The experts travel along Scotland's east coast, visiting a marine reserve off St Abbs and reporting on the state of the Forth Road Bridge.
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This time, we're on our way up the east coast
from Berwick to Aberdeen, via Edinburgh.
Our journey actually starts in England, where the River Tweed flows through Berwick into the North Sea.
In the 13th century this was a thriving east coast port.
Back then England and Scotland fought endlessly over Berwick.
You'd think that people here would be obsessed with war against the Scots.
MUSIC: "1812 Overture" by Tchaikovsky
# Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside... #
But in fact, the war that everyone talks about nowadays is the one between Berwick...and Russia?!
Now, I've dug into some unlikely historical goings-on
from time to time,
but a war between Berwick and Russia? I don't remember that.
What's that all about?
It all goes back to a piece of paper five centuries old.
I just happen to have here a copy of The Treaty of Perpetual Peace,
signed over 500 years ago in 1502.
It was a road map for peace between Scotland and England.
The ambitiously named Treaty of Perpetual Peace was doomed to fail
if the bitter arguments about Berwick couldn't be settled.
Both England and Scotland wanted Berwick...
so to end the squabbling, neither got it.
Berwick was made semi-independent, as if it were a separate state in its own right.
But how did Berwick's special status lead to war with the mighty Russian empire?
Fresh from the Russian weekend celebrations is Master of Ceremonies Chris Green.
I'm hoping he can help me figure it all out.
So what's the score, Chris?
What is it that the people of Berwick have against the Russians?
The story is we're still fighting the Crimean War.
The story goes that when Britain declared war
against Russia in 1854, Berwick was included in the declaration of war,
but when it came to the peace in 1856, Berwick was missed off
and so theoretically Berwick is still fighting the Russians.
And because Berwick has this bizarre
semi-independent status from the Treaty of Perpetual Peace,
it means that having declared war it would have to declare its own peace.
That's absolutely so, yes.
Now that sounds like the basis for a fantastic pub quiz question, but is it true?
Well, I have to say, it is a complete myth.
It was all sorted out in 1747 and every mention of England after that also includes Berwick-upon-Tweed.
That was long before we went to war with Russia in 1854.
But you've done well to keep the myth going as long as you have.
Yes, and we'd just like to keep it that way, if you don't mind.
-Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
We've reached the outskirts of Scotland's capital city.
Edinburgh Castle stands proud of canyon-like grey streets,
and, towering above it all, a volcanic plug of rock, Arthur's Seat.
It's up here that you see Edinburgh for what it really is -
a coastal city, with the docks that helped build it
only a stone's throw from the city centre.
The industrial heart of the city is here,
less than two miles from the Castle, in Edinburgh's twin town of Leith.
MUSIC: "Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop
This corner of the city has been known as a blackspot of drugs and deprivation.
Right now, it's having a bit of a makeover.
Expensive flats have sprung up beside the Royal Yacht Britannia.
But Edinburgh once relied on the commerce of these docklands,
and they helped change the history of the entire British Isles.
The birth of Edinburgh as Scotland's capital city largely depended on
the trade flowing through this port, and funnily enough the birth of
the United Kingdom of Great Britain,
the Act of Union between Scotland and England, also owed a lot to Leith.
Back when Scotland was a nation independent of England and Wales,
it envied the power and wealth of its neighbours.
To become a great European nation, Scotland needed its own colonies.
It's July 1698, and those five ships down there are setting sail from Leith to Panama.
The plan is to establish Scotland's first colony.
Over 300 years ago, the mission to South America was to be the start of the Scottish Empire.
For four months, they sailed a 6,000-mile route
across the Atlantic and Caribbean to the narrow Panama land bridge.
The colony promised a huge reward.
If Scotland could control this short cut to the Pacific, they'd outwit the English, Spanish and Dutch traders.
Unfortunately, the Scots were disastrously ill-prepared for the tropical rainforest.
The seeds of their failure had been sown back in Leith.
Here's a list of the things the would-be colonists packed on to their ships.
Neck ties, bonnets, thousands of wigs, woollen blankets...
Wigs and woollen blankets for the tropics?
Just one of the countless mistakes made on this ill-fated adventure.
Finally, word came back of the expedition.
And the word was...disaster!
Two years after the ships had set sail from Leith,
2,000 colonists were dead, their colony abandoned.
