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Welcome to the Baltic Sea,
and the sublime shoreline of Sweden.
For centuries, Britons have charted a course to this glorious coast
for its treasure trove of riches.
From bustling capital to sleepy village,
the sea is in the soul of the Swedes.
The Baltic weaves its way around the myriad of inviting isles.
Britain is an island nation, but Sweden is a nation of islands,
the coast runs deep in their soul.
They come here to let their hair down, to unleash their inner Viking.
And now we're here to meet the Swedes.
To investigate the last days of sail, Dick reaches dizzying new heights.
It's a very long way up. Now I know why I didn't join the Navy.
Timber! Alice learns how Sweden keeps Britain's builders beaming.
So much for a forest being an oasis of calm,
this one's absolutely deafening.
Mark's aboard the world's most stunning shipwreck.
This is the Tutankhamen of maritime archaeology.
And I toast farewell to summer.
This is Coast and beyond.
Sweden, a country in love with its coast.
An elegant capital built on the water dances to the rhythms
of the sea.
For centuries Britons have been partners the Swedes in a love-affair with their shore.
From the island that inspired ABBA,
to a mysterious connection between Britain's Highlands
and Sweden's high coast - we're all linked to this majestic landscape.
Long before the flat-pack furniture boom, we came here for wood to build our houses.
And Swedish iron was at the cutting edge of our Industrial Revolution.
Like us, the Swedes treasure island life,
a land of adventure with a wild spirit.
We're in search of our bonds with a people who know how to party.
We've crossed to the Baltic Sea for an adventure along Sweden's shore.
Our destination is Stockholm,
but we begin at Hogbonden in the wild north.
The Swedes call this their "High Coast".
I'm on Hogbonden,
a rocky outpost on the edge of a vast Nordic wilderness.
Europe doesn't get much more isolated than this.
And what splendid isolation it is.
In winter, few venture this far north, but in the long,
light days of summer, Swedes head to their High Coast.
This is absolutely wonderful, isn't it?
Now I've heard that Sweden can be quite cold in winter but now
it's warm, it's sunny, is this when you come out of hibernation?
Yes, it is.
We love the summer. It's the feeling of freedom, it's lots to do
by the sea, we go to the beaches, we go out into nature, we take saunas.
Sauna?! I've only just arrived and we're about to strip off!
Still, the picturesque steam house is irresistible.
Not sure I like the look of the plunge pool, though.
Last year the sea between here and the mainland froze solid.
Fortunately, it's summer now. Looks deceptively blissful, doesn't it?
Time to get changed.
It's hot up here.
Yes, it is.
My specs are going to start melting soon.
It's a matter of humidity. You can put some beer on the stones
and get a nice smell, and raise the temperature to about 70 degrees.
And then I guess there's a...
Now you can smell the hoppy smell.
Well, yes, you can smell it first being on top.
Aah, it's a kind of beer massage. Wonderful.
After steaming in alcohol a sobering experience awaits,
we're 350 miles further north than Aberdeen, this will be chilly.
I'm turning into a human iceberg. I am getting out.
Well, I have had my ritual sauna and dip in the Baltic,
and I feel suitably Swedish, ready for an epic journey.
When the Swedes aren't in the Baltic Sea, they're either on it,
or they're beside it.
From north to south, this coast is peppered with islands,
a paradise of private hideaways.
The Isle of Viggso was the perfect refuge for a world famous pop group.
Hi, my name is Ingmarie Halling.
# Couldn't escape if I wanted to... #
Back in the '70s I used to do make-up
and hair for a group called ABBA.
# Promise to love you for evermore... #
Here comes this band dressed in costumes that no-one had ever seen before, they were really crazy.
During these hectic tours they did, they really needed a place to be,
a place to hide out, so they found this place called Viggso,
a gorgeous place, and this is where they could be, just hanging out, drive around
with their boat, swimming and fishing and having a good time.
Not doing anything in particular. We're good at that, just being.
# Knowing me knowing you, ah-ha... #
A lot of good inspiration came from this island.
# Knowing me knowing you, ah-ha... #
This little writing hut, which belongs to Bjorn,
was a good place for them to sit and find the songs.
# Knowing me knowing you it's the best I can do... #
So welcome to this little famous house out on Viggso,
the writing hut.
