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It's not just raining, it's pouring!
And if you think you know rain, then think again,
because here we have extreme, epic, record-breaking rain!
It's pouring it down!
Because this week on Fierce Earth, we've travelled to...
Yeah, you've got it!
The wettest place in the world!
We've journeyed over 2,000 miles through the country of India
to get to this place.
And we're going to take you on that soaking wet journey!
So when the heavens open, you're going to see...
'I'll fly my way into the world's wettest place.'
We just took off! Let's go!
'I'll discover the true power of water.'
We're witnessing an incredible journey!
'And I'll meet the people who battle the torrential rain.'
We've caught up with the monsoon rain!
And it's pouring it down!
-Let's roll! It's going to be wet...
What happens when the ground shakes, the seas rise up,
and the air tears itself apart?
The Fierce Earth team move in,
taking on the most powerful forces on the planet.
Get ready for Fierce Earth - the Earth and how to survive it.
This is the Indian province of Meghalaya.
Battered by rain and storm clouds,
this is the wettest place in the world.
This soggy but spectacular area in north-east India
receives more rain than anywhere else on the planet.
On average, almost 12 metres a year!
The record-breaking rain that falls
is all down to a mighty weather phenomenon called the monsoon
that sweeps through the huge country of India.
-And this week on Fierce Earth, we're going on an epic journey
to show you just what the monsoon is,
and how it gets to the world's wettest place.
And it all starts here - on the southwest coast of India.
The power of the monsoon rain is down to a simple property of water.
Water takes more energy and heats much more slowly
than the ground at my feet. I'll show you what I mean.
Let's take this sand as an example.
You would've seen this when you've been on holiday at the beach.
And if you feel it, it's quite warm
and that's the sun's heat heating up this area.
But if you just dig a little bit underneath,
just a few inches really,
underneath here, it feels much more cooler.
'But the sea is different!'
Now, the sun doesn't just heat up
the thin layer at the top of the sea,
it has to warm all of it, because the water mixes
and muddles up together, spreading the heat more evenly.
And over the long, hot Indian summer,
the difference between land and sea temperature
gets bigger and bigger.
And this difference produces the monsoon.
Here's how it works the sun quickly warms the land
all across India and that land heats the air above it.
The warmer air is less dense, so it rises.
As the rising air draws cooler ocean air onto the land,
it creates something called the monsoon wind
and that wind brings with it huge rain clouds.
And this massive system of wind and rain rushes inland.
'That is the monsoon!
'The rain starts like flicking on a light switch
'and lasts for about three months as the storm clouds move across India.'
Come with me, the monsoon has started and we're chasing it,
1,500 miles north in that direction.
'After being born in the ocean,
'the monsoon then sweeps up the Indian mainland.
'And I am doing the same.
'Because about 80% of India's rain falls during the monsoon,
'celebrations kick off as the first showers arrive.
'And the monsoon rains are most important in the countryside,
'where people do a lot of farming and fishing.
'I'm in an area just like that now
'and it looks like it's about to pour down!'
This is the Sundarbans, 1,400 miles north of Kerala,
and, as you can see, we've caught up with the monsoon rains!
And it's pouring it down!
'The Sundarbans stretches across the countries of Bangladesh and India.
'It sits within the world's biggest delta
'an area where rivers meet and head out to sea.'
All around me is a mix of fresh water and salt water.
That's because we're so close to the sea,
but what the locals really need is the fresh water
that falls from the sky, and they're getting loads of it now!
It's pouring down!
The rain droplets are so big,
and the wind pushes it all into your face, you can hardly open your eyes!
'The rain that's falling right now
'is really important to the people who live here,
'as they need it to grow rice and other crops.
'But you can have too much of a good thing.'
When you see this much rain falling from the sky
in such a short space of time,
you can really see how it would be a big problem for the locals here.
Every year, a battle takes place between man and water,
and I'm going to meet the people that are fighting that battle.
This is Sushanta and his three children.
Sushanta is a rice farmer here in the Sundarbans,
and, when the annual monsoon rains arrive,
it nearly always spells trouble for them.
Can you tell us what happened here?
TRANSLATION: It all got flooded. You can see a church here
and we all used to get together on a Sunday with our kids.
And right there are the houses of our friends.
This area was full of people and their homes.
But when the water came, everyone had to move away.
And how do you feel about the monsoons?
Without the rain, we cannot live. We cannot grow our rice.
But when it rains hard, gradually the ground on which we're standing
melts away and the water can flood over the land here.
