Dick and Dom don their hard hats and head underground to reveal the three tunnelling geniuses whose ideas revolutionised the way we dig deep below the earth.
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-Welcome to the genius world of... BOTH:
'Each show we're going to introduce you to three geniuses...'
..whose ideas have quite literally built the world.
'We put all their epic brilliance...'
'..to the test.'
Hit it, hit it.
'And we tackle our own Genius monster build.'
Don't you dare demolish this!
Why is it swinging?!
'..all in the name of science.'
That is a massive piece of construction.
What could possibly go wrong?
'In this tunnelling spectacular we find out how the Ancient Greeks
'put the maths into mass excavations.'
'We have a blast finding out
'how explosives revolutionised tunnelling.'
'And we'll get up close to the scariest drill
'since I last went to the dentist.'
Welcome to fancy London town,
one of the greatest cities in the world.
This place is constantly expanding, growing upwards and outwards.
Well, all of the amazing stuff that you can see above the surface
wouldn't be possible without the amazing tunnels beneath our feet.
Just metres beneath the surface
lies a huge network of crisscrossing tunnels and tubes.
Transporting the likes of people, data, water and waste.
This world beneath our feet keeps the city alive.
This is the story of the engineering geniuses
that have helped us build deep underground.
Engineering underground isn't a new thing.
In ancient times,
-people built tunnels for defensive purposes...
..or to transport water.
Soon digging underground was all about mining natural resources,
And much more recently,
engineers began to build tunnels to transport people.
But in the modern day,
life as we know it simply wouldn't be possible
without the tunnels beneath our feet.
We're here 40 metres beneath London in the Crossrail tunnel.
Yeah, with 26 miles, that's a marathon's worth, of tunnels
running just underneath the surface of the capital,
this really is one of the biggest and most ambitious
tunnelling projects the world has ever seen.
Engineers on this project have used state-of-the-art machinery
to dig with impressive speed and precision.
This mind-blowing achievement simply wouldn't have been possible
without a brilliant idea hatched over 2,500 years ago
by our first genius.
-We introduce to you...
Eupalinos was an Ancient Greek engineer
who had a cunning plan to solve a thirsty problem.
A cunning plan.
His town needed clean drinking water,
but the supply was at the other side of the mountain.
So, a 1km-long tunnel through the mountain was decided upon.
Just one problem.
With the basic tools of the day
it would take 20 years to dig from one side to the other!
-Oh, forget this.
-Cue Eupalinos's genius idea.
Why not start digging the tunnel from both ends
to meet in the middle?
By doing so, he successfully doubled the speed of excavation
and transformed tunnelling for ever.
But how, thousands of years ago, without fancy tools
did Eupalinos work out how to get two ends of a tunnel
to meet in the middle?
It's trigonometry. You know...
'Meet Fran, our scientist friend, who can explain things
'in a way that even we can understand.'
'She loves a good experiment.
'And best of all, she pops up...'
-'..whenever we need her.'
'Fran has asked to meet us not in a tunnel
'but in a field somewhere in England.'
Oooh! All right!
Fran, why are we in a field?
I thought the best way for you guys to look at the genius of Eupalinos
was to put you guys right in his position.
What he did is he had to start from two opposite ends
of a certain place
and then get those two paths to meet in the middle.
But that's impossible.
The chances of you meeting each other exactly in the middle
are so slim...
That's what you guys are going to try using...this.
-Ah, the lawnmowers.
All right, see you there.
'We're about to do on the surface what Eupalinos did underground.
'Now then, Fran wants us to line up our lawnmowers by eye
'at opposite ends of the field.
'Then we'll drive towards each other in a dead straight line
'without steering to see if we meet in the middle.'
But as soon as you have passed the flags
you cannot adjust the steering wheel.
-Three, two, one.
-And here we go!
-Lock the steering wheel.
-Do you think they're going to do it?
-Not a chance.
We're missing each other. Argh!
-Literally by that.
-By an inch.
Oh, well, it was no good for my hay fever.
And we only missed by about that.
Did you think you were lined up?
It looked like we were going dead on for each other.
The thing is, it's really difficult to meet in the middle,
cos even very small differences when you start, as you go along
they just get bigger and bigger and bigger, so you do end up missing.