Investors lost nearly everything.
The failed expedition virtually bankrupted Scotland.
A financial disaster of such proportions
that it signalled the end of Scotland as an independent country.
The English Parliament offered to write off the vast debts.
An inducement for the Scottish elite to help clinch the greatest deal of
them all - the union of Scotland and England as one nation.
Despite widespread protests from ordinary people in Scotland,
in 1707 the parliaments of England and Scotland were united
and the United Kingdom of Great Britain was born.
So a handful of ships leaving this coast for foreign shores
actually ended up transforming the life of our own isles.
Big industry's left its mark all along this shoreline.
Hermione Cockburn explores the centuries-old love affair this coast has had with fossil fuels.
This is a strange alien landscape,
dominated by these really odd vast grey lagoons.
And this stuff...
..it's very like volcanic ash.
It's light and crumbly.
But there aren't any active volcanoes near here.
This is ash from burning coal - millions of tons of it -
built up layer upon layer, creating an entire artificial peninsula.
This peninsula is made of ash from the gigantic Longannet coal-fired power station.
Over the years, it's coal from this area that fed its furnaces.
Unlikely though it seems, the power station -
and the very birth of our coal mining industry -
is strongly connected to this picturesque little town nearby -
The whitewashed houses, with their distinctive red roof pantiles,
give Culross a unique style.
The transformation started 400 years ago, thanks to fossil fuel.
The man behind it all was Sir George Bruce.
He was an extraordinary entrepreneur and he made a lot of money.
And this was his house.
Elizabethan businessman Sir George Bruce had his finger in many different pies.
But what really made his fortune was right on his own shore - coal.
We don't think of there being a coal industry in the Elizabethan era.
So how did Sir George Bruce come to pioneer coal mining 400 years ago?
Local archaeologist Douglas Speirs knows the story.
Doug, what prompted Sir George Bruce to get involved with coal?
Well, if we think back to the context of his times, the late 16th century,
there was one big problem on everybody's mind
-and that was the fuel crisis.
-So hang on a moment...
an energy crisis is something I think of as a modern-day issue!
Not something that affected people 400 years ago!
Absolutely. That's very true.
Essentially it was wood that powered the country.
Everything from domestic fires and so on to the fires of industry depended upon wood.
Quite simply, by the late 16th century, we'd almost completely exhausted our supplies of wood.
And if there was no wood left, then what was the nation to do for its fuel?
With most of the forests chopped down, people 400 years ago needed an energy revolution.
Until Sir George Bruce came along, coal mining was in its infancy.
Bruce's great leap forward was to follow coal seams deep underground by tunnelling along them.
But when he began digging at Culross,
he had no idea that the seam would lead him underwater!
He tunnelled beneath the sea bed - two centuries before the Industrial Revolution!
But what's even more incredible is what Bruce did once he'd tunnelled a third of a mile out.
Below us, in fact, if I take this ranging staff here...
just about two metres below us, you can feel that's solid stone.
That's the top of a mineshaft.
This was a second access point for a mine, which entered the ground just below the castle behind us,
-dived down following a seam of coal reaching to this extent almost 240 feet below us.
So he had a tunnel extending from a mineshaft on land,
tunnelling under the water, and then he sank a vertical shaft 240 feet?
That's exactly what he did here.
The offshore vertical shaft was a radical innovation.
It meant Bruce's coal miners could breathe fresh air.
What would have been here, what would it have been like 400 years ago?
If you imagine something of the nature almost of a chimney,
a gigantic great chimney, 50 feet in diameter,
coming out of the water here and going up perhaps 30 or more feet.
Straight up above us, this towering great chimney
with the coal coming directly up onto the platform.
Ships could come alongside, just as we are floating here in this boat,
and they could load the coal directly,
and sail off and take it off to the market places.
So it was really a bit like an offshore oil platform?
This is one of the greatest technological achievements of late-medieval Europe.
And that the project was even contemplated, let alone put into practice, is just mind-boggling.
The ships that took Culross's coal to the continent brought back
red roof pantiles from Holland as ballast for the journey home.
So Culross's unique look comes from its coal trade.
Thanks to Bruce's industry, for a while Culross was larger and wealthier than Glasgow.
And his coal technology helped launch the fuel that would dominate Britain for centuries.
A few miles along the estuary is Rosyth dockyard.