I've learnt from Sushanta and his family just how powerful
the monsoon can be. The monsoon rains can be a blessing,
because it brings life and their crops can grow,
but it's also a curse, because it can cause destruction,
just like this.
We've just seen how huge the impact of the monsoon rains is
on a place like the Sundarbans,
but as we continue our journey north to the world's wettest place,
you'll find an Indian megacity called Kolkata.
And when millions of people come face to face
with millions of litres of monsoon rains, it really shakes things up.
Dougal, over to you.
Welcome to the metropolis of Kolkata.
Now, this city is home to 15 million people
and, when it rains, it really buckets down!
The monsoon has started.
Go, go, go!
Now Kolkata is 200 miles from the Sundarbans
and it's India's third largest city.
Now it's super-charged at the best of times,
but when the monsoon hits, it's absolute chaos!
The rain that's coming down here is absolutely immense.
It literally turned on like a light switch.
From sunny skies to rain in seconds.
There's people just getting on with it.
It's really funny, but people actually love the rain here,
they've been waiting for it all summer. It's absolutely incredible.
But when you mix heavy rain with a big city like this,
you need to think seriously about where all the water is going to go.
There are parts of this city that always get flooded, just like here.
But the city has to be kept moving and that means the authorities
need to get this water off the streets.
There's only place for that go and that's down!
And it's into these tunnels that it travels, deep under the busy city.
Believe it or not, but Kolkata was one of the first cities
to get an underground sewage system,
built over 150 years ago to help with the heavy rains.
Now look at this, as the city has grown,
that underground network of sewers and piping
has grown to a whopping 180km.
When the heavy rains hit,
this piping network moves the water far and far away, about 37km.
But this huge network of sewer tunnels is now old
and in need of repair.
I'm going to see the men in charge
and Kolkata is so busy during the day, they have to work in the dark.
To understand the sheer scale of the operation,
the authorities are having to fit liners like this -
they're nearly three metres in diameter -
into a network that's over 150 years old.
So with such an old sewer system,
what are its main challenges in the modern world?
We have very strong and intense monsoon. We have...
so many people living in this city.
They're to be served for their sanitation.
Without these sewers, the city cannot survive.
'To work on the pipes, the men here
'have to dig these access holes in the city streets.
'And I'm going to get lowered into one, so I can take a look around.'
I'm not looking forward to this.
'Yuck! That's a mixture of poop and pee mixed with rainwater!'
I can already smell it from here.
We are now airborne!
Just on cue, the monsoon rains are chucking down,
and I'm being lowered over a sewer.
'It's a bit smelly, but it's great to get this close
'to the original sewer, built over 150 years ago.'
Now this gives us a really unique vantage point,
because we can see the old brickwork of the original Victorian...
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!
Cor, we're just dangling just below the sewage water!
'This access hole quickly becomes a dangerous place to be.'
We've had to call this short. The monsoon rains are so unpredictable,
that, even in the middle of night, it comes pouring down.
They're starting to breach the dam here. Just look at that water!
That was incredibly exhilarating, but scary.
This rain water that's coming down now
so instantly changes the dynamic in the sewer system.
The water starts building up and the sewer defences just can't cope.
'We've been taught a lesson by this rain.
'Even one of the world's biggest sewer systems can't handle it
'when the monsoon comes to town.
'It took just five minutes for the sewer and that access hole to flood.
Now that really was a close shave, but if you think that
it's really wet here in Kolkata, you ain't seen anything yet!
Because we're continuing our monsoon journey
into a mountainous area around the town of Shillong.
We're moving further north,
where Mike and the monsoon are building up a head of steam.
That's right, Dougal, because we're about to get airborne!
What we will see will show us why the monsoon rains
make the world's wettest place their final and most fierce stop of all.
The engines are on, the rotors are turning, we've just took off.
We're passing over flat land here, just like so much
of the country of India that we have travelled through.
But if you look up ahead at that mountainous area,
that's called the Khasi Hills.
It's those hills that are responsible
for record-breaking rains that fall in the world's wettest place.
'After forming off the coastline of Kerala,
'the monsoon clouds travel over the flat planes of the Indian mainland.'
But when the clouds hit the tall mountains, bam!
What happens is the clouds get pushed upwards into the cooler air
and the water vapour becomes water droplets,
then it falls from the sky as giant raindrops to the land below.
It's raining really heavy outside. We must be getting close.
Just like the rain, we're coming in to land.
Now it's time to join Leah on the final leg on this journey,
and reach the world's wettest place.
After a soaking wet journey that has followed the monsoon
over 2,000 miles, from Kerala in the south of India,
through the Sundarbans, Kolkata and Shillong,
we've all made it to the world's wettest place.
