around, calm, 10°C
Location: 64.058877,-17.024021

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Svínafellsjökull icefall lay in a valley between Svínafellsheiði and Hafrafell. It is an icefall from Öræfajökull which is the highest mountain/glacier in Iceland around 2109 meters high.
I spent several nights beneath Svínafellsjökull icefall in May, both 2015 and 2016, recording 8-10 hours overnight recording. I was always trying to capture iceberg breakdown into the glacier lagoon, because last time I record it in 2014 it was disturbed with huge tsunami.
But most of the breakdown was probably somewhere between 1300-1700 meters, high in the mountain.
Anyway, during the night when traffic goes down and the weather was calm, it was always interesting to listen to the glacier in the „silence“. It starts like a thunder with low frequency rumble, high in the mountains. Then a strange „white noise“ falls slowly down the the wally, all the way to the end of the icefall toe. I am still not sure if it was an echo from the mountain or some crawling sound from the glacier. But it was so slow that I am almost sure that it is was not an echo from surrounding mountains.
But this is not what you will hear in the following recording. After one of this overnight recording in 15th of May 2016 I decided to record near to a frozen pond close to the glacier’s toe. The time was around eight o´clock in the morning so the tourist traffic had not began to disturb the soundscape. The temperature was just below zero, but the morning sun was already melting the ice in the area. The soundscape was amazing. With closed eyes it sounds like a busy place with bunch of small elves. Small trickle, ticks and cracks makes the soundscape worth to listen and to record.
At 17th minute the glacier start to crawl and then again one minute later with low frequency rumble.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level.

(256 kbps / 56Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 788
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 (parallel ORFT)
Pix : Canon EOS-M
Location: 64.001270, -16.877298
Weather: Clear sky, calm, 1°C

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An outwash plain, also called a sandur is a plain formed of glacial sediments deposited by meltwater outwash at the terminus of a glacier. As it flows, the glacier grinds the underlying rock surface and carries the debris along. The meltwater at the snout of the glacier deposits its load of sediment over the outwash plain, with larger boulders being deposited near the terminal morraine, and smaller particles travelling further before being deposited. Sandurs are common in Iceland where geothermal activity accelerates the melting of ice flows and the deposition of sediment by meltwater.
The original sandur from which the general name is derived is Skeiðarársandur, a broad sandy wasteland along Iceland’s south-eastern coast, between the Vatnajökull icecap and the sea. Skeiðarársandur is the largest sandur in the world, covering an area of 1,300 km2 (500 sq mi). Volcanic eruptions under the icecap have given rise to many large glacial bursts (jökulhlaups in Icelandic), most recently in 1996, when the Ring Road was washed away (minor floods have also occurred since then). This road, which encircles Iceland and was completed in 1974, has since been repaired. The 1996 jökulhlaup was caused by the eruption of the Grímsvötn volcano, with peak flow estimated to be 50,000 m3/s (1,800,000 cu ft/s) compared to the normal summer peak flow of 200 to 400 m3/s (7,100–14,100 cu ft/s). Net deposition of sediment was estimated to be 12,800,000 m3 (450,000,000 cu ft).
The main braided channels of Skeiðarársandur are the Gígjukvísl and Skeiðará rivers, which incurred net gains of 29 and 24 cm (11.4 and 9.4 in) respectively during the 1996 jökulhlaup. In the Gígjukvísl there was massive sediment deposition of up to 12 m (39 ft), which occurred closest to the terminus of the glacier. The erosional patterns of Skeiðarársandur can be seen by looking at the centimeter-scale elevation differences measured with repeat-pass laser altimetry (LIDAR) flown in 1996 (pre-flood), 1997, and 2001. Of the overall deposition during the 1996 jökulhlaup, nearly half of the net gain had been eroded 4 years after the flood. These two rivers on the sandur display drastically different erosional patterns. The difference in sediment erosion can be attributed to the 2 km (1.2 mi) wide trench near the terminus where the Gígjukvísl flows, in contrast with the Skeiðará, which has braided flows directly onto the outwash plain. The Gígjukvísl river is where some of the highest level of sediment deposit occurred and also where the largest erosion happened afterward. This indicates that these massive jökulhlaup deposits may have a large geomorphic impact in the short term, but the net change on the surface relief could be minimal after a couple years to a decade. (*Wikipedia)
This recording is just 23 minutes of 1o hours long overnight recording. It is very quiet and highly amplified. The microphones are unexpected located near to Northern Wheatear´s nest which is between stones in old ruins in the middle of Skeiðarársandur. You can hear wing flaps and some kind of a conversation between the birds and the youngsters. The birds sounds a little bit out of phase but that could be either because the bird is mostly behind the microphones, or the stone wall, or because the fury windshield was still soaking wet after heavy rain one hour earlier.
At 1:35 min a thunderous boom sounds from glacier in distance. During the recording the weather changed from calm to be windy.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level.