'We'd lined ourselves up by eye and still not managed to hit.
'So, how did Eupalinos do it when there was solid rock between
'the two start points?'
So we're going to try that again but using maths.
And we are going to use the same maths as Eupalinos did.
-What, that trigo-thingy-what's-it?
'As we get our mowers manoeuvred,
'Fran is doing some weird stuff with string and a protractor.
'Yeah, what is she up to?'
So, what Eupalinos did was he walked around the mountain to create
-a series of triangles, like the ones we've got here.
Eupalinos walked in straight lines
around the mountain,
which allowed him to plot
a series of triangles.
By working out the angle
on one side, he was then able
to recreate that exact same angle
on the opposite side.
This meant that he knew
the starting points on both sides
of the mountain
were lined up precisely.
-So, if we can measure the angle here...
-..at one side of the mountain...
..and then make the angle at the other side of the mountain match...
-..then you should be able to go
in a straight line and meet each other.
And that's all thanks to trigonometry?
All thanks to trigonometry.
So if you follow this line at both sides of the mountain
you should meet in the middle.
-No more guessing? This was precise?
-Shall we try it out?
-Let's see if it works.
'So, Fran's string is a re-creation of what Eupalinos did
'when he walked round the mountain.
'If we line our mowers up along this line
'on this occasion we should meet
'bang in the middle.'
-Here we go.
-Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes.
-It worked, Franny.
-Look at that.
And it was all thanks to Eupalinos. So, all about triangles and angles.
And that's it.
But because of Eupalinos, you could now build a tunnel
starting at both ends and you knew you would meet in the middle.
-It was the start of a new era of tunnel building.
Wow, Franny. And, Eupalinos, you are an absolute genius!
Eupalinos brought precision to tunnelling,
a skill vital for modern engineers.
'Still to come, we get up close to some serious machinery.'
This is the actual cutter?
'And we attempt a monster build of our very own.'
Thanks to Eupalinos, the speed at which we could make tunnels
took a giant leap forward.
-And our next genius created a real boom in tunnelling.
Ha-ha! Like it. Boom, yeah.
Introducing the explosive genius of Alfred Nobel.
Boom, baby, boom!
You might have heard of him before because of the prizes
awarded in his name.
But Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist
who gave the world a safe way to use high explosives.
Prior to Nobel, explosives had been used in tunnelling
but they tended to be dangerous and ineffective.
Nobel changed all that by inventing dynamite,
a super-powerful explosive that was far safer
than what had gone on before.
It would transform how quickly engineers could tunnel.
We're going to meet Genius helper Mike Sansom.
He's an explosive expert
and the man behind some of the big blasts you see on television.
We want to know a bit more about Nobel.
What did he do for tunnelling?
Right, so Nobel - he didn't invent explosives.
-But he transformed the way explosives were used.
OK, so tunnellers used to use black powder.
Black powder, or gunpowder as it is sometimes called,
wasn't the ideal tool.
Using it for tunnelling was a risky practice,
as Mike is now going to show us.
So what they would do
is they would bore a hole into some rock with a hammer and chisel.
Smacking it in.
Once they got their hole,
they would pour black powder into it.
Then, to make a very primitive fuse,
they would fill up a quill with black powder.
So this is the same as like a fuse on Mission: Impossible
-when it burns really slowly...?
-Exactly the same.
-So they would stick that fuse into the rock...
-..and run away.
-Is that it?
-That's not very safe, is it?
Not at all.
'To show us just exactly how unsafe it is,
'Mike is going to ignite some black powder.'
Bit of gunpowder.
Right, little saw, little sparker.
-Strike it. It sets it off.
'Glasses - check!'
-Are you ready?
-We don't know what's going to happen.
This should be interesting. Three, two, one.
The powder ignites very easily,
making it hugely dangerous to those using it.
And to top it all off, it's not very good at shattering rock.
So, here's where Nobel came in.
Oh, yes. I want to go boom!
Actually, that wasn't that powerful.
So, Nobel, he experimented with a high explosive,
-something that had a lot more explosive energy.
-What was it?
Nobel was fascinated by nitroglycerine's power.
It produces 13 times more pressure than gunpowder.
So it was very effective at blasting rock.
Just one problem -
it's also very volatile.
-A box of nitroglycerine.