There used to be a little piano here,
that's what they needed to be able to write songs like Dancing Queen.
Well, back in the '70s, the trees weren't this high.
No matter what this is a very inspirational view, even today I think, it's great.
# You can dance
# You can jive
# Having the time of your life
# See that girl
# Watch that scene
# Digging the dancing queen... #
We're travelling along the edge of the Baltic Sea,
heading down Sweden's coast making for Stockholm.
But I can't resist stopping off to explore the "High Coast".
These highlands don't just resemble Scotland, there's a mystery
locked in this landscape that links the Swedes to the Scots.
Cliffs, headlands, islands, pretty villages, the Hugge Kusten -
the High Coast - is everything I could have hoped for.
It's wonderfully picturesque, but there's more to it than
meets the eye - this shoreline is on the move, rising from the sea.
This coast is lifting upward at a rate of nearly one centimetre a year.
Within a few generations the coast has risen up,
cutting off villagers from the sea and turning bays into lakes.
At the peak of a mountain there's the highest beach in the world.
286 metres above the water and still rising.
To unravel this geological puzzle, I'm crossing one of the largest
boulder fields on Earth, down to sea level to meet park ranger Millie Lundstedt.
What a wonderful beach, it's got these typical wave-smoothed boulders
-on it, hasn't it, worn by the action of the water.
-Yes, so rounded.
Here you have a really nice stone.
That's a classic example, isn't it?
This is a huge beach, it goes back such a long way.
I'm taking my smooth, sea-worn rock to compare it
with the stones further inland, pebbles of an ancient shoreline, left stranded as the ground rose up.
And you can feel that this is like an older beach, you can see the...
the likeness between those stones.
It's smooth, rounded.
So this one too came off a beach?
Yeah, they're both beach stones actually, but several thousand years ago.
Heading away from the coast, we're still striding over the old sea bed. Odd.
This beach is going on for ever.
We've been walking for at least
15 minutes since we left.
How far up this cliff did the water used to come?
Well, actually the water, the sea was covered whole of this cliff.
You're kidding? This was completely underwater?
Yeah, it was completely underwater.
To reach the only land that wasn't once at the bottom of the sea,
we've got to climb a mountain, a ride to the highest beach in the world in style.
-This is the strangest trip to the seaside I've ever taken.
It's really nice to take a ride, no?
To see why this land's rising, we're taking a trip back to 20,000 years ago.
Then Scotland and Sweden were covered in ice, the frozen straightjacket
over Sweden's High Coast was two miles thick, pressing down on the Earth.
When the ice melted, that weight lifted, and this landscape started to spring back upwards.
Because the ice was so thick here, northern Sweden's now rising almost six times faster than Scotland.
These hills grow about a centimetre a year, but once the peaks were at sea level, surrounded by water.
So we're about to land on top of a former island.
Exactly, 9,600 years ago actually.
What an enormous view here.
forests, little village down there, it's actually beautiful, isn't it,
but what did this all look like 10,000 years ago?
If we were standing exactly here for 10,000 years ago, we're actually standing on a beach.
-Yes, on the highest shore line in the world actually, and when
you look out you see the sea and small islands, a few of them only.
Which have become the tops of mountains now.
Yeah, exactly, because of the land uplift.
And how much does it come up in total, where we are now?
Well, from the sea level today and what we're standing today is 286 metres, and we're still rising.
This landscape is still recovering from the Ice Age.
These hills really are alive, springing upwards from the sea.
We're standing on the bounciest beach in the world.
The Baltic is a curious sea all round.
It's almost landlocked, more of a lake really.
Rivers pour fresh water into the Baltic diluting the seawater.
Because it's not very salty, unlike the seas off Britain, it ices up.
For months, much of the Baltic is frozen so Sweden employs a fleet of icebreakers.
They forge on through the almost endless winter nights, keeping the Baltic Sea open for trade.
For centuries, they've been shipping one of Sweden's greatest
natural resources to Britain from the port of Sundsvall.
In a nearby forest, Alice is exploring why there's more to Swedish timber than flat pack furniture.
In the second half of the 19th century, Britain was Sweden's biggest customer
so, if you live in a Victorian house,
there's a very good chance that the beams and floorboards
are made of Swedish timber, just like this.