Sögur af Skeiðarársandi 1. hluti

Hér er á ferðinni rúmlega 20 mínútna löng upptaka sem er partur af 10 klst langri næturupptöku frá því 29. maí 2016 á Skeiðarársandi. Á sandinum svo til miðjum er hlaðin rúst sem líklega hefur gengt því hlutverki að vera fjárrétt áður en árnar á sandinum voru brúaðar. Í upptökunni má heyra að í vegghleðsluni er hreiður Steindepils. Hann pirrar sig eitthvað á óboðnum gesti þessa nótt, hljóðnemunum, en virðist svo líka eiga einhver samskipti við unga sína með lágværu tísti eða muldri. Heyra má að á þessum rúmu 20 mínútum að veðrið breytist frá því að vera logn yfir í rok.
Mælt er með því að hlusta á upptökuna í góðum opnum heyrnartólum og á miðlungs- lágum hljóðstyrk.

(256kbps / 43Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices 788
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pix: Canon EOS-M
Weather & time: Clam and windy, Drissle rain, at 2AM
Location: 63.969892, -17.160032

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The 10th of July 2015 I visited Ásbyrgi national park, in the north east Iceland.
I arrived around 9 pm. The weather was rather cold, with light drizzle rain. However there was a sport game on the old camp side held by the local community. Calls, yell and sheers from audience sounded fantastic in the echo from the surrounding cliffs. Mixed with the birdsong from the forest and the cliffs above it sounded like I was in another world.
I found a good place to record this amazing soundscape.
Soon I noticed a boring noise in the background from petrol power generator so the recording was shorter than I hoped .
When I came back to the car park the sport game was finished and the people were leaving the place. I heard someone in the crowd playing on Mbira thump piano. It came from female in traditional dress. Her instrument sounded nice in this place, so I enjoyed listening while I was packing my gear in the car.
Some Icelandic male in the crowd called after her: ‘Where are you from?“
„I am from everywhere“ she repleted.
Funny answer, I thought and started to listen to the conversations. Why not record her while she was playing?
She gave me a permission, so we took a walk to Botnstjörn pound in the bottom of Ásbyrgi.
Her name is Jessica Rose, with nickname Fairy.
I did not dare to ask her about her nationality, but her English was from the west, maybe from Canada, or north east USA. She was traveling in Iceland with her sister and two friends.

Fairy in Ásbyrgi

Um miðjan júlí 2015 kom ég við í Ásbyrgi. Ég hafði gefið mér nægan tíma þar árið áður svo ég ætlaði ekki að að eyða þar miklum tíma heldur fara á aðra staði í þjóðgarðinum sem ég hafði „hljóðstað“ á.
Ég kom á bílastæðið í botni Ásbyrgis um kl. 21. Á gamla tjaldsvæðinu stóð yfir íþróttamót. Það var því óvenju mikið af bílum og fólki á svæðinu. Hvattningarköll áhorfenda bergmáluðu sérkennilega milli klettanna í bland við fuglasöng úr skóginum og fýlahjal ofan úr klettunum. Ég rauk því til og fann mér upptökkustað. En það leið ekki á löngu að suð frá bensínrafstöð á keppnissvæðinu fór að pirra mig. Upptakan var því styttri en til stóð.
Þegar á bílastæðið var komið var fólk að streyma af mótssvæðinu. Heyri ég þá að einhver spilar á þumalpiano sem hljómaði skemmtilega á þessum stað. Var þar á ferð dama að nafni Jessica Rose sem vildi láta kalla sig Fairy. Var hún þarna í félagsskap með systur sinni og tveimur öðrum vinum á ferð um landið.
Ég stóst ekki mátið. Ég fékk leyfi hjá henni til að taka tónlist hennar upp og var það gert á pallinum við Botnstjörn.

Download mp3 file (256kbps / 48Mb)

Recorder Sound devices 788
Mics: Rode NT1a (NOS) & Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 (ORTF)
Pic: Canon EOS M
Recording location: 65.998557, -16.513076
Weather: Drizzle rain, calm and about 9°C

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