This area is called Meghalaya
and it's home to waterfalls, raging rivers,
and, of course, record-breaking amounts of rain.
And as we arrive, it is, of course, pouring down.
We are now in the world's wettest place.
This is the north-eastern province of Meghalaya and look at it!
These waterproofs me and Mike are wearing -
no use whatsoever! We're soaked right the way through already!
It's not just raining cats and dogs!
It's raining elephants and tigers!
For three months of the year, it doesn't just rain a little here,
it rains a lot!
'In fact, over the course of a single year,
'ten times more water falls from the sky here than in rainy Britain.'
I've chased lots of hurricanes in my life
and, let me tell you, this is very similar.
Pouring, pouring blinding rain!
Wind blowing the rain into your face.
It's just like being in a hurricane.
The rain just keeps coming. It's relentless.
You think it's going to stop, then the next wave comes along.
It's like a rain juggernaut, it really is.
'On average, Britain gets just over one metre of rain annually,
'but here, one record-breaking year saw over 25 metres of rain!'
That might sound like a lot of rain and it is!
That's over five times the height of this building.
Now that's a lot of rain!
'The huge amount of rain that falls
'changes the lives of people who live here.'
When it's raining this hard all day,
the locals have no choice but to head inside
and, when the monsoon rains are really heavy,
they can be trapped inside for weeks!
Do you know what? I don't really blame them. This is crazy!
'All the locals are staying in the dry,
'but now we've reached this soaking wet place, we've got a job to do.'
Now we've shown you how the monsoon is created, and its journey
through India to this area, the world's wettest place.
'Next, we're going to find out
'what all this water does to the land here.'
We'll show you how the people here deal with these torrential rains.
'And I'll discover the true force of water.' Woo!
Get ready - it's going to be a rough ride.
'When the monsoon rains arrive in Meghalaya, everything changes.'
But there's one thing that doesn't change -
and that's water always falls downhill.
Now, in the world's wettest place, that has created some amazing sights
and beautiful rivers like this,
but all of a sudden, they come to a complete stop.
When you get as much rainfall as you do here,
you only get one thing, and that's waterfalls
and I'm going to go over one.
'Don't even think about going near such big drops
'or trying this at home, because, to get down from here,
'I need expert help and some special safety kit.'
Right, helmet, hammer and harness - the three Hs. I'm ready to go!
I'm going to see what sort of journey this water takes down to the plains,
and, more importantly,
I'm going to see what these massive vertical cliffs are made of.
Wish me luck!
'The power of the water is enough to take your breath away,
'and it's difficult to keep grip.' Woo!
'I'm in the middle of an amazing cycle of water
'that has carved and shaped the land of Meghalaya.'
We're witnessing an incredible journey.
The water from this waterfall
has fallen from the skies in the wettest place in the earth
and it's on its journey down to the flood plains.
Have a safe journey!
'Being this close up to the cliffs, and to the waterfall,
'reveals something else to me.'
There's layers and layers of sediment,
probably laid down millions of years ago,
it's a mixture of sandstones, but more importantly limestones.
And when I see limestones, and I see this amount of water,
that can only mean one thing...
that there's a lot more secrets that these rocks are going to show us.
And I'll find out all about them as soon as I get off this cliff.
That is the mighty power of water.
Now let's go and see what more it can do.
I've just seen a lot of water and a lot of limestone.
And as a geologist I know that when you put those two things together...
you get these - caves.
I'm going into one with a cave explorer, Brian.
No-one knows the underworld of Meghalaya better than him.
Let's see what the water has carved and created.
We're following the water from
the world's wettest place, deep underground.
Limestone is not the same as other rocks and over thousands of years,
water can actually wash it away.
Tiny bits are worn down and dissolved by the rivers and by the rain
until you get these cavernous spaces.
If you could get a car down here,
the longest caves would take you about 20 minutes to drive through!
Yeah, you can just see now there's debris here,
there's even sand on the ground.
The river has come through here,
it's made its way across the layers within the rock
and broken through further and further into the mountain.
Let's go see how far it's got.
It's amazing to imagine, now for thousands of years
the monsoon has helped carve this cave and hundreds,
even thousands of caves around Meghalaya.
The awesome force of the monsoon.
So many caves have been created
that even seasoned explorers like Brian lose count.
What does it feel like when you actually discover
a cave for the first time?
It's a very thrilling experience to discover, to find a cave.
And then to explore it for the first time knowing that
you are the first one inside.
When the monsoon rains are at their fullest extent,
how much of this would actually be filled up with water?
