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The mountains of Mourne welcome us to Northern Ireland.
I'm here to celebrate a local hero whose fame first took off at Newcastle.
As an Ulsterman, I'm passionate about Northern Ireland's engineering excellence.
Look at this! An original 1948 tractor conceived and designed in Northern Ireland,
the little grey Fergie's a brainchild of local man
Harry Ferguson, but Ferguson's idea was more than just a tractor.
Born in County Down in 1884, farmer's son Harry Ferguson grew into a great engineer.
In the 1920s, he was the first to combine a tractor and a plough together into a single unit.
Ferguson's new mechanism of links and springs
meant the driver could raise and lower the plough on his own.
It revolutionised agriculture worldwide.
But before breaking new ground with his tractors, the young Harry Ferguson's eyes were on the skies.
In 1910, only seven years after the Wright brothers had mastered powered flight on the sand dunes
of America's east coast, a dashing 26-year-old Harry Ferguson planned to put Ireland on the aviation map.
He came here to Newcastle, County Down.
The town had offered a £100 prize to the first person to fly three miles across the bay.
Aviation enthusiast Ernie Cromie has a 3rd scale model of Harry's flying machine.
So where did he come to the design, how did he come up with this?
Basically by looking at other aircraft which some of the early pioneers had made,
people like Bleriot and so on, at air shows in Rheims and Blackpool,
and then deciding, right, that looks reasonably good, and I'll have a little bit of that.
The controls were pretty basic, really, a throttle lever, mechanism to control the elevators
at the rear of the aircraft, and also rudder,
and then to turn the aircraft in the air, it was basically by a system of wing warping,
to alter the degree of lift on either wing.
-Wing warping, bending the wings.
We're talking about wood and... what was the material he used?
Well, it would have been Irish linen, what else?
He left the ground, in something made out of wood and linen.
On the 8th August 1910, Harry's Ferguson's ambition reached for the skies.
For three long miles, he battled against winds whipping over the Irish Sea.
Harry held his nerve. The first person to see this stretch
of Ireland's coast from the air. He pocketed the £100 prize.
Soaring north on our wheel around the Irish Sea,
we're heading for an aquatic adventure...
..at Strangford Lough.
At the Lough's inlet, turbulent tides surge into an inland sea of eye-popping proportions...
..where Miranda's looking out for some old mates.
It's July in Strangford Lough, and it's at this time of the year that
the common seals give birth,
and at low tide the shores here are dotted with newborn pups and their parents.
It's a challenging time of year for the baby seals,
but also for their mothers who need to be in peak condition to ensure the pups get the best start in life.
To see how parents and pups are coping, I'm joining David Thompson from the Natural Trust.
He watches out for the welfare of these timid creatures, today with paddle power.
We can get closer than you would with a noisy motor boat.
We still need to follow certain protocols, good practice,
obviously not point the boats at the seals,
go nice and calmly and quietly and gently, appear that we're going past them, not towards them.
What's so special about the Lough, why do the common seals love it here?
What they favour is this sheltered environment.
But it's not as turbulent, you know, the weather is not as wild.
And what they really need are the islands and the pladdies,
the reefs, to haul out on, and the islands in particular,
because that's where they give birth to the babies.
This is a crucial time for the seal pups.
They're vulnerable, hungry infants
who rely completely on their mothers for milk.
And the mums must rely on their skills at hunting.
To get a sense of their struggle, I've got to get wet.
When you plunge into the waters around the UK, the first thing that hits you is the cold.
Like us, seals are warm blooded, but they've got a thick layer of blubber
insulating them from the chilly seas.
Watching them swim, you see their streamlined bodies glide forward with
a simple flick of a flipper conserving precious energy.
My eyes have evolved to focus in air, so to see underwater I actually need to use a mask.
Seals spend most of their time underwater so their eyes are beautifully adapted for
the water, and they also work very well at low light conditions, ideal for the murky depths below.
And if it's too murky to make anything out, they feel
their way with sensitive whiskers, hoping for a tickle from their prey.
The cool waters of Strangford Lough are a fridge full of treats, but these are big beasts
with very big appetites, especially when they've got little ones to feed.
There wouldn't be enough food in Strangford Lough to sustain
150, 200 common seals, and then we've nearly as many grey seals in the system.
There isn't enough food to sustain all those animals right through a 12-month year.
They go out there, this is seal highway,
it's a motorway into the Irish Sea, and they go out there because there ain't enough in here for them.
So they are going through the narrows into the Irish Sea and they're coming back in here.
A hungry seal's only way out is through this pinch point.
350 million cubic metres of seawater are forced through this narrow funnel by each tide.
The fearsome current makes it ideal for this tidal turbine.
Installed in 2008 to generate electricity, it's like an upside down wind turbine.
The submerged blades are driven by surging water,
blades that might also slice through seals
who navigate through the narrows for a snack.
To check the turbine won't block their way,
the animals' movements have been monitored with electronic tags.
One of those spying on the seals is Bernie McConnall.
That is a big tag, isn't it?
Half of it is battery, it's enormous.
Well, as far as we're concerned, energy is everything because
inside of here is a mobile phone, and it's just the same mobile phone as we would have
but there is no recharging facilities on these haul-out sites.
So they can't plug in every night to recharge the batteries, so we have to have a large battery
that will last the six months that this tag will collect and send information.
Tagging very shy seals is easier said than done.
The only way is to ambush them.
It might look extreme but it causes little stress to these slippery customers.
The transmitters are glued to the fur, a job that's timed
so the tags fall off when a seal sheds its winter coat.
There's a data logger which will record what
depth the animals are swimming at, and there's a GPS device that will tell us where they are.
So with a combination of these two bits of information we know, are the animals feeding on the seabed, are
they feeding in mid water, we also know are they staying in the Lough or are they foraging elsewhere.
And there's good news.
The early data from the tags suggests that the seals go safely
by the turbine as they venture out to feed.