This is where nuclear submarines are held as they wait to be decommissioned.
During the two world wars, it was one of Britain's key naval bases, and a tempting target for attack.
The small islands guarding the inner Firth of Forth
were a first line of defence.
A major threat was German submarines, U-boats, gliding unseen up the Firth.
The battle to detect and deter German U-boats
led to some extraordinary innovations on this coast.
Take a closer look at that island over there.
From one angle, Inchmickery island looks harmless enough.
But 60 years ago, a U-boat attacking at twilight
might have confused the island's profile
for a battleship, and turned tail.
Local legend says the island's fortifications
were deliberately built like a battleship's superstructure to scare away the enemy.
But when it came to schemes for foiling the U-boats, truth is stranger than legend.
The First World War gave rise to some bizarre plans for detecting German U-boats.
But perhaps the most outlandish began development here in Scotland - not by the Royal Navy,
but by a member of the public. And now, 90 years on, we're going to give it another go.
With some help from model-maker John Riddell and history buff Diana Maxwell,
we're going to re-create the 90-year-old scientific trials of one Thomas Mills,
inventor, and would-be scourge of the early U-boats.
Now, I've got the secret ingredient for hunting submarines.
I see you've got the model.
No wonder they're so hard to find if that's all the size they are!
How much of a problem were the U-boats?
Well, it was an absolutely enormous threat in the First World War,
because they were locating and sinking
one out of four of the merchant fleet
that were supplying Britain with food, and it could have been that Britain would have starved.
At the height of the First World War,
German U-boats were inflicting
terrible losses on our merchant shipping.
With no method of detecting the subs, they seemed unstoppable.
Food imports dwindled.
The U-boats' stranglehold threatened to cost Britain the war.
The Government were so desperate, they invited suggestions
from the public on how to spot and sink the U-boats.
Millionaire businessman Thomas Mills threw his hat, and his money, into the ring.
For the first part of his ingenious plan, he set about towing model U-boats around the coast.
The wartime technique for detecting U-boats was fantastically simple.
It really was amazing.
Our version of the experiment relies on a rather special secret ingredient...
..the humble sardine.
The experiment begins by stuffing the sardines into our model U-boat.
Eugh, just bits of it going everywhere!
Yeah, war's a filthy business, Diana!
The idea is that if you were to trail a model like this full of bait up and down the coast often enough,
the gulls in the area would come to associate the sight of a periscope
with the chance of food.
U-boats were hard to detect, because only their periscopes showed above water.
With his model U-boats, Mills hoped, over many runs,
to teach gulls that the sight of a periscope meant the promise of food.
So, gulls would see a periscope, think it's time for lunch,
and flock around it - just like they do with fishing boats -
and, hey presto, they'd give away the U-boat's position.
For his scheme to work, you need gulls.
We're waiting for them to start flocking around our model stuffed with sardines.
But we've hit a rather serious snag - no birds!
MUSIC: "Air on the G String" by JS Bach, from Hamlet commercials
I'm beginning to get a sense of why the Ministry of Defence didn't take this one particularly seriously...
Just how blatant an invitation do these critters need?
There's not a gull for a hundred miles.
Well...not entirely true.
There's more where that came from, you miserable little swine! Tell your friends.
It seems all we've established is that gulls don't like blustery winter weather -
a fundamental flaw if you're trying to train them to spot periscopes.
Right, Diana - plan B.
-We'll have to attract them. Throw in everything you've got.
Look, there's a SEAL on the case.
The whole thing could take a different turn.
I think we'd have to concede, Diana, that that experiment returned a negative result.
Good fun, anyway!
As for the inventor, Thomas Mills, he was refused Navy support for his experiments,
but went on believing that his gulls method would defeat the U-boat.
His conviction might seem a little ridiculous now, but it's a sign of just how desperate Britain was.
As Mills was teaching gulls to look for U-boats, sailors were being taught to LISTEN for them.
At the Naval Research base in nearby Aberdour, underwater microphones were developed during the First World War.
Thousands of operators were trained to recognise the engine noise
of approaching U-boats - technology that paved the way for sonar.
In the end, it was safety in numbers that protected our shipping from the U-boats.
Travelling in convoys meant that ships
could be more easily defended by armed escorts...
gulls or no gulls.
The Firth of Tay marks our turning point around the corner of Fife.