From the forests, logs were floated down rivers to saw mils that used to line the coast.
Swedish exports provided the planks, the pit props and railway sleepers for Britain's industrial boom.
And we still want these trees.
They grow slowly in the cold climate, making the timber strong.
So much for a forest being an oasis of calm, this one's absolutely deafening.
And it's incredible watching the speed and the scale of
this destruction, but it's sustainable. This forest is being
cleared this year, and in a couple of years, it'll be re-planted.
Felling 100 trees an hour, the high-tech harvester cuts the precise lengths ordered by the saw mill.
Today it's for doorframes and decking, much of it heading our way.
Back on the coast, the log pile grows to feed the automated production line.
Only a few people are needed to transform a forest into cut timber.
It's extraordinary. We're looking out at an ocean of logs.
Yeah, you know this is a pretty large mill,
so we will process around 1,000 logs per hour, so
all the logs you will see here will be consumed in one and a half weeks.
Half of the output of this mill is for export to the UK.
So within the space of just a couple of weeks, a tree that was one standing in a Swedish forest
can be brought here, converted into sawn timber, and loaded onto a ship bound for Britain,
to end up perhaps in a builder's merchant somewhere near you.
Sweden's east coast is a wild frontier. People cling on as best they can.
Rare white-tailed sea eagles hunt along these unspoilt shores.
Heat stored in the sea during summer keeps the coast
relatively warm in winter, making it attractive to animals.
Like the moose.
In the frozen north, scientists are studying how moose head seawards when the temperature drops.
My name is Goran Ericsson, I'm a professor in wildlife ecology, and one of my topics is studying moose
above the Arctic Circle here in Sweden.
Above the Arctic Circle is very few roads, there's rough country, lot of mountains, lot of creeks,
and of course we do the field work from ground, but instead of
walking for a couple of weeks, we use a helicopter for a couple of hours.
When winter comes there will be three or four feet of snow, so then
it's a real hostile environment, so quite many of the moose will leave this area and start the migration
towards the coast.
Look, look at the female trotting to the right.
She has a calf behind her. They haven't spotted us as yet, so we're safe here.
There comes the big bull, taking it slowly,
following in the scent of the female to see what's happening here.
During winter time we put collars on the animals, and the collar units
are a combination between a GPS and a cellphone, that's transmitted via link out to our computers.
This is one of the ones we use in research.
He is about six years old. He's probably in his prime age.
I would estimate that he's about 700-800 kilos.
The reason they load up fat is as an energy resource that they can sustain and survive in winter,
but it also helps them to conserve the heat, so they're easily handling minus 35, minus 45 Celsius.
The river valleys and drains are extremely important.
They will funnel the moose from the mountains towards the coast.
The environment is hostile, there's not so much food.
If you move out from the mountainous areas
to the coast they will be less cold, and there is probably more food for them.
What a great day. Wow!
Continuing my Swedish journey,
I'm heading for the remote Hornslandet Peninsula.
They've been catching salmon and herring in the waters off Hornslandet since the Iron Age.
An ancient tradition is preserved behind the fishermen's huts, with a strange spiral of stones.
For centuries they've practised a mysterious pagan ritual here.
Fishermen are a superstitious lot, and this labyrinth
is one of their sacred places.
It probably dates from the centuries when Hornslandet
was still an island,
and fishermen used to walk the stone maze to bring them good luck
on their fishing expeditions to ensure big catches out at sea.
But the fishermen didn't just rely on a pagan god for a decent catch.
This weathered timber chapel has been standing on this stony beach for over 200 years.
Generations of pious fishing families have passed through this very simple sanctuary.
Very quiet and calm, bit like a ship in dry dock.
We're leaving Swedish mainland behind, travelling some 60 miles
offshore to a group of rocky outcrops, the Aland Islands.
There's an extraordinary story that links these small isles not only with Britain, but Australia too.
An unlikely seafaring connection between the British Empire and Aland has brought Dick here to explore.
In summer Aland's hundreds of tiny islands attract Scandinavian holidaymakers by the boatload.
Charting a course around these rocky isles is tricky for skippers today,
but 150 years ago without navigation aids, it was treacherous.
So this pilot station was built when Aland began to emerge as a rising power in the Baltic Sea trade.