-What? Is that it?
Trust me. It's enough.
'This stuff is so powerful we are going to use just one drop.'
-We're going to hit it with a hammer.
-Is that it?
-Of course we are(!)
One of you is going to hit it with a hammer.
'Here we go.'
-Argh. I don't like it!
-Argh. How high?
Go on, just hit it.
-What you mean, just hit it?
-Just hit it.
One. Two. Three.
'Just one little drop left Dom and I scampering like scaredy-cats.
'Check out Mike, though. Cool as a cucumber.
'Which is more than could be said for Rich.'
It made me fly backwards!
'Yes. But how did Nobel manage to turn such a dangerous chemical
'into a safe tool for tunnellers?'
OK, so we've seen how a tiny little drop makes a massive explosion.
So that was that problem solved. But how do we make it safe?
Right, so, Nobel, he experimented with nitroglycerine.
And he mixed it with a kind of earth that was very absorbent.
-And he made his greatest invention, dynamite.
-Oh, dynamite sticks.
Ah, dynamite. You've seen it in the cartoons.
Well, there it is in real life.
-And this was the future of tunnelling.
-It made it nice and safe.
-Great. So where do we light it?
Right. This is quite powerful, so, come with me.
Nobel's discovery led to him opening huge dynamite factories
that mixed nitroglycerine with fine clay
to create his revolutionary explosive.
Oh, yes, I like the look of this.
'So we can see it in action, Mike has drilled a hole in a rock
'and packed it with a 21st-century equivalent of Nobel's dynamite.'
So that is the new version of dynamite sticks?
That is it. We've got a wireless firing system.
We link it all up with an electrical igniter and then we go
all the way over there, and I'm going to give you
-a button to press.
-Let's press the right button.
Let's show them what I can do.
'This stuff is so powerful, we are having to walk 150 metres
'to a safe position.'
-Wait till you see what happens next.
Hang on, is there a safety switch you have to press?
-No, it's off. It's live.
-It's off. It's off.
Three, two, one.
-Tiny, little pieces.
-Yeah, that completely shattered.
-Completely shattered, yes.
-Can we go and have a look?
Look at that!
This is the remnants of Nobel's genius shattered into pieces.
That's right. So, because of that,
now we can tunnel safely and a lot quicker.
-Mike, great explosions, thanks a lot. And, Nobel, genius.
Dick and Dom, you flatter me!
Alfred Nobel had given the world an explosive
that was far more powerful and far safer than anything
And it's still used in tunnelling today.
Yep, tunnellers could tunnel anywhere,
and they got pretty creative with some of their ideas.
It's time for some random genius-ness-s-s-es!
What do you do when a tree gets in the way of your road?
Go over, under or around?
No, tunnel through it!
Like this bizarre tunnel in America.
Sticking with trees, this is the Tunnel of Love in Ukraine.
It is a three-mile-long clearing through a forest,
said to be the most romantic tunnel in the world. Mwah!
But for weirdness, none of that can beat this,
the Bund Tunnel in Shanghai -
a visitor attraction designed to show off
some seriously weird lightshows.
True random genius-ness-s-s-es.
Hot on the trail of our final subterranean genius,
we've headed to the Austrian mountains.
# Yodelayheehoo! #
Austria. Look, isn't it beautiful? And it's home to Mozart...
-Sound Of Music...
-And hills, mountains! Loads of them.
Over half the country is covered in them,
so tunnelling through them is pretty important.
Now over there, in that mountain over there, is one of the most
amazing ambitious tunnelling projects in the whole world.
And it's all thanks to our final genius
who invented a monster piece of technology.
# Yodelayheehoo! #
American engineer James Robbins is the inventor of perhaps
the most important tunnelling technology ever -
a massive circular drill called a tunnel boring machine,
or TBM for short.
These epic machines are used on most underground projects today,
carving huge holes in the rock at amazing speeds.
To find out more, we're about to go under the mountains to see
the tunnelling project up close.
We're going to meet Genius helper Daniel Porubsky.
He's an engineer on this monumental project.
Thank you for having us.
-So, is this the start of the tunnel?
-No, this is just the access tunnel.
The tunnel project is midway through,
so we are getting the train to catch up with the TBM.
And how deep under the ground are we now?