The Tay's the mightiest river in Britain,
spewing as much water into the sea as the Thames and Severn put together.
Building bridges across this formidable barrier was a huge challenge to 19th-century engineers.
The train line crosses over a bridge with a sturdy Victorian feel.
But look closely beside the base of the pillars, and you'll see a line of curious brick platforms...
..evidence there was once another bridge...
..a state-of-the-art engineering marvel, once the world's longest railway bridge.
But on the night of December 28th, 1879, it collapsed as a train was crossing.
75 people died. There were no survivors.
Shoddy construction, poor maintenance and bad ironwork
have been blamed for the Tay Bridge disaster,
which still ranks as one of Britain's worst rail tragedies.
Nearly 130 years later,
the brick foundations of the old pillars remain as an eerie memorial.
The fishing town of Arbroath gives its name to a famous hot-smoked haddock, the Arbroath smokie.
But it's actually in Auchmithie,
a little village nearby, that smokies were invented.
Champagne, Gorgonzola, and the Arbroath smokie -
all in the premier league of delicacies.
The Arbroath smokie joined the elite club
when it won the sought-after Protected Geographical Indication
under European law.
The EU says, if it ain't made within five miles of Arbroath,
it ain't a genuine smokie.
The man who fought for the European law and won is Robert Spink.
His son Iain smokes smokies the way that makes them worthy of the name.
Right then, what stage are we at?
The fire's lit now.
We're ready to go to put the fish on... OK?
The traditional method uses a combination of hardwood smoke and dense steam
to cook the haddock for just the right length of time.
Why did you go the lengths of getting the might of European law behind the smokie?
I discovered that Arbroath smokies were being made all over the place,
out as far... From Cornwall as far north as Aberdeen, you know.
If people's first experience of the smokie
is what they've found in a supermarket in Manchester - a poor imitation -
they'll say, "If that's a smokie, you can keep it." I said, I'm going to do something about that.
-You really care about this, don't you?
-I'm passionate about it.
It's something I've been involved in all my life.
I see the smokie as going far beyond just a fish product -
it's something which is important to the area and gives identity to the area.
Identity is very important to any area -
if I buy a Melton Mowbray pork pie,
I want it to have been made in Melton Mowbray.
I know what it tastes like, and it's lovely -
and that's how I want people to think of a smokie, in the same way.
Is that us, then?
-That's them ready. Looking good.
-That's been about 40 minutes?
Yep, more or less 40 minutes cooking there. Would you care to try one?
-If your hands are flameproof!
-Once they're hot like this, they're quite easy to bone.
-Look at that!
-Look at the white flesh!
That's how you know a good fresh smokie. It's pure white inside.
I've had smokies before, but that is a particularly good example.
They're quite different fresh from the fire.
To me, that's as good as fish gets.
Mile after mile of coastal cliffs.
We're on the home straight, the northeast edge of Scotland.
The dramatic rock formation at Dunnottar was adapted to build a mighty castle.
A fort is thought to have existed here for well over a thousand years.
After this vast stretch of wild coastline, we've arrived at a great coastal city - Aberdeen.
The sheer number of ships coming and going make this one of the busiest ports in Britain.
Day and night, these ships service oil and gas installations
hundreds of miles out in the North Sea.
Not every bit of the coast is picture-postcard pretty.
Some of it's been put to hard work - and nowhere more so than here at Aberdeen.
But this is another part of the story, and it's vital to the nation.
The UK's North Sea oil and gas industry generates around £10 billion a year in tax revenues.
Oil has transformed Aberdeen from fishing port to the Dallas of the North.
It might not look like it now, but North Sea oil production is in decline.
In 50 years' time, all of this might look very different.
Who knows? Maybe Aberdeen will go the same way as Berwick-upon-Tweed, where I started this journey -
a port once vital to the economies of Scotland and England,
now trading on tourism.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
The team travel from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Aberdeen, highlighting Edinburgh's close connection with the coast.
Miranda Krestovnikoff dives into a spectacular marine reserve off St Abbs, Alice Roberts discovers how the Forth Road Bridge is threatened by rust, and Neil Oliver recreates a desperate wartime scheme to train seagulls to search for German U-boats. Mark Horton discovers the secrets of the sailing boats that could outpace steam, and Hermione Cockburn explores the extraordinary 400-year-old connection between a picturesque coastal village and the birth of deep coal mining in Britain.