SHIP HORN BLARES
There were four pilots stationed here,
and it was the job of those guys to ensure the safe passage of the ships
through these rocky outcrops, and there was plenty of traffic to keep them busy.
The Baltic is notorious for its misty moods, and ships, rocks and fog don't mix.
No wonder they invested in a warning system.
Apparently, this is the only operational steam fog horn in the world!
-How's it working?
-Well, we have this engines that is running this air compressor, and now it's pumping
into the tank, and then we got this pressure metre that we can see.
How do you know when it's ready?
When it reach one bar on the red, and then it goes up.
-It's quite close.
-Ten seconds and it will go off.
FOG HORN BLARES
What an amazing noise!
Imagine if you were a fog-bound scared sailor, that must have been music to your ears.
FOG HORN BLARES
The Aland Isles are home to a proud seafaring people.
Around 90 years ago, one of those merchants hatched
an ambitious plan to plug Aland into the wealth of the British Empire, using some very big boats.
In Mariehamn, one of these mighty ships still rests at anchor.
What a gorgeous vessel.
This was one of the last commercial sailing ships.
She may look like a 19th century relic but this 20th century beauty
held her own against the steamships.
This is the last word in wind-powered transport - the final hurrah of sail.
As late as the 1940s, these vessels still managed to give steamships a run for their money.
The world knew them as windjammers.
And in the days of Empire they connected Britain to Australia.
-Australia is ready to cast it's bread upon the waters,
mountains of wheat from the outback plains stacked high in Port Victoria, South Australia,
are destined to fill the granaries of the world, under their battened hatches are stacked the wheat cargo,
with which they will race round the stormy Cape Horn in their annual dash to Europe.
South Australia was the start of the grain run, the windjammers' epic voyage to Britain.
It took months to sail the 12,000 miles to Falmouth.
And yet steamships could do the trip to Australia three times faster,
so why bother with these sailing ships?
How did a business built on wind and sail rule the waves for so long?
Permission to come aboard, sir?
-Permission granted, sir.
-I'm meeting maritime historian Henrik Karlsson.
It's the economical principle called "just in time" that we
use today in logistics because
these ships were transporting grain from Australia to the UK or
to Europe, and you could have loaded a steamship very quickly,
like in less than a month but in order to take the grain to the mill,
and make flour of it
it needs to ripen so they used the ship as a storage during the voyage.
So it was good to be slightly slower?
Yes, and the voyage would take at least three months.
They may have been slow, but these boats are more modern than they appear.
The Pommern was built in 1903. Her hull is made of steel just like
a steamship, but this windjammer's hung onto the romance of sail.
It took age-old skills to handle them.
Those timeless traditions of the sea attracted a crew of youthful admirers.
People like Jocelyn Palmer, in search of adventure,
paid for a passage on the last working tall ships.
Jocelyn lived in Australia, but she took the slow boat back to Britain where she'd been born.
We left on 11th March, 1948...
..from Port Victoria
with a full cargo of wheat.
It felt very remote being between South America and the Antarctic.
Huge waves and the ship just sailing through them just like a little yacht in the sea, and we got
so cold and look out for icebergs, because a meeting with an iceberg would be pretty fatal, of course.
The sailing ships were considered something very romantic.
On a moonlight night you could see the sails were snowy white and that creaking of the timbers.
You felt that the ship was alive, and in those days there was no other
shipping there, we were absolutely on our own except for the whales.
Romantic it may have been,
but it was no pleasure cruise for passengers or crew.
You went halfway around the world in these things, so we're talking about the elements, the weather.
It must have been hard to steer.
Oh, yeah. When a wave is hitting the rudder you can feel it
in the steering wheel, and that's why they lashed the people to the wheel.
-Yeah, well they put the lashing around, across your shoulders so you weren't
swept overboard when a big sea came, you know.
There were also two men at the wheel in strong weather.
One night in the South Atlantic, Jocelyn witnessed the power of the high seas at first hand.
Suddenly heard bang from up on deck and people running around.
Some of the sailors had just blown out, that was why we heard a crack.
The sails were torn, the wind was terrific, it was screaming wind
and cold and it was really very unpleasant.
I think we were more worried about the crew because we knew they had to
get up there and go aloft and take down the damaged sails and put up
fresh sails to get the ship sailing properly again.
Even on a calm day, going aloft is not for the faint-hearted.
It's quite wobbly.
The boat is stationary now, at sea this would be all over the place, and they didn't have harnesses.
Very good. So you're almost on the top of the world.
That is something else.
It's a very long way up. Now I know why I didn't join the Navy.
This feels relatively safe.
If you look at where they were attaching the sail, they've got nothing below them at all.
How do we get down?
For the crew it was a tough and dangerous job, but there was no shortage of volunteers.
I have known many old sailors who started their seafaring life onboard
ships like this, and they all said it was the best time of their life.
Just a fortunate few are left who knew the Windjammers in their pomp.
That great era of sail is passing over the horizon.
Back on the mainland, our journey continues along Sweden's east coast.
Fingers of land poke out into the Baltic Sea.
Islands dot the shoreline.
It's so peaceful here, you can almost hear your own heartbeat.
Odd to think this was once the beating heart of our Industrial Revolution.
Rock from near here helped lay the foundations for modern Britain.
Get it hot enough and this ore releases a metal - iron.
300 years ago, this precious metal was shipped
almost 1,000 miles to the mills of Sheffield and Birmingham.
But why where we coming all this way for iron?
The town of Osterbybruk was well known to Britain's early engineers.
They needed a supply of iron that was pure enough to turn into steel.
In the mid-18th century, this foundry was producing metal of unrivalled purity.
This is the only forge of its kind in the world,
and it's been making a high-quality iron for 350 years.
Not a moment to trip over.
At the start of the Industrial Revolution,
the Swedes had the technology and the premium-grade iron to hammer out a world-beating product.
That was impressive!
This Swedish iron helped put the "great" in Britain.
As we head further south, we reach the Stockholm Archipelago.
We're about to arrive in the grand coastal capital, Stockholm itself.
A third of this city is water.
Boats and bridges unite settlements, which originally grew up on separate islands.
Stockholm is a city of the sea.
The sea reaches from the heart of the inner city here, all the way out to the wider world.
The power of the sea is written into the DNA of Stockholm and into the psyche of its people.
The elegant buildings of the old town bear witness to Sweden's rich history of trade.
Stockholm's heritage is almost entirely intact
because the city wasn't bombed during the Second World War.
But the Swedes did play a pivotal part in the conflict.
Back in the dark days of the Second World War, the city was alive with intrigue.
Sweden was neutral and Stockholm was open for business with both sides.
The Swedes didn't fight, but they did trade with the Allies and the Nazis,
double-dealing that has Alice intrigued.
I'm on the trail of a rarely-told tale of industrial espionage,
a connection to this coast that was crucial to victory in the Second World War.
The Swedish were the world experts in producing a vital component of
the machinery of war, without which a country's war efforts would have
literally ground to a halt.
Both Germany and Britain desperately needed Swedish ball bearings.
These tiny balls of specially-hardened steel contained within bearings were
the key components allowing moving parts in planes and tanks to rotate and not seize up.
Without ball bearings, weapons production would grind to a halt.
Churchill knew that Britain's future and the freedom of Europe revolved around these steel spheres.
The self-aligning ball bearing was invented by Swedish engineer Sven Wingqvist in 1907.
By the start of the Second World War,
the British depended on the Swedes for their supply of ball bearings.
In the 1940s Sweden was a neutral country caught in a vice between two power blocs.
The Nazis had surrounded Sweden.
The country could still trade but the German stranglehold meant
the Swedes were wary of doing business with the Allies.
Diplomats were sent to Stockholm in a desperate bid to get ball bearings back to Britain.
I'm with war historian Nick Hewitt.
-So, Nick, these are the precious objects.
-Absolutely these are they.
This is the ball inside, this is the bearing,
and that would be used in perhaps a reasonable-sized piece of equipment.
So what was the range of machinery that these ball bearings might have been used in?
Absolutely everything, from radar sets to maybe the joystick of a Spitfire,
and the undercarriage wheels of the same aircraft
go up and down inside the wings. Again you need bearings to do that.
And you think about a turret, and the way that turns around,
you need bearings to do that too,
so you could possibly argue that
you couldn't have won the Battle of Britain without ball bearings.
To keep Britain's weapons production moving, the big guns weighed in to strong-arm
the Swedes into playing ball, and make more of their ball bearings available to the Allies.
This is a telegram, and it's a telegram to
the President of the United States, President Roosevelt, from the Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
These are two of the most powerful men in the world, exchanging communications about ball bearings.
Such a strange story.
And what they're saying is, "Firstly we urgently need to get out of Sweden ball bearings in particular."
And what the British are asking the Americans, what Churchill is asking Roosevelt for, is to apply pressure
using 30,000 tonnes of oil a quarter that the Swedes are getting from the Americans.
If the Swedes refuse to supply the ball bearings, cut off the oil taps.
It's a bargaining tool. It's blackmail and bribery, basically.
Secret deals were struck to buy more ball bearings for Britain.
But to get them out of Sweden, Allied air crews had to fly through Nazi airspace.
As the war progresses, they're being attacked by radar-equipped
German night fighters, which can find them at night and shoot them down.
The only defence they've got is the speed and the altitude they fly.
This rare film shows a top-secret mission to Sweden,
an RAF Mosquito re-painted with civilian markings.
These fighter bombers were converted to carry cargo,
including people strapped in their bomb bay.
But planes alone couldn't bring back enough ball bearings,
and Nazi control of the Baltic Sea lanes seemed absolute.
One man, an unsung hero, thought differently.
There was a remarkable man
-called George Binney.
-Which one is him?
And this is George in the middle with the pipe.
-He's a civilian.
He's out here before the war. He's involved in the steel industry,
so he knows Scandinavia, he has the right contacts.
He comes up with an alternative plan, which is to use
fast military patrol boats, known as motor gun boats.
These fast boats had a shallow draft, so they might just skirt over the German mines.
Success would demand courage.
George Binney hand-picked their crews.
Only the most able made the grade, many came from the merchant fleets of Hull.
Young men, mostly single, who might never see home again.
It must have been incredibly dangerous sailing a boat like that through the naval blockades.
Oh, I mean, these are not built for rough weather for a start,
they're prone to mechanical failure, their engines break down a lot, and they're also vulnerable to
the Germans, and two of them are sunk out of five, which is a quite a high attrition rate.
-So these sailors were running huge risks to get the ball bearings out of Sweden.
-Very big risks, yeah.
It's a dangerous covert operation.
Right under the nose of the Nazis, hunted by sea and air,
these brave crews pulled off some of the most vital missions of the war.
It's a sobering thought that Europe's fate once revolved around these bearings,
which kept the machinery of war running on both sides, but it was the bravery of the
Allied airmen and sailors that kept the Swedish supply of ball bearings rolling into Britain.
The Swedes love their coast and its wonderful isles.
Stockholm is part of a vast archipelago.
Thousands of rocky outcrops are scattered far out into the Baltic Sea.
Stockholm has called this their Skargard.
Skar is Old Norse for "small island", so Skargard translates roughly
as "Garden of Islands", and this is some garden.
Little boats ply the water and traditional wooden houses dot the shore.
This is Stockholm's de-pressurisation zone, where city folk come to relax.
I'm here at the end of August, the long winter nights are looming.
So the Swedes celebrate summer while they can, with a party to mark the passing of the season.
A brief return to their Viking roots, and a bit of craziness by throwing a crayfish party.
Every year, they say goodbye to daylight with an outdoor feast.
I've been invited to one by Jessika Gedin, and she's offered to give me
a beginner's guide to throwing a crayfish party.
The upper classes started eating it in the beginning of the 19th century
and everybody tagged along,
and now we have all these traditions with it.
We have the lanterns, the August moon, and you have the singing
and the beer and the Schnapps, and it's...
a bit like Christmas in the end of the summer.
And why do you want to celebrate the end of summer? Why is that such a big deal?
It's not a celebration really, it's sort of a sad festival in a way,
because we've been longing for the light for such a long time.
I mean we spend like six months in complete darkness in Sweden,
so when the summer comes we go like crazy, and this is the last party.
-It's sort of melancholic, but it's fun at the same time.
Sure. Come on.
It seems drinking and singing matter as much as the crayfish.
Sounds as if the party's already started, Jessica!
THEY SING IN SWEDISH
THEY SING IN SWEDISH
To get me into the swing, I'm relying on Hans Rosenfeldt.
You can't have a crayfish party without the singing
and you can't really have the singing without the Schnapps,
so that's how it all works together.
The Schnapps is there
just because you sing, and you need every song with a drink.
The song you were singing when we came to sit down, what was that about?
It was actually about Schnapps.
-It was a drinking song?
-Yeah, it was a pure drinking song.
Let's say that everybody has it. If you have a crayfish party, you sing Helan Gar.
THEY SING IN SWEDISH
-I recognise that.
-You recognise that.
-It's Twinkle, Twinkle, little star.
-Yes, it is.
So as long as the song has the word crayfish in it, you can have a drink?
Yeah, basically. Actually you drink even if it hasn't got the word crayfish in it.
As soon as someone takes up a song, at the end you drink.
So, Hans, here we are sitting on the most coastal location you can imagine,
on a grassy promontory with the Baltic wrapped around us. Does the coast mean a lot to Swedes?
I think it does. We have a lot of it, so I'd say most people have a relationship to the coast.
You can light a fire, you can drink your coffee, you can eat your lunch, and then you can go back in to
your more square-formed life in the big city again, so I think it's
a huge freedom factor in the coast in Sweden.
THEY SING IN SWEDISH
We worship summer, I think we do, we're like asleep for six months, then it's dark, and we're working,
and then suddenly spring comes and everything changes, yeah.
So I think this is sort of part of it, this is sort of what we consider being Swedish.
THEY SING IN SWEDISH
Now how do I go about breaking into one of these delicious looking fish?
Would you give me a demonstration?
Yeah, sure, you just pick them up like this, turn them over and then you just basically suck.
You like that?
-I would say no if I had to guess.
-Perhaps with a bit more practice.
Sounds like I'm just sucking up a mouthful of sea water!
THEY SING IN SWEDISH
Blimey, I can barely sing in English, let alone Swedish!
THEY SING IN SWEDISH
Your Swedish is really good!
I got the last word anyway.
Stockholm was once the centre of Sweden's global sea trade,
but today the majority of boats look for local business.
The sea's a highway here in the Swedish capital. You hop on and off ferries
as if you're getting on and off buses. The water's a living space.
No wonder the Swedes take such pride in their coastal heritage and their maritime traditions.
But there are a few skeletons out there in Davy Jones's locker.
Mark has come to Stockholm harbour to investigate one of the world's most embarrassing naval accidents.
There's one remarkable shipwreck I've always wanted to set foot on.
Now, finally, I'm here.
It's magnificent. It's the complete ship.
This mighty warship is nearly 400 years old, yet
it's as if she was built yesterday, a wreck raised almost intact.
This isn't a recreation. It's the actual ship.
The Vasa was meant to spearhead Sweden's navy,
but she sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage.
How did the Vasa, the King's grandest warship, keel over and sink on her first outing?
I'm going to the site of Sweden's great national embarrassment with historian Marika Hedin.
10th August, 1628, it was meant to be a moment of
natural pride and grandeur, and it was for about 30 minutes.
So where exactly did she go down?
Well, she was found over there...
..where the water is about 30 metres deep,
so that meant that, when she went down, you would have
seen the masts sticking out of the water, flags and all.
-That was a very public spectacle.
-It was. It was a public fiasco.
This magnificent ship sank in the most humiliating fashion.
The Vasa never got out of Stockholm harbour.
Shamed by the disaster, Sweden forgot the Vasa.
But the Baltic Sea preserved her in its cold embrace for over three centuries.
The reason she sank was waiting to be discovered.
Finally, in 1956, amateur archaeologist Anders Franzen went fishing for the wreck.
He rowed around in his little boat in the harbour looking for blackened oak, which would have
been a sign that he would have found the Vasa, and eventually he did
come up and found something in 1956, and that of course was the starting point
for one of the greatest adventures of maritime archaeology in the world - the salvage.
It was an extremely complex operation. No-one had done anything
like this before, so everything that was tried was experimental.
The divers worked in very harsh conditions, through water, digging tunnels
under the wreck, so that eventually she could be lifted through steel wires up towards the surface.
So after over 300 years the Vasa was to break through the surface again.
That's true. On 24th April 1961, it was a world event.
Were the divers worried that as she came up, she would break apart?
Yes. No-one knew how strong she would be, and of course all of
the iron bolts had rusted away, and attempts had been
below the surface to strengthen her, but still we didn't know if she would hold together, but she did.
She was very well built in some respects.
-And very little used, of course.
So she was able to be, as it were brought back on her own buoyancy.
That's true, that was the last trip that the Vasa would ever make on her own, and then she was put into
the conservation process, which took some 17 years.
To find out why she sank in the first place,
I'm stepping back in time nearly 400 years.
She's beautiful, isn't she? This is actually a rare privilege.
Only heads of state and the occasional maritime archaeologists are allowed aboard these days.
The Vasa is so well preserved, you can still piece together the evidence of her sinking.
Be careful here, it's...
Her beams come down quite low.
It gives an impression of what it was actually like down here.
Yes, it must have been very crowded, and quite dark.
So on that
they fired the cannons?
Yes, they did, because they were sailing out and this was a moment
of triumph, so they fired a salute and all the cannon ports were open,
and this was probably an error of judgment because, when the ship keeled over them, the water came in.
So you can just imagine the water gushing in.
-Yes, it must have been quite scary.
-So she literally just fell over.
Yes, she did, straight into the mud.
The open gun ports meant water flooded in after a simple gust of wind made the ship roll over.
The fatal mistake was in the original design.
You can see she's very narrow in the stern, and this made her very unstable.
Surely there were lots of other boats sailing around of this size,
-and they weren't capsizing all the time.
-No, that's right.
There actually was a sister ship to the Vasa, which had almost the same dimensions,
the Apple, and she sailed off a year after Vasa sank, but she was a little more broader.
She was about three and a half feet broader and that made all the difference, but I think the Vasa,
if she had made it out into the archipelago, and then she would have
been loaded with materials and more men, she would have been heavier and more stable in the water.
-So it wasn't just a bad design, but it was also bad luck.
-Really bad luck, I would say.
It's ironic that this Swedish naval disaster
has left us with the most important shipwreck ever discovered.
This is the Tutankhamun of maritime archaeology.
On our journey along the shores of Sweden, we've discovered links between us and our coastal cousins
in Scandinavia, the age-old trade in timber and iron, and a passion for messing about in boats.
Once ashore, in the city, the hectic traffic's also strangely familiar, but somehow different.
There are many things we share with Sweden, but after 3rd September, 1967, there was one less.
That's when the Swedes switched from driving on our side of the road the left, and changed to the right
to conform with the rest of mainland Europe.
I'm used to biking through London, but switching to the right hand side makes things a bit hairy.
Imagine what it was like back in 1967 when the whole country changed lanes overnight. Potential chaos.
Well, the radio said I had to stop.
I have to stop for a while here, I will then be shown onto the other side of the road.
I then have to stop there, and at five o'clock, we move off, driving on the right hand side of the road.
Shall I go over that side?
It was known as H Day after the Swedish word for right - hogar.
They cleverly combined the capital H with an arrow changing lane to create a logo for switchover day.
But there was more to H Day than a logo.
The government embarked on a massive programme of advertising and education, from highway
code lessons for children, to some rather alarming stunts.
Finally, on September 3rd, everything was in place - the roads altered, the signs ready, 10,000 police and
troops deployed onto the streets - but still no-one knew how many people
might become victims of this right-hand revolution.
This is the scene at five o'clock in the morning on 3rd September 1967, as everybody switched lanes.
Amazingly, H Day went without a hitch.
In fact, surprisingly, the number of accidents slightly decreased.
So, might we one day find ourselves switching lanes too?
On the highways worldwide, sticking to the left puts us in the minority,
but on the seaways it's a different story.
The rules of navigation that apply around the globe
owe an awful lot to the pioneering efforts of the British, to impose order on the sea lanes of the world.
Ironically, when proposing navigation laws for steamships in the 19th century, Britain decided ships should
pass each other not on the left, but on the right.
Over the years, this British "keep right" regulation became adopted as the global standard for the seas.
Britannia's rule does in fact rule the waves.
Even out here, on the edge of the Baltic Sea, some thousand miles from our own islands, you can sense
the influence of Britain reaching far beyond our own coast.
We're a seafaring people and we share our story with distant shores.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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