We have an overburden between 0 to about 800 metres.
Engineers are creating a 14-mile-long tunnel
that will channel water and generate hydroelectric power.
When the water passes through this tunnel,
it generates power, and what are you using the power for?
We're going to use the power for 90,000 people
-to supply them with power.
The tunnel we passed through so far has been made by drilling
and blasting with explosives.
But the main part will be carved by the TBM.
But this tunnel that we've just travelled down,
I mean, it seems perfect. I know you used explosives to make it,
but why didn't you just carry on doing that instead of this?
Because the tunnel drive executed by TBM,
it's safer and quicker.
How fast is the TBM?
We have calculated an average speed of 20 metres per day.
-With...thinking about a top speed of 40 metres a day.
Let's go and see the machine.
TBMs are rock-chomping monsters.
One part drills the rock,
another channels waste backwards,
while a third reinforces the tunnel
and lays a concrete lining.
And we're getting special access to the lethal cutting edge
of the machine.
Right, then, this is it, this is the TBM.
The first thing that strikes you is how long it is. How long is this?
It's about 190 metres long, the whole TBM.
Whereabouts are we actually in the machine?
We are next to the cutter head,
which is right now a safe position, as we stopped the tunnel drive.
-Oh, so if this was moving right now, we couldn't be here?
So down here, what is that?
-This is the rock.
-That is the mountain?
-This is the mountain.
-This is what you've just been cutting through?
Have a look at this. This is amazing.
That's the middle of the mountain.
-Can we go and have a look at the cutter?
But space is limited.
So I guess it's best to put in the smallest person.
Always the smallest person, isn't it? Come on, then.
-Oh, it's small in here. Is there room for me?
-It's really tight and cosy.
-What can you see?
This thing in front of me here is the actual cutter.
So this is the inside of the cutter.
The other side of this is the mountain itself and all of the rock.
So what happens when it starts - see here?
This disc will spin around that way, like a plate.
And then this whole cutter will also spin this way.
And together with this movement it absolutely mashes any rock
-that is standing in its way.
-Right, you'd best get out.
-I think they are going to start it again.
-Yeah, good idea.
Right, yes, quick.
Once the rock is cut,
the TBM will then slot in concrete slabs that will form the tunnel,
just like you can see here on the London Crossrail project.
-So, just to recap, cutting the tunnel, making the tunnel.
-That's what's happening here?
The inner lining will be placed here.
This tunnel boring machine means that clean energy
will come to thousands of homes in this part of Austria.
And without James Robbins's intervention,
other huge-scale tunnelling projects around the world
simply wouldn't be possible.
-A true Genius monster machine.
-Oh, gee, thanks, gents.
In this episode we found out...
how an ancient engineer used angles to make tunnelling quicker
and more precise.
How Alfred Nobel blasted his way to the history books
by giving us the tools to smash through rock
in a safe and effective way.
And how nowadays monster machines are boring through mountains
at incredible speeds.
It absolutely mashes any rock that is standing in its way.
Yeah, thanks to these three, digging, blasting and tunnelling
through the earth has come a long way.
Inspired by everything we've learned so far,
our Monster Build challenge is to create our very own
monster boring machine.
-And when we say boring, we mean... BOTH:
Here's how it will work.
We'll need to build a machine capable of getting its way
through three different obstacles.
The first is solid steel.
If it manages it, then it will have to get its way through glass.
And finally, a wall.
But can we make a boring machine that's up to the job?
To help us make it, we are going to see our old mate Grant.
He's come up with some brilliant builds for us in the past,
so let's see if he can help us with this.
-There he is. All right?
So we've got a new monster challenge.
We've got to try and build a monster tunnel boring machine.
And it's got to bore through glass, a wall and metal. Tricky?
We need your help.
-Have you got any ideas?
-He hasn't got any.
-No fancy theories?
-He hasn't got any either.
-We haven't got any ideas.
So basically it's down to you, as per usual.
Well, I'm pretty busy, so I think you guys are going to have to take
a look around and work out what you want, come back and we'll make it.
-We just get to smash things up?
-Yeah, knock yourself out.
Put that down!
'Let's work out which tools our tunnelling machine will need.'
See if you can saw through it. Does this robot need a saw on it?
-I don't think so.
-Well, let's find out.
-Strong, in't he(?)
'Yeah, this is too slow to get through metal.
'It's never going to work.'
'The saw is too slow. What about a hammer?'
'What about a saw AND a hammer?'
'At the same time!'
'A hammer saw.'
Hit it, hit it!
Drill it, drill it.
'Yes, drill. Good plan.'
The conclusion is we need an instant kind of saw,
because that kind of worked, but we need something quicker than that.
And a hammer.
-Something with a, like, laser or something.
-Something a bit lasery?
-Got a laser?
-'Course he has.'
-OK, so this is the laser machine?
-Yes, that's the one.
It can cut through metal?
It can cut through to about inch-thick metal, this.
-We've got to see this in action. Right, safety stuff on.
-Come on, move it.
-It's cutting it!
Oh, look. Look, look, look.
That is nice. Look at that.
Like a knife through butter, that is.
-Can we attach one of these to the boring machine?
-Yeah, sure can.
-Good. So here is what we want. We need a hammer mechanism.
-A laser cutter.
-Yeah, I don't see why not.
-Can we leave you with that?
-Nice one, Grant.
-'Grant is a good lad, isn't he?'
Much building later and we're ready to rock. It's boring day.
We're here at a disused industrial estate in Birmingham.
Just the place for some destruction.
Let's see what our machine is all about.
-Grant, how's it gone?
-Yeah, good, I think. Do you want to have a look?
-That's a borer if I ever saw one.
-Look at that!
You and your team have been hard at work. Look at that!
-What do you think of that?
-I mean, it looks incredible, doesn't it?
This little rascal is fully tooled up.
At the front is a wall-munching drill.
Right, so we've got the drill.
-What else have we got? What's this?
-So this is a concrete breaker.
-This is what you use for digging out concrete floors.
-Dig, dig, dig.
'And finally the piece de resistance...
'the laser cutter.
'This should make LIGHT work of the metal.'
-Look at that.
You should be able to cut a nice circle.
Grant, genius as always.
-Shall we put it to the test?
-There you go.
-Metal first. Metal first.
Here we go.
Our borer's course awaits. First it will have to cut through
a wall of solid metal.
If it succeeds with that, it faces a plate of toughened glass.
And the final challenge is to drill its way through a wall.
Surely the only thing that could go wrong
is that we are at the controls.
-Are we ready?
-Let bore some holes!
GENTLE PIANO MUSIC
So sorry. Wrong music!
-Look at that!
Literally like something out of a James Bond movie.
Looks like you're cutting open a safe.
-Is it perfect?
Hammer it out. Go on.
'Look at that. The metal is no match for the might of the borer.'
Stop, stop, stop!
It's going to break. Oh, now, look.
'I think we passed test one.'
-One down, two to go.
'Surely the reinforced glass will be no test for this monster.'
-Two out of two. Finally, the wall.
Ho-ho! This looks a lot more difficult.
I don't fancy their chances.
We've cut it, we've smashed it and now it's time to bore it.
-Are you ready?
That's it. Oh!
-Bore it! Bore it, bore it!
Ha-ha-ha! So simple.
Like a knife through butter.
There's no stopping it. Look what it's done to the wall.
Everything is wrecked. The wall is broken. The machine is broken.
-The camera is even broken.
-Now THAT is boring.
There we have it.
Our boring machine might not have the scientific accuracy
of the real things, but metal, glass and a wall proved no match
for its sheer power.
Everything is wrecked!
'Our underground mission has proved that our three geniuses
'have given us the precision...'
-Look at that.
'..the explosive power...'
'..and the monster machines required
'to build the world beneath our feet.'
-That is the mountain?
-This is the mountain.
This is what you've just been cutting through?
Have a look at this. This is amazing.
Quite literally, smashed it to pieces.
And thanks to our three geniuses,
now travelling from A to B underground is anything but boring.
Eupalinos, Nobel and Robbins, you are all...absolute genius.
He's loving it.
I hate it!
Dick and Dom don their hard hats and head underground to reveal the three tunnelling geniuses whose ideas revolutionised the way we dig deep below the earth. Needing no excuse to blow things up, they put the genius of dynamite to the test and visit the world's largest boring drill burrowing its way through the Alps, before building their own epic tunnelling robot!