Up to the ceiling.
In fact, further down 25m, it's all flooded.
A 25m cave would be completely filled with water,
right above our heads here.
All this would be flooded.
Well, before the next monsoon hits, let's get out of here.
Because the power of water here can carve these cave systems
out of solid rock, you'd think there was nothing we humans
could create that would stand up to it.
But Leah's going to see something that's totally amazing
that'll prove that wrong.
This is Harley and his niece Juliana.
They live in the small village of Siej,
and when it rains heavily here the water runs downhill.
Trickles or water turn into streams
and streams turn into angry, raging rivers.
They're taking me to see something amazing that helps them
get across those fierce torrents.
Wow, is this it?
Guys, check this out.
This is the living root bridge of Meghalaya. It's incredible.
50 years ago, Harley planted this fig tree on the river's edge.
And today it's part of this - one of the living bridges of Meghalaya.
Wow, what's really cool about this
is that this entire bridge is basically a growing, live tree
and all the branches are intertwined making it really, really strong.
This is absolutely incredible.
I've never seen anything like this in my life, but now Harley
and Juliana are going to show me how these root bridges are built.
This bridge is still growing and Harley
and Juliana visit nearly every day to care for it.
They take the tiny roots of the tree and weave them together.
It's a bit like plaiting your hair.
As the roots grow the bridge becomes stronger and bigger.
So at the moment we've got a few gaps in the base of the bridge
and Juliana is just making sure that we're covering that
and making sure it's safe because lots of people use this bridge.
The whole village will need to use this.
The small roots don't look very strong
but actually when they're tied together
and wrapped up it's really quite a secure base.
And in the world's wettest place, this bridge needs to be strong
Because when it rains the stream below here can turn into
an angry, fierce river.
Only a bridge like this
that is a living part of the river bank could hold on.
Harley, during the monsoon rains, when they're really heavy,
how does this bridge stay stable?
TRANSLATION: Even in heavy monsoon rains this bridge is rock solid.
Because the roots of this tree go down into the soil of the bank,
they hold on tight.
That means this bridge has no problems in heavy rain
and when there's lots of water.
What is it that you love so much about this bridge?
I love this bridge because it was built by my family.
When I have my own children and even grandchildren
I'll also teach them to love this bridge as much as I do.
Harley, someone sold London Bridge in England,
would you ever consider selling your bridge?
No way! I will never sell this bridge.
As long as this bridge lives, it will be ours!
Juliana and Harley will be looking the bridge for years to come
and they'll be helped by even the youngest of their village friends.
As the bridge grows it will become part of a larger network of paths
through Meghalaya's rainy forests, one of the dozens of
other living bridges that help the people here get from A to B.
There's not much in the world that would survive
the drenching of the monsoon rains.
But with the work Harley and Juliana are doing
this place will be here for years to come.
There's no arguing that Meghalaya is the world's wettest area.
But an argument that's been going on for a long time,
is which of two little settlements
is officially the world's wettest town.
Two small towns called Mawsynram and Cherrapunjee
that are just 32 miles apart have been fighting over
the title of world's wettest town for decades.
It's just as well the Fierce Earth team is here
so we can settle this argument once and for all.
We're with the men who measure the rain at Mawsynram
and Cherrapunjee's weather stations and a five round contest will
decide who is Fierce Earth's wettest town in the world.
OK, so we're about to get the results. You're going down, Leah!
Mike Thiess, you better be ready. We're going to bring you down.
Let's go, Round 1.
You got us that year. See if you can top this.
8,750mm. Let it rain.
Oh, sounds like you beat us again in Round 2.
Cherrapunjee's figure for Round 3 is 13,473mm.
You might as well give up.
We received 11,590mm. You beat us again!
Well, let's play for pride here. Round 4.
Feel the rain, feel the pain.
The final figures for the Fierce Earth's wettest town
in the world is...
5,586mm. We lost Round 5 and it sounds like we lost the competition.
That sign is coming down.
It's raining again above Cherrapunjee,
the world's wettest town.
Now our monsoon journey through India,
to the world's wettest place, is over.
-As the rain has poured from the sky...
-We have travelled
the length of this huge country, just like the monsoon itself.
You've been with us as we have seen how the people of India
try and cope with the mighty monsoon rains.
There's people just getting on with it.
We have seen why the monsoon makes this its most fierce stop of all.
When the clouds hit the tall mountains, bam!
And we have come face to face with the power of water.
The awesome force of the monsoon.
Watch out, because next time on Fierce Earth,
we're in avalanche country!
Join us as we learn how to survive
the most deadly force on